Israel must cancel biased law allowing community acceptance panels
It is inconceivable for communities to take advantage of lands with which the government has entrusted them in a manner that is infuriatingly contrary to human and civil rights.
Ofir and Danalee Kalfa's petition to the High Court of Justice against the law allowing acceptance committees for small communities reveals the ugly face of that piece of legislation. It also reveals the damage the law can do to Israeli society.
The Kalfas, who tried a year ago to be accepted into a new neighborhood to be built on Kibbutz Gevim land in the western Negev, were rejected after an exhausting screening process by a kibbutz committee.
The screening was nothing more than the metamorphosis of the arrogant discrimination kibbutz society has shown in the past to its neighbors in outlying towns. For unclear reasons, and after invasive and burdensome interrogations, the committee decided that it was not interested in accepting new people who were not "one of us." No better reason than this was given in the case of the Kalfas, or in other cases, thus intensifying the isolationist trend of certain groups and their detachment from society.
The process of acceptance for membership in a kibbutz in the past suffered from the same unacceptable characteristics. At the time, rejections were explained in terms of incompatibility with agricultural life or hard work. Nowadays, the screening committees for residence in the new neighborhoods being built on kibbutz land are meant to open up the kibbutz gate to anyone who has the money to buy the land and build a house on it, and who meets reasonable criteria - lack of a criminal past, the ability to make a living, etc. But Kibbutz Gevim, like many other small communities, has chosen to invent its own arbitrary criteria.
This is the real face of the law permitting acceptance committees. Its initiators had intended to keep out mainly Israel's Arab citizens, and so convoluted explanations and reasons were presented in the name of "nationalism" and "Zionism" and "compatibility with the character of the community." But it was clear from the outset that what is intended to keep out one group, will be used to keep out others. In fact, it will serve to sift out anyone who deviates from some vague norm that every conservative and detached community will formulate for itself over and over again.
The law permitting acceptance committees is offensive and should be annuled. It is inconceivable for communities to take advantage of lands with which the government has entrusted them in a manner that is infuriatingly contrary to human and civil rights.