Editorial

The Nation-state Bill’s Damage

Indeed, discussions of the “Jewish character” of Kfar Vradim are no coincidence. They are a direct result of the racist winds blowing from the cabinet

Women speak on their phones as they ride a light rail tram in Jerusalem November 11, 2014
\ REUTERS

Under the auspices of an extreme right-wing government, the decision by Kfar Vradim’s local council head Sivan Yehieli to halt bids for selling building plots of land in this community, after 50 percent of the winners so far turned out to be Arabs, seems like a calculated move. In a letter he disseminated among the community’s residents he promised that “no more land would be sold until an appropriate solution was found to ensure our ability to maintain our communal life and the special character of Kfar Vradim."

Yehieli is certainly aware of the fact that the government is devoting great efforts to finding an “appropriate solution” for communities wishing to retain their “special character.” Only last week, the special committee for promoting the nation-state bill approved the first version of the bill slated to be brought before the Knesset — a version that has a clause allowing the establishment of communities for Jews only. Clause 7b of this bill specifically states that “the state can allow a community composed of people of the same faith or nationality to maintain an exclusive community.”

The bill has not yet been brought to the Knesset for approval, partly due to this clause, which raises constitutional problems. Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit said that “there is no place for such a clause in its present form.” Attorney Eyal Zandberg of the Attorney General’s office added that “this is blatant discriminationthis means that the residents selection committee can hang up a sign saying ‘no entry to non-Jews.’”

However, where Zandberg and Mendelblit see a problem Yehieli and Kfar Vradim residents see a solution. A sign or law passed in this spirit, confirming the restrictions on selling or renting land to non-Jews, will help in maintaining the “special character of Kfar Vradim.” Indeed, discussions of the “Jewish character” of Kfar Vradim are no coincidence. They are a direct result of the racist winds blowing from the cabinet, of the obsessive desire to fortify the Jewish component of Israel at the expense of its democratic one, and of the repeated attempts to make Arabs second-class citizens. All of these percolate downwards and turn into blatant expressions of racism.

The situation is similar to one which unfolded in Nazareth and in communities around it — in the absence of a government plan that will enable Arab communities to grow, their residents have no option but to move to adjacent (Jewish) communities. Residents of the Arab town of Tarshiha, which lies next to Kfar Vradim, note that the area under discussion, known as Kfar Vradim’s phase 3, includes land that belongs to residents of Tarshiha, some of which is still privately owned and some that was expropriated as land belonging to missing persons. Instead of dealing with demographic planning, Yehieli and other residents should honor the results of the bid and allow its continuation. In tandem, the nation-state bill and its shameful clause should be shelved immediately, since its damage is already apparent, even before its passage by the Knesset.

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