Nazareth court revokes land tenders outside Afula won solely by Arabs due to price fixing

Head of the District Court, Judge Avraham Avraham said that the prospective buyers all issued identical or nearly identical bids, “seriously impairing the principle of equality”.

Afula (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
A Nazareth District Court judge on Sunday ruled to revoke the tender for dozens of land plots outside Afula that had been awarded solely to Arab Israelis from outside Afula, arguing that the bidders carried out unfair price fixing.
Head of the court, Judge Avraham Avraham said the prospective buyers all issued identical or nearly identical bids, “seriously impairing the principle of equality.”
The petition to cancel the land tender was filed January 4, against the Israel Lands Authority and 46 Arab-Israeli bidders who won tenders for the plots outside Afula. Hearings held by the ILA in March with the buyers concluded that they reached the same prices organically without any wrongdoing.
In December of last year, hundreds of local Afula residents held a demonstration outside city hall, calling for the housing tenders to be revoked because they were all won by Arabs who lived outside the city. They argued that the tenders were not widely advertised in the city and made claims that Arab buyers may have coordinated in order to ensure the construction of an Arab neighborhood in the city.
Attorney Said Abbas of Umm el-Fahm was among the prospective buyers. He said his family was trying to get away from the crowding and high crime rate in the Wadi Ara city, and saw the project as a good opportunity for them.
Abbas told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that he and his family did not know any of the other buyers and that he has no idea how they reached the same prices or “why I should be punished if other people did something wrong.”
Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi said the ruling was “shameful” and reflected the views of “separatist” Bayit Yehudi MK Bezalel Smotrich, who spoke out in favor of separating Jews from Arabs in hospital delivery rooms.
“The court used legal nuances that were intended to surrender to the hatred of protesters who do not want Arabs in Afula,” Tibi said. “It has been proven for years that the legal system in Israel discriminates against Arabs. If a court in France would issue such a ruling against Jews collectively buying land, it would cause an uproar.”
Noting a statement made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Election Day, Tibi said: “The judge tried to stop Arabs from going in droves to Afula, and it is shameful.”
Mossawa, an NGO that advocates for Israeli Arabs, said Sunday that the ruling was “an act of capitulation to the pressure exerted by racists who are opposed to Arabs living in the city,” in the words of their director Jaffer Farah.
He added that “Jewish ghettos will not succeed and people need to learn to live with their Arab neighbors.”
Also on Sunday, a general strike was held in Umm el-Fahm to protest a lack of concerted police efforts to deal with the violence plaguing the city. Local activists held signs and chanted calling for police to sweep up the guns in the areas and build more recreational opportunities for local youth.
Meretz MK Esawi Frej warned over the weekend that “the terror of crime continues to cause casualties in Ara communities.”
He said Netanyahu had forgotten a commitment he made to end the phenomenon of illegal weapons in the Israeli-Arab sector.
“He will only remember his promise when the victims are Jews,” Frej said.
They also declared that next Sunday, there will be a protest outside the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem and a call for a general strike across the Arab sector to protest high crime in Arab communities, where it is for the most part disproportionately higher than the national average.
Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.