Jews urged to avoid selling to gentiles


DOZENS OF Israeli rabbis have signed a religious ruling calling on Jews in Israel to refrain from selling or renting property to non-Jews.

Among the reasons given for the prohibition were the danger of intermarriage and the lowering of real estate prices in areas where non-Jews live.

According to the petition, neighbours should boycott anyone who defies a warning and sells to a gentile, and such a person should not be called up to receive a blessing in the synagogue. The petition was a show of solidarity with Shmuel Eliyahu, chief rabbi of Safed, a town in northern Israel, who was criticised after calling on residents not to rent apartments to Arabs.

Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, from the settlement of Beit El, said he supported the petition because a Jew looking for an apartment should get preference over a gentile, and to keep the growing Arab population in Israel from setting down roots. Other rabbis who signed said they based their position on the Torah, which discriminates in favour of Jews because God gave Israel to the Jewish people.

The action by the 37 clerics prompted an outcry and calls for the signatories, most of whom get state salaries, to be dismissed.

The Association of Civil Rights in Israel called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to denounce the rabbis. “Municipal rabbis are civil servants and, as such, they must be loyal to the entire public and cannot take advantage of their position to promote incitement,” spokeswoman Nirit Moskovitch said.

Salah Mohsen, spokesman of Adallah, an advocacy group for Israeli Arabs, said he was not surprised by the rabbis’ actions. He blamed foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party, which promoted a loyalty oath for new Israeli citizens and wants to redraw Israel’s borders to exclude large Arab communities.

Ilan Gilon, a member of the Knesset parliament for the left-wing Meretz party, called on the attorney-general to dismiss each of the rabbis who signed the ruling. “We are witnessing an epidemic of racism and xenophobia and we must act firmly,” he said.

A poll last month showed nearly half of Israel’s high school students do not believe that Israeli-Arabs are entitled to the same rights as Jews, and more than half of the students would deny Arabs the right to be elected to the Knesset.