Petition against racist land distribution

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel submitted a petition yesterday to the Supreme Court against the Israel Lands Authority (ILA), The Jewish Agency, and the community of Katzir as a result of those agencies’ persistent refusal to implement the original ruling of the Supreme Court prohibiting discrimination between Arabs and Jews in the distribution of land. The petition was submitted on the 8th of March 2000 in the name of Iman and Adal Ka’adan, whose request to purchase a plot of land in Katzir was refused by the afore-mentioned bodies. The Supreme Court ruled that the State contravened the law in its allocation of state land to the Jewish Agency to establish the residential community of Katzir, which was based on a discriminatory policy of differentiating between Jews and non-Jews. Despite the fact that three and a half years have passed since the Court’s ruling, the couple is still waiting for a plot of land. In fact the ILA, the Jewish Agency, and Katzir are doing everything they can to prevent the implementation of the court ruling. The petition was submitted by ACRI’s Chief Legal Counsel Attorney Dan Yakir.

The petition asks the Supreme Court to force the ILA to fulfill its legal obligation and allow the couple to purchase a plot of land in the Katzir residential community for the market rate that existed in April 1995, the date the Ka’adan family first requested to purchase the land. Likewise the petition asks the court to order an interim injunction to prohibit the allocation of any rights to the specific plots situated on the community’s western hill where the Ka’adan family initially wanted to build their house. This prohibition should remain in force until the hearing on the petition is completed and thus prevent a situation in which facts are created on the ground to block the family’s legal rights. It should be noted that the Supreme Court issued an identical interim injunction when the first petition was submitted. The petition also asks the court to schedule the earliest possible date for the hearing so that the matter can be resolved quickly as the family has already suffered unreasonable delays.

The attempts by official agencies to block the family’s land purchase is exemplified by an internal Jewish Agency document that states categorically that the agency carefully formulated a policy with the aim of rendering the court ruling meaningless. After the agency investigated different modes of action, it stated that “the most effective policy would be: not to make any ripples in the system but to carry on with what we have been doing thus far”. In other words, to undertake the deliberate policy of unnecessary delays whose aim is to wear down the petitioners to the point that they will eventually just give up. By so doing, the agency replaced the more obvious discriminatory agenda with a more insidious one that is harder to detect.

This policy of deliberate delays and excuses continued until the court asked for an explanation, and suggested that the couple apply to the residential community’s Admissions Committee. This was after representatives of the community agreed to review the Ka’adan’s candidacy without prejudice, without taking into account the couple’s religion or national origin. Despite their reservations, the couple agreed to appear before the committee who, it seemed, had the sole purpose of rejecting the couple’s application and circumventing the court’s decision. This fact was reiterated by the local council head and a number of residents who are quoted in the body of the petition exposing their clearly negative attitudes toward the Arab population. An example of this is a statement made in numerous radio interviews by Dubi Standrov, the current head of the Katzir-Harish local council, and the previous chairman of Katzir’s local council, that Adal Ka’adan is politically motivated. He went on to say that he wouldn’t be surprised if it became clear that the couple’s court case was financed by Saudi and Iranian sources, and even added that he was actively engaged in an attempt to “block Arab settlement in the council’s settlements”.

Despite this, the couple still applied to the Admissions Committee. It is important to note that the Supreme Court emphasized for the community’s representatives that this was a non-problematic family whose rejection demanded a much clearer justification. After further delays, the couple was formally rejected with the vague statement that it would be difficult for them to integrate socially. The Court is still waiting for both the full explanation of the decision and the protocols of the meeting. Even the scheduled meeting of an ILA Valuation Committee, that was due to convene in March 2002, has still not taken place.

Attorney Yakir states in the petition, that the Ka’adan family must be allowed to build their home in the Katzir residential community as they wish and in accordance with the Supreme Court ruling. He further states that the ILA should ignore the decision of the Admissions Committee due to the faulty decision making process. The decision was made in an atmosphere that was clearly hostile to the concept of opening up the community to the Arab population, and in the shadow of frantic activities on the part of the Katzir leadership to block the family’s attempt to purchase land, and the scathing attacks by this same leadership against the family in the media. In addition, since the appearance of the Ka’adan family before the Admissions Committee, the ILA has done away with admissions committees for communities numbering over 300 families, of which Katzir is one. This new policy renders Katzir’s Admission Committee’s decision irrelevant.