Peres criticizes petition banning sale of land to non-Jews

MK Tibi calls 47 state-employed rabbis skinheads for petition banning renting apartments to non-Jews; ADL also condemns rabbis' letter.

December 8, 2010 13:27
2 minute read.
President Shimon Peres

Peres speaking 311 AP. (photo credit: Associated Press)

President Shimon Peres said Wednesday that a petition signed by 47 state-employed rabbis banning the sale of apartments to non-Jews creates a fundamental moral crisis in Israel, Israel Radio reported.

Peres stressed that a minority could not make decisions for everyone in Israel, adding that everyone is equal and everyone has equal rights.

MKs, rights activists protest rabbinic prohibition

Also on Wednesday, MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta'al) denigrated the rabbis who signed the anti-Arab petition as neo-Nazis.

"I am confident that the number of [such] rabbis will only increase," said Tibi.  He continued, "We are dealing with skinhead rabbis who are working against the Arabs."

Outside Israel, the ADL condemned on Wednesday the rabbis' petition, which had quoted the halachic stance against renting or selling a house or plot of land to a non-Jew in Israel.

"It is outrageous and unacceptable that rabbis across Israel are promoting blatant discrimination against non-Jews," the advocacy group said in a statement. "The State of Israel was established in the wake of the most horrific expression of hatred to be a Jewish and democratic state."

"It is extremely disturbing to hear religious leaders – who are supposed to represent and uphold Jewish values – promote such a prejudicial course for Israeli society. That many of these rabbis are state employees makes their action that much more troubling," the statement added.

The ADL also thanked Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for his condemnation of calls not to rent apartments to non-Jews. The prime minister had said Tuesday that the Torah teaches us to “love the stranger.” He made the comment at the start of the National Bible Contest for Adults in Jerusalem, saying that non-Jews are also citizens of the country.

“How would we feel if someone said not to sell apartments to Jews?,” the prime minister said. “We would protest, and we do protest when it is said among our neighbors. It is forbidden that such things are said about Jews or Arabs.”

Netanyahu said such calls were forbidden in a democratic state, “especially in a Jewish democratic state that respects Jewish tradition and the Bible.” Israel, he said, “completely rejects” this call.

The rabbis' letter begins, “In response to many people’s questions, we hereby reply that it is prohibited by the Torah to sell a house or a field in the Land of Israel to a gentile,” before proceeding to quote Maimonides, the Shulhan Aruch and other sources. The letter notes the danger of intermarriage, the potential damage to the religious beliefs of Jewish neighbors who might be influenced by non-Jews, and the damage to the value of real estate in the area.

It follows a similar ruling issued by Safed’s chief rabbi, Shmuel Eliahu, some nine months ago. That ruling came to the public’s notice in October, leading Minority Affairs Minister Avishai Braverman to call for Eliahu’s firing, and the Israel Religious Action Center to demand a criminal investigation against the rabbi for racial incitement.

Jonah Mandel, Ben Hartman and Herb Keinon contributed to this report.

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