ACRI claims Mitzpe Aviv charter aims to bar Arabs

Recently approved charter requires prospective members to declare they believe in the values of Zionism, Jewish tradition and Israel as a Jewish and state.

misgav 88 248 (photo credit: Courtesy Misgav Regional Council)
misgav 88 248
(photo credit: Courtesy Misgav Regional Council)

The Registrar for Cooperative Associations hasasked Mitzpe Aviv, a rural settlement in the Misgav AdministrativeDistrict, to respond to a demand to cancel a recently approved charterrequiring any prospective member to declare that he believes in thevalues of Zionism, Jewish tradition and Israel as a Jewish anddemocratic state.

Thedemand was made earlier this month by the Association for Civil Rightsin Israel in a letter to the registrar, Uri Zeligman. ACRI attorneyAuni Bana charged that the new charter was meant to keep Israeli Arabsfrom purchasing land and building homes in the community though MitzpeAviv is built on state-owned land.

Bana charged that the charter violated a ruling passed by theHigh Court of Justice prohibiting selection committees from rejectingapplicants on religious or ethnic grounds.

According to Alaa Mahajna, an attorney for Adalah, The LegalCenter for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, at least two other ruralsettlements in the Misgav Region, Manof and Yuvalim, have alreadyadopted similar charters and others are expected to follow.

In his letter to Zeligman, Bana wrote that thechange in Mitzpe Aviv's regulations "included an amendment to thearticle regarding aims and powers so that it defines the community asone that embraces the values of rural settlement, Zionism, Jewishtradition, the values of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democraticstate in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence, tolerance andhuman dignity."

Bana added that the conditions for acceptance into thecommunity had also changed substantially in keeping with the change inthe declared aims of the settlement. According to the new regulations,anyone seeking to join the community would have to declare that heshared the values listed above.

"Weask you not to approve the amendment to the regulations because it isillegal and exceeds its prerogative," Bana told Zeligman. "Theamendment precludes any possibility for an Arab to live in thecommunity, thus violating his basic rights."

The Mitzpe Aviv secretariat was unavailable to answer phone calls from The Jerusalem Post asking for a response to ACRI's charges.

The legal situation regarding the rights of selection committeesis uncertain. The High Court has said a committee cannot reject an Arabor anyone else on religious or ethnic grounds. But it is unclearwhether a community can approve a charter that effectively, but notexplicitly, rules out various groups and requires applicants to declaretheir agreement with the values included in the charter.

Meanwhile, a group of MKs has submitted a bill that would grantsettlements the right to accept or reject candidates on the basis oftheir "suitability to fit in with the way of life and social texture ofthe community as one which is socially and culturally united."