29 January 2012

Israeli Attorney General Supports Discriminatory Admission Committees Law

(Haifa, Israel) On 25 January 2012, the Attorney General (AG) submitted the state's legal response to the Supreme Court of Israel on petitions filed by Adalah and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) demanding the cancellation of the Admissions Committee Law. The law, passed by the Knesset in March 2011, allows small communities in Israel built on 'state land' (public land) to reject applicants who "do not suit the lifestyle and social fabric of the community."

The AG asked the Supreme Court to dismiss the petitions on the grounds that they are premature and theoretical, as the law itself has not been used to bar any applicant from these small communities thusfar. The AG claimed that the law has not yet been examined in terms of the ways in which it will be implemented, or how the different provisions will be interpreted. The state's response added that the Admissions Committee Law permits the towns to screen applicants based on their "suitability to the community" makeup and whether they meet the social-cultural fabric of the town as it currently exists (all Jewish communities). The state also argued that the law forbids exclusion based on race, religion, gender, or nationality.

According to Adalah Attorney Suhad Bishara, who submitted the petition together with Adalah Attorney Haneen Naamnih, the AG's position is extremely problematic as it justifies discrimination against people who wish to live in around 475 small towns (those with less than 400 families) located on public land in the Galilee in the north and in the Naqab in the south, both areas in which high numbers of Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel reside. These towns compose 46% of all communities in Israel and 65% of all rural communities. Admissions committees determine who will and who will not live in the wide open land spaces, according to their sole and independent discretion. The type of screening permitted by the law will inevitably lead to discrimination against Arab citizens of Israel, as well as the exclusion of other marginalized groups such as gays, the disabled, single parents, and Mizrahim.

In June 2011, the Supreme Court held the first hearing on the case. Following the hearing, the court issued an order nisi (or order to show cause) demanding that the state explain within 45 days why the law should not be voided as unconstitutional. The court also decided that further hearings will take place before an expanded panel of nine justices.

Adalah filed the petition on behalf of the following NGOs: the Arab Center for Alternative Planning, the Mizrahi Democratic Rainbow (HaKeshet HaMizrahi), Bimkom: Planners for Planning Rights, Another Voice in the Galilee (Kol Aher BaGalil), and the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance.

Adalah has been challenging the existence of "admissions committees" since 2007, when it first petitioned the Supreme Court to cancel this practice (See HCJ 8036/07, Fatina Ebriq Zubeidat, et al. v. The Israel Land Administration (ILA), et al.). In September 2011, following a new decision by the ILA, the Supreme Court ordered the northern Galilee town of Rakefet to admit the Zubeidats, a married Palestinian Arab couple who are citizens of Israel, both architects, after rejecting them on the humiliating grounds of "social unsuitability".

Case Citation: HCJ 2504/11, Adalah, et al v. The Knesset, et al. (case pending). For more information: