Posted by: Lister | February 6, 2007

Israel grants Arab villages ‘front-line’ status

This story began after the Summer war between Israel and Lebanon. Some businesses were granted government compensation to help repair damage and cover the costs of closure.

Arabs, perhaps as second class citizens, were granted what Haaretz called Second-class compensation

Is a shop owner in Nahariya, who was forced to close his business during the war, entitled to more compensation than the owner of a similar store in Acre or the Haifa bay area, who had to close shop? Are lawyers and accountants who were forced to close their offices in Kiryat Shmona or Ma’alot eligible for higher compensation than that which will be given to their colleagues in Rosh Pina or Safed?

According to the decisions taken by officials in the Finance Ministry during the war, which were approved by the Knesset’s Finance committee, the answer to both questions is yes. Since the government refrained from declaring a state of war, a strange and unusual legal situation has emerged, in which differences have arisen in the amount of compensation paid to various owners of businesses that were affected in a similar way.

The gap between the amount of compensation that was granted – stemming from whether the persons in question were designated as belonging to “confrontation line” communities – is well known and has already prompted three petitions to the High Court of Justice on the part of owners of small and medium businesses, who have requested that the situation be rectified. A fourth petition, submitted by attorney Samuel Dahwar from the Arab village of Fassouta in Galilee, reveals the fact that no Arab communities are included on the full-compensation list even though Arab towns and villages were in the range of the Katyushas and were hit by them.

One of the plaintiffs, Raik Matar of Fassouta, is a practical engineer and graduate of the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa. He provides planning services and carries out construction work and repairs. During the war, he was unable to continue with his job both because the government offices he works with were closed, and because the incessant shelling on the part of the Israel Defense Forces’ artillery batteries, stationed at the outskirts of his village, made life unbearable. The construction work that he had begun on the eve of the war – in Hurfeish, Kfar Vradim and Arab al-Aramshe – had to be stopped, on the instruction of the Home Front Command, because the residents of these places, like those of Fassouta itself, were not allowed out of the protected areas. […]

This decision has been overturned.Gov’t to grant ‘frontline community’ status to four northern Arab villages

The government announced Thursday that it intends to recognize the northern Arab villages of Fassuta, Ma’ilia, Jish (Gush Halav), and Arab al-Aramshe as “frontline communities” – a move that would make the villages’ residents eligible for increased compensation for damages incurred during the second Lebanon war.

The villages are located along the border with Lebanon, in the vicinity of Jewish towns that were previously recognized as “frontline communities.”

The government is essentially accepting the villages’ petition against Finance Minsiter Abraham Hirchson’s decision to exclude them from the list, which was presented to the High Court of Justice in the wake of the war.

So, good news.
A victory for equal rights.

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