Interior Ministry Finds No Fault in City Council’s Oath to Maintain Afula’s “Jewish Character”

The Interior Ministry has announced that it will take no action regarding the addition made to the Afula City Council’s swearing-in ceremony, in which the newly elected council members pledged to “maintain the city’s Jewish character.”

Racist banners near the city: "Afula is not for sale"

Racist banners near the city: “Afula is not for sale” (Photo: Al Ittihad)

In response to a query by Haaretz on whether the ministry was planning to intervene and whether the council’s pledge was legal, the ministry responded that it had clarified the matter with Afula’s municipal legal adviser and that “the council members had been sworn in according to law, and the addition that was stated does not invalidate the wording of the oath. No reason to interfere in this decision was found.”

The Afula municipality, when responding to the same query, said the municipal bylaw about the oath “does not state that an addition to the wording of the declaration impairs its validity, in contrast to leaving words out or making a mistake in the wording. As long as the declaration is made in its entirety, even if wording is added, this does not harm the legal validity of the pledge. It is noted that the Interior Ministry supports this legal position.”

Hasash MK Yousef Jabareen (Joint List) has asked Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit to declare the Afula City Council declaration invalid. “Not only did the wording exceed what the law determines, but this was a racist, provocative ceremony that does serious damage to the Arab residents of Afula and the Arab public in general,” Jabareen wrote.  On Wednesday, November 28, Hadash MK Aida Touma-Sliman (Joint List) called for an urgent discussion of the matter, which was sent to the Knesset Interior Committee for further discussion

A number of legal experts have told Haaretz that the very fact of the declaration will from this point forward inevitably cloud all of the administrative decisions the city makes which might be suspected of extraneous interests or the exclusion of non-Jews. Some experts told Haaretz that it is doubtful that the declaration is legal. Others said that, regardless if it’s legal or not, it’s merely being consistent with the racist “State-Nation Law” passed by the Knesset in July.

According to Dr. Manal Totry-Jubran, a lecturer at Bar-Ilan University’s Faculty of Law, the declaration by the Afula City Council “contravenes the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty, but conforms to and implements the ‘Nation-State law,’ which also has the standing of a Basic Law.”

According to Totry-Jubran, Clause 7 of the Nation-State Law “clearly says that ‘the state considers the development of Jewish settlement a national value, and will work to encourage and promote its establishment and strengthening.'”