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Israeli mayor finds thorns in 'village of roses'

The head of a Jewish local council of Kfar Vradim in the Galilee halted the marketing of housing lots after half the bid winners were Arabs.
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Hamas has scheduled an anti-Israel protest by Gaza residents, touted as “the Journey of Great Return,” for March 30. The date picked for this mass march, on the same day Israel’s Arab citizens hold their annual Land Day demonstrations, is hardly coincidental. This is the best date on which to mobilize Palestinian brothers in the Israeli Arab towns of Sakhnin and Tarshiha against the “Zionist enemy” that expropriated their lands in 1976. While Israel has spared no effort over the years to deepen the divide between the Palestinian communities in its midst and their sister towns and villages in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, occupation and deprivation have joined against Israel to counter this endeavor. The demographic time bomb — the term used to describe the threat of population parity between Jews and Arabs — coupled with the evils of racism show that a Jewish-Zionist identity is not compatible with democracy and equality. The latest proof can be found in the Galilee community of Kfar Vradim, Hebrew for “Village of Roses.”

The trouble began when head of the local council, Sivan Yechieli, realized that 58 families, about half the number that had won bids to buy housing lots in the community, were Arab residents of the nearby Jewish-Arab town of Maalot-Tarshiha. Despite the fact that a large part of the land on which Kfar Vradim was built in the 1980s was expropriated from the Arabs of Tarshiha, leaving them virtually without land reserves, Yechieli announced March 16 that he had decided to halt the planned marketing of additional lots. The reason he cited: the community’s “Jewish, Zionist and secular nature.” In a letter to residents, Yechieli said, “It is important to discuss majority rights, among them the right to sustain a community that preserves agreed-upon core values.” He added that unless Kfar Vradim, with the help of the government, can “provide a balanced demographic response that promises sustainability for the nature of the community, we will halt the marketing.” Almost in the same breath, he said, “In principle, every citizen of the State of Israel is welcome to live in our town.”

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