NGO to High Court: End discrimination against Arab towns’ development

The NGOs filed on behalf of all Arab local authorities in Wadi Ara and 74 area residents, several local councils and the communities of Umm al-Qatif, Misar, and Al-‘Iryan.

A screen capture of the live stream feed from a hearing at the High Court of Justice (photo credit: screenshot)
A screen capture of the live stream feed from a hearing at the High Court of Justice
(photo credit: screenshot)
Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel filed a petition on Thursday to the High Court of Justice, demanding an end to alleged government policy discriminating against Arab communities in the “northern triangle” region.
In cooperation with The Arab Center for Alternative Planning, the petition attacked alleged discrimination in the areas of distribution of housing, construction and land-development benefits, demanding they get the same benefits that nearby Jewish villages receive.
The NGOs filed on behalf of all Arab local authorities in Wadi Ara and 74 area residents, the local councils of Umm el-Fahm, Baka al-Gharbiya, Arara, Kafr Kara, Ma’aleh Iron, Basmah and Jatt and the communities of Umm al-Qatif, Misar and Al-Iryan.
These localities have not received “National Priority Area” designation that would make them eligible for development and housing benefits and land discounts from the Israel Lands Authority, said the petition.
Benefits that Jewish areas recognized as a priority area receive, noted the petition, include: reduced land-lease fees at a rate of up to 51%, as well as subsidies from the Construction and Housing Ministry for planning and development expenses related to new residential construction.
According to the petition, the government’s decisions on eligibility for the benefits do not comply with the law regulating the classification of localities.
This law was the result of a 2006 High Court ruling in a petition filed by Adalah that “rejected the Israeli government’s arbitrary determination of criteria that had previously resulted in discrimination between Arab and Jewish localities on the basis of ethnicity or national belonging.”
Next, the current petition said the law authorizing the government to determine national priority areas requires “adherence to the principle of equality and the prohibition against discrimination.”
In addition, it “also gives significant weight to the criterion of socioeconomic ranking and the communities’ economic and social resilience. The criteria are designed with the intention of reducing socioeconomic disparities between communities.”
According to the petition, the government gerrymandered these Arab towns within the Hadera subdistrict, which has a high socioeconomic ranking to prevent them from receiving the benefits they would receive based on the low socioeconomic ranking they have when judged on their own.
The petition said this is the only bar to them receiving the special benefits since the government recognizes they fulfill the criteria of being geographically part of the “periphery.”
As a result, Adalah said other neighboring, and significantly wealthier, localities are entitled to the priority benefits since they have not been gerrymandered in with unrelated communities as the Arab villages have.
For example, Adalah said, “Arab communities situated in the Ma’aleh Iron Local Council (Musmus, Zalafa, Musheirifa, Salem and Bayada) and the city of Umm el-Fahm, which all have low socioeconomic rankings, do not enjoy the state benefits provided to  the nearby wealthier Jewish localities of Givat Oz, Megiddo, Mitzpe Ilan, Harish, Mevo Dotan and Hermesh.”
Further, the petition said, “This state discrimination comes against the backdrop of housing shortages and dysfunctional development in the northern triangle’s Arab communities.”
“Along with the high population density, lack of urban planning and shortage of available undeveloped lands, there also exists no development options that meet the needs of the population,” stated Adalah.
The petition presents data showing that “only 20 development tenders have been issued in the Wadi Ara area since 2010 – some 1,454 housing units – despite an estimated housing shortfall of 10,000 to 11,000.”
“The Israeli government repeatedly creates mechanisms that systematically discriminate against Arab citizens,” Adalah attorney Suhad Bishara and urban planner Dr. Enaya Banna said. “Through manipulations of various parameters, it formulates a policy with an outcome that is clear: The weakest communities – those which should have been at the top of the government’s priorities – are excluded.”