The Supreme Court on Monday rejected an appeal by ac construction company who refused to sell a home in Jerusalem to an Arab couple.
The court ruled that May-Tal Engineering Ltd. must compensate the couple after refusing to sell them an apartment in the Pisgat Ze'ev neighborhood.
The couple, originally from the Galilee, have been living in Jerusalem as renters for the past 20 years. They contacted May-Tal to enquire about purchasing an apartment of their own in the capital.
The May-Tal representative, however, was direct and to the point telling them they would not be able to purchase any apartment because the company does not sell to Arabs.
The couple then sued May-Tal in Jerusalem Magistrate's Court, claiming they should be compensated according to the Prohibition of Discrimination in Products, Services and Entry into Places of Entertainment and Public Places Law of 2000 and demanded restitution for the distress caused to them by the discrimination.
May-Tal appealed but Jerusalem District Court upheld the earlier ruling, and finally the appeal reached the Supreme Court.
The court debated whether the law ensuring equality applies to private companies and real estate transactions, while the lawyers for the couple argued that discrimination is rampant in the housing market.
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who was asked by theSupreme Ccourt to weigh in, said in his written opinion that the principle of equality must be applied even if there is no contractual requirement.
"As the state is forbidden to discriminate, so is a private company that has been granted use of state owned land in order to build and market apartments for the general public," Mandelblit wrote.
While the Supreme Court justices failed to find unanimity on the application of the Prohibition of Discrimination Law, they did agree that the appeal should be rejected because a housing development company cannot discriminate on the basis of nationality.