Anger over Israel mayor’s ban on Israeli-Arab workers

Al Jazeera reports: An Israeli mayor’s decision to bar Israeli-Arab construction workers from jobs in local preschools over security concerns has triggered widespread condemnation with a rights group calling it racist.

Itamar Shimoni, the mayor of the southern city of Ashkelon, announced on Thursday that Israeli-Arab labourers renovating bomb shelters in local kindergartens would be barred from their jobs. He also ordered security stepped up at construction sites where Arab labourers are employed.

His decision came days after a spate of attacks by Palestinians, including a deadly attack on a Jerusalem synagogue that left five Israelis dead.

“Anyone who thinks this is illegal can take me to court,” Shimoni said. “At this time, I prefer to be taken to court and not, God forbid, to attend the funeral of one of the children from kindergartens,” Shimoni said.

The workers in Ashkelon are Arab citizens of Israel, in contrast to the Palestinian attackers from the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

Israel’s Justice Minister Tzipi Livni called the ban illegal and ordered the attorney general to take action.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also criticised the mayor’s decision. “We must not generalise about an entire public due to a small and violent minority. The vast majority of Israel’s Arab citizens are law abiding and whoever breaks the law – we will take determined and vigorous action against him.”

Shimoni’s decision highlighted the distrust sweeping the region in the aftermath of rising tensions between Israelis and Palestinians. [Continue reading…]

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