The Knesset's Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee met Tuesday to discuss a bill that would allow small communities in the Negev and Galilee to reject citizens asking to move in.
Left-wing and Arab MKs criticized the bill, which has already passed its preliminary reading, and said it was a racist proposal aimed against Arab residents. MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List, Ta'al), mentioned in his criticism that "the Arabs were all born here", while the Jews are "immigrants, some of them fascist".
The bill states that acceptance committees will be able to reject candidates for residency in their community for various reasons.
It was unofficially named the 'High Court- Kaadan bypass law' after Arab citizen Adel Kaadan, who fought for years to be able to live in the northern community of Katzir, and was finally allowed to do so following a High Court ruling.
"You should be ashamed of what you are doing to Zionism," said MK Ophir Pines-Paz (Labor) to the MKs who proposed the bill.
But MK David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu) answered that he was not ashamed. "When I want to establish a Jewish town, I am not ashamed of it," he said.
Hadash MK Dov Khenin then presented a bleak vision of the consequences such a law may have: "The screening bodies in the admissions committees will eventually dismantle the Israeli society. Not only the Arabs will be left on the outside. It will start with Arabs, but next will come the Ethiopians, the ultra-Orthodox, the homosexuals, single mothers, and anyone who is unacceptable to the group that happened to take over the area."
Khenin added that he "is also ashamed of this law as a Jew. The Jews were those who fought against clubs that were closed to 'dogs, blacks and Jews' around the world, in the name of maintaining social homogeny. I am ashamed that the State of Israel has stooped to this level that we are doing to others what we most despised, and it was despised rightfully."
Tibi spoke at length about the injustice of the proposal. "All of the Arabs were born here, and not all Jews were born here. Some are immigrants, and some are fascist immigrants," he said.
"Who are the people not permitted to build towns? The group whose land was confiscated in 1948 and for years afterward. Their homes are destroyed and they are not allowed to build. Who gives these orders? People like you. All of the governments in Israel have discriminated against the Arab public and prevented it from establishing new towns – not only rightists like you, but also people who have pretended to be centrists."
At this he turned to MKs Israel Hasson and Shai Hermesh of Kadima, and accused them of capitulating to the Right. "Look at the use you are being put to," he told them. "I recommend that the Knesset revert back to its tradition and refrain from legislating laws that bypass the High Court," he said.
In defense of the proposal, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said, "The conquest of land is still important today to the nation as well as Zionism, and we shouldn't be ashamed of it."
He rejected claims of racism. "I see us as public figures who represent all citizens," he said. At this MK Jamal Zahalka (Balad) jumped up and said, "You want to strangle us! These are our lands!"
Tibi chimed in and lashed out at Rotem. "How do you deal with yourself as the initiator of such racist proposals?" he asked.
"I sleep very well at night," Rotem responded. "I need to defend Israel as a Jewish state."
Tibi continued his outburst, "Up until a few years ago racism was not really anchored in the law, but lately there has been a deluge of racist bills. You have no shame. With people like you, the Declaration of Independence would not have passed a Knesset vote. This state is Jewish and Democratic: Democratic towards Jews and Jewish towards Arabs."
Sharon Roffe-Ofir contributed to this report