Israel Expanded an Apartheid Law Last Week. No One is Talking About it. – Jonathan Ofir 7/31/23


Israel broadened a racist law that allows communities to exclude non-Jews based on “social and cultural cohesion.” Whereas judicial overhaul laws have caused an uproar, this passed with hardly any opposition.

There has been a lot of noise from the Israeli protests concerning the judicial overhaul. The recent central law that was passed last week reduced the supreme court’s ability to overturn government policy, the so-called “reasonableness law.” But another law also passed just a day later — an amendment to a core apartheid law known as the “Village Committees Law” of 2010, more officially named the Cooperative Societies Ordinance. It passed without opposition, and was hardly noticed.

Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, explained how “these committees, which to date exist in the Galilee and in the Naqab (Negev), have the power to approve or to deny applicants who wish to reside there, based on their perceived ‘social suitability’ to the ‘social and cultural fabric’ of a community. In practice, this power has led to the exclusion of Palestinian citizens of Israel from these communities, which are built on state-controlled land.”

The amendment that was passed (nr. 12) expands the existing law, which was limited to towns of up to 400 households, by introducing a new category called a “Continued Communal Town,” which allows towns with up to 700 households to have such admission committees. “Furthermore,” Adalah notes, “in five years, the Minister of Economy and Industry will be authorized to permit admissions committees in towns with more than 700. This provision, de facto, cancels the restriction on the number of households specified in the law.”

The new amendment also expands the law beyond the Galilee and Naqab. While West Bank colonial settlements are not included in the latest version that passed, “it is expected that this law will be implemented in settlements in the West Bank via military orders, rather than through Israeli domestic law,” Adalah notes.

This is one of the central discriminatory laws that are on Adalah’s database of 65 laws that “discriminate directly or indirectly against Palestinian citizens in Israel and/or Palestinian residents of the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) on the basis of their national belonging.” This is a law in so-called “Israel proper” — not a law for West Bank settlers. And its history goes much further back than this current government….

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