During the last month I was in Karmiel more than through the previous twenty years.
Karmiel is a small sleepy town in the Galilee, located on the Akka-Safad road, some 30 kilometers from Haifa. It was built in the 1960’s, as part of the Israeli governments drive for the Judaization of the Galilee, confiscating large chunks of Land from all the neighboring Arab villages and townships.
Unlike many other Israeli cities in the periphery, Karmiel is mostly well-to-do and Ashkenazi (of Jews from European origin). It is late to become a mixed city, maybe also because its better economic situation keeps house prices high. As I attended this Monday a lecture on “Arabs in Karmiel” in the municipality’s auditorium, there was an argument whether Arabs constitute 3% or 6% of the population (in a region where the Arabs are a clear majority) – most of them well-to-do families from nearby villages where living conditions are miserable and it is very hard to legally build a house.
Ramiya is a very small village that is now wholly surrounded by Karmiel. I wrote a short history of the struggle of Ramiya’s people in Free Haifa. Here I can just say that after long years of “sumud” – sticking to their land in spite of endless attempts to uproot them – now the people of Ramiya face an immediate danger of expulsion and that they renewed their mass struggle for their right to stay on their land.
In those visits to Ramiya I started to know its people and to admire and love them. They remind me of the small village of Asterix that is still resisting the Roman Empire, even as the whole of their Gaul country is occupied. Seeing how those people are enduring harsh conditions for a whole life is putting our easy life in perspective.
The existence of the small village, mostly made of tin shacks, as the residents are not allowed to build, is a live reminder for Karmiel of all the land-robbery and discrimination through which is got its reaches. Yet Karmiel’s municipality and the “Israel Land Authority” are sized by their own racist attitudes and grid and prevent Ramiya’s residents from building an orderly neighborhood inside Karmiel – they still want them to go away.
The struggle to save Ramiya is now becoming the center of struggle against Israeli apartheid for the people of the region. After the success of the mass struggle in stopping the Prawer plan for ethnic cleansing in the Naqab (even though the government now say that they will still continue to pursue this plan) – Palestinian youth are convinced of the need and possibility to go out to the streets to stop farther evictions.
The Chinese Tent
On Wednesday, 18.12.2013, there was a vigil in solidarity with Ramiya’s people on a main crossroad on the western entrance to Karmiel. On the same night the people of Ramiya built the solidarity tent that should be the center of the struggle over the next months.
Today (Thursday 19/12) we went to see the tent and help with the last preparations for tomorrow’s public meeting – the first even to which the wide public is invited to come and take part in the struggle.
We found a very big tent, maybe with the capacity to hold an activity for two hundred people. It has Chinese writing on its walls.
Being curious, we took a picture of the obscure Chinese writing and sent it to a friend that is learning the language. The answer was not late to come: “Take care, inflammable materials”!
Believe the Chinese, Apartheid in the Galilee is becoming unsustainable.