Following Knesset passage of the Admission Committees Law in the early hours on
Wednesday, a group of NGOs filed a petition to the High Court of Justice
requesting it to rule the law unconstitutional.
The law authorizes the
activity of “admission committees” in rural villages in the Negev and Galilee
that number fewer than 400 families.
It deals mostly with new
neighborhoods being built in moshavim and kibbutzim, where residency requires
newcomers to join a residents association.
The acceptance process for
these associations differs from one community to another, and some go so far as
to require that newcomers undergo a full day of suitability testing at
evaluation institutes, similar to the testing required for employment in some
workplaces. However, all applicants have to undergo an interview by an
The legislation, sponsored by Israel Beiteinu MK
David Rotem and Kadima MKs Yisrael Hasson and Shai Hermesh, was passed after
midnight by a vote of 35-20. It was a watered-down version of the original bill,
which was altered at the request of Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin.
original proposal sought acceptance committees for all places with fewer than
The law’s explanatory notes state that its purpose is to
protect the unique character of rural villages and to maintain social cohesion.
Similar arrangements already exist in the form of local regulations, but the law
gives them a formal legal standing.
According to the law, the acceptance
committees will be made up of two existing residents, a representative of the
movement the village or neighborhood belongs to, a representative of the Jewish
Agency or the World Zionist Organization, and a representative of the local
In their petition, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel
(ACRI) and The Abraham Fund Initiative argue that the law authorized more than
300 villages or neighborhoods to screen potential residents on the basis of
“obscure” criteria. They claim that a clause that enables the rejection of
candidates for “lack of suitability to the socio-cultural makeup” of the village
discriminates against Arabs and other minorities.
They also claim that
the law circumvents past High Court decisions forbidding the creation of
villages for Jews only.
Though the law specifically prohibits the refusal
of candidates on grounds of race, religion, gender, nationality, disability,
age, parentage, sexual orientation, country of origin and political affiliation,
the petitioners claim that its real purpose is to exclude Arabs and that the
committees would find ways to reject them on other grounds.
“The law is
nothing but a license to discriminate and exclude minorities and undesirable
populations, and to ensure ‘quality’ neighbors. A law such as this does not suit
a democratic, human rightsprotecting state,” said the petition. “Moreover, the
screening processes do not even meet the secondary goal of the law – protecting
the social cohesion of the villages, and possibly even harm it.”
attorney Gil Gan-Mor noted that despite being called “communal villages,” life
in the majority of these locales was not “communal” and they had no unique
characteristics, yet the law will enable discrimination by basing the acceptance
of residents based on vague criteria.
“Based on these criteria, the
committees currently reject ‘unwanted’ groups that wish to live in the village –
such as Arabs, single parents, disabled persons, same-sex couples, Mizrahi
[Sephardi] Jews, religious people and so on,” Gan-Mor said.
includes previous petitions filed to the court by rejected applicants, among
them the family of a disabled IDF veteran, Arab families, a family of immigrants
and a family of Mizrahi Jews. Two other petitions already standing before the
court were filed by families that were rejected for “social
The petition further includes affidavits from residents
of villages that already have acceptance committees.
In one, a resident
of the expansion zone at Kibbutz Ma’ayan Baruch in the Upper Galilee describes
how acceptance committee members explained that the selection process was
frequently a cover-up, and its actual purpose was to prevent the sale of
property to Arabs and ultra-Orthodox Jews as a means of bypassing a court ruling
that forbids discrimination.
In another affidavit, Eliyahu Stern, a
resident of the communal village Ya’ad who chaired the local committee, details
the selection process. Stern states that very often, the committee rejects
applicants because of a sudden caprice by a members.
Stern also says that
in most cases, the evaluation institutes act mainly as a rubber stamp for the
committees, and do not screen applicants based on local requirements.
petitioners requested an immediate injunction against the law, arguing that its
implementation would “enable the further entrenchment of discrimination and
exclusion of population groups at a time when land is in short supply.” “We are
filing a petition to the High Court and demanding that it disqualify the
Admission Committees Law because it is a racist, inappropriate and
anti-democratic law,” Gan- Mor said. “This law is intended to legally enable the
establishment of Jewish-only communities, which has already been ruled
He added that it “sends a message of separatism” and
anchors discrimination against minorities in law.
“The state condemned
the recent, racist ‘Rabbis’ Letter,’ which called on Jews not to sell or rent
apartments to Arabs,” he said, “but this law is exactly the same.”
Be’eri-Sulitzeanu and Mohammad Darawshe, directors of The Abraham Fund
Initiative, said the law “establishes a mechanism of ethnic segregation between
Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel under the auspices of the
The Arab rights organization Adalah said it would file a
petition of its own against the law.
The NGOs also spoke out against
additional legislation passed late Tuesday night, the Nakba Law, which permits
the state to refuse funding for organizations that reject the fundamental values
of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.
According to the law,
statefunded bodies of this type would be fined at a rate equal to three times
the amount of the state funding. If within two years the same body is found to
have violated the law again, the fine will be doubled.
Nakba is Arabic
for “catastrophe” and is how Israeli Arabs generally refer to Israel’s
Independence Day, which they see as a day of mourning. The Nakba Law was
sponsored by Israel Beiteinu MK Alex Miller and passed 37-25 in the Knesset
ACRI attorney Dan Yakir said the law will limit specific forms of
expression while attempting to dictate a single ideological and historical
“This bill severely damages freedom of political expression,
freedom of artistic expression, and freedom of protest, which are all basic
rights and are essential to the very existence of a democracy,” Yakir said.” The
Abraham Fund said that Knesset members are mistaken to think that one can force
the Arab minority to celebrate Israel’s Independence Day. It is important to
allow Arab citizens to learn about and acknowledge their painful past. It is
also important that mutual understanding of the other’s historical narrative
exists between the Jews and Arabs in Israel.”
During the Knesset debate
on Tuesday, Rotem said he was proud to be a member of the Knesset that passed
“I am not ashamed that I want to maintain this country as a
Jewish and democratic state,” Rotem told the laws’ critics. “You are worried
about democracy, but in your way there would be no state.
Israel is a
Jewish and democratic state, not a state of all its citizens.”
before the vote began on the bills, Balad chairman Jamal Zahalka complained that
“On this black night, we will turn to the whole world in order to get protection
from this anti-democratic government led by Binyamin Netanyahu.”