Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Palestinian students take action against Israeli theme park’s segregation policy

By Fatima Masri - June 05, 2013
Section: [Main News] [Life under Occupation] [Features]
Tags: [Apartheid] [Palestinian in Israel]

The Arab Ajial school of Jaffa will take legal action against the Superland amusement park of Rishon Letzion after having allegedly been refused into the facility because of their ethnicity. 

According to Khaled Shakra, a teacher of the Ajial school, he was about to confirm the booking for his class’ end of year celebration at the park, when he was asked for the details of the school. Once the theme park discovered the name and location of the school, Shakra was told that the days he had asked and was previously approved for were no longer available.  He then tried to call Superland again, this time using a Hebrew name, and managed to confirm the reservation for the same days he had previously required. 
The Superland amusement park’s management denies responsibility for refusing Arab groups and claims to have been trying to comply to specific requests for separation arriving from both Jewish and Arabs, in order to avoid tensions or episodes of violence. As a result of it’s denial of the Arab group, Superland will have to face accusations of racial profiling – enshrined in one of Israel’s special laws.
The Ajial school, its attorney Nimr Sultani and various associations for civil rights, aruge that as no alternative days were offered to the school, it is a clear demonstration that the amusement park was aiming at preventing the access of Arab students rather than providing equal opportunities for both ethnic groups to enjoy a safe and fun environment. However, the offence of racial profiling is not well defined in Israeli legislation, and is often left open to subjective interpretation. According to the Mossawa Center for Arab Citizens in Israel, it is not clear whether setting exclusive days according to ethnicity could, in and of itself, already constitute a form of racial profiling. The court’s judgement will therefore be the blueprint for future interpretations of the special law on racial discrimination. 
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel pointed out that private or semi-public initiatives do not necessarily reflect state policies, although the Israeli government often fails to prevent racist episodes against Palestinian citizens of Israel. This clearly sends a message of tolerance towards racist attitudes and discrimination against the Palestinian minority. Segregation has become a normalized practice in Israel; however it has not been deemed contradictory the principle of equality, a factor which often translates into the penalization of the Arab minority group.
Exclusion of Arab customers is becoming an increasingly frequent tool of segregation, which adds to a backdrop of systematic discrimination of citizenship rights, employment opportunities, redistribution of resources and social welfare. The Superland amusement park is not the first facility in Rishon Letzion to reject customers because of their ethnicity.  Mohammad Safouri and his wife Sama tried repeatedly to make a reservation in Soho restaurant, a well-known eatery in town. Due to their name, they were told that there was no availability or that the computer system for the reservation was down. Similar to Sultani, Safouri did not encounter any problems in booking a reservation when he called back later the same day and provided a Jewish name. 
An even more heinous episode of discrimination involves a group of Bedouin children suffering from cancer. The Israeli swimming pool of Mabu’im village, insouthern Israel, refused access to the group stating that accepting Bedouin kids would have been a “problem.” Palestinians are targeted not only on the basis of their national belonging, but also as members of distinct subgroups, such as the Bedouin. 
The segregation policies enacted by Israel are not confined within the boundaries of the state, but also extend throughout the West Bank. The Kalia Beach Dead Sea Resort, owned by the illegal Israeli settlement of Kibbutz Kalia, denied access to Palestinian customers claiming no availability, while Israelis and foreigners continued to be allowed in the facility.
Both the Israeli Minister of Justice Tzipi Livni and the Minister of Defence Moshe Ya’alon have publically condemned discrimination against Israeli Arabs. However, the “Inequality Report” published by the Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel (Adalah) states that more than 30 Israeli main laws discriminate, directly or indirectly, against Arab Israelis. This category comprises approximately 1.2 million Palestinians who found themselves living within the borders of the newly created Jewish state and have since become a minority in their own historic homeland. Despite the fact that Palestinians total around 20% of Israel’s population, the Basic Laws do not formally recognise their presence as a national minority. 
Israel’s self-definition as a “Jewish State” implies privileging ethnicity over citizenship rights.
Israel’s self-definition as a “Jewish State” implies privileging ethnicity over citizenship rights. Granting legal protection to Palestinian Arabs should be a priority for Jews, who have long experienced the hardships of being second-class citizens, and for the State of Israel, which claims the title of the only democracy in the Middle East. The court’s judgement on the Superland case could be the first step up the ladder towards the recognition of individual and collective rights of Palestinians in Israel as equal citizens of the state.  

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