Three months after Israeli bulldozers demolished the Abu Eid family’s seven homes in Lydd, Israel, and a week after Israeli authorities bulldozed the tents and caravans that gave the family shelter, Palestinian residents in the mixed city have called for a “school strike” to protest the actions.
Parents committees at Lod’s Arab schools imposed a school strike on Sunday to protest the demolition of houses belonging to the Abu Eid family and to rally against what they consider to be neglect of the educational institutes.
“If the Lod City Council will ignore us, we’ll continue this long battle,” warned the chairman of the local parents committee.
The strike call comes as Israeli repression of those in solidarity with the Abu Eid family intensifies. When Israeli forces destroyed the family’s makeshift homes last week, according to a report from an Israeli activist named Avner, “a large Special Patrol Unit force arrived to carry out the order using brute force”:
Six family members were arrested including two minors. Three of those detained were beaten and another three – a child of 13 and two women – were injured and had to be taken to hospital…
On the same day an encampment was set up on the lawn in front of Lod’s City Hall in which Abu Eid family members together with Solidarity activists and other groups intended to remain around the clock until the Municipality found a solution…
The six detainees, two of whom are minors, remained in custody during the Court hearing, in the course of which the police demanded an extension of their detention. But the judge decided to conditionally release them to house-arrest – in this case a tent that the Municipality intended to demolish as well – until Monday (7 March).
A few hours later at around midnight, large forces of police stormed the encampment in front of Lod’s City Hall beating sleeping family members and activists and destroying the protest tent. Three activists were detained for several hours and later released, one with a 15-day restraining order from the town and the two others from the City Hall area.
The call for an “educational strike” is the newest tactic being used by supporters of the Abu Eid family. Weekly demonstrations have been held in the city since the December 2010 demolitions took place, with activists involved with the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement joining in.
Lydd, a mixed Arab-Jewish city outside of Tel Aviv, is representative of the larger inequalities that plague life inside Israel. I visited the city two months ago, and it was clear from driving and walking through Lydd that the Palestinian areas were neglected in favor of the Jewish neighborhoods.
Here’s an excerpt from a piece I wrote for the Electronic Intifada on the Abu Eid family:
Hamza Abu Eid, 17, was at school when he first heard the news that his extended family’s seven homes in Lydd — a mixed but segregated Palestinian and Jewish area of Israel — were being demolished. When he arrived to his house the morning of 13 December 2010, the rain was pouring and he was greeted by a full force of Israeli police and bulldozers destroying his family’s residence and belongings.
“The police are continuing to destroy my life,” Hamza said as he led me through his family’s rubble-covered belongings. It’s been approximately a month since the destruction of their homes, but nothing has changed. “I felt so angry, so sad, so crushed, so shocked. It’s a horrible thing.”
Hamza is one of 67 members of the Abu Eid family — among them dozens of children — who were displaced by the home demolitions in Lydd, a city that is representative of the stark contrast in living standards between Israel’s Jewish and Palestinian citizens.
According to Israeli historian Benny Morris, during the 1948 dispossession of historic Palestine during the establishment of the State of Israel — what Palestinians call the Nakba — the Palestinian residents of the town were driven out in the aftermath of a massacre that left hundreds dead. The residents of Lydd were also forced to walk miles in brutal heat, and many more Palestinian refugees died. The Abu Eid family are originally from al-Mansoura, but were expelled during the Nakba to the northern area of Safad and then to Wadi al-Hamam before arriving in Lydd in the late 1950s.
Currently, the Jewish areas of Lydd are built-up and visibly nicer-looking, populated by many Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union. Palestinian residents, who make up nearly a third of the city’s population, are routinely denied permits to expand or build homes in their city and are faced with systemic discrimination. For example, the Abu Eid family had to build and expand their homes without a permit as the family grew. The family sought to obtain retroactive permits, and many appeals were made while the Abu Eid family’s case was litigated in Israeli courts.
As he stood near a tent on top of the place where he once lived, Muhammad Abu Eid, a youthful-looking 16-year-old, asked, “What would they feel if we demolished a Jewish home?”
According to members of the Abu Eid family, while the demolition was happening, Israeli police brutalized them. Police hit them with batons and kicked women and children, including a pregnant woman. The Abu Eid family also said that the police shot their dog. Sitting by a fire, 75-year-old Safia Abu Eid added that the police kicked her after she asked “Why are you demolishing, destroying our house?”
The Israeli police have also set out to intimidate the Abu Eid family by calling family members into the police station with questions about the weekly protests that have been held in Lydd since the demolitions.