[apartheid] Racial segregation: Israel advances law preventing Palestinian citizens from living in Jewish areas

Elis Gjevori

Middle East Eye  /  June 6, 2023 

Human rights groups have promised to challenge the bill that would see more Israeli towns vetting Palestinians from buying land or renting apartments.

The Israeli government is advancing legislation to “Judaize” the Galilee, a region in northern Israel with a significant Palestinian population. 

The move is part of a deal that was struck to form Israel’s new government last year with far-right politicians Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir, who want to expand Jewish settlement in the region.

As part of the plan to “save Jewish settlement in the Galilee,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans to significantly strengthen a controversial 2011 law that would give small communities powers to vet prospective newcomers.

When the law was passed the goal was to bypass a Supreme Court ruling forbidding residential communities from leasing land only to Jews.

The laws give “almost complete discretion” to these small communities to choose who lives there, said Suhad Bishara from Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel.

“In practice, this arrangement is, principally, a tool for screening out Palestinian citizens and preventing their residence in these communities and constitutes a legal mechanism for residential segregation in many localities in the State of Israel,” said Bishara, speaking to Middle East Eye.

Earlier this month, Israeli Justice Minister Yariv Levin said that the purchase of houses by Palestinians in towns and cities in Israel was pushing Jewish people to leave these areas.

 “Arabs buy apartments in Jewish communities in the Galilee and this causes Jews to leave these cities because they are not ready to live with Arabs,” said Levin.

Now the Israeli government is to “expand this system and deepen it,” said Bishara.

The government has committed to increase the number of towns able to select newcomers from those with 400 households to those with up to 1,000 households.

The expansion of the law is also supported by a number of opposition parliamentarians. The first reading of the bill that would have allowed towns with up to 600 households to screen who moves in was passed under the former government.

The law officially does not allow acceptance committees to reject resident candidates for reasons of race, religion, gender, nationality, disability, class, age, parentage, sexual orientation, country of origin, views or party political affiliation.

However, the wording of the 2011 law allows committees to reject candidates who they deem to be “inappropriate for the social and cultural fabric” of the community.

‘Blatant violation of human rights law’

The Israeli cabinet earlier this month also discussed a new proposal to assert “Zionist values” in government policy, which critics have argued could enable Jewish Israelis to receive preferential treatment in housing planning and construction.

Palestinian citizens of Israel who live in the Negev (Naqab) region have long accused the Israeli government of attempting to uproot them through various tactics.

Those include confiscation of lands from Palestinians and turning landowners into tenants. Additionally, the Israeli government has been accused of preventing the expansion of Palestinian villages and encircling them with new Jewish settlements.

The new law is set to also be expanded to the occupied West Bank in areas where Israel has annexed territory that also includes Palestinians.

Bishara said the bill, if passed as is, could be “open for constitutional examination in regard to its applicability in Israel.”

“This is a blatant violation of international humanitarian law and human rights law, which apply to the West Bank, as an occupied territory,” warned Bishara.

“If passed, this will lead to the deepening of the mechanism of de facto annexation of occupied territories and could be considered part of a de jure annexation process, in absolute contravention of the laws of occupation,” she added.

Elis Gjevori is a journalist based in Istanbul


Israel approves private bill to expand racial segregation

Middle East Monitor  /  June 5, 2023

Israel approved a private bill yesterday to expand its discriminatory Admission Committees, triggering a backlash from rights groups who have warned that it will further entrench racial segregation. The goal of the legislation, said a report in the Jerusalem Post, is to decentralize the population and strengthen the periphery by giving residents the means of maintaining their communal and rural ways of life.

Introduced in 2011, Admissions Committees Law legalizes “Admission Committees” that operate in hundreds of small community towns built on state land in the Naqab (Negev) and Galilee. The law gives Admission Committees, bodies that select applicants for housing units and plots of land, almost full discretion to accept or reject individuals from living in these towns. The committees include a representative from the Jewish Agency or the World Zionist Organization, quasi-governmental entities. In practice, they filter out Palestinian applicants and others from marginalized groups.

The amendment to the 2011 law would expand the applicability of the legislation from townships with 400 households to those with up to 1,000 households.

Human right organizations have slammed the move as racist and undemocratic. The bill is part of a series of measures to implement “racial segregation” and promote the annexation of the occupied West Bank, Adalah – the Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel is reported saying in the Post.

“The Acceptance Committee Law is already used to regulate a mechanism of racial segregation and is intended to implement the value of Jewish settlement that the Nation State Law enshrines as a supreme principle,” Adalah’s Suhad Bashara is reported saying in a statement. “The government’s documents openly reveal that the deepening of racism is now Israel’s official policy, and that it wishes to act to annex the occupied territories by applying the law.”

Denouncing the move, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel said: “In a democratic country, every citizen has the right to live wherever they want, as part of human dignity, and subjecting this right to an invasive and prying selection process requires thorough justification.”

Last week, prior to the Israeli cabinet’s decision to expand Appointment Committees, Justice Minister Yariv Levin explained that installing judges who understand Jews “don’t want to live with Arabs [Palestinians]”, is one of the reasons for the controversial judicial overhaul.

Levin urged lawmakers to make it easier for Israeli society to practice racial discrimination by expanding the country’s controversial Admissions Committee. “Arabs [Palestinians] buy apartments in Jewish communities in the Galilee and this is causing Jews to leave these areas because they don’t want to live with Arabs [Palestinians],” Levin was reported saying while speaking at a cabinet meeting last week. “We need to ensure that there are judges in the Supreme Court who understand this,” he added.