Israel’s Supreme Court has ordered the village of Rakefet, located in Northern Israel, to allocate land for housing to a young Arab couple, Fatina and Ahmed Zubeidat. The ruling comes ahead of a final verdict by the Supreme Court challenging the existence of regional selection committees, which determine whether applicants are “suitable residents” for the country’s rural Jewish villages.
The petition to the Supreme Court was submitted on behalf of the Zubeidats by attorneys from Adalah: Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel. Other members of the NIF family joining the petition are: Arab Center for Alternative Planning; Bimkom: Planners for Planning Rights; Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance; Another Voice in the Galilee; and Mizrachi Democratic Rainbow (Hakeshet).
While in this instance the victims of discrimination were an Arab couple, the petitioners claim that the selection committees filter applications from a range of other minority groups, including Mizrachi Jews, single parents and the lesbian and gay community.
The Zubeidats are a young couple from the Israeli Arab town of Sakhnin. Both graduated with distinction from the School of Architecture at Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem. After marrying in the summer of 2006, they returned to the North after Fatina was awarded a scholarship to take her M.Sc. in Architecture and Urban Planning at the Technion in Haifa. In choosing the middle-class rural village Rakefet, they sought a high quality of life where they could build their dream home and start a family.
But the Zubeidats felt humiliated after they failed an acceptance test and were branded “socially unsuitable.” Fatina was told that she was “too individualistic,” while Ahmed was said to “lack personal sophistication.”
This latest court order comes in the wake of the successful petition to the Supreme Court in the 1990’s by flagship NIF grantee Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) on behalf Adel Ka’adan, an Israeli Arab who was refused a home in the Jewish village of Katzir explicitly because he was an Arab. Consequently, minority applicants are now labeled “socially unsuitable” in order to disguise racial discrimination.
The current petition seeks to dissolve the selection committees, which operate in over 700 Jewish villages throughout Israel. This petition, together with another case before the Supreme Court demanding that the Jewish National Fund end its practice of selling land to “Jews only” is part of a major campaign by the NIF family to end discrimination in the country’s residential real estate sector.