Land for Jews only

October 29, 2010
Richard Kuper


The Q’aadan Curse

Yossi Gurvitz*, 28 October 2010

Our story begins with a middle class couple, who wanted to build themselves a house in a country settlement. The time was the early 1990s, and the couple was facing one major problem. ‘Aadel and ‘Iman Q’aadan were not, as their names attest, good Jews. The plot they wanted to build on, in Katzir, was government land which was leased to the Jewish Agency.

The JA is a relic of the pre-independence period, and one of its main functions ever since the creation of Israel is to assist the government in assuring only Jews can buy land in Israel. The government has, for years, used the practice of leasing its lands to the JA, because its charter forbids it from selling land to non-Jews. The state could thus play the innocent and say well, it’s not our fault Arabs can’t live there; don’t look at us, talk to the Agency.

The Q’aadans appealed to the Supreme Court of Justice, citing the obvious fact that this practice amounts to discrimination in allocating state assets. They filed in 1995; and the Court did anything possible to steer clear of this booby-trapped petition, asking the sides to reach a settlement. Finally, in 2000, the Court was left with no choice and produced the only possible verdict. Aharon Barak, that great liberal, wrote at the time he was fearful of what his decision meant for Zionism; but when forced to choose between Zionism and equality, he chose = not without effort – to side with equality.

The saga doesn’t end here. Armed with the decision of the Court, the Q’aadans went back to Katzir and asked for the plot of land. The local committee took a few minutes to look into the issue and then informed them, obviously with great anguish and gnashing of teeth, that the Q’aadans “did not fit the character” of Katzir, and therefore the committee has no choice but to deny their request. The committee did not bother to explain its decision. The Q’aadans had to go appeal to the Supreme Court once more, the latter dragged its feet again, and it was only in August 2007 – seven and a half years since the original court decision, and 12 years after the original appeal – the Q’aadans finally got their land. The received assistance from the ACRI, who wrote to the Court (Hebrew) that while the government was waving its 2000 decision as a proof of its commitment to equality, it was doing all it could to prevent its execution.

The Q’aadan decision exposed Israel’s great bluff: for decades it pretended to be devoted to equality, all while acting to deny 20% of the population of its share in public assets – assets which, tragically, were often enough confiscated from that population. To use a less polite yet more accurate phrasing, the Zionist establishment is trying to keep its stolen property, even if, in the process, it will have to show the claim that Israel is a democracy to be an empty lie.

Why do I bother you with old news? Because it’s not old, not really. Yesterday, the Law and Justice Committee of the Knesset approved (Hebrew) a new bill, whose unofficial name says it all: “Q’aadan bypass bill”. According to the bill, settlements with less than 500 families may create sorting committees; the latter may prevent a candidate from living there if he “does not fit the criteria of the settlement’s character”.

What are the criteria? Certainly you can guess some by yourselves. The local council of Misgav, for instance, demands that a candidate “be a Zionist” and “observe the Israeli [read: Jewish] holidays”. The goal of these criteria is rather clear – to prevent future Q’aadans from applying – but there are others. In the Kfar Akhim moshav, for instance, all applying couples must have married in the rabbinate. This means that heretics, divorcees, one-parent families and certainly gay couples need not apply.

The new bill also allows the committees to prevent anyone who doesn’t seem to have the money to build a house from living in the settlements. So, the government takes public lands, and then distributes them in a way that denies them not just to the 20% of non-Jews of the population, but also to anyone who isn’t rich enough to build a country house. Which seems to cover most of the population.

So, to sum up, a small group of well-to-do people will get much more territory, on condition that it serve as the door guard of the Israeli government, who will prevent Israeli Arabs from living beyond their Pale.

This way of establishing land robbery seems acceptable both to the government and the new landowners. As for the rest of the population, those who don’t have and won’t have the money to buy a house in an exclusive settlement will always be calmed down by being told that do doing so denies land to the Arabs. As for the Arabs, the government never took any account of them anyway. As for equality, well, it’s a nice practice if you’re a democracy, but it hardly fits Jewish countries, does it?

Update: According to ‘Adalla, the law center dealing with discrimination against Israeli Palestinians, should the bill pass, 81% of public lands will be denied (Hebrew) to Israeli Palestinians.

Yossi Gurvitz says:
I am a 40-year old journalist, blogger and photographer.
I write for several Israeli publications, including the influential financial daily Calcalist and the Nana portal. In the past, I’ve been deputy editor of Nana News, and with Itamar Shaaltiel edited its 2006 Knesset elections section.
I was raised as an Orthodox Jew, graduated from a Yeshiva (Nehalim), but saw the light and turned atheist at about the age of 17. After the mandatory three years in the military, much more strictly enforced in 1988 than now, I studied history and classics, earning a BA degree, and studying three additional years towards an MA, but abandoned the project in favor of earning my living as a journalist. [It seemed a good idea at the time.]”
He runs the Wish you Orwell blog “To chronicle the rapid decline and fall of Israel, supposedly the “only democracy in the Middle East”, to provide analysis in the spirit of George Orwell, and its metamorphosis into an religious-ethnic garrison state, in a way which will be meaningful to English-readers, particularly Americans – who, after all, are the main financiers and enablers of Israel’s policy.”

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