Monday, July 08, 2002

Today's big issue is the cabinet's support for a bill permitting village administrations to deny land purchases to Arabs (cities are not being discussed). This is an issue which has been around for many years and started when the northern village of Katzir tried to deny admission to an Arab family - the Supreme Court has ruled that such discrimination is illegal. The new bill is an attempt to bypass the court ruling and was harshly condemned by senior Likud MK Dan Meridor (report). Some think that if the bill is passed the Supreme Court will just strike it down.

Discussion on the radio focused on an angle that I didn't see in newspapers. An official from Katzir named Duby something contends that there are Arab organizations that buy up (or would buy up) parcels of land in northern Jewish communities in an attempt to change their demography. This would be the mirror image of the efforts of a couple of Jewish groups that have been buying properties in Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem - much to the dismay of the left. A common defense of the bill seems to be: "if Jewish Israelis tried to move into Arab villages it would be considered provocative, so why is preventing the reverse considered racist?".

I'm annoyed when I hear people defending the bill with reference to "zionist ideology", or "security". Ultimately, the debate is between those who believe that as a mature democracy we must consistently oppose any sort of nationality- or ethnically-based discrimination (except for Army service etc.) and, those who, as Uri Orbach put in on Army radio this morning, see a national conflict taking place.

The latter view has a lot of problems (eg. it can be a self-fulfilling prophecy). But it's worth noting that this latter perspective is shared by many Arabs. This fellow notes that noone had any problem when Arabs refused to sell him a tract of land. Meanwhile, the PA bluntly prohibits selling land to Jews - violators receive the death penalty.

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