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  • A security guard checks the identification of visitors near the entrance to a park in the northern Israeli town of Afula.

    A security guard checks the identification of visitors near the entrance to a park in the northern Israeli town of Afula. | Photo: Reuters

Published 14 July 2019

“This was really to exclude Palestinian citizens from entering the park,” said lawyer Fady Khoury.

The Nazareth district court has ordered Sunday for the town of Afula in the Northern District of Israel to lift a rule impeding non-residents to enter its public parks.

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The judge cited a legal opinion by Israel’s attorney general who stated that parks were public properties open to everyone. 

“This was really to exclude Palestinian citizens from entering the park,” said Fady Khoury, a lawyer with Adalah, an Arab rights group that raised the protest against the ban into court. 

Human rights groups had denounced the town’s ban as racist, aimed at prohibiting the entrance to Arabs who live in the surrounding villages.

The town, with a population of 50,000 people, denied that the decision was based on racial motivations had imposed the prohibition a month ago, depriving non-resident visitors to enter its parks. As the city's attorneys argued the ban was aimed at limiting the overcrowding of the parks in the summer and keeping maintenance costs down.

In the nearby Arab village of Sulem, Shua’a Zoabi said he often brought his children to the park in Afula. “There is no space for our kids to play in our village. Public investment here is terribly low,” Zoabi explained.

The ban, he said, was a “racist restriction” against Arabs, many of whom say that their people face discrimination in various areas including health, education, and housing.

Israel’s Arab citizens are the descendants of the Palestinians who remained in their lands or were internally displaced during the 1948 Nakba resulting in the creation of Israel. They represent 21 percent of the population and for the most part, they consider themselves Palestinians.

On Jan.19, 2018, the 14th Basic Law was passed by the Israeli Knesset, which declared Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had said that the law would not deprive Israel’s Arab citizens of equal rights, yet Palestinians are witnesses of a rising anti-Arab sentiment, mostly pushed by Netanyahu's far-right.

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