TEL AVIV (dpa) – An Israeli mayor sparked outrage Thursday by issuing a ban against hiring Arab construction workers building bomb shelters at Jewish kindergartens.
Itamar Shim’oni, the mayor of the southern city of Ashkelon, told Israel Radio he gave the order to stop hiring the workers at places with children as a result of pressure by worried parents.
Ashkelon is located on the border of the Gaza Strip. There are shelters across the city to protect citizens from rockets launched from Gaza.
Shim’oni also ordered security guards to be placed at kindergartens located near construction sites where Arab Israelis and Palestinians are working.
The orders follow a wave of attacks in Jerusalem and elsewhere in the country.
Arab-Israeli lawmaker Ahmed Tibi slammed the decision as racist, stupid and illegal. “Security considerations are used, as usual, as a fig leaf for racism,” he said.
Other lawmakers, including from the left-liberal Meretz party, also criticized the move and demanded that Interior Minister Gilad Erdan condemn it and force the mayor to overturn the ban. Erdan called the mayor’s decision “wrong.”
“We musn’t tarnish whole communities, even at this hour,” he told Israeli radio. Palestinian Israeli Arabs form a minority of 20 per cent in Israel’s population of 8 million.