Israel has illegally notified construction companies in the Naqab (Negev) region that they must, themselves, verify that every project in which they are involved has been approved by authorities, and warned them that equipment and vehicles used in unauthorized construction will be confiscated.

Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel sent a letter to the Israeli National Planning and Construction Enforcement Unit demanding it cancel notices specifying that construction material suppliers and owners or drivers of construction vehicles are obligated to verify in advance that “construction projects” – defined to include even minor works such as digging a hole – for which they have been contracted to work have received authorization from the relevant Israeli authorities.

Article 218 of the Kaminitz Law, approved by the Knesset in April 2017, grants inspectors the authority to confiscate construction equipment if “the inspector has reasonable grounds to assume that unauthorized construction work is taking place before him.”

The amendment to Planning and Building Law – 1965, also known as the Kaminitz Law, is intended to increase the “enforcement and penalization of planning and building offenses.” However, it will have a disparate impact on Arab citizens of Israel because it fails to take into account the decades of Israeli confiscations of Arab lands and systematic discrimination in land planning and allocation that has resulted in a severe housing crisis in Arab communities throughout Israel.

Adalah Attorney Myssana Morany wrote, in her letter, that the National Planning and Construction Enforcement Unit had inaccurately interpreted Article 218. Indeed, the article specifies that it is not enough that an inspector has “reasonable grounds” to assume that a construction violation is taking place, but rather that the inspector must witness this violation taking place with his/her own eyes.

“The purpose of this authority [granted to inspectors] is strictly to prevent continued construction violations as they occur,” Adalah Attorney Myssana Morany wrote, in the letter.

The Israeli Attorney General has already declared that confiscating construction equipment is “a drastic law enforcement step and this authority must therefore be used very carefully… [and] upon consideration of the question of proportionality and the possibility of preventing the violation via other, less damaging, means.”

Adalah stresses that the notices issued to construction-related businesses in the Naqab region constitute a blatant abuse of authority and are legally baseless.

“Ultimately, all [these notices] do is intimidate people and mislead them into believing that building suppliers are legally obliged to verify that construction work is conducted with construction permits,” Attorney Morany wrote.