The Right to Build a House

The Supreme Court's decision to uphold the petition of Ahmed and Fatina Zabeidat against the Rakefet communal village shows the dichotomy between a democratic country committed to equal rights for all citizens and anti-democratic legislative trend in the Knesset.

The High Court's decision on Tuesday to uphold the petition by Ahmed and Fatina Zabeidat against the Rakefet communal village in the Misgav regional council, and against the Israel Lands Administration, is a welcome step, and accords with the Kadan High Court ruling and the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty. In a democratic, egalitarian society, the right of an individual to build a house in the region where he was born, raised and lives is self-evident.

The upholding of the petition also constitutes an important step in the arduous journey undertaken by the Zabeidat family. The High Court's decision gives substance to the conditional injunction the court issued in 2007, a year after the couple asked to be accepted into the communal village of Rakefet, and was turned down by the community's admissions committee.

Rakefet - Yaron Kaminsky
Yaron Kaminsky

The conditional order required the community to reserve a parcel of land for the couple to build a house on, and Tuesday's ruling enjoins the state to relay to the complainants a lot within 90 days. The Misgav regional council has announced that its members accept the ruling, and will act to implement it.

It can be hoped that they will act not only to formally accept this ruling, but will also display good will, and will develop a new way of cooperative living between Arabs and Jews in the Galilee.

The road to achieving this objective is long and winding. As background to this week's High Court decision there are pending a number of petitions challenging, on principle, the small communities law. This law was designed to whitewash the arbitrary, discriminatory process by which Arabs are kept away from communal settlements on the specious grounds that they are not suited to the community's way of life.

The Supreme Court's decision expressed again the dichotomy between a democratic country committed to equal rights for all its citizens and the anti-democratic legislative trend in the current Knesset. And not only in the Knesset. Rascist tendencies have gained a great deal of momentum in the public in recent years as well.

The good news is that within the Misgav council there is an impressive group of Jewish residents which contests the discriminatory exclusion of Arabs, and adamantly opposes the institution of admissions committees. The High Court decision provides genuine reinforcement to this group which seeks change, and neighborly relations with Arabs.