Israel faces an unrelenting onslaught from her myriad enemies. Despite her position as the only democracy in the region, much of the world sees her as an oppressive state, largely because of an orchestrated campaign of disinformation and demonization propagated by her Arab and Persian enemies, and perpetuated by complicit Western media.
However it seems these forces have an unwitting ally within Israel herself — the orthodox rabbinate.
In a recent move, 50 municipal rabbis have penned a document forbidding the sale or rental of apartments to non-Jews. In so doing, these orthodox religious leaders have lent credibility to the claims that Israel is an apartheid state, and diminished the ability of her defenders to stand against these claims.
The document goes on to issue none-too-subtle threats against any who fail to comply with the ban, including the threat of being shunned both socially and economically. According to Ynet, the document reads,
The neighbors and acquaintances of the seller or renter must warn him personally first and later they are allowed to make this matter public, distance themselves from him, avoid commercial ties, and so on.
Perhaps this does not sound terribly harsh compared to the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, who have declared any Palestinian selling land to Jews may be subject to the death penalty, but these are strong-arm tactics nonetheless.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu immediately criticized the move, saying such a call contradicted Jewish values, and at a recent ceremony stated,
How would we feel if someone overseas said that it is forbidden to sell apartments to Jews? Such things should not be said, not by Jews and not by Arabs. Such things should not be said in a democratic country, especially not in a Jewish and democratic one.
Likewise, other rabbis and Israeli civil rights groups have deplored the document as being contrary to both democratic and Jewish values, and a distortion of the Torah.
But the damage has been done. The headline is now spreading far and wide, and Israel will once again bear the brunt of accusations that she is a racist, apartheid state, and a pale shadow of a true democracy. The voices of the many Israelis speaking against this decree will largely be downplayed by the media, if they are acknowledged at all, and another bomb will be added to the arsenal of those who seek to strip Israel of her legitimacy as a state.
There is some question about who was the intended target of this ban, and some claim it is directed primarily at foreigners; however the effect of this on Israel’s minority Arab citizens cannot be discounted. The ban does not exclude them, and because of this, one must recognize the inherent unfairness — in fact, illegality — of discriminating against Israeli citizens based entirely upon race.
The tragic irony is that Israel truly is a democratic and just nation, and her Arab citizens enjoy many rights and benefits that would be denied them in neighboring Arab states. Arab Israelis are free to work, vote, travel, own businesses, own property, have representation, or serve in government, and even seek redress for grievances against the government. In fact, the only legal distinction between Arabs and other Israeli citizens is that Arabs are not required to serve in the Israeli military. Yet these undeniable facts will once again be overshadowed due to a small minority of Israelis, and because such unsavory behavior meshes seamlessly with the image of Israel that her detractors seek to paint.