Hadash has slammed as racist a decision by the local council head of the northern town of Kfar Vradim in Upper Galilee, Sivan Yechiel, to freeze plans for its expansion after half of the successful bids in a first round of tenders for new housing went to Arabs. Hadash accused Yechiel of enacting an apartheid policy. “This is racism against upstanding citizens who just want to live. Those who don’t want the Arabs citizens have a lot to learn from them.”
Council head Yechiel wrote in a message to residents that his position makes him “responsible for safeguarding the Zionist-Jewish-secular character of Kfar Vradim” and that he had decided “to place before the relevant government offices the demand to create solutions that maintain demographic balances.” In his message to residents, Yechiel wrote that “the issue of the changing of communities that were established as Jewish to those with a mixed population of various degree is not the private issue of Kfar Vradim. It applies to Afula, Nahariya, Karmiel and across the Galilee.” In practice, this means freezing the tender process in Kfar Vardim.
Arab families succeeded last week in attaining 58 out of 125 tenders for land for new housing to be built in Kfar Vradim, which neighbors the Arab area of Tarshiha. Adalah, the legal center for Arab minority rights in Israel, said in a statement on Sunday, March 18, that “the words and actions of Kfar Vradim’s local council leader are motivated by racism. To prevent Arab citizens of Israel from purchasing homes due strictly to their national identity is an illegitimate act and stands in absolute contradiction to the principles of equality to which the local council is obligated.” “The Israel Lands Administration must make it utterly clear to the local council leader that his statements are patently unacceptable and that he must refrain from all interference in land tenders,” Adalah said.
According to Haaretz a source in the Kfar Vradim local council, who declined to be named, said that last week’s bidding was the first round in a planned process of major expansion of the wealthy town, which currently has 1,700 households. Some 50 of them are Arab. A total of 2,200 new units were to be added to the town.
According to geographer Dr. Thabet Abu Rass, the co-director of the Abraham Fund Initiatives, the Arabs buying land in Kfar Vradim come from a middle class that is seeking a better quality of life than that available in the Arab municipalities, which are ranked the lowest in socioeconomic terms in the country. “They demand a better quality of life and can find it only in the Jewish cities. As long as the quality of life does not improve in the Arab towns, this stream of immigration to Jewish towns will continue.”
Abu Rass said to Jerusalem Post that Kfar Vradim is ranked at the top of the Israeli socioeconomic scale. “Middle- and upper-class Arabs from Tarshiha, Majd el-Kurum and elsewhere will go there for quality of life. We are talking about professionals who work in Haifa and Acre – professors, doctors and business people.” He criticized the decision to freeze the tender process. “Those Arabs are citizens and are entitled to equal rights,” he said.
At the initiative of the Standing Together movement, a demonstration “Against racism in Kfar Vradim” will be held tomorrow, Wednesday 21, starting at 19:30, at the entrance to Kfar Vradim from the direction of Trashiha (Traffic Circle No. 6), next to “Yad-B’Yad HaGalil.”