The mayor of Israeli city Ashkelon, Itamar Shimoni, has imposed a partial ban on employing Arab-Israeli workers in his city. That has prompted outrage from across the Israeli political spectrum.
His move is part of a reported wave of oppression targeting Palestinians amid mounting security concerns.
Yuval Steinitz, a politician from Israel’s right-wing Likud party said: “We have to be very careful to keep Arab-Jews relations as good and normal as possible, and therefore it’s quite concerning. Most Israeli Arabs are loyal to the State of Israel.”
The Arab workers are building bomb shelters in nursery schools in Ashkelon which is close to Gaza Strip.
Many Israeli building workers come from the country’s Arab community, which makes up around 20 percent of the population.
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said she had asked the attorney-general to examine the mayor’s move, which came two days after two Palestinians killed four rabbis and a police officer in an attack on a Jerusalem synagogue.
Shimoni dismissed the threat of legal action.
“Whoever thinks this is illegal can take me to the Supreme Court,” he told Israel’s Channel Two television. “I prefer, at this time, to be taken to the Supreme Court, and not, God-forbid, to be taken to a funeral of a kindergarten child.”
Some people in this Jerusalem market were stunned by the mayor’s move.
“It’s a type of racism,” explained Palestinian labourer Eyad Daaneh. “Arabs and Jews are the same. You are a human being and I am a human being. It doesn’t matter if you are an Arab or Jew.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has recently lashed out against his country’s Palestinian minority, has blasted the mayor’s discrimination against Arab Israelis.