The Social Development Committee organizes the first accountability conference to address the issues of the Haifa Arab community

The Social Development Committee in Haifa organized an Accountability Conference to shed light on the issues of Arab education, planning, housing, and shared society in Haifa. This conference was held on 29 July 2021 with the attendance of the Mayor of Haifa and delegates from the Engineering Department in Haifa Municipality. Additional participants included Arab and Jewish activists from Haifa. Simultaneous interpretation was provided in Hebrew and Arabi.

                                       

The conference is considered the first of its kind, because it is the first to tackle the issue of lack of accountability and lack of transparency in the municipality especially towards the Arab population. The conference had limited attendance due to the pandemic, but was, shown live on several pages and sites.

 

One of the most noteworthy parts of the conference was the Mayor of Haifa, Dr. Kalish Rotem’s recognition of the significant shortcomings accumulated for decades by the previous municipalities in terms of their handling of the rights and needs of the Arab population in Haifa. The mayor promised to work on and complete important projects serving the Arab community before the end of her term.

 

The conference included an hour-long interview with the mayor about accountability with journalist Wadih Awawda, who asked direct questions about the current situation of the Arab communities. Awawda also asked about the municipality’s promises to correct the injustices committed by the municipality towards the Arab community as well as the lack of a clear goal, vision, and a comprehensive plan that meets the needs of Arab citizens in the areas of infrastructure, education, the right to shelter, participation in planning, services and cultural and sports facilities, among others.

 

It also opened the door for members of the Arab community in Haifa to question the mayor about these issues, to share their grievances and complaints, and to demand immediate resolutions to their problems.

 

In response to one of the questions put forth by a community member, the mayor answered, ” There are important projects for the Arab population that will be completed before the end of my term, including the construction of two schools very soon.”

The mayor also noted that she needs another term in order to be able to complete her other plans and programs aimed at serving all the people of Haifa.

 

The conference was concluded with an additional talk in which two engineers from the engineering department in the municipality were questioned about several issues, including: 1. The absence of Arab engineers in key positions in the department.

  1. The lack of a comprehensive planning vision for the needs of Arabs.

3.Their identity and their Arabic language.

  1. The shortage of apartments and the deteriorating infrastructure in the old Arab neighborhoods.

 

Orna Moore, one of the engineers participating in the talks, admitted that some of the municipality’s projects were unsuccessful and incomplete, she also admitted that most projects didn’t include the Arab population, as has happened in the Wadi al-Nasas neighborhood, for example.

 

Many of the attendees from the municipality promised to take into consideration the recommendations of the conference and the complaints of the Arab residents to the concerned authorities in the municipality. Nevertheless, many participants in the conference said that they are waiting for real actions to be taken not only words.

 

The city of Haifa is still a symbol of partnership and unity, but it needs a lot of affirmative action to lift the accumulated injustice against Arab citizens in education, planning, welfare services, culture and others.

The conference was met with positive responses from the participants, who stressed the importance of turning it into an annual tradition in Haifa to serve its Arab residents.

The full live broadcast of the 2021 conference

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