Two MKs charge discrimination as Israeli cities bar workers from schools

Measure to address security fears in Tel Aviv and elsewhere applies regardless of ethnicity, but will likely affect Arabs most

Some 1,500 Israeli Arabs protest 'the Israeli occupation' in the northern Israeli city of Nazareth on October 10, 2015. (Basel Awidat/Flash90)
Some 1,500 Israeli Arabs protest 'the Israeli occupation' in the northern Israeli city of Nazareth on October 10, 2015. (Basel Awidat/Flash90)

Tel Aviv and other Israeli cities have barred Jewish and Arab workers from schools due to fears of potential attacks, in a move criticized Sunday by two Knesset members as discrimination against Arab Israelis.

The decision to ban cleaning and maintenance workers from schools when students are present comes after more than two weeks of Palestinian unrest and knife attacks targeting Jews.

A spokeswoman for the Tel Aviv municipality confirmed the measure saying it applied to “both Jewish and Arab” workers and was taken due to the “sensitive situation.”

However, Army Radio said the majority of such workers are Arab Israelis. It also reported that at least a half-dozen other municipalities had taken similar measures.

A spokesperson for the city of Rehovot in central Israel told Reuters that the measure would likely disproportionately affect Arab workers.

The decision raised further concerns of discrimination against Arab Israelis, who account for some 20.5 percent of the country’s population.

Meretz MK Issawi Freij during a committee meeting in the Knesset, July 31, 2013 (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Meretz MK Issawi Freij (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

“In days of raging incitement and hatred, the educational system should have spearheaded the battle against racism and led coexistence and partnership,” Arab Israeli Knesset member Issawi Freij said on his Facebook page. “Instead it has become a source of racism and discrimination.”

“Under cover of anxiety, dangerous measures of racist exclusion are being advanced,” Joint (Arab) List MK Dov Khenin charged on Israel Radio.

Arab Israelis are the descendants of Palestinians who remained after the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. They are Israeli citizens and largely supportive of the Palestinian cause.

The stabbing attacks have provoked fear among Israelis, with around 30 having occurred since October 3. The attacks have been mainly committed by young Palestinians who appear to be acting on their own accord.

A combination of gun, knife and car attacks have killed eight Israelis and wounded dozens in the recent upsurge of terrorism and violence.

Forty-one Palestinians, including at least 18 alleged attackers, have died in clashes with Israeli security forces.

Security concerns have also hit Jerusalem schools, which saw a recent strike demanding guards work longer hours. The government agreed to the demand.

The attacks and unrest have raised fears of a full-scale Palestinian uprising.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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