Editorial

The Israeli High Court's Strange Views About Equality

A panel actually ruled that an entity that declares that it discriminates can be among Israel’s decision-makers

A High Court session deliberating a law to remove sitting lawmakers from office, February, 2018.
Emil Salman

The High Court of Justice has rejected a petition against the large representation of Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund on the council of the Israel Land Authority. According to the petitioners – the Committee of Arab local-government heads, the Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel – because Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael considers itself entrusted with the Jewish people's interests, and because KKL says land should be marketed to Jews only, the law under which six of the council’s 14 members represent KKL infringes on Israeli Arabs’ right to equality and dignity.

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In rejecting the petition, the High Court panel, headed by Justice Noam Sohlberg, along with Justices David Mintz and Yosef Elron, actually ruled that an entity that declares that it discriminates can be among Israel’s decision-makers.

The High Court ruling – that the right to equality and human dignity has not been infringed on – is mistaken. And the fact that the petitions against the law’s legality were rejected at such an early stage of judicial scrutiny, and that court costs were imposed on the petitioners, is shameful. The court has revealed its true attitude toward the petitioners.

Clearly Israeli Arabs cannot consider the council, 43 percent of whose members represent an organization that discriminates against them, a legitimate entity. In a properly run country, people who declare that they’re committed to acting in a discriminatory way are immediately disqualified from a public role. One can only imagine what Israelis’ response would be if in a country where Jews were a minority, half of a group’s members stated their intention to discriminate against Jews.

Respect for human dignity, the court ruled, should not push aside respect for the law. The justices apparently forgot that respect for the law depends on the measure of respect the law gives to people. This is also true for respect for the court, which will always depend on the justices’ rulings, and on whether they’re ruling justly or perhaps legitimizing an injustice by the government and closing the halls of justice to those harmed by the injustice.

The time has come for Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael – an organization that fulfills public roles in a democratic country – to drop its discriminatory policy. Since the establishment of the state, the Arab community has suffered discrimination in the allocation of land. If that weren’t enough, the state gave Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael a healthy slice of the land expropriated from Arabs at the time.

No party, including the left-wing Meretz, can be considered committed to democracy and equality if it’s a partner of Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael, which raises the banner of discrimination against Arabs. Neither is the state entitled to present itself as committed to equality when the organization entrusted with allocating public land is biased against Arabs.