Israeli rabbis tell Jews not to sell homes to Arabs, Netanyahu disagrees (updated)

By Reuters Staff
December 7, 2010

settlement

(Photo: A sign advertising apartments for sale in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim near Jerusalem March 2, 2009/Ammar Awad)

Dozens of Israeli rabbis, some of them civil servants, issued an appeal on Tuesday telling locals not to sell or rent property to non-Jews, drawing condemnation from lawmakers and human rights activists. The open letter underscored Jewish-Arab tensions that have deepened along with Israel’s deadlocked Palestinian conflict, as well as more recent demographic fears triggered by an influx of illegal African migrants.

“The land of Israel is intended for the people of Israel,” Yosef Shainin, chief rabbi of the southern port city of Ashdod and one of the 41 signatories, told Israel’s Army Radio when asked about the letter.

Obtained by Reuters ahead of its planned publication in synagogues and religious journals, the letter quotes warnings by ancient sages that living with non-Jews can lead to “sacrilege.” Other concerns for property values are also raised. Another signatory, Chief Rabbi Mordechai Nagari from the Maale Adumim settlement, said: “If you allow Arabs into Jewish neighborhoods, you are asking for feuds to ensue.”

While religious edicts are commonplace and often ignored in predominantly secular Israel, the letter was unusual as several of the rabbis were state-funded municipal chaplains — in Nagari’s case, of a settlement in the occupied West Bank, where Palestinians have been struggling for statehood.

The Association of Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) and opposition lawmakers demanded Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemn the letter and discipline those rabbis.

Read the full story by Maayan Lubell here.

Update: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected on Tuesday an appeal by dozens of Israeli rabbis that locals should refuse to sell or rent property to non-Jews, a call which has raised tensions with Israeli Arabs.

Netanyahu said the rabbis’ call was undemocratic and contradicted the Bible, and alluded to the history of discrimination suffered by Jews themselves.  “The land of Israel rejects these comments outright,” Netanyahu said of an open letter whose signatories included publicly-funded rabbis. Read the full story here.

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