Israeli AG Defends Controversial Law on Admissions Panels

The law allows acceptance committees 'to bar residents who do not suit the lifestyle and social fabric of the community,' in communities with fewer than 400 families.

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Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein supports the law permitting small communities to screen potential residents, with the state telling the High Court of Justice on Wednesday that the law is proportionate and that there is no basis for invalidating it.

Weinstein approved the state's response on Wednesday to two petitions filed against the Admissions Committees Law. The state said the law balances the needs of small communities in the periphery to accept like-minded people who will preserve the towns' social cohesion, with the obligation to assure that land is allocated in a non-discriminatory manner.

An Arab family on the way to apply for admission to a moshav.Credit: Alberto Denkberg

The law, passed last March, allows the use of acceptance committees "to bar residents who do not suit the lifestyle and social fabric of the community" only in communities in the Galilee and the Negev that have fewer than 400 families.

Social action groups castigated Weinstein's reponse. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel, one of the petitioners against the law, said "The Admissions Committee Law discriminates against and humiliates people whose only crime is a desire to exercise their right to choose where to live."

Other petitioners against the law are the Abraham Fund Initiatives, Adalah, the Mizrahi Democratic Rainbow and the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance.

The petitioners argue that communities to which the law applies are not cooperatives and their population does not fit any particular profile other than sharing a desire for a high quality of life.

They said that the vague criteria applied by admissions committees are merely a way of keeping out "undesirables" such as the disabled, single mothers, Mizrahim, religious families or homosexuals.

The state said the law was an improvement over previous arrangements that were determined by the Israel Lands Administration, since it applies only to the Galilee and the Negev, and expressly states that communities cannot reject applicants for reasons of race, religion, gender or nationality.

Adalah, which advocates for Arab rights, described Weinstein's stance as "extremely problematic" because it justifies a serious violation of the rights of Negev and Galilee residents.

According to Adalah attorney Suhad Bishara, this position allows screening committees at 475 communities in the north and south, which comprise 46 percent of all the towns and cities in Israel and 65 percent of its communal and agricultural settlements.

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