On 31 October 2007, the Supreme Court of Israel issued a temporary injunction obliging the community town of Rakefet to set aside a plot of land for Ms. Fatina Ebriq Zubeidat and Mr. Ahmed Zubeidat, pending the issuance of a final decision on a petition filed by Adalah on 23 September 2007. The petitioners demanded the cancellation of regional selection committees, which select their residents from among candidates who wish to live in ‘community towns’ in Israel. In practice these selection committees exclude certain groups, such as Arab citizens, Mizrahi Jews (Eastern Jews), single parents and gay people, from community towns as ‘socially unsuitable’. Adalah further demanded the recognition of the individual’s right to choose his or her residence in all parts of the country as a constitutional right and a ruling that “social suitability” as a criterion for acceptance to community towns is arbitrary and unconstitutional.
The petition was filed on behalf of the Zubeidat family and human rights and social change organizations Another Voice in the Galilee (Kol Aher BaGalil), the Mizrahi Democratic Rainbow (HaKeshet), Bimkom: Planners for Planning Rights, the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance, and the Arab Center for Alternative Planning. The named respondents were the Israel Land Administration (ILA), the regional selection committee for towns under the jurisdiction of the Misgav Regional Council, and the community town of Rakefet. Adalah Attorney Suhad Bishara filed the petition, and Adalah’s Urban and Regional Planner, Hana Hamdan, gathered and prepared materials regarding discrimination in planning and the allocation of land to Arab citizens in Israel and regarding community towns in the state.
Fatina and Ahmed both graduated from the College of Architecture at the “Bezalel” Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem with distinction. In the 2007-2008 academic year, Fatina is due to begin a masters degree in architecture and urban planning at the Technion in Haifa after being awarded a scholarship. After marrying in the summer of 2006, the couple filed an application to live in the community town of Rakefet, which falls within the jurisdiction of the Misgav Regional Council. The couple is currently living in the Arab town of Sakhnin and was looking for a small town that is not crowded with residents and that offers a high level of services, and in which they would be able to build a house as they wished, in keeping with their architectural preferences and in which they could raise children in the future. In accordance with regulations based on Decision 1015 of the ILA’s Administrative Committee, the couple was required to pass an acceptance test that included criteria for ‘social suitability’, one of the criteria for acceptance to community towns. The regional selection committee of the Misgav Regional Council is composed of the deputy head of the Misgav Regional Council, a representative from the Jewish Agency, and a representative of the Rakefet Absorption Committee. The committee rejected their application following the interview on the humiliating ground of their ‘social unsuitability’.
The petitioners argued that the activities of these selection committees contradict the right of the citizen or resident to choose his or her place of residence in any town or village in Israel, especially if that community was not designated for a population with specific characteristics, and that the criterion of ‘social suitability’ is not based on specific provisions of Israeli law, and is vague, over-broad and arbitrary. This in turn allows a small group of people very wide scope to take decisions over the future of those filing applications for residential units.
The petitioners further argued that all citizens and residents have the right to reside in all towns and villages built on state land and not for specific groups, such religious communities, based on the principles of public law, first and foremost the principle of equality. A decision to reject a candidate citizen or resident cannot be based on personal characteristics such as an individual’s social or personal status, political views, sexual preference, skin color, or religious, ethnic or national background. Thus, the criterion of ‘social suitability’ violates the right of the citizen or resident to choose his or her place of residence within the borders of the state without facing arbitrary obstacles. The petitioners emphasized that, “People with physical or mental disabilities, the poor, academics, atheists, those with left-wing or right-wing political opinions, those with hard-line or moderate opinions, Mizrahi or Ashkenazi Jews, Arab citizens and others, all possess the right to reside in any village, town or city in the State of Israel that does not have a special character.” Furthermore, the rejection of a certain candidate’s application to live in a certain place on the basis of such personal characteristics constitutes a violation of the dignity of that individual and his or her rights to equality and freedom.
Before petitioning the Supreme Court, Adalah filed an appeal on behalf of the couple to the ILA against the decision of the regional selection committee to refuse their application to live in Rakefet. The Director of the ILA, Yaakov Efrati, rejected the appeal and approved the selection committee’s decision in January 2007.
Selection committees operate in almost 700 agricultural and community towns, which account for 68.5% of the total towns in Israel, and around 85% of the total number of villages. Around 5.2% of the total population of the state (around 371,700 individuals) lives in these community towns. These towns fall within the jurisdiction of 53 regional councils, which are distributed throughout the country and exercise control over around 81% of the total land-space in the state.
H.C. 8036/07, Fatina Ebriq Zubeidat, et al. v. The Israel Land Administration, et al. (pending)
The Petition (Hebrew)
The Supreme Court Injunction (Hebrew)