Court rejects use of nation state law to block funds to bus Arab students

According to the Haifa court, the lower court should never have brought the Jewish Nation-State Law into the discussion, as it was not relevant.

Israeli Arabs and their supporters take part in a rally to protest against Jewish nation-state law in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, Israel August 11, 2018 (photo credit: REUTERS/AMMAR AWAD)
Israeli Arabs and their supporters take part in a rally to protest against Jewish nation-state law in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, Israel August 11, 2018
(photo credit: REUTERS/AMMAR AWAD)
Haifa District Court has rejected using the Jewish Nation-State Law as a basis for blocking funding for busing Israeli-Arab students, although it nevertheless rejected their funding requests on other, technical grounds.
The court spokesperson’s office announced on Thursday that the District Court had issued a ruling partially reversing a November 2020 decision by Krayot Magistrate’s Court in the North.
According to the Haifa court, the lower court should not have brought the Jewish Nation-State Law into the discussion, as it was not relevant.
Further, the District Court said that even if the law had applied, the Krayot court’s interpretation – using the law to limit Israeli-Arab’s rights – was improper.
The November 2020 ruling sparked debate about how the Jewish Nation-State Law may negatively impact the country’s minorities, especially its sizable Arab sector.
The Krayot court concluded that Karmiel was specifically designated as a city for expanding the state’s Jewish character into the northern periphery, and that state funding for busing Arab schoolchildren to Arabic-language schools could undermine that goal.
More specifically, the Krayot court voiced concern that such a benefit could lead to an influx of additional Israeli-Arab residents, which could affect the city’s heavily Jewish demographic.
The lower court case involved the children’s families seeking to be reimbursed NIS 25,000 for transportation expenses for two siblings.
However, as the court relied on the Jewish Nation-State Law and broader statements about identity issues, the case took on national significance.
The ruling was published just as the state was to attempt to file a legal brief to defend the law’s constitutionality before the High Court of Justice.
The ruling was also raised later before the High Court, with the justices framing the ruling as likely mistaken, but not proving anything broader about the Jewish Nation-State Law’s constitutionality. The Haifa court appeared to follow this thread.
Its reasoning for rejecting the funding request related more to finding that the family should have registered their children in officially sanctioned schools, and should have sought to address the Arabic-language issue through standard channels, as opposed to registering for Arab-language schools outside the standard education system.
However, the family and NGO Adalah, which supported the case, argued that the standard offered to schools did not address the Arabic-language issue.
In the past year, Adalah has demanded that the Karmiel municipality pay for school transportation for Arab children, and has appealed to the Education Ministry to widen the map of neighboring communities associated with Karmiel’s school transportation program.
The Jewish Nation-State Law was passed on July 19, 2018, and Adalah filed its petition to the High Court against the law three weeks later. Around a dozen other groups also filed petitions, including top Druze officials and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI).