Netanyahu rejects call not to sell homes to Arabs

Tue Dec 7, 2010 8:08pm GMT

By Maayan Lubell

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected on Tuesday an appeal by dozens of Israeli rabbis that locals should refuse to sell or rent property to non-Jews, a call which has raised tensions with Israeli Arabs.

Netanyahu said the rabbis' call was undemocratic and contradicted the bible, and alluded to the history of discrimination suffered by Jews themselves.

"The land of Israel rejects these comments outright," Netanyahu said of an open letter whose signatories included publicly-funded rabbis.

Obtained by Reuters before its planned publication in synagogues and religious journals, the letter quotes warnings by ancient sages that living with non-Jews can lead to "sacrilege." Other concerns for property values are also raised.

"The Land of Israel is intended for the people of Israel," Yosef Shainin, chief rabbi of the southern port city of Ashdod and one of the 41 signatories, told Israel's Army Radio when asked about the letter.

Religious edicts are commonplace and often ignored in predominantly secular Israel. However, the letter raised concern as it underscored deepening Jewish-Arab tensions alongside a deadlocked conflict with Palestinians, as well as demographic fears following an influx of illegal African migrants.

"Such things should not be said, neither about Jews nor Arabs. They must not be said in any democratic land, and especially not in a Jewish democratic state that respects the morality of the heritage of Israel and the Bible," Netanyahu said in a speech to contestants in an annual bible quiz.

About 20 percent of Israel's population of 7.5 million are Arabs, some of whom complain of systematic discrimination. Israeli law guarantees full rights to non-Jewish citizens.   Continued...

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