Ashkelon Mayor Censured for Partial Ban on Arab Workers

YERUSHALAYIM -

Ashkelon Mayor Itamar Shimoni banned Arab workers from some construction sites — and got clobbered for it by public officials across the spectrum on Thursday.

Responding to the current wave of terrorist attacks, Shimoni imposed a partial ban “until further notice” on Arab laborers building bomb shelters in nursery schools in the city of 113,000, which is close to the Gaza Strip.

He also said guards would be posted at about 40 pre-schools near construction sites where Arabs work.

The decision triggered a barrage of opprobrium from the highest echelons.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said in a statement there was “no place in Israel for discrimination against its Arab citizens” and an entire community must not be blamed for the actions of “a small and violent minority.”

”The vast majority of Israeli-Arab citizens are law-abiding and we are acting resolutely against those who break the law,” Netanyahu added, and noted that the “Jewish state” bill that he will bring to the cabinet on Sunday will enshrine full equality under the law to all Israeli citizens without regard to race, religion or gender, as well as ensuring the identity of Israel as the national home of the Jewish people.

President Reuven Rivlin declared that “the reaction by those across the political spectrum, on the Left and Right, against the decision to restrict the employment of Arabs in Ashkelon, is…the real proof, that even in the face of brutal terrorism, we do not compromise on our most important values.”

The Commissioner for Equal Employment Opportunities at the Ministry of Economy, Adv. Tziona Koenig-Yair: “During these difficult times, I expect employers to exercise responsibility and leadership to encourage tolerance and equal opportunities, and not exclusion.”

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said she had asked the attorney-general to examine the mayor’s move.

Shimoni was defiant in the face of possible legal action against him.
”Whoever thinks this is illegal can take me to the Supreme Court,” he told reporters. “I prefer, at this time, to be taken to the Supreme Court, and not, G-d-forbid, to be taken to a levayah of a kindergarten child.”

Shimoni did get support from a lower echelon, though. Former MK Michael Ben-Ari called the criticism “hypocritical,” citing from his own experience the Knesset itself does not hire Arab workers for manual labor,