Christians for Fair Witness on the Middle East strongly criticizes a recent ruling issued by dozens of Israeli Orthodox rabbis against selling or renting property to non-Jews and praises the Israeli government for joining in that criticism.
"In a moment in history when we are all hoping that peace is finally coming to the Israelis and Palestinians, this sort of racist commentary is most unfortunate," according to Msgr. Dennis L. Mikulanis, STD, Vicar for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs for the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego and Fair Witness Executive Committee member.
"We were therefore deeply heartened by the immediate and overwhelming outcry from so many sectors of Israeli society," said Rev. Dr. Bruce Chilton, Bernard Iddings Bell Professor of Religion at Bard College, also a member of the Executive Committee of Fair Witness. "Not only the expected Israeli civil rights groups are outraged. PM Benjamin Netanyahu himself blasted the ruling, making it clear that it was inconsistent with democratic values and contrary to Israeli policy. Israeli Minority Affairs Minister Avishay Braverman called on the attorney general to launch an investigation into incitement to racism and the attorney general's office is indeed looking into possible criminal charges. Other rabbis have joined in the protest. The President of Tzohar, an organization of Orthodox rabbis in Israel, made clear that discrimination had no place in the Jewish state. Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, the top rabbinic authority for many ultra-Orthodox Jews, also weighed in against it."
"Thankfully this rabbinic ruling is not the law in Israel, and we would like to believe that its disturbing intolerance is not reflective even of the wider ultra Orthodox community," said Rev. Dr. Peter A. Pettit, Director of the Institute for Jewish-Christian Understanding at Muhlenberg College and Fair Witness member. "We are equally mindful of the fact that a combination of laws in the Palestinian legal system make it unlawful to sell property to Jews, with a possible penalty of death for violations. Particularly at this point in history, both Israeli and Palestinian political leaders must take strong and courageous steps to lessen the level of fear generated by any such expressions of racism or intolerance among their people."