Editorial

Bylaws: No Entry for Arabs

Israel has never ceased to demonstrate creativity when it comes to discriminating against Arab citizens of the state. Hiran and Kochav Yair are just the latest examples

File photo: Residents look on as Israeli forces destroy the Bedouin settlement of Umm al-Hiran that was later replaced by Jewish settlement Hiran.
Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Israel has never ceased to demonstrate creativity when it comes to discriminating against Arab citizens of the state. As readers may recall, the state sought to evacuate and demolish the Bedouin community of Umm al-Hiran to make way for a new Jewish town called Hiran. In 2015, the High Court of Justice rejected Umm al-Hiran residents’ arguments against their eviction, asserting that the Bedouin would still be able to live in the planned Jewish town. Nor did the fact that the plan for the town included a Jewish ritual bath and a synagogue undermine the principle of equality, Justice Elyakim Rubinstein wrote.

Even then, it was clear the court was regrettably turning a blind eye to the character of the planned town and of the agencies establishing it. And indeed, it now turns out that among the criteria for admission laid down in the bylaws of the Hiran cooperative association is one requiring an applicant to be “a Jewish Israeli citizen or permanent resident who observes the Torah and the commandments according to the values of Orthodox Judaism” (Tuesday’s Haaretz). In other words, not only is Hiran slated to be inhabited by Jews only, they must also be Orthodox Jews.

This lie, which regrettably gained traction even in the High Court, is additional proof that the only correct and just solution to this affair is to allow residents of Umm al-Hiran to return to their land and live there in peace, rather than being dispossessed in favor of a Jewish town.

Another “Jewish innovation” is an amendment to the law banning discrimination in selling products and services, or in admission to places of entertainment and public venues. Under this amendment, a local government can distinguish between its own residents and those of other towns without this being considered discrimination, if the distinction is intended to allow it to exercise its powers for the benefit of its own residents.

This amendment may now play a role in a lawsuit against the town of Kochav Yair-Tzur Yigal and the organization that runs the town’s country club. To prevent Arabs from joining the club, its bylaws state that only residents of the town can join. But the fact that in practice, memberships were also sold to Jews who weren’t residents of the town, combined with many statements by residents and members of the town council, show the real intent behind this ban (Or Kashti, Haaretz, August 4).

Both Hiran and Kochav Yair are examples of ugly discrimination against Israel’s Arab citizens. The justice system cannot close its eyes and legitimize such discrimination with legal hair-splitting disconnected from the situation on the ground. While Hiran is a town whose very establishment constituted a fundamental injustice, and therefore shouldn’t be permitted, the Kochav Yair-Tzur Yigal case merely requires forbidding discrimination and ordering that anyone who wants to join the country club be given an equal right to do so.

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