The Area C Trap: a Metaphor for…what? | Liza Rozovsky

Once upon a time there was a little village where people were well-behaved. They built their homes, until they were told to stop building. They stopped building, waited a little while and asked if they could build again. They were told no, at least for now, so please wait a bit longer. They then waited some more, and asked again. Again they were told no, but this time, it was final. When they asked why, they were told they hadn’t built enough in the meantime. They should be fine as it was.


The above story, which sounds like a parable, is actually a precise description of the village of Kardaleh in the Northern Jordan Valley, near Route 90. The village has existed at least sine the 1930’s, and today about forty families live there – more than 300 people – with a real connection to the village lands. Kardaleh has electricity and water, but no sewage system and no wastewater management mechanism. Nor does the village have even a single public building, not even a kindergarten, school or mosque.


In the 1980’s the Kardaleh residents built houses with Civil Administration approval. In the 1990’s they tried to get building permits for new buildings or additional stories upon existing ones, to no avail. When they nevertheless did construction, they received demolition orders. After they petitioned the High Court in 2000, the Civil Administration promised not to implement those orders. The residents, in the meantime, decided not to take any further risks, and have stopped expanding the village. Building a house that might well be demolished only means risking one’s home and family – as well as risking the life savings that went into the construction. In 2010 they again asked the Civil Administration via the Association for Civil Rights and Bimkom – Planners for Planning Rights, requesting that plans be made for expanding the village. The request was denied, but the Administration left room for some home: they promised to examine a proposal for an outline plan, if the villagers themselves would submit one.


In 2012 even that hope disappeared. After ACRI and Bimkom again approached the Administration, held a number of meetings and wrote several reminders, the Civil Administration informed them that the village did not meet the requirements for such a plan – it’s too small, or is not crowded enough, and moreover, it is very close to two larger villages in Area B, meaning there is no need to plan a separate, smaller village in Area C.


In other words, the Administration politely suggests that the villagers leave their homes, where they have lived for decades, because…they haven’t built enough.


Which raises the question what would have happened if the residents had continued to build without permits. Would they be better off? Would the Civil Administration have been more positively disposed toward the request? Would they have concluded that the villagers built because they had no choice?


More likely, Kardaleh would have joined the long list of Palestinian villages where buildings are destroyed day and night, with no hope of planning, infrastructure or life with dignity. That’s the trap of Area C – if you build it, they will come and destroy it. If you don’t build, you must not need a house. You lose either way. There are 180 Palestinian villages located entirely in Area C. Only 18 of them have an outline plan approved by the Civil Administration. The residents of the rest live under constant threat of demolition – a threat realized hundreds of times each year.


In Kardaleh, the residents have been penalized for being obedient – but more likely, they would be penalized either way. The story of Kardeleh is its own perverse metaphor.


Liza Rosovsky is a spokesperson for the department of Human Rights in the Occupied Territories at ACRI.


This story was originally published on the website of Rabbis for Human Rights.


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Categories: Arab Citizens of Israel, Arab Minority Rights, Area C Villages, Democracy and Civil Liberties, Land Distribution and Planning Rights, Negev Bedouins and Unrecognized Villages, The Occupied Territories

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