Ashkelon mayor bars Arab workers, drawing racism charges
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Ashkelon mayor bars Arab workers, drawing racism charges

Itamar Shimoni halts construction of bomb shelters in kindergartens to keep Arab-Israeli workers out; lawmakers call foul

Ashkelon Mayor Itamar Shimoni (left) with Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, May 2014. (Photo credit: Edi Israel/Flash 90)
Ashkelon Mayor Itamar Shimoni (left) with Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, May 2014. (Photo credit: Edi Israel/Flash 90)

The mayor of Ashkelon said Wednesday he would freeze construction of bomb shelters in kindergartens, in order to keep Arab-Israeli workers away from schools in the southern city.

Itamar Shimoni quickly came under fire after announcing via Facebook he would cut off construction of shelters at any kindergarten where Arab workers were employed and also order the posting of armed guards outside kindergartens near building sites that employed Arab construction workers.

The move was apparently made in a bid to secure the city after five people were killed by Arab East Jerusalem residents in a terror attack in the capital Tuesday.

Shimoni said the measure was intended “to increase the personal security of parents, children and the educational staff,” Israeli news site Walla reported.

The measures are illegal according to the Employment (Equal Opportunities) Law, which prohibits employers from discriminating between employees on the basis of race or religion, among others, according to Ynet.

Arab-Israeli MK Ahmad Tibi (Ra’am Ta’al) expressed his outrage over the mayor’s announcement, suggesting he should be prosecuted for racist incitement.

MK Issawi Frej (Meretz) urged Shimoni to overturn his decision, calling the orders racist.

“Shimoni’s decision to prevent Arab Israelis from working is racism at its worst form,” Frej said.

“Using a poor excuse of ‘sense of security,’ Shimoni wishes to cleanse Ashkelon of Arabs and contaminate the city with racist anti-Semitism,” he added.

MK Nachman Shai (Labor) called the move illegal, writing on Facebook that it should be canceled immediately.

“Relations between Jews and Arabs are now being tested, and leaders are commanded to preserve such relations, not tear them apart to the point where it may be impossible to fix them,” he wrote.

“[Shimoni’s] decision is patently unlawful,” he added.

A concrete bomb shelter is placed in a school in Ashkelon, April 2009 photo credit: Edi Israel/Flash90)
A concrete bomb shelter is placed in a school in Ashkelon, April 2009 photo credit: Edi Israel/Flash90)

In his Facebook post, Shimoni thanked the Ashkelon Police for their cooperation, and an anonymous donor for providing the funds allowing the placement of armed guards in the kindergartens.

Ashkelon was hit by hundreds of rockets over the summer during Israel’s 50-day war with Hamas-led fighters in the Gaza Strip.

Jewish-Arab relations in Israel have have been particularly tense in recent months, during which several violent attacks took place.

On Tuesday, two Palestinian cousins armed with meat cleavers, knives and a pistol killed four worshipers and a policeman at a Jerusalem synagogue. Security forces shot the terrorists dead.

Police in Jerusalem beefed up security around the city following the attack, and officials discussed posting armed guards outside kindergartens.

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