Solidarity with Ramya

The children of Ramya do not have running water, electricity or roads. They do not even have a single kindergarten. But now they do have what is perhaps the nicest playground of any Arab community in Israel. Built by volunteers of the Ramya Solidarity Committee, volunteers of the Baqa centers in Jaffa and Majd al-Krum, and the Ramyans themselves, this playground is their answer to the relentless war of attrition conducted by the Karmiel municipality and the Israel Lands Administration (ILA) against the village.

The playground was inaugurated on October 25th, amidst the noise of a hundred children swinging and jumping – trying out their new equipment. In the evening, a cultural event in solidarity with Ramya, sponsored by the al-Baqa center, took place in Majd al-Krum. Musicians expressed their support by performing free of charge.

Our readers have followed the brave struggle of the Ramyans for six years. Below is an outline of the essential moments in this history, followed by an account of the latest development:

  • Eviction orders arrive in the summer of 1991. Ramya villagers are told to leave their land so that the government can build homes there for Jews from the Soviet Union.
  • The Ramyans begin a broad-based public campaign in defense of their right to remain on their land. Their main argument: "It is inadmissible to evict a person from his land in order to build a house there for someone else, just because the former is an Arab and the latter a Jew."
  • Ramyans agree to be integrated into Karmiel’s urban development and to give up their agricultural way of life, on condition that the authorities recognize their right to remain on their land.
  • The Ramya Solidarity Committee enlists support in Israel and abroad. Organizations and individuals around the world join the struggle. The ambassadors of Britain, the U.S., and the European Union visit Ramya or receive delegations from the village. The U.S. State Department's Report on Human Rights for 1991-92 mentions Ramya as an example of discrimination on the basis of nationality.
  • In the face of the widespread public protest and the fierce determination of the Ramyans to stand up for their rights, Karmiel and the ILA begin a counter-offensive, including promises and invitations to meetings, in an attempt to create the impression that the problem is being solved. In fact nothing is accomplished, but this counter-offensive succeeds in removing the issue of Ramya from the public agenda of the Arab population.
  • In May 1995 the ILA and Karmiel sign an agreement with the Ramya villagers under the auspices of Arab Knesset Members. The authorities commit themselves to allocate an area of 25 dunams (about six acres) in Karmiel for the construction of houses for the Ramyans. This is to be called the "Ramya neighborhood of Karmiel." In return, Ramyans, for the first time, agree to evacuate their homes and their lands.
  • In the two years since the agreement was signed, the authorities have been constructing a new neighborhood of a thousand units, called "Ramat Rabin," on Ramya's grazing land.
  • In May 1997 Karmiel's Department of Engineering sent the following letter to the residents of Ramya: "We are pleased to notify you that the plan for the construction of the Ramya neighborhood has been submitted, according to law, by the District Planning and Building Committee. In the light of this, and in keeping with the agreement you signed in May 1995, you are required to evacuate your agricultural lands so that development work can begin." (Please note: The mere submission of a plan does not guarantee its approval, which – if granted – can take a long time.)
  • In mid-August the intrigues against the Ramya residents entered a new phase when a company called Bonei Hatichon began dynamiting rocks twenty meters from the home of Muhammad Hamad Sawwad. Pieces of rock hurtled through the air and hit the tin walls of the family’s shack. (Ramyans are not permitted to build permanent homes.) Only through the immediate intervention of the al-Baqa Center, which alerted the media and the Karmiel municipality, was the dynamiting brought to a halt.

Latest Development: Ha'aretz Falls into ILA's Trap

The Israel Lands Administration is spreading disinformation. In an editorial on October 27, the prestigious Hebrew daily Ha'aretz addressed the land problems of the Beduin in Israel. It singled out Ramya as an example of what ought to be done, stating: "...The government should follow the successful precedent of Ramya, where sixty families were evicted to the Ramya neighborhood. The Ministry of Housing paid the evicted families NIS 7 million [$2 million] and will make a profit of NIS 100 million [$28.5 million] from selling the new apartments it will build."

First, this is simply not true: the Ramyans have not been evicted and have not seen one penny. Second, the actual facts are more dangerous. In a press release published on October 28, the Ramya Solidarity Committee revealed that Karmiel and the ILA took the land that had originally been set aside for the Ramyans and built a Jewish neighborhood there instead. They then requested another plot for the villagers. The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) filed an objection to the proposed new area for the Ramya neighborhood, claiming it as a "nature reserve," where construction is prohibited. Even if the SPNI objection fails, the process of applying for a change in the status of the land may take two years. Meanwhile, the high-rises will continue to hem the Ramyans in, taking the last of their farmland. Apparently, the authorities hope to cause divisions among them, driving them to accept individual solutions elsewhere. The problem of Ramya is far from being solved. It attests to an abiding policy of racism and dispossession. Solidarity with Ramya must continue!

Protest letters should be sent to: Mr. Adi Eldar, Mayor Municipality of Karmiel Israel Fax: 972-4-988-4277

Solidarity with Ramya Captions Solidarity Poster: Put Ramya on the Map