The attempt to bar Arabs from buying land in one of the wealthiest, more liberal towns in Israel is a disturbing reminder of Israel’s colonial past — and present.
It keeps happening over and over again. A Jewish town somewhere in Israel finds a way to prevent Arab citizens from buying homes, using its swimming pools, or playing on its professional soccer team. The media reports, there is some public outrage, a few left-wing politicians issue condemnations — and yet nothing seems to change.
The latest example came Sunday morning, when Haaretz reported that Sivan Yechieli, the head of the Kfar Vradim municipal council froze future land bids in an area slated for the town’s expansion. The reason? Too many Arabs had won bids in the previous round and were moving into Kfar Vradim, a small town in the Galilee.
In a letter sent to the 5,550 residents of the town, Yechieli explained that while all citizens of Israel are “welcome to live in our town…regardless of religion, race, or gender,” the interest of the majority is to maintain Kfar Vradim as a “Jewish, Zionist, and secular town.” According to Yechieli, the residents have a right to promote their “community interests,” just as Arabs, ultra-Orthodox, and Druze citizens do.
The attempts to bar Arabs from moving to Kfar Vradim seem contradictory when taking stock of the political affinities of the town’s residents. After all, 59 percent of residents voted for the center-left Zionist Union party in the previous elections, while another 17 percent voted for the left-wing Meretz party. These aren’t the Mizrahim in development towns such as Afula, who are often portrayed by the media as rabid Arab-haters. These are the white, brawny, socialist pioneers who worked and protected the land. They are the best and the brightest, we were taught, that Zionism has to offer. Weren’t they supposed to be the good guys?
Yes, but only if we understand “racism” as much of the Israeli population does: a lamentable outcome of a decades-long war fought over a piece of land by two competing national groups. National rivalry engenders poor behavior — racism, discrimination, xenophobia — on both sides of the battlefield. Under this premise, there is no real difference between the Jews of Kfar Vradim who want to keep their town pure, and their Arab neighbors who prefer Jews stay out.
A closer look...Read More