Attorney General: Citing Israel's Nation-state Law in Ruling on Busing Arab Kids Was Flawed

Two siblings asked the city of Carmiel to reimburse their daily travel expenses to and from Arabic-language schools outside of the town, which has no such schools

Noa Shpigel
Noa Shpigel
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Carmiel is a predominantly Jewish city in an area with a large Arab population. Credit: Yaron Kaminsky
Noa Shpigel
Noa Shpigel

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit believes the dismissal, based on the so-called nation-state law, of a lawsuit filed by two Arab siblings against their town expressed a misinterpretation of that law.

A brother and sister, aged 6 and 10, had asked the Krayot Magistrate’s Court to order the city of Carmiel to reimburse their daily travel expenses to and from Arabic-language schools outside of the town, which has no such schools.

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In his ruling Court Registrar Yaniv Luzon wrote that finding for the plaintiffs could “damage the city’s character” by encouraging Arabs to live in Carmiel, thus violating one of the articles in the Basic Law on Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People.

“Carmiel, a Jewish city, was meant to establish Jewish settlement in the Galilee,” Luzon wrote. “Establishing an Arabic-language school... [and] funding school transportation for Arab students... could change the demographic balance and damage the city’s character.” The city’s population is about six percent Arab.

Mendelblit was responding to a request submitted to the High Court of Justice in regard to a pending petition against the law. The Meretz party is asking that Luzon’s ruling be attached to the petition in order to show that the nation-state law, which was passed in 2018, has concrete ramifications.

Mendelblit, who is named as a respondent in the petition, wrote that he had no objection to including the verdict and added that it “reflects in his opinion a flawed interpretation” of the nation-state law.

The law “does not detract from the rights of the individual that are protected in other Basic Laws, in particular the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty. As such, the new Basic Law must not be read as an anchor or a base for depriving children in Israel of their rights, including the right to an education.” He added that this misinterpretation of the law cannot serve as the basis for deciding on “funding school transportation in Carmiel for Jews only.”

The Knesset caucus leader of Meretz, Tamar Zandberg said in a response: “When we filed the petition there were people who said the law was unimportant and solely symbolic, but after the court registrar rejected the principle of equality for the “principle” that Carmiel will be a Jewish city, violating the fundamental rights of children who only wanted education, the attorney general now understands that the use of this law is liable to be improper and discriminatory.”

Eran Lev, the lawyer representing Meretz in the petition, said: “A Basic Law that can be given such a discriminatory and exclusionary interpretation is a dangerous law that should be erased.”

The High Court is scheduled to begin deliberations on the petition against the nation-state law Tuesday in an expanded panel of 11 justices.

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