Peres criticizes petition banning sale of land to non-Jews

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

December 9, 2010 02:22
3 minute read.
President Shimon Peres

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

President Shimon Peres issued a sharp rebuke on Wednesday against the rabbis who published an edict forbidding the rental or sale of housing to non-Jews.

In a strongly worded statement, Peres said that the rabbis were generating a moral crisis that ran counter to the essence of a Jewish and democratic state, and were thereby doing great harm to the State of Israel.

MKs, rights activists protest rabbinic prohibition
Why the call not to sell land to non-Jews in Safed?

Peres added that he saw no contradiction between democracy and Judaism.

“All people are created in the image of God,” he said, emphasizing that this was a fundamental principle in both Judaism and democracy.

Jewish and non-Jewish citizens live in Israel, he continued, and all have the same rights, including the right to be different and to practice different religions.

Peres called on the nation to preserve these values of democracy, Judaism and equality, “because these are the issues that affect our lives.”

Forty-seven city rabbis recently afforded their signatures to a statement against renting or selling plots to non- Jews, citing the danger of intermarriage, the potential damage to the religious beliefs of Jewish neighbors who might be influenced, and the damage to the value of real estate in the area.

Nine months ago, a similar ruling was issued by Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu regarding his city.

Rabbi Aharon Leib Steinman, one of the most prominent haredi Ashkenazi rabbis, reportedly refused a request to sign a document to that effect, as he perceived it as a provocative and nationalistic statement that ran counter to the haredi attitude regarding political issues.

Amnesty International, in an announcement late Tuesday night, condemned the ruling, which “clearly targets the Palestinian citizens who make up 20 percent of Israel’s population, and highlights the continuing discrimination they face in housing and other areas.”

On Wednesday, the Anti- Defamation League called the document a “perversion of Jewish and democratic values”; the National Student Union strongly condemned it; and MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta’al) criticized the rabbis who had signed the petition, calling them neo-Nazis.

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

MK Taleb a-Sana (United Arab List) called the rabbis who signed the letter “the scum of the human race” and godless racists during a session of questions to Interior Minister Eli Yishai regarding the Eritrean refugees, and was ejected from the plenary in an ensuing shout-off with Yishai and Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman (United Torah Judaism).

The ADL said that “it is outrageous and unacceptable that rabbis across Israel are promoting blatant discrimination against non-Jews... 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 ADL thanked Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for his condemnation of the calls not to rent apartments to non- Jews. Addressing the National Bible Quiz for Adults in Jerusalem on Tuesday, Netanyahu said that non-Jews were also citizens of the country, and that the Torah teaches Jews to “love the stranger.”

Ronen Shnidman contributed to this report.

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