Israeli flag at counter-terror protest (illustration)
Israeli flag at counter-terror protest (illustration)Tomer Neuberg/Flash 90

Israeli Jews took the streets on Thursday in support of Ashkelon Mayor Itamar Shimoni's decision to temporarily stop the employment of Arab construction workers on sites near schools citing security concerns, even as a debate raged as to the legality of the move.

In Jerusalem, right-wing activists protested in front of the Rami Levy supermarket in the Givat Shaul neighborhood against the employment of Arab workers at the store.

Givat Shaul is located adjacent to the Har Nof neighborhood where two Arab terrorists lethally attacked a synagogue on Tuesday with hatchets and guns, killing four Jews and a Druze police officer - one of the terrorists was employed at a nearby grocery store.

Meanwhile in Ashkelon, dozens of residents demonstrated in support of their mayor, bearing signs reading "guard the children," and "Bibi wake up - our children won't be abandoned" in a call to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein weighed in on the case Thursday, claiming the move was in violation of the equal employment law. Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said Thursday morning she had contacted Weistein demanding such action, and called the move illegal.

However, according to Attorney Uri Tzipori on the legal department of the Derech Chaim movement that pushes for Israel to unite behind the way of the Torah, there is nothing illegal about the move.

Tzipori wrote to Economics Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home) who earlier criticized Shimoni's move, going as far as to claim that 99.9% of Arab citizens of Israel are loyal to the state.

"Due to the wave of attacks many employers have woken up, without any coordination between them, and decided to fire those who are liable to endanger their security and the security of their workers and customers," explained Tzipori.

Addressing Bennett, the attorney wrote "defining the wave of layoffs mentioned above as nationally-motivated layoffs is an inappropriate interpretation and illogical regarding the law. This interpretation...stands in contradiction with the right to defend one's body and life as anchored in clause four of the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty."

Tzipori argued that the equal employment law does not need to be applied in the current case, given that the layoffs are made in response to a serious security situation and a sense of immediate danger, and not out of a mere desire to fire Arab workers, in which case one would expect such steps to have been taken long ago.

"There is no reason to interpret the law in a manner that negates from Jews the possibility of defending their lives," he wrote. "We reason that you should consider carefully whether your words come from true concern for Jews, or rather they are driven by a desire to gain political profit."

"No Arab workers on IDF bases"

Bennett was joined in his criticism of Shimoni by Netanyahu as well as Interior Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) - according to MK Moshe Feiglin (Likud), the ministers and other MKs speaking against the mayor suffered from "hypocrisy."

"There's so much hypocrisy in the media crackdown on the Ashkelon Mayor - Mr. Itamar Shimoni - and calls of 'racist' against him," Feiglin wrote on his Facebook page Thursday afternoon.

"After all, Arab workers don't enter IDF bases or sensitive facilities of the Defense Ministry," noted Feiglin. "So why is the security of kindergarten children in Ashkelon less sensitive? Why is the concern for security racism?"

In his remarks Feiglin echoed comments made by former MK Dr. Michael Ben-Ari, who noted earlier that from his experiences no Arab workers are employed for manual labor in the Knesset.

"Not a single Arab contractor or Arab laborer can work in the Knesset. It's a fact. I was there for four years, all of the contractors are Jews and there are no Arab laborers. Not in flooring, not in carpentry, not in cleaning," said Ben-Ari. "Let the hypocritical Bennett and (MK) Miri Regev first fight against the 'racism' in the Knesset!"

Several of the recent high-profile terror attacks were committed by Arab workers who had intimate knowledge of the sites of their attacks, such as in the synagogue attack this week.

Likewise the terrorist who last month shot Temple Mount activist Yehuda Glick was employed at a restaurant in the Begin Heritage Center where the attack occurred, and Jewish construction worker Netanel Arami hy''d was apparently murdered by an Arab co-worker in September.

Numerous prior attacks were also committed by Arab workers employed by Israeli businesses who used their positions to murder Israelis.