A school in a West Bank settlement recently fired its Israeli Arab cleaning staff after parents threatened to shut down the school if the workers remained employed.
Parents in the settlement of Karnei Shomron appealed last week to the head of the local council, Yigal Lahav, and threatened to shutter the school until all Arab cleaners were removed, the Ynet news site reported.
The threats materialized into a one-day strike, during which 40 children were absent from school.
According to Ynet, one parent wrote in a WhatsApp group: “Unfortunately, Israeli Arabs have justifiably acquired a lack of trust toward them.”
“Yes, we are racists,” another parent wrote. “The lives of our children come first, we are racists and we love the Jewish race.”
The cleaning women who arrived for work were harassed by some children, Ynet reported. “The teacher gathered us and told us not to speak badly to the cleaning women and not to curse them, and that it does not matter that they are Arab,” one student told Ynet.
In light of the mounting pressure, the council ceded to parents’ demands last Wednesday, announcing in a letter that Arab cleaners would no longer work in local schools.
“The atmosphere in the community led to inappropriate behavior toward the cleaning women, and even harassment and threats to some members of the parents’ committee,” the local council said in a statement.
“After a discussion with the parents’ committee, we came to the conclusion that we cannot allow ourselves to come to such discourse and behavior in the community, and we decided to remove the cleaning company from the school immediately,” the letter added.
Lahav, for his part, called the incident “regrettable,” adding that “though it is a small and noisy minority, and I can understand those who have suffered a terror attack, that rekindles fear in their hearts, there is no place in Karnei Shomron for such statements, and we cannot accept them in the State of Israel.”
Various organizations dedicated to combating racism were planning to help the fired workers take legal action, and a demonstration was planned outside the school in the coming days.
“We condemn with disgust the racism of the Karnei Shomron council, which surrendered to the pressure of parents and stopped employing Arab women in a school in the community,” said a statement by Tag Meir, an organization against racism.
“The behavior of the parents is racist and shameful, and the outrageous surrender of the council that condemned the incitement but fired its victims is unacceptable and illegal,” the Center for Victims of Racism said in a statement.
“We call on the Karnei Shomron council to retract its decision and not to prevent Arab women from supporting themselves because of incitement. We will follow the case and offer legal aid to the workers.”