Special Knesset Panel Slated to Discuss Bill for Jews-only Communities in Israel

Committee's legal advisers say this provision violates the principle of equality: 'The proposed article has no parallel in any constitution in the world'

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Members of the special Knesset committee set up to prepare the nation-state bill for enactment, including Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, Likud MK Amir Ohana and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked
Members of the special Knesset committee set up to prepare the nation-state bill for enactment, including Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, Likud MK Amir Ohana and Justice Minister Ayelet ShakedCredit: Emil Salman

A special Knesset committee set up to prepare the nation-state bill for enactment will hold its first discussion tomorrow on a provision that would allow the establishment of communities for Jews only. But the committee’s legal advisers say this provision violates the principle of equality.

“The proposed article has no parallel in any constitution in the world,” the legal advisers wrote in a document sent to all committee members. “Thus a question arises as to the justification for including it in a Basic Law that deals with the state’s fundamental principles.”

The provision in question would allow the establishment of communities designated exclusively for members of particular religion or ethnic groups. But the legal advisers said it should either be scrapped entirely, or at the very least altered.

If the latter course is chosen, they said, the provision should be changed to follow the language of an existing law on cooperative associations. That law allows the establishment of exclusive communities only if they serve a group with unique social or cultural characteristics.

“Communities of this type are likely to have a particular identity, but it’s not possible to sweepingly exclude people from them solely on the basis of their ethnicity or religion, or to exclude people who don’t seek to undermine the sociocultural fabric of the community,” the legal advisers wrote.

“We believe that the wording proposed, which permits the state to allow members of one particular religious or ethnic group to set up separate communities without restricting this to small communities of a unique cultural and communal nature, raises significant problems with regard to the fundamental principles of our system, first and foremost the state’s obligation to treat all its citizens equally and not discriminate on the basis of religion or ethnicity,” the document concluded.

The provision is popularly known as the “Kaadan bypass” provision, since it was introduced to circumvent the High Court of Justice’s ruling in the case of the Kaadan family of Baka al-Garbiyeh. The Kaadans went to court in 1996 after the community of Katzir rejected their application to join it solely because they were Arabs. About a decade later, armed with the court’s ruling in their favor, they were finally allowed to buy a house in Katzir.

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