The Israeli Law Encouraging Racism

Haaretz Editorial
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Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked
Interior Minister Ayelet ShakedCredit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Haaretz Editorial

On Sunday, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation will once again discuss a bill sponsored by Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked that would expand the Admission Committees Law. This law was passed by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government in 2011, and it’s the most salient example of legislation that undermines democratic values and equality.

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The current law allows certain types of small communities to screen people who want to buy a home there, or sometimes even just rent one, by means of an admission committee. These committees have the power to pry into applicants’ personal lives and reject them for a few different reasons.

Even though the existing law includes a provision banning discrimination, it also includes a reason that explicitly contradicts that provision – if the applicant “doesn’t suit the community’s sociocultural fabric.” Or, in less euphemistic language, if the applicant belongs to a certain group that community members want to exclude – Arabs, LGBT individuals, Mizrahi Jews, single mothers and so forth.

During the legislative process, the bill – which was opposed by then-Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin – was limited to so-called cooperative communities with up to 400 families, and only those in the Negev and the Galilee. Its proponents argued that it was needed to maintain the way of life in these small communities in these regions.

But now, proponents seek to extend the law to communities “in which up to 600 building lots have been put up for sale, earmarked for permanent construction.” This would expand the law’s reach to many additional communities, even some with more than 600 families. The proposed amendment would also expand the law’s geographic coverage to areas where there have been no admission committees for the past decade. The claim that a community with 400 families is a “small cooperative community” was unconvincing from the start. But expanding the law’s applicability brings the truth to light – this is about exclusion, racism and elitism, and it rides roughshod over applicants’ human dignity.

This harmful law doesn’t just give a legal seal of approval to racism, but even encourages it – because in real life, when given the power to screen and select their neighbors, even people who don’t hold racist views will very likely choose people similar to them and exclude those who are different, even if they aren’t motivated by bad intentions. Consequently, this law must not be expanded to additional communities. This is not what a government that includes liberals and even a party representing the Arab community was established to do.

The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel

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