Court Rules: Upscale Jewish Country Club Allowed to Restrict Arab Neighbors' Membership

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"The Lod (A-Llyd) District Court rejected the petition on grounds of discrimination and authorized that the local country club to sell 90% of its subscriptions only to residents of the settlement (Kokhav Yair - Tzur Yigal). The judge wrote: 'The fear that opening the registry may 
harm the sense of belonging is legitimate.'"
And note that:
* If you think the 10% will actually materialize - don't worry, they're apparently allowed to discriminate further in pre-registration for membership.
* The settlement is named after Yair Stern, leader of the Stern Gang (Lehi); it was unified with Tzur Yigal several years back. They are built on the western side of the 1967 green line - just North of Qalqilya.
* Many top Israeli military officers live or have lived in Kohav Yair, including Lt. Gen. Ehud Bakar, Lt. Gen. Shaul Mofaz, Shin-Bet head Danny Yatom, Shin-Bet head Gideon Ezra, Maj. Gen. Menahem Einan and Maj. Gen. Uzi Dayan."
 A court has approved a municipality’s decision to reserve 90 percent of the subscriptions to its country club for town residents, while leaving the remainder available to Jewish and Arab residents of neighboring towns.

  Sep 25, 2017
The Central District Court also ruled that Dr. Ahmed Mansour of Tira, who had sued the country club in Kochav Ya’ir-Tzur Yigal over its refusal to sell memberships to Arabs, can register for the club, but only on the same terms as other nonresidents. One of these terms is that people who were members last year – all of whom are Jews – have priority.

Mansour said he was disappointed by the ruling, but will seek to enroll in the club in the coming days. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel, which represented Mansour in the case, said it would appeal to the Supreme Court.

The ruling, issued last week, rejected Mansour’s claim that the country club effectively discriminates against Arabs. It is apparently the first to be issued since the Knesset passed an amendment to the anti-discrimination law that for the first time bars discrimination on the basis of place of residence. But that amendment contained one crucial exception: Towns are allowed to distinguish between residents and nonresidents for the benefit of residents.

Judge Ofer Grosskopf’s decision said that restricting municipal facilities or activities to residents “could, under suitable circumstances, be a decision that serves the municipality’s function of creating and encouraging social activities for its residents and strengthening social solidarity among them.” Moreover, the ruling said, such restrictions could spare a small, homogenous community the costs of “enforcing behavioral norms on nonresidents.”

In this specific case, the decision to reserve most memberships for Kochav Ya’ir-Tzur Yigal residents “stems from the desire to encourage use of the country club by residents” and thereby “preserve its community character,” rather than any desire to discriminate against Arabs, the ruling said. Grosskopf stressed that the town’s legitimate desire to strengthen “feelings of belonging and community” didn’t require it to completely close the country club to nonresidents. 
Nevertheless, he added, it was reasonable to limit nonresident memberships to 10 percent of the total, thereby ensuring that residents will constitute “a substantial majority” of those using the facilities.

The remaining 10 percent are supposed to be available equally to residents of all neighboring towns, whether Jewish ones like Tzur Yitzhak and the West Bank settlement of Tzofim or Arab ones like Tira, since the ruling prohibits the country club from “giving preference based on place of residence.” Nevertheless, it does allow the club to give preference to last year’s members – and for the past seven years, not one Arab has been allowed to buy a membership.

“We’ll see how they treat me when I try to enroll in the country club in another few days,” Mansour said on Sunday. “I thought we brought strong evidence that this constitutes illegal discrimination, and that they wouldn’t be impressed by Kochav Ya’ir’s excuses. The court’s decision is disappointing.”

ACRI said the amendment – passed after Mansour’s suit was filed – sought “to expand access to public places,” but the court “interpreted it in a way that undermines the essence of the amendment.” ACRI said it was meant “to increase equality of opportunity for people in economically weak towns. Instead, the court expanded the ability of well-off towns like Kochav Ya’ir to exclude residents of neighboring towns and prefer its residents’ interests to increasing equality of opportunity in our society.”

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