Knesset Weighs Freeze on Racist Measure Targeting Arab Building

Following an initiative by the Joint List, the Knesset’s Finance Committee debated on Monday, December 30, the possibility of placing a five-year freeze on a controversial amendment to the Building and Planning Law that stiffens penalties against “illegal construction.” Passed in 2017, this amendment is Known as the Kaminitz Law.

A bulldozer, commissioned by the Israel Land Administration demolishes the foundations of the Adassi family's home in Ajami, an Arab neighborhood in Jaffa.

A bulldozer, commissioned by the Israel Land Administration demolishes the foundations of the Adassi family’s home in Ajami, an Arab neighborhood in Jaffa. (Photo: Activestills)

A vote in favor placing a five-year freeze on implementation of the Kaminitz Law would be seen as a victory for the Joint List, whose supporters in Arab towns see themselves disproportionately targeted by it. The law’s opponents contend that it disproportionately impacts Arab-Palestinian citizens, where “illegal building” is common due to an egregious and intentional lack of government-granted permits to these communities. According to the Communist Party of Israel, “The racist Kaminitz Law fails to take into account the decades of systematic discrimination in state land planning and allocation against Arab-Palestinian national minority in Israel that has resulted in a severe housing crisis in Arab towns and villages.” A spokesperson for Hadash said on Monday, “We have wanted, want and will want to repeal this law.”

However, in addition to residents of Arab towns and villages, Jewish farmers in small Israeli agricultural communities known as moshavim and kibbutzim have also found themselves facing the brunt of the Kaminitz Law. In an effort to gain the support of these farmers, MKs from both the Blue & White and Likud parties have vowed to modify the amendment. A week before the September election, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged to do as much, but he seemingly withdrew this commitment earlier in December amidst blow-back from right-wing parliamentarians.

While the special committee formed to dissolve the Knesset has refused to modify the Kaminitz Law, it did agreed to hold a hearing by the Finance Committee to discuss the matter in the coming weeks, sparking uproar from right-wing MKs. Moreover, in a Friday interview New Right MK Ayelet Shaked, the former minister of Justice, explained, “When we passed the Kaminitz Law, the aim was to tighten enforcement on illegal construction, especially in the Arab sector. Authorities have also applied the law to Jewish farmers, something which is very burdensome for them. This we did not anticipate.” The racist Shaked added she did not want to entirely repeal the law due to its “‘success’ among Arabs,” i.e., the deterrence it places upon them, but she does in fact want to look into how to “change it” so that it does not overly burden Jewish farmers.

“I spoke to the official who directs the enforcement unit who admitted that it is overly onerous towards the farmers,” Shaked said. “We did not expect that. This is why, during the run-up to the [September] election, both the Prime Minister [Benjamin Netanyahu] and I said that we will look into amending the legislation.” In other words, so that it impedes Arabs, but not Jews, typical of Zionist legislation in a so called “democratic” state.