Court to hear case on 'religious Jews only' project

Civil rights groups, Arab residents in Acre file petition claiming ILA unfairly marketed land solely to religious Jews.

March 18, 2012 14:58
3 minute read.

Haredim 390. (photo credit: Illustrative photo/Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusale)


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The Haifa District Court is set to hear a petition on Tuesday by civil rights groups, which asks the court to order the cancellation of land tenders won by two groups to build 196 housing units for religious Jews in Acre.

The petitioners contend that the land tender was discriminatory because it had been promoted only to religious Jewish groups.

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The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) announced the petition against the Israel Lands Authority and the Construction and Housing Ministry on Sunday – having filed it together with Alyatar, a nonprofit that promotes multiculturalism in Acre, and Haifa University’s Legal Clinic for Human Rights.

In February, two nonprofit groups – the Construction of a Religious Neighborhood in Acre and the Development and Construction of Acre – won two tenders to build housing units in northern Acre.

The tenders permit Construction of a Religious Neighborhood to build 153 detached cottage-style housing units, and Development and Construction to build 43 units.

According to ACRI, Construction of a Religious Neighborhood worked in partnership with a real estate company, Bemuna – Housing for the Religious Public.

Bemuna’s website says it has been active since 1995 in establishing housing for the National Religious population.

Bemuna declined to comment on Sunday, saying they are not named in the petition.

The Acre petition comes after ACRI filed a similar petition in the High Court of Justice last year, over another housing project for religious Jews that Bemuna is marketing in Jaffa. ACRI argued that the Jaffa project was also discriminatory, because it was marketed only to religious Jews.

Although the High Court rejected that petition, the justices said that the state must include a clause in every future land tender stating that the ILA can cancel tenders if housing is marketed in a discriminatory manner.

The petitioners say that the tenders in Acre included such a clause. They have asked the Haifa District Court to issue an interim injunction ordering the ILA to enforce that clause.

According to the petition, the clause in question states that the “winner [of the tender] agrees to refrain from discrimination when marketing [housing] units” and declares that if the winner violates this commitment, “the ILA and the [Housing and Construction] Ministry may withdraw the tender.”

The petition also comes after ACRI attorney Gil Gan- Mor wrote a letter to the ILA in February, asking that the winning tender be revoked on the grounds that both organizations only market the housing projects to religious Jews and not to other populations.

“[The two tender winners] have broken the law by marketing the apartments in a discriminatory manner, on the basis of nationality and religion,” Gan-Mor said Sunday.

He said the decision to award the tenders to these groups was “a serious violation of the right to equality that has no justification, when public land should serve the public who so desperately need housing solutions.”

Gan-Mor then called on the ILA to enforce equal marketing of the projects to all sectors of the public.

The ILA did not respond by press time to a request by The Jerusalem Post for comment.

Sami Hawari, director of Alyatar, said the project is “just one of many examples of discrimination against Arab residents in terms of housing.”

Hawari said that veteran Arab residents of Acre’s Old City are “cleared out and then prevented from living in dignity in other neighborhoods,” adding that many of the city’s apartment blocks have “reception committees” that prevent Arabs from purchasing apartments there.

“This creates a feeling of discrimination, that we are second- class citizens,” he said.

The Haifa District Court will convene a hearing on the petition at 3 p.m. Tuesday.

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