update deskIsrael News

Lawmaker draws fury for urging Arab families to move into Jewish towns

Right-wing politicians call Knesset member Ahmad Tibi “populist” and “hypocritical,” and back a measure that allows Jewish communities to keep non-Jews out.

Jews and Arabs play backgammon during the “Jerusalem Double” championship on Feb. 27, 2017. The competition aims to foster Jewish-Arab unity in Israel. Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
Jews and Arabs play backgammon during the “Jerusalem Double” championship on Feb. 27, 2017. The competition aims to foster Jewish-Arab unity in Israel. Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.

A report by Israel Hayom on Sunday that MK Ahmad Tibi (Joint Arab List) was calling on young Arab families to buy homes in Jewish communities like Afula, Nazareth Illit, Carmiel and the new development town of Harish, prompted harsh backlash, particularly from the right.

Tibi spoke in response to a divisive clause in the nation-state bill that allows Jewish communities to bar non-Jews from buying property there.

Tourism Minister Yariv Levin said, “Tibi’s call is populist and pointless because unfortunately this is what is already happening [through] Supreme Court rulings. … This is what prompted my insistence on the ‘Jewish community’ clause in the nation-state bill, which will change the legal reality and set in law that encouraging Jewish settlement is a legitimate implementation of the Zionist vision, and is not an unacceptable form of discrimination or lack of equality.”

MK Moti Yogev (Habayit Hayehudi) said “the entire land of Israel, to the edge of its borders, belongs to the Jewish people and the State of Israel, which is a Jewish, democratic state. As such, it will spearhead Jewish settlement in all parts of the land of Israel and take care to ensure that the minorities who live there, as well as the Arabs living in Israel, live better than in Arab states. I suggest that Tibi emigrate to Syria or, worse, become a member of the Palestinian parliament in Ramallah.”

MK Omer Bar-Lev (Zionist Union) called Tibi’s remarks a “provocation in response to a bigger provocation by the Israeli government in promoting the nation-state bill, which removes the word ‘equality’ as it appears in the Declaration of Independence.

“In a democratic country, the freedom to choose where one lives cannot be restricted by any law or regulation. The way to bring Israeli Arabs closer to the heart of Israeli society is through mutual, respectful [steps],” said Bar-Lev.

MK Oded Forer (Yisrael Beytenu) dismissed Tibi’s call as “babble,” and said that the way to respond was through “more aliyah and more land purchases.”

According to Forer, the government should work to “bring another million Jewish immigrants to the country,” and the Jewish National Fund should busy itself purchasing land and homes earmarked for the Jewish people.”

MK Yoav Kisch (Likud), chairman of the Knesset House Committee, also chimed in: “The nation-state bill will determine that Israel is the national home of the Jewish people. The law will protect equal civil rights of the individual and check Tibi’s aspirations of a different national identity for Israel.”

Not everyone who responded to Tibi’s call for Arabs to move into Jewish communities came from the ranks of the country’s legislators. President of the Israel Democracy Institute Yohanan Plesner said that Tibi’s call was “an example of how the nation-state bill in its current form could serve those who criticize Israel [as racist].”

MK Nava Boker (Likud) denigrated what she called Tibi’s “populism and hypocrisy.”

“The day he invites Jews to move to [the Israeli Arab cities] Sakhnin, Kafr Qasim and Jaljulia, and promises that nothing bad will befall them there, we can take what he says seriously. In practice, a Jewish family that moves into an Arab community will be in mortal danger,” warned Boker.

MK Nachman Shai (Zionist Union) noted that many communities in Israel boasted mixed populations who lived together comfortably.

“I’m in favor of [both sides] opening mixed communities, but against the campaign that is motivated by nationalism,” Shai said, referring to the controversial clause in the nation-state bill.

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