ADC Deeply Concerned by Proposed Israeli Segregation Law
Washington, DC –The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) today expressed its deep concern over proposed legislation adopted by the Israeli Cabinet which would formally restrict the use of Israeli state owned land to Jews only. Over 90 percent of the land in Israel is owned by the quasi-governmental Jewish National Fund (JNF) and is administered by the Israel Land Authority, a government agency. The proposed legislation would codify into Israeli law extreme forms of racial discrimination in housing and land use that have been practiced as a matter of policy but not law since the founding of the Israeli state in 1948. If passed, this law would probably be the most blatant system of formal segregation to exist anywhere in the world since the collapse of apartheid in South Africa.
The proposed legislation is an attempt to reverse the effects of a March, 2000 Israeli Supreme Court ruling which held that JNF policies preventing the use of state land by non-Jews violated Israel’s “Basic Laws.” The court had held that, under existing Israeli law, a family of Palestinian citizens of Israel could not legally be prevented from acquiring housing in the settlement of Katzir in northern Israel simply because of their ethnicity. The ruling threatened to undermine the informal system of housing and land-use discrimination which has formed the bedrock of Israel’s most discriminatory policies towards its Arab citizens. Housing discrimination and segregation have facilitated broad ranging forms of discrimination in state spending on education, social services, infrastructure and other amenities between the Jewish Israeli majority and the one million Palestinian citizens of Israel, who make up about 20 percent of the total population.
Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein has openly disagreed with most of his Cabinet colleagues by opposing the bill on the grounds that it would exacerbate tensions in Israel society.
One of the leading Palestinian members of the Israeli Knesset, Azmi Bishara, said the “bill emphasizes the new trend in Israeli policy and political culture to turn discrimination into something legitimate, by cementing it into law. Racism has been turned from political culture into the ruling official ideology, with the support of the government and the coalition’s approval.”
ADC President Ziad Asali said, “we hope that President Bush, the Secretary of State and members of Congress will speak out clearly against this openly racist measure. The de facto segregation practiced by Israel against its Arab citizens over the decades has been bad enough. But to see the government of a state that American taxpayers send billions of dollars each year to support introduce legislation which encodes such blatant forms of racism in the law of the land is unacceptable. This legislation is completely incompatible with American values, principles and democracy, and our leaders should have the courage to tell Ariel Sharon and his government exactly that.