Monday, July 23, 2007
"Bethlehem – Ma'an – European Parliament Vice President Luisa Morgantini condemned Friday a bill passed by the Knesset that would prohibit non-Jewish Israeli citizens from buying certain government owned lands, calling the proposed rule racist. "In this way Israel strikes another blow against democracy, fueling discrimination and Apartheid," wrote Morgantini in the Italian newspaper Liberazione.
The bill, which overwhelmingly passed the Knesset in a preliminary reading last Wednesday, would allow the Israel Lands Authority to lease land owned by the Jewish National Fund (JNF) to Jews only. The legislation would reverse a 1995 ruling by the Israeli Supreme Court which banned ethnic discrimination in the sale of JNF land. The JNF owns about 13% of all Israeli land.
"What can we call it except 'racist,'" asked Morantini, "this bill … that serves only to institutionalize discrimination towards non-Jews and to legitimate a democracy on an ethnic basis?"
Haaretz, the Israeli newspaper of record, also condemned the bill in an editorial last week, saying, "This bill reflects an abasement of the Zionist enterprise to lows never imagined in the Declaration of Independence." The editorial continued: "It turns out that the Supreme Court is not omnipotent. In an instant, a racist Knesset can overturn its rulings."
The bill, which still faces more legislative hurdles and a likely Supreme Court challenge before it becomes law, passed the unicameral Knesset by 64 to 16. The left wing Meretz party, as well as parties representing Arab Israeli citizens, opposed the legislation."