The head of the Lower Galilee Regional Council said Thursday that he does not want to see Arabs in his local community pools, alleging that they have different bathing practices and a “hygiene culture” that is “not like ours.”
The official, Moti Dotan, whose council in the north of the country comprises 18 regional Jewish and agricultural communities in an area dotted with Arab villages, made the comments during a live interview with Radio Kol Chai.
The station had previously sent a questionnaire to northern council leaders about whether or not they would let non-locals use their swimming pools. Dotan’s written response prompted the station to speak to him directly for further clarification.
“Someone once told me that leaders should show leadership and not popularity on social media. I mean every word. To maintain pools costs a lot of money,” Dotan said. “Therefore, I think that those who are not from the community and the area should pay more.
“I do not hate Arabs, but I don’t want them in my pools. I don’t go to their pools either. If I went there in a [scanty] swimsuit, or took girls in bikinis with me, it’s clear to you what would happen to them… Therefore [the Arabs] should stay in their pools and [we] should stay in ours.”
Many religious and tradition Arab women remain clothed or fully covered when bathing in public places.
“This a cultural difference; it’s not racism,” Dotan continued. “In the non-Jewish culture, the Arab [culture], they go into the pool with their clothes on, and try to lay down manners of dress like that or similar, and therefore it is not suitable for us. The hygiene culture is not like ours. Why is it racism?”
Challenged over his blanket description of Arab bathers by the radio show host, who posited that not all Arabs eschew bikinis or hygiene, Dotan replied that if so, they can go ahead and build their own swimming pools.
“If there are bikinis, I will be happy to come and join them in their pools,” he said.
The mayor then said that he has nothing against non-local bathers in the community pools, including Arabs, as long as they fit in with the local residents.
“By the way, also Arabs — if they behave according to the norms that we have, then I have no problem with them, but that doesn’t happen.”
Dotan noted that an Arab-operated pool near Kibbutz Beit Rimon in the Galilee region doesn’t have any Jewish patrons.
“It isn’t racism. The day that Jewish men and women can feel comfortable in an Arab community I will be happy to receive them by me as well. Until that happens I don’t want them.”
Dotan, the son of two Holocaust survivors who came to Israel in 1948, and whose grandfather also survived the Nazi death camps, insisted that he has “very good relations with the Arabs in the area, they know my views” and claimed many of them respect him for being so forthright.
MK Youssef Jabareen, of the Joint (Arab) List parliamentary faction, called on Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to look into Dotan’s publicly declared attitudes and demanded the council chief’s immediate resignation.
“The comments by the head of the Lower Galilee Regional Council are incitement to racism,” Jabareen said in a statement. “In addition to being morally unacceptable, it is a criminal offense and I ask that the attorney general open a criminal investigation.”