Two More Reforms to End Housing Discrimination
Muhammad Aborbia, a resident of Be’er Sheva who works as the managing pharmacist at the Super-Pharm branch in the city, was seeking to purchase an apartment in his hometown. When he took interest in a new housing project of the Peretz Bonei Hanegev company, he was told that the apartment could only be purchased as part of the “price-per-occupant” housing program. The same answer was also given to other Arab applicants–but not to Jews, who were immediately offered apartments to purchase within the project.
Meanwhile, A., a single mother and resident of Jaffa, was in financial distress and applied for housing assistance to pay her rent. She gathered all of the required paperwork, including the verdict on her divorce and the Sharia court’s decision regarding child support. Despite this, the Amidar clerk refused to accept the documents in Arabic and demanded that a Hebrew translation be validated by a notary or lawyer. Due to her challenging financial situation, A. was forced to fundraise several hundred shekels to subsidize translation of the documents.
Both stories illustrate two forms of discrimination that Arab citizens of Israel encounter upon exercising their right to housing. In both cases, following petitions filed with the courts, important decisions were made towards ending discrimination in housing.
In a petition filed on behalf of Muhammad, we demanded that the Israel Land Authority (ILA) change its decision not to impose a fine on Peretz Bonei Hanegev due to unlawful discrimination. We argued that this decision violates the right to equality and conveys a harsh message of brazen state-sponsored discrimination around public land. This week, the State Attorney's Office announced that the ILA’s Tenders Committee will reevaluate the decision.
In a petition that we filed regarding A.’s case, as well as others in a similar situation, ACRI argued that the translation requirement violates the rights of Arab society to housing assistance, to adequate housing, and to equality – a particularly grave violation in the context of the high poverty rates and the housing crisis faced by Arab society. This week, the State Attorney's Office announced that starting this December, the Ministry of Construction and Housing will begin to translate documents submitted by those seeking housing assistance from Arabic into Hebrew, so as not to impose the financial and bureaucratic burden on already disadvantaged applicants.
These are two important steps towards eliminating racism and discrimination in housing. We intend to keep our fingers on the pulse, continuing to act to deter companies that discriminate, and to make government services equally accessible to all citizens and residents of the country.
Attorney Gil Gan-Mor
Unit Director - Civil and Social Rights,