Knesset Passes Initial Reading of Bill to Keep Public Services in West Bank Settlements

Bill would render discrimination in providing goods or public services on basis of place of residence illegal; could help fight discrimination against cultural institutions like the performers boycott of Ariel theater.

The Knesset on Wednesday approved the initial reading of a bill which proposes an end to allowing companies to discriminate against customers based on where they live, a law which could potentially benefit West bank cities and residents.

"Different bodies that work in supplying products or public services discriminate against groups in the population… on the basis of where they reside," the bill states.

Ariel cultural center
Alon Ron

Individuals who helped draft the bill, including MK Uri Orbach of Habayit Hayehudi, said it could also help fight discrimination against cultural institutions, for example the call for performers to boycott the new theater in Ariel.

The passage of the bill comes at a particularly sensitive time; late last year, a group of theater actors and public figures signed a petition saying they would not perform in the new Ariel arts center as a protest of Israel's settlement policies. If this law were to pass, the boycott against Ariel's cultural center could potentially face legal action for being "discriminatory."

"From time to time, services or products aren’t provided to populations living in specific locations, like the settlements in Judea and Samaria or Arab villages in the periphery," the bill states.

The bill also noted that although services may be supplied to these specific locations, they often come with an additional fee.

If passed, discrimination in providing goods or public services on the basis of place of residence would be rendered illegal. To be considered guilty of discriminating unlawfully on the basis of where a customer works or resides, a company would have to refuse to provide goods or services to a specific address under the same terms and conditions as it would refuse another location approximately the same distance from the company.