A Galilee municipal leader has apologized on Facebook “to anyone who felt offended” by his remarks that Arabs shouldn’t swim in Jewish pools.
Moti Dotan, head of the Lower Galilee Regional Council, wrote on Friday that “it’s possible that” his comments the previous day on the Kol Chai radio station were “misunderstood” and that he “may have had a slip of the tongue,” Haaretz reported.
“My dear Jewish and Arab friends,” he wrote. “Yesterday during a radio broadcast I was asked about the homogenous population that patronizes the pools in the council’s towns. In my response, I addressed the cultural differences between the populations and their conduct at the pool. Unfortunately, it’s possible that I was misunderstood, and may have had a slip of the tongue. In any case, I apologize to anyone who felt offended.”
Interviewed on live radio Thursday, Dotan, whose council represents several kibbutzim and Jewish towns in the Galilee, said, “I don’t hate Arabs, but I don’t want them at my pools. I don’t go to their pools, either.”
Saying his views were reflective of “cultural differences” and not racism, he cited different dress norms and “hygiene culture.”
In Friday’s Facebook post, Dotan noted that he is a “people person” who lives in peace with “the variety of populations in our region.”
“This a cultural difference; it’s not racism,” Dotan said on Thursday. “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?”
Dotan noted that no Jews swim at an Arab-owned private pool near Kibbutz Beit Rimon, one of several Jewish communities and towns represented by his council. Neighboring Arab towns and villages are represented by a different regional council.
Dotan, the son of two Holocaust survivors, said in the radio interview that he has “very good relations with the Arabs in the area, they know my views” and insisted many of them respect him for being so honest.
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.”