JERUSALEM (Jun. 18)
The Supreme Court is reviewing the case of an East Jerusalem Arab who complained that he was barred from buying a flat in the Jewish quarter because he is an Arab. The complainant, Mohammed Said Burkan, alleges discrimination on the part of the government owned Corporation for the Reconstruction and Development of the Jewish Quarter which refused to allow him to bid for the flat which he had formerly occupied.
Burkan, a house-painter by profession, and his family, were forced to leave the premises a year ago when the building was expropriated by government order and renovated. Residency was restricted to veterans of the armed services and new immigrants. At the outset of the hearing last week, presiding Justice Haim Cohen warned Burkan that the court would not assist him if he came before it “dishonestly.” The Justice wanted to know why Burkan has not applied for Israeli citizenship and criticized him for giving interviews to the foreign media in which there was “an element of slander against the State.”
The defendants were represented by Dr. Moshe Ben Zeev, one of Israel’s leading attorneys, who argued that there was no discrimination against Burkan because “the Jewish quarter fights for its destiny as a Jewish quarter.” Burkan’s lawyer, Avraham Lenemann, a young attorney of limited experience, argued that the government-owned company had practiced discrimination which was contrary to the letter and spirit of Israel’s proclamation of independence. “Just as Israel can be a Jewish State with an Arab minority, so can the Jewish quarter be Jewish with an Arab minority,” he said.
Justice Cohen challenged the sincerity of Burkan’s appeal on grounds that the complainant had said that as a Moslem he was forbidden to sell property to Jews. “Burkan cannot complain that he is discriminated against when he himself adheres to discrimination. When he comes to this court he must first come to us in honesty,” he said. At another point, the Judge asked, “Why hasn’t Burkan applied for Israel citizenship,” asserting that if he showed solidarity with the State it would have strengthened his case for living in peace with Jews. Lenemann replied that it is not citizenship that determines loyalty and it is not up to the housing corporation to determine loyalty to the State.