Adalah’s Comments on the Supreme Court's Decision in the Kaadan Case


On 8 March 2000, the Supreme Court of Israel ruled that the Kaadans, a family of Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel, could not legally be denied the right to move into the town of Katzir, established by the Jewish Agency on state allocated land as a Jewish cooperative settlement.  In April 1995, the Katzir Cooperative Association denied the Kaadans the right to buy a home in Katzir based on the fact that the community accepted only Jews as residents.  The Association noted that since the Jewish Agency developed the town for the purpose of increasing Jewish settlement in the area, the land legally could not be leased to Arabs. The Jewish Agency is a quasi-governmental body, entrusted with the planning and funding of new settlements. These settlements, however, are explicitly for Jews, and there is no parallel body responsible for creating new settlements for Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel.  Since the Israeli Lands Authority (ILA), a state institution owing 93% of the land in Israel, is responsible for allocating land to the Jewish Agency, the Kaadans’ petition argued that the ILA could not legally allocate land to a third party that explicitly discriminates against a portion of Israel’s population, in this case the Palestinian Arab minority.  Moreover, as all ILA land is public, the Kaadans’ petition argued that any discrimination on these lands is illegal, and violates the principle of equality. 

While the international community and the liberal Israeli Jewish public have universally hailed the Court’s opinion as a landmark decision, the members of the Palestinian minority differ in their assessment of the case and its importance.  Adalah’s staff and board members provided interviews and opinion pieces to both the Arabic and the Hebrew press, as well as the international media to point out the shortcomings of the decision.  In particular, the following article, written by Adalah Advocate Jamil Dakwar, appeared in the Hebrew Edition of Ha’aretz on 15 March 2000. 

See also the Arab Association for Human Rights Discrimination Diary from 24 March 2000:


A brief review of the Hebrew and Arabic newspapers in Israel during the last week exposes the stark difference between Israeli Jewish and Palestinian Arab opinion concerning the Supreme Court's recent decision in the Kaadan case, which concerns the right of a Palestinian Arab family to live in a Jewish settlement in Israel. In analyzing the importance of the verdict, Israeli Jewish commentators emphasized what they see as its positive, profound effect on Palestinian Arab rights in Israel. Arab journalists and individual Palestinian Arab lawyers writing in the Arabic press, on the other hand, have expressed their doubts and worries about the implications of case. Why do we see this vast difference of opinion? 

After the verdict, Israeli Jewish lawyers and journalists expressed their belief that the Kaadan decision marked a historic milestone in the legal battle for Palestinian Arab equal rights in Israel. These commentators compared the Kaadan case with Brown v. Board of Education, a United States Supreme Court decision handed down in 1954, which ruled that racial segregation in schools is unconstitutional. The Brown case was very important for African-Americans at the time, but does the Kaadan case have the same significance for Palestinian Arabs in Israel? 

Despite its historical uniqueness, the Kaadan case is fundamentally different from Brown v. Board of Education, even though both cases deal with the issue of integration. Unlike African-Americans, who in the 1950s fought for integration, the Palestinian Arab minority in Israel has never expressed a desire to integrate into Jewish communities or schools, and has historically never placed this issue on its political agenda. On the contrary, the Palestinian minority has repeatedly pushed for collective rights and autonomy. For instance, Palestinian Arabs living in 'mixed cities' have demanded solutions for the social and economic conditions confronting their own, segregated neighborhoods. They have not pushed for integration into Jewish neighborhoods. In addition, Palestinian Arabs living in Arab villages in the Triangle and the Galilee have never sought to move to the nearby Jewish cities of Tel Aviv, Netanya, Hadera, Karmiel and Ma'alot, despite the fact that there is no ideological or legal ban on Palestinian Arabs living in these cities. Settlements such as Katzir, it should be recognized, are ideological, established by the Jewish Agency on confiscated Palestinian Arab lands, and offer schools which, according to Katzir's representatives to the Court, will continue to be comprised only of Jews and to instruct students based on Zionist values. 

Today, most African-Americans do not consider the Brown case to be a significant achievement for their community. The critique against Brown focuses on the negative affect of integration of a minority group into the majority culture. This is the position of most Palestinian Arabs in Israel. Would it be a significant contribution to the Kaadan's children, who won the case, to learn in a school that does not use their language? What educational value do they gain in never learning the history of their people, and only learning Zionist history? Will the Kaadan's children be raised to have self-confidence and pride when they are made to sing the Zionist national anthem in a school where their national and religious holidays are not recognized? 

Historically, rulings of the court that deal with minority rights fall in to one of two categories. In the first, the court accepts a minority's claims regarding a matter of importance to its historical, political struggle, and issues a decision which the minority could not achieve without the court's interference. In Israel, the Palestinian Arab agenda demands the right to return to the uprooted villages, official status for unrecognized Arab villages, recognition of the Palestinian Arab minority as a national minority, increased development space for Palestinian Arab municipalities, the granting of national priority status to these areas, equal budget allocations to the Palestinian Arab municipalities, an end to the confiscation of Palestinian Arab land in the Negev, and a halt to the issuance of demolition order against Palestinian Arab homes. The Supreme Court's ruling in the Kaadan case falls far short of reaching any of these goals. 

The second category of decisions results in an immediate social and political change for the minority. In the case of Brown, the day after the court's ruling, African-Americans felt a significant, tangible change in their everyday lives. Most white schools, at least in the cities, were compelled to open their doors to African-American children, and white and African-American children studied together for the first time. This led to a conceptual change in the status of African-Americans. In the Katzir case, the Court did not decide definitely that the Kaadan family could move to Katzir, and it is not known whether the family will ever be able to live there. Moreover, the court's ruling was narrowly focused, and referred only to the terms of the specific case and circumstances of the Kaadan family. Clearly, this decision will not result in an upsurge of Palestinian Arab families submitting applications to live in Jewish settlements. 

Despite these points, the Katzir decision can be viewed as a private or individual victory for a Palestinian Arab family. As precedent, this individual victory solidifies the principle of civil equality, and prohibits overt and covert discrimination on the basis of race or religion on the individual level. In the future, however, the Court's decision might hurt the ability of Palestinian Arabs to demand collective rights. Palestinians have lost the majority of their lands and a large proportion of their villages over the course of the first fifty years of Israel's existence. At the same time, Jewish settlements have been established on the remains of these villages, and have benefited from the use of confiscated lands. For the Palestinian Arabs, there is almost nothing to lose in the field of land rights today. The bond or connection between the Jewish Agency and the Israel Lands Authority no longer "frightens" Palestinian Arabs. 

On a collective rights level, however, the Palestinian Arab minority demands that Israel establish Arab towns, not mixed towns. Since the establishment of the state, no new Arab towns or villages have been established. The Katzir case might be an obstacle to the ultimate fulfillment of this goal, as the state can now claim that it cannot tolerate the establishment of towns on a racial, ethnic, or religious basis, and that it is a fully democratic state, open to all its citizens without discrimination. Palestinian Arabs as a group did not bring the Kaadan case as a collective rights case to the Supreme Court. Their representatives and political leadership were not a part of the case, and many of them showed no interest in it. They did not ask the Kaadan family to serve as a test case, and while the country waited for the decision, the Palestinian Arab media was not interested in its eventual outcome. The liberal Jewish Israeli public reported on the case, and framed the discussion of its importance to equal rights. The Palestinian Arab minority was not consulted.