Israel's Legislation Could Eventually Serve Its Enemies

The liberty of a resident to choose his neighbors is not sacrosanct, especially when it is bound up with the way that the state allocates its economic assets.

Mordechai Kremnitzer
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Mordechai Kremnitzer

The proposed law for the amendment of the communal cooperative directive which enables admissions committees of small communities to reject candidates if they dont meet certain criteria is a wolf in lambs clothing.

At first glance, the proposal, which was approved by the Knessets Constitution, Law and Justic Committee, bans these committees from refusing to accept a candidate exclusively on the basis of race, religion, sex, nationality or physical disability. In actual effect, owing to a formula that allows as criteria for admissions the lack of a candidates suitability for the communitys social-cultural fabric, the proposal allows for the disqualification of anyone who is not a Zionist, meaning Arabs, and other types of unsuitable candidates. In this way, the proposal joins continuing discrimination against the Arab public in the housing sector, as well as a series of proposed laws that seek to harm this population.

The Arab population in Israel suffers from ongoing discrimination in housing and land allocation resulting from massive expropriation in the past, unwillingness to expand areas for building in Arab towns and villages and the lack of an authorized development plan in many of these communities. In addition to discrimination in many areas, such as education and employment, there is a growing sense that Arabs in Israel are not citizens who enjoy equal rights, and that what is now at play is policy designed to drive them away.

The result is mounting hostility between Arabs and Jews in Israel. There are those, such as Prof. Ruth Gavison, who support the notion of separate but equal in principle. Yet even these people must acknowledge that under existing circumstances of disparity, the barring of Arabs from communal settlements is discriminatory toward them. The foul odor of racism wafts from the desire to keep Arabs out of the communal settlements. Types of justification marshalled to warrant this approach, such as fears of decline in property values, of intermarriage or of outbreaks of violence, are dubious.

How would we respond were such arguments hazarded against Jews in another country? Weighing against the racially based preferences of Jewish individuals to live exclusively with people of their own religious group, there is the right of a minority not to be humiliated by prohibitions against belonging to a certain group. This right has prerogative.

The issue in question is not just the liberty of a resident to choose his neighbors. It is also the way the state allocates its economic assets. In such allocations, the state has no right to discriminate on a national-ethnic basis. Should we accept the assumption that the arguments utilized to justify the barring of Arabs from the communal settlements take precedence over the rights of equality and human dignity, then these arguments would apply not just to the small communities but also to all forms of settlement in Israel, including cities that lack traits of planned communal villages.

Such a possibility has no legitimacy in a democratic society. There is thus a straight line connecting this proposed law and calls issued by rabbis in Safed not to sell or rent apartments to Arabs. So long as the state has a Jewish majority, its Jewish character will be preserved. This difference between majority and minority justifies settlements for Arabs (or vegans) alone, but not for Jews only. Since Jews are the majority, there is no concern about the preservation of their group identity, where the Arabs are a minority, and their collective identity is threatened.

The national isolationism that this proposal is designed to promote will deepen alienation and hostility. As things stand, separation between Arabs and Jews in Israel is extreme: There are scarcely any joint educational, residential or military service frameworks. A Jewish-Israeli can go through life without meeting an Arab-Israeli. That is how fears, stereotypes and malice is engendered.

No doubt, the proposal promotes the Yisrael Beiteinu partys vision of making the Arabs disappear, and, until that time, of knocking them down in the hopes that they will lose their bearings. It is also clear that should the law be passed, the Knesset will notch a major achievement the provision of ammunition to enemies of Israel who claim that it is a racist, Apartheid state.

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