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Thursday, February 25, 2010
SHURAT HADIN WINS COURT VICTORY FOR JEWISH FAMILIES IN JAFFA (Arabs argued that OK for Arab buying group to purchase land in public tender but not Jewish)



The Tel Aviv District Court handed down a ruling that Jewish families, who
had won a public tender to purchase land in the Tel-Aviv suburb of Jaffa,
are entitled to go forward with their plans to construct a multi-family
building. The families' rights to build had been challenged in court by a
coalition of Arab-Israelis and politically motivated NGOs. The coalition
demanded that the families' bid be disqualified by the court based solely
upon the fact that they are Jewish and that their presence in Jaffa will tip
the demographic balance of the neighborhood and discriminates against Arabs.

Several months ago, the families submitted a joint bid on a plot of land in
Jaffa which had been offered up in a public auction by the Israel Lands
Authority (ILA). The families planned to build a residential building, with
twenty apartments, on the plot. A competing, lower bid was submitted by an
Arab contractor. After considering all the bids, the ILA awarded the rights
to the Jewish group.

Following the families' victory, a coalition of twenty-five Israeli-Arabs
from Jaffa, along with three Israeli human rights NGOs, filed a petition in
the Tel Aviv District Court against the ILA, insisting that the families'
successful bid be disqualified. The coalition argued that since the families
intended to build apartments primarily for Jewish citizens, the ILA - a
government agency - had somehow discriminated against the Arab contractor
and Arab residents of Jaffa in conducting the public auction. The
petitioners argued that the local Arab population of Jaffa suffers from a
housing shortage and that the court should issue an injunction against
building any apartments, unless the builders agree to allocate housing units
specifically for Arabs!

To fight for their rights, the families had turned to Shurat HaDin to
represent them in court.

The District Court dismissed the case on a technicality, but went out of its
way to criticize the Arab group's position as inherently contradictory:
While seeking to nullify the winning bid as discriminatory, the coalition
argued that the main problem is the very fact that the tenants are Jewish;
they would have no objection, however, if the winning bidder were to sell
the apartments exclusively to Arabs. The Arab group then appealed to the
Israeli Supreme Court. The Court held, however, that the lower Court had
jurisdiction to decide the matter and remanded the case.

The families had won the land auction fair and square and only wanted to
commence building their new homes as quickly as possible. It was clear from
the coalition's court pleadings that the claim of the Arab groups and the
NGOs is part of a broader campaign to limit the rights of Jews to live
everywhere in the Jewish State. This is an Israeli-Arab effort that starts
with the assumption that all of Israel is inherently Arab land, and that
every new Jewish community is a "settlement" that is wrongful in its
essence. This campaign cannot be allowed to prevail, in Jaffa or anywhere

In its legal brief filed with the District Court, Shurat HaDin argued that
the Jewish families were legally declared the winners, in a public auction
that was conducted in a free and transparent manner. Just as all
Arab-Israelis were allowed to bid on the property, so, too, were the Jewish
families who managed to offer the highest bid. In addition, the Jewish
families also have vital human rights that the District Court must act to
safeguard: namely the freedom of association, the right to benefit from
their own property, and the rights of Jews to live wherever they want in

In his decision, District Court Judge Yehuda Zaft rejected the coalitions'
petition and accused the petitioners of acting in bad faith. As the Judge
wrote: "While speaking of the principle of equality, the petition clearly
reveals that according to the petitioners' line of thought, it is
appropriate to designate the lot to the sector whose best interest they

Following the District Court decision, emotions in the Arab community in
Jaffa are running extremely high. Local Arab activists, are whipping up the
public's sentiment and have vowed to continue to fight the decision outside
of court. A mass protest is being organized. The activists have labeled the
families as "settlers" and pledged they will not allow Jaffa to "become
another Hebron." Vandals have already attacked the building site where
construction will begin on the Jewish apartments.

In recent weeks the world Jewish community has been told that Jews are
forbidden to live in parts of Jerusalem and the territories. Now Jews are
being informed by Arab-Israelis and so called human rights groups that they
are also prohibited from live in Jaffa, a suburb of Tel-Aviv that has had a
Jewish presence for thousands of years, as well. The battle over Jewish
rights inside the State of Israel is truly heating up.

For an article about the case:

FOR MORE INFORMATION: (Israel) +972-3-751-4175, (US) 212-591-0073
Email: info@israellawcenter.org

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