High Court Petitioned to Terminate Discrimination against Arab Towns

Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel – has filed a petition with Israel’s High Court of Justice, demanding it end the far-right governmental discriminatory policy against Arab communities in the “northern triangle” region. Prepared in cooperation with The Arab Center for Alternative Planning, the petition attacks discrimination in the realms of the distribution of housing, construction, and land-development benefits, and demands that these communities receive the same benefits that nearby small Jewish communities receive.

Adalah filed on behalf of all the Arab local councils in the Wadi Ara region including Umm el-Fahm, Baqa al-Gharbiya, Ar’ara, Kafr Qara, Ma’aleh Iron, Basmah and Jatt; the individual communities of Umm al-Qatif, Misar and Al-Iryan; and 74 specific residents of the area. These localities have not been assigned “National Priority Area” status, something that would make them eligible for development and housing benefits and land discounts from the Israel Lands Authority, according to the petition.

Benefits that Jewish areas recognized as a priority area receive, noted the petition, include, reduced land-lease fees at a rate of up to 51%, as well as subsidies from the Construction and Housing Ministry for planning and development expenses related to new residential construction.

According to the petition, the government’s decisions on eligibility for the benefits do not comply with the law regulating the classification of localities. This law was the result of a 2006 High Court ruling in a petition filed by Adalah that “rejected the Israeli government’s arbitrary determination of criteria that had previously resulted in discrimination between Arab and Jewish localities on the basis of ethnicity or national belonging.” The current petition said the law authorizing the government to determine national priority areas requires “adherence to the principle of equality and the prohibition against discrimination.”

As a result, Adalah said other neighboring, and significantly wealthier, localities are entitled to the priority benefits since they have not been gerrymandered in with unrelated communities as the Arab villages have. Further, the petition said, “This state discrimination comes against the backdrop of housing shortages and dysfunctional development in the northern triangle’s Arab communities.” The petition presents data showing that “only 20 development tenders have been issued in the Wadi Ara area since 2010 – some 1,454 housing units – despite an estimated housing shortfall of 10,000 to 11,000 [units].”

“The Israeli government repeatedly creates mechanisms that systematically discriminate against Arab citizens,” Adalah attorney Suhad Bishara and urban planner Dr. Enaya Banna said. “Through manipulations of various parameters, it formulates a policy with an outcome that is clear: The weakest communities – those which should have been at the top of the government’s priorities – are excluded.”