“The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.” (Leviticus 19:34)
On Thursday, in response to the attack in a Jerusalem synagogue two days before by Palestinian terrorists from East Jerusalem, Ashkelon Mayor Itamar Shimoni blocked Israeli Arab construction workers from fortifying and installing bomb shelters at a kindergartens in the southern port city of Ashkelon.
“The construction of security rooms at the kindergartens where Arab laborers are working will be suspended immediately, until further notice,” Shimoni announced.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded right away, saying, “There is no room for discrimination against Israel’s Arabs.” (IsraelHaYom)
Shimoni, who had complained that the government was unable to provide sufficient security, explained on Israeli radio that the decision came after parents expressed fear for the children’s lives.
Shai Rubin, a public activist and parent of a child in the school said to Arutz Sheva: “We told him [the mayor] that if Arab workers do not vacate the kindergartens, we will not send our children to them. The mayor understood our distress and I think all the ministers who criticized him are populists.”
The mayor was taking precautions due to the delight many Muslims expressed in the spontaneous killings of Jewish Israelis by “lone-wolf” Muslim terrorists.
The mayor did propose to allow the work to go on after school hours, but his decision still caused a virtual firestorm among political parties. A great many are depicting him as being somewhere between Adolph Hitler and the Ku Klux Klan.
The strong political backlash came in part because Israeli Arab workers are so much a part of the country’s workforce and work side by side with Jewish Israelis throughout the community.
Rubin, however, said that surface identities can be misleading.
“I myself have often met someone from Hebron posing as an Arab Bedouin from the area,” he said. “We do not have anything against the Arab residents of the State of Israel—they are some of our friends. But the situation today, you cannot know if someone will get up in the morning and just decide to attack.”
A Channel 10 poll showed that 58% of Israelis supported Shimoni’s decision.
Nevertheless, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein warned that “not employing workers due to their being Arabs, and having a public official sending the message that employing Arabs is undesirable, does not comply with the law.” (Times of Israel)
As well, the Commissioner for Equal Employment Opportunities, Tziona Koenig-Yair, announced on Thursday that the Mayor’s actions break the Equal Opportunity law.
“Local authorities also have public responsibility towards all their residents, Jews and Arabs alike,” she said.
The Commissioner added, “Such authorities must show leadership and act to calm the storm, and not take collective action which may fan the flames. We all need to work together to improve the situation, and continue to work towards equality and tolerance for all citizens of the State of Israel, both Jews and Arabs.” (JP)
On Sunday, Shimoni showed such leadership with his Plan C: Arab workers will continue the construction while children will be taught at community centers for the remaining week of work.
“My decision was disproportionate,” Shimoni said. “Overall I was attentive to parents, and under no circumstances did I given an order to expel Arabs from Ashkelon.” (Times of Israel)