Arab couple refused residency in exclusively Jewish town

The application of an Arab couple, Fatina Ebriq and Ahmed Zubeidat, to live in the community town of Rakefet in the Misgav area of the Galilee was refused in March 2006 by the regional selection committee. Selection committees monitor, accept and reject applications for housing units in community towns, and often operate according to vague and arbitrary criteria. On 11 April 2006, Adalah Attorney Suhad Bishara filed an appeal on behalf of the couple to the Israel Land Administration (ILA) against the decision to refuse their application to live in Rakefet.

The ILA rejected the appeal on 18 January 2007, following which Adalah filed a motion for injunction to the Supreme Court on 11 February 2007, seeking an order to oblige Rakefet and the ILA to allocate a plot of land for the couple in the town. In the motion, Adalah argued that the decision is discriminatory and contradicts the Supreme Court’s decision in the Qa’dan case (H.C. 6698/95). In Qa’dan the Court held that the state is prohibited from allocating “state land” based on national belonging or using “national institutions” such as the Jewish Agency to discriminate on its behalf. The Qa’dan case involved the right of an Arab family — citizens of Israel — to live in the Jewish Agency-established community of Katzir, which was built on “state land.” The Supreme Court rejected the Adalah’s motion for injunction, ruling that it would decide on the matter during its deliberations on the petition. A petition will be submitted shortly against the decision to reject their application, and against the way in which selection committees operate in agricultural and other communities.

The couple both graduated from the College of Architecture at the “Bezalel” Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem. After marrying in the summer of 2006, they decided that their preferred living option was a small community town in Misgav, where they would be able to live in a single-storey house with access to a high level of services and the standard of living associated with smaller communities. They decided that Rakefet, which was undergoing a phase of expansion and accepting new families, was a good choice for them.

In accordance with the selection process, the couple was required to pass a “suitability” test administered by the “Keinan-Sheffey Profiling Institute,” to which they were directed by the regional selection committee in Misgav. They were required to pay NIS 560 for the test. The response which they received from Keinan-Sheffey included the statement that, “The couple’s suitability for absorption into the town is low.” In March 2006, they were called for a personal interview before the selection committee, in the presence of the deputy head of the Misgav Regional Council, the representative of the Jewish Agency, and a representative of the Rakefet Absorption Committee. The committee rejected their application following the interview.

In the appeal to the ILA against the decision, Adalah argued, inter alia, that it is clear from the arguments put forward by the selection committee and the representatives from Rakefet that only Jewish people are accepted to live in the town. As Adalah stressed, the representatives of Rakefet confirmed that all of the families currently living in the town are Jewish, some secular and some religious, and gave information about various activities staged for people living in Rakefet on Jewish religious holidays and festivals.

As Adalah argued in the motion to the Supreme Court, these claims leave no room for doubt that the town is intended only for Jewish people. Adalah further contended that the decision was issued without the necessary authority, is flawed, unjustified and arbitrary, and discriminates on the basis of national and religious belonging. In addition, the ILA’s decision to reject the appeal on 18 January 2007 indicates that it adopted the selection committee’s recommendation to reject the couple’s application.

Related Links

  • Adalah: The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel
  • BY TOPIC: Palestinians in Israel