Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 June 2019

Arab cleaners fired from Israeli settlement school after ‘racist’ parent threats

Rights groups have warned of legal action against the school after the unjustified sackings

A new housing project in the West Bank settlement of Naale. AP
A new housing project in the West Bank settlement of Naale. AP

Arab cleaning staff have been removed from their positions at a school in a occupied West Bank settlement after parents threatened to close the school if they remained in their jobs.

Parents at the settlement of Karnei Shomron appealed to the local council to have the Arab cleaners removed, according to Israeli media reports.

They then removed their children from the school, around 40 pupils, for a one-day strike that brought the school to a close.

Finding jobs in the occupied territory remains hard for Palestinians as the local economy is increasingly damaged by Israeli restrictions. So some look for work in Israel’s illegal outposts in a bid to support their families, even though Palestinian leaders want to see those very settlements dismantled for any future Palestinian state.

Tensions remain high as Jews and Arabs work alongside one another inside the settlements. Palestinian and Jewish settler attacks have created a high level of mistrust towards each other.

The parents admitted that they did not want Arabs in their school.

In a Whatsapp message leaked to the Israeli press, one parent wrote: “Yes, we are racists. The live of our children come first, we are racists and we love the Jewish race.”

Another parent wrote that “unfortunately, Israeli Arabs have justifiably acquired a lack of trust toward them,” using the term that Palestinians refuse to take one, that they are Arabs within Israel.

Israeli settlements traditionally have the most radical far-right views and are where anti-Arab sentiment is the highest.

The race of the cleaning staff led to harassment by some of the Jewish settler children at the school.

“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 News.

But the school eventually caved to the pressure from the parents.

“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.

The school is now being threatened with legal action for refusing to employ Arab workers and for firing them without an apparent just cause.

“The behaviour 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,” the statement continued

Updated: February 17, 2019 01:45 PM