Israeli Arabs fight to buy Moshav land

Umm el-Fahm claims land was originally Arab; Mei-Ami plans involve construction of 410 homes.

A plan by the Jewish town of Mei-Ami to construct a residential development came under fire on Sunday, with residents of a nearby Israeli-Arab town demanding the right to purchase some of the new houses, Israel Radio reported. The plan involved the construction of 410 new homes, most of which are slated to be built along a route that runs between Mei-Ami and Umm el-Fahm. The attorney representing Umm el-Fahm's residents told Israel Radio that the area currently owned by Mei-Ami once belonged to an Arab village. He added that the Israeli-Arab town is suffering from a severe lack of land availability. Eitan Ben-David, secretary of the Moshav Movement, said he is against allowing Arabs to live in small Jewish towns (moshavim) since it would be destructive to Zionism. In 2003, The High Court of Justice issued an interim injunction ordering the Israel Lands Administration (ILA) to set aside a plot of land in the communal settlement of Katzir for an Israeli-Arab family whose application to live there was rejected because they are Arabs. In September that year, Adel and Iman Ka'adan petitioned the court to order the ILA to give them a plot in the neighborhood in which they had originally sought to purchase land in accordance with a public tender, and for the market price at that time. It was the second time the Ka'adans, sponsored by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, had turned to the court. In 1995, after their original application was rejected by the Katzir membership committee, the Ka'adans petitioned, charging the committee had discriminated against them on racial grounds. Five years later, the court ruled that the ILA, a government body, could not transfer land to the Jewish Agency because it served only Jews, and that the membership committee could not reject an application just because it came from Arabs. Eighteen months after the court's decision, the Katzir Cooperative Association again rejected the Ka'adans' application, ruling that they were unsuitable for living in the community. After ACRI failed to resolve the problem through government channels, it petitioned the court again in September to order the ILA to allocate a plot of land to the Ka'adans. In his ruling, issued earlier this week, Justice Edmond Levi wrote that he granted the petitioner's request to set aside a plot of land until the court rules on the main part of the petition after the ILA said it had no objection. Dan Izenberg contributed to this report.