Cancel state land tender of ‘discriminatory’ real estate company, minister asks AG

“Using distasteful commercials, with a racist nature, is always deplorable," Housing Minister Yoav Galant writes.

Screenshot of Bemuna housing company video (photo credit: screenshot)
Screenshot of Bemuna housing company video
(photo credit: screenshot)
Deputy Attorney-General Erez Kaminitz penned a letter on Tuesday to the Israel Lands Authority concerning alleged discrimination by the Bemuna real estate company over the marketing of its housing units in Karmei Gat.
The letter was a response to Housing Minister Yoav Galant’s appeal to Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein on Tuesday, asking him to examine all legal courses of action available to his ministry for disqualifying real estate companies that discriminate in state-land tenders, and specifically Bemuna.
Kaminitz wrote, “the [Bemuna] video raises the fear of the adoption of discrimination which is not allowed while marketing apartments in the project. This type of discrimination may stand contrary to the terms of the tender and the contract that was signed with the developer and can lead to different sanctions up to the cancellation of the winning bid as you asked,” he wrote.
“Therefore I ask you, on behalf of the Attorney-General, to look into the matter immediately and report to us as soon as possible the result of your examination,” he wrote.
Galant’s request follows the massive public backlash over the real estate company Bemuna, which released a promotional video on Monday for a new housing project in Karmei Gat intended for Israelis of Ashkenazi descent, and ridiculing Mizrahim.
“The group used racist motifs,” Galant said in his appeal. “It seems that the purpose of this group is to bring the deliberate exclusion of broad population groups in a way that will keep them from purchasing an apartment in the project.
“Using distasteful commercials, with a racist nature, are always deplorable,” he wrote, “especially when this time it is by the winner of a tender concerning state land.”
Galant said the government must ensure that tenders for its lands, which he said were a “limited and expensive resource,” are awarded only to bodies committed to ensuring equality for all citizens.
“There is no room for doubt, because the primary responsibility in this regard is the right to equality and to avoid discrimination,” he said.
“I would be grateful if you could take action urgently to examine the legal means to disqualify the winners of groups that have adopted these measures for tenders of state land, both in the specific case presented before the state and as a broad principle policy in all state-land tenders,” he said.
The video in question depicted an Ashkenazi family lighting Hanukka candles and singing songs when a knock on the door spreads fear across their faces.
The door abruptly opens and an exaggerated stereotypical Mizrahi Jew enters asking to borrow sugar. He then sees the Hanukka celebration and yells out the door to his friend who pops in and the two invite themselves in to the chagrin of the Ashkenazi family – who reminisce what it would be like to light candles with other Ashkenazim.
A narrator cuts in and reads: “Do you also dream of your own home? Would you like neighbors that are to your liking?” and then introduces the national-religious housing project in Karmei Gat.
Following public outrage over the video, Bemuna removed it from its Facebook page and wrote: “Bemuna deeply apologizes for the hurtful video we uploaded this morning. Bemuna has always served the public and the offensive message conveyed in the video is not our way and goes against our values. Our company’s management removed the video immediately and began a process of introspection and investigation to determine how the video was approved. We will continue to build neighborhoods for the religious public in Karmei Gat and in other places for the entire public.”
The housing project, the largest since the establishment of Modi’in, is located some 35 minutes from Tel Aviv and is set to include some 7,500 housing units.
The project is being built in collaboration with the government, which according to the Bemuna website, will provide all the infrastructure including schools, public buildings, parks and roads by the time residents receive the keys to their new homes.