MKs seek to maintain 'Zionist' communities

Opponents say measure would essentially legalize discrimination on the basis of ethnicity or ideology.

negev 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
negev 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
A controversial bill sponsored by a number of opposition lawmakers seeks to ensure that small communities in the Negev and the Galilee retain their "Zionist identity," but opponents say the measure would essentially legalize discrimination on the basis of ethnicity or ideology. "The bill was designed to preserve the ability to fulfill the Zionist dream through actions," wrote its sponsors, MKs Yisrael Hasson (Kadima), Shai Hermesh (Kadima) and Uri Ariel (National Union). The bill would require that acquisition of property rights by a person who wants to make his primary residence in a communal settlement in the Negev or the Galilee that has 600 or fewer housing units would require the recommendation of the community's admissions committee. Among the factors that the committees could consider are the candidate's age (which the bill would mandate be above 18); the financial capacity to establish a residence in the community within the timeframe set forth in the sale agreement; the centrality of the community in the candidate's life; and "the degree to which the candidate is suitable for the lifestyle and the social make-up of the community as a settlement with social and cultural unity, as well as to the founding vision of the community as described in its bylaws." MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta'al) said the legislation not only was a "terrible bill" for Arabs that "fits in well with the flood of bills that have recently been in the Knesset whose goal is to carry out selection on the basis of ideology," but it would prove dangerous to Jews. "It would allow communities to decide that they only want people of a certain ethnic origin - say, Ashkenazim - and decide that if you are not Ashkenazi and a member of the Likud, you won't be allowed to live there," Tibi said. "This is a slippery slope. Today it is a question of communities, and tomorrow it could be schools, which could be restricted to students whose parents voted Likud or whose family are from Europe." The bill would not cover communal moshavs, kibbutzim, workers' moshavs or communal villages, which will maintain their already-legislated processes for admission. "Around 30 years ago, the state initiated the establishment of a number of small communities in the Negev and the Galilee," the bill's sponsors wrote on Tuesday. "Those communities were designed to fulfill the government's goals of distributing the population and to allow the residents to pursue a rural, community lifestyle based on social and cultural unity. Carrying out those goals requires us as legislators to make sure to establish channels to process candidates for these communities."