Carmiel: What has the Nation State Law to do with Taking Kids to School?
Sensationalizing an issue is something we expect of news sites and Times of Israel did not disappoint; however, we do not expect the courts to cause a sensation when the issue should be a simple one to adjudicate.
The issue: Arab families living in Carmiel who want their children to study in an Arab school, of which there are none in the city, are demanding the city provide transportation for the kids or cover the costs. Here is the title of the Times of Israel article reporting on this: ‘Carmiel is a Jewish city,’ court tells Arab students seeking transportation. It was written in November 2020, but brought to my attention just yesterday. I could not just let this go without comment.
Parents forced to send kids to school outside of Carmiel
Because there is no Arab school in Carmiel, the article says, “parents are forced to send their children to various schools in the area” [emphasis added]:
Attorney Nizar Bakri filed a lawsuit on behalf of his brother Qassem and his two nephews, whose right to education, he alleged in court filings, had been substantially damaged by the difficulty of constantly organizing transport to and from schools outside the city.
I challenge the idea that parents are forced to send their kids to schools outside the city in which they live. I wonder how many thought of enrolling their kids in the schools in their neighbourhoods. After all, if they want to live in a Jewish-majority town and help promote the idea that Jews and Arabs can live together, why not go the next step and have their kids study together with Jews? It would likely not be a smooth enterprise for either the Jews or the Arabs, but maybe it would be worth the try. Furthermore, when seeking a home, parents usually look for a place near the school in which they wnat their children to study. Real estate agents are always ready with the statement: “There is a good school just around the corner or within walking distance”.
These families decided to live in a city with no Arab school. That was their free choice. One of the consequences of that choice is either sending their kids to a regular local Hebrew school or having to take them to school and back outside the city. We should also note that just across the main highway from Carmiel are four Arab towns at distances of 5-7 kilometers from the center of Carmiel, closer if the family home is nearer to the entrance to town on the north or on the north-east side to be closer to Nahf. If none of these Arab towns is where they want their children to study and the kids need to travel farther, well, maybe they should have reconsidered where they chose to live.
Any family wanting their children to go to special schools that do not fall under the ausipices of the municipality are responsible for their children’s transportation to and from school. Special education is an exception to that. But if a child wants to study at a school for fine arts, for example, the municipality is under no obligation to provide transportation.
Carmiel is a Jewish City
Now let us look at the argument that Carmiel is a Jewish City and wants to stay that way. I have mixed feelings learning that there were efforts to prevent sale of properties to Arabs. I do not like that discrimination at all. I can undertand how small towns and villages want to remain Jewish, but a city is a different story in that there is an expectation of a more diverse population. Why should Carmiel not join the mixed cities across the country, such as Haifa, Acco, Lod, Ramla, Jerusalem, Maalot-Tarshiha? Looking at the graph below, and keeping in mind that, according to the article, 6% of the population (2760 people) in Carmiel are Arabs, Carmiel should perhaps already be on that list:
The consequences of Carmiel being considered a mixed town are for the elected leadership of the municipality to determine. One question to be asked is: how many of those Arabs bought their aparments and how many are merely renting? The former implies an intention to stay in Carmiel on a permanent basis and this should affect the approach to incorporating the Arabs into Carmiel society or not.
We should keep in mind that Arab towns will not open up to Jews who may want to move there. Sakhnin has no Jews. Kfar Manda has no Jews. Likewise Fureidis, Baqa al-Gharbiyye, Tira, Tayibe and more. In fact, Umm al-Fahm, a city larger than Carmiel, has no Jews. I cannot imagine that any of these municipalities would consider organizing transportation to schools outside of town for the children of any Jewish families who may decide they want to live there.
Even more than this, when interviewing Ishmael Khaldi in his home in Khawaled for an article I wrote in 2017, he told me about two new homes being built by Arabs who are not members of the Khaldi tribe. The town was trying to prevent further land sales to Arabs of other tribal origins as they did not want to change the demographic character of their town. Many small Arab towns are similarly protective of maintaining the purity of their tribal community. But when a Jewish town such as Kfar Vradim is concerned about maintaining its Jewishness, everyone cries “racism, apartheid”. Interestingly, Shfaram, which is almost as large as Carmiel, is regarded as a “cosmopolitan” town in that it is populated by Muslims, Christians and Druze (but no Jews).
The Times of Israel article states:
Carmiel, a city in northern Israel, has recently seen a growing influx of upper-middle class Arab professionals, one of several cities around the country seeing trends of de facto and de jure segregation fall by the wayside. [emphasis added]
Yes, they can use inflammatory language — segregation — when talking about a Jewish town concerned about maintaining its Jewish nature but I hope I have shown above that Arab towns want to maintain their demographic purity and nobody seems to have a problem with that. I have no problem with it either. I think it is the right of communities to define themselves and protect their boundaries.
In any case, this is totally irrelevant to the issue of whether or not the City of Carmiel has to provide transportation for Arab kids who live there and go to school elsewhere. There is no law saying municipalities need to provide transportation for pupils studying outside their bounds.
Nation State Law and School Transportation
The Times of Israel report states a number of reasons for rejecting the petition brought before the court, but the most objectionable reason was one based upon the Nation State Law (NSL):
Krayot Magistrate’s Court judge Yaniv Luzon wrote in his ruling that providing services to Arabs would change the makeup of Carmiel, which he said was “a Jewish city which is intended to strengthen Jewish settlement in the Galilee.
Yes, it is true that Carmiel was established in order to increase the Jewish presence in the Galillee. And the Nation State Law (NSL) has a paragraph stating that it is in Israel’s interest to promote Jewish settlement across the land. But would an Arab population numbering 6%, or even 10% as in Haifa, constitute a challenge to the Jewish settlement of the Galillee? I think not.
Luzon went on and:
… cited the controversial 2018 nation-state law, which enshrines Israel as “the national home of the Jewish people” and says “the right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.” It also states that “the state considers advancing Jewish settlement to be a national value, and will act to encourage and advance its establishment.”
“The development of Jewish settlement is therefore a national value, one anchored in a basic law. It ought to be an appropriate and dominant consideration in the array of municipal considerations, including for the issue of establishment schools and funding transportation”.
I always wondered what was meant by the inclusion in the NSL of the issue of “advancing Jewish settlement” as a “national value”. Now, with Luzon’s totally irrelevant invocation of this law in support of his decision, I am more convinced than ever that this paragraph needs to be deleted from the NSL. I do not believe the NSL intended to instruct municipalities how to operate. But this is how Luzon is interpreting it. It would have been enough for him to have said that there is no law that requires municipalities to provide transportation to schools outside the city for children who study elsewhere. Case closed.
Luzon, apparently feeling the need to pontificate, has merely provided Adalah, an Arab legal rights NGO, with an additional complaint to bring to the Supreme Court in their fight against the NSL. Way to go, Luzon!