(photo credit: Courtesy/Regavim)
A Knesset Interior Committee meeting erupted into a shouting match after MK Bezalel Smotrich (Bayit Yehudi) defended developers who refuse to sell homes to Arabs.
Wednesday’s meeting was initiated by MKs Zoheir Bahloul (Zionist Union), Esawi Frej (Meretz), Ayman Odeh (Joint List) and Ofer Shelah (Yesh Atid) following news reports that Galil Homes refuses to sell homes to Arabs in the northern town of Ma’alot.
Smotrich said that “someone who wants to protect the Jewish People and oppose mixed marriages is not a racist. Someone wants to let Jews live a Jewish life without non-Jews is not a racist.”
According to Smotrich, Jews are the ones who are deprived, because “they don’t get free land in the Negev,” a reference to Beduin.
“I believe in God’s words,” the Bayit Yehudi MK added. “I prefer that Jews make a living and wouldn’t sell a house to Arabs.”
MK Bennie Begin (Likud) quoted from the Torah in Leviticus that “there should be one law for you, stranger and citizen.”
Smotrich responded that “stranger” does not refer to a non-Jew, rather it means a convert.
“If this would happen [to Jews] in Europe, you would call it anti-Semitism,” Bahloul said.
“I experienced this when I tried to rent an apartment in Jerusalem as a young man, and I did not think that Israel would be unable to deal with this phenomenon after so many years.”
Interior Committee chairman David Amsalem (Likud) called Ma’alot “an island of coexistence,” said he opposes racism and called for the authorities to prosecute anyone who broke the law.
“It cannot be that people can be prevented from living somewhere because he is a Jew or an Arab,” he said.
However, Amsalem accused Arab MKs of hypocrisy for saying Ma’alot must be more mixed, because he has “never seen a Jew live in an Arab village...
Would you accept a Jew living in Sakhnin? If the state releases tenders [for new homes] in Arab towns that are only for children of people who live there, why don’t you defend Jews? There is racism on both sides.”
Odeh responded that he is against all displays of racism, and anyone who wants to live near him is welcome, adding that his neighborhood in Haifa used to be entirely Arab and in recent years it became 25 percent Jewish, which “adds to and enriches” the area.
Frej said he is sure this is not the last time the committee will discuss discrimination and racism.
Tal Attias, a lawyer representing Galil Homes, said the news reports were inaccurate, and that the man who leaked the stories did not have an application to buy a home rejected, rather he was told the company does not yet have final authorization to build more houses.
In addition, Attias said a secretary who told reporters that the company does not sell to Arabs was mistaken and was fired.