Israeli parliamentarians discussed Tuesday the legality of a proposed clause in the ‘Jewish nation-state’ draft bill that would allow for ‘Jews only’ communities, reported The Jerusalem Post.
‘Basic Law: Nation-State of the Jewish People’ is currently being shaped by a Knesset committee ahead of expected efforts by the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition to pass it into law.
One article of the draft legislation states that “every resident of Israel, without difference of religion or nationality, has the right to act to preserve his culture, heritage, language and identity”, and that a religious or national community has the right “to establish a separate communal town”.
Many Israeli communities already filter potential residents on the grounds of ‘social suitability’ through admission committees, a mechanism that has served to exclude Palestinian citizens from hundreds of rural communities.
According to Haaretz, however, government legal advisers have warned that the new clause’s wording “has no parallel in any constitution in the world”, and have advised lawmakers that “it should either be scrapped entirely, or at the very least altered”.
“If the latter course is chosen, they said, the provision should be changed to follow the language of an existing law on cooperative associations. That law allows the establishment of exclusive communities only if they serve a group with unique social or cultural characteristics”, Haaretz added.
The legal advisers emphasised that it was the “wording proposed” which was the problem, rather than the exclusion of people who could “undermine the sociocultural fabric of the community”.
Such a warning was echoed by Zionist Camp MK Tzipi Livni, who pointed to the Supreme Court’s endorsement of separate towns “based on unique characteristics, not nationality”, a distinction that has nonetheless been used historically to exclude Palestinian citizens.
MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) said Israel has a “high level of de facto segregation in education and residential neighbourhoods”, adding: “Most of us live in an area of people like ourselves”.
MK Dov Henin (Joint List) compared the bill to South Africa’s 1950 Group Areas Act, noting that “the law establishing apartheid separated groups”. He added: “South Africa was boycotted by the whole world, and you’re trying to bring a boycott on Israel”.