MK slams settler group for boycotting some Arab businesses

Dov Khenin decries ‘racism and hatred’ in blacklist ‘naming and shaming’ stores that closed on ‘Day of Rage’ in October

Lee Gancman is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

File: Joint Arab List MK Dov Khenin in the Knesset. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
File: Joint Arab List MK Dov Khenin in the Knesset. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Knesset Member Dov Khenin called on Israeli authorities on Thursday to launch an investigation into the Samaria Residents Council for incitement to racism, demanding the group’s state funding be cut off after it called for a boycott of some Israeli Arab businesses.

The statement came as a reaction to the group’s call to shun businesses that shuttered in conjunction with an October 13 “Day of Rage” held by Palestinians and Israeli Arabs in protest over Israeli government policies, particularly on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

“A body that propagates racism and hatred and which initiates actions that constitute a violation of the law, as well as continuing to engage in dangerous incitement, continues to receive public funding, legitimacy and government encouragement… I call to open a criminal investigation into the Council and for public funding to it be cut,” Khenin, a veteran lawmaker for the Joint (Arab) List, said in a statement.

During the “Day of Rage,” the Samaria Residents Council called on inhabitants of mixed Arab-Jewish cities such as Acre to report on businesses that participated in the strike. The council then used the information to prepare a list of businesses to boycott, saying “it is important to know from whom we are buying, and who is supporting terror.”

The decision to participate in the strike came at a meeting of the High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel umbrella organization. The meeting, held in the Arab town of Kafr Qara in northern Israel, explored various forms of protest before calling the strike. The strike was launched over what the group called “the efforts by the Netanyahu government to separate Muslims from al-Aqsa Mosque.”

At the time, Hanni Asadi, a representative of Arab business owners in Acre, said the town’s Arab business owners “honor the decision of the High Follow Up Committee but do not decide for business owners whether to open or not. Each person decides as they think.”

Criticizing the tactic of “naming and shaming” the businesses, Khenin said Thursday: “The Samaria Residents Council has shown that it has no qualms taking a page out of the book of the anti-Semites in Europe to ignite a fire between Jews and Arabs.”

The final list of Acre businesses targeted for boycott by the Samaria Residents Council ended up including eight Arab-owned stores, most of them restaurants.

Illustrative: A closed shop is seen in the West Bank city of Ramallah on June 8, 2014. (Issam Rimawi/Flash 90)
Illustrative: A closed shop is seen in the West Bank city of Ramallah on June 8, 2014. (Issam Rimawi/Flash 90)

When the strike took place in October, An Arab journalist from Haifa, Shahin Nassar, told Ynet that many business owners in the city were taking the boycott threats seriously.

“Many of their clients are Jewish residents of the city,” he said. “As in every time when tempers are flaring because of the security situation there are calls for sanctions against Arab citizens. Some business owners were threatened with sanctions if they close up shop and join the strike. This is pure racism. Every person has the right to their political opinions, and such calls are a threat to Israel’s democracy. Business owners want the police to investigate who is behind the threat [of sanctions].”

For his part, Samaria Residents Council head Sagi Kaisler was quoted by Haaretz as accusing some Israeli Arabs of having a “double standard.”

“Arabs who chose to live together with Jews in mixed cities, adjacent apartments, and shop under one roof can’t live by double standards,” he said. “They have to choose sides… Time and time again, during attacks they decide to strike and the meaning is the same — support for terrorism.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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