ARAB workers across Israel have been sacked in a racist backlash following a recent wave of Palestinian attacks against Israelis, the country's equal opportunities body admitted yesterday.
The sackings came to light as the mayor of Ashkelon, one of Israel's leading cities, provoked a political outcry by firing Arabs who were building bomb shelters in municipal kindergartens.
Itamar Shimoni said he had been pressured into the move by worried parents after two Palestinians killed four rabbis and a Druze police officer in an attack on a Jerusalem synagogue.
One of the assailants, Ghassam Abu Jamal, who carried out the assault with his cousin Uday, was a builder from East Jerusalem who was believed to have worked on construction sites in Israel.
Mr Shimoni also deployed a team of armed security guards at kindergartens close to building sites employing Arabs with funds provided by a private donor based abroad.
His decision to sack Arab workers caused outrage across the Israeli political spectrum amid charges of racism and signs of a wider purge of Arab workers by Jewish employers professing fears that their employees could carry out a future attack.
A chorus of criticism, initially led by left-wing opposition and Arab figures, was eventually joined by the country's leaders after legal experts said Mr Shimoni's decision broke Israel's equal opportunity laws.
Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, said there was "no place for discrimination against Israeli-Arabs", adding: "We cannot make generalisations about an entire population based on a small unruly minority. Most Arabs citizens of Israel are law-abiding."
Naftali Bennett, the far-right Jewish Home party leader, promised to use his powers as economy minister to reverse the mayor's decision. "We are experiencing a difficult time, a wave of terror, but we know that 99.9pc of Arab-Israelis are loyal to Israel," he added. The outcry followed a statement from Israel's Commission for Equal Employment Opportunities about "a not insignificant number of requests regarding employers firing or wishing to terminate the employment of Arab male and female employees, solely on racial grounds". The trend follows months of unrest in mainly Arab East Jerusalem and a spate of attacks in which 11 people have died.
Arab-Israelis and Palestinians from East Jerusalem commonly work in the building trade and in restaurants in the city's Jewish western sector.
Many have lost their jobs in recent weeks because of their Arab background, a newspaper reported. (© Daily Telegraph, London)