Tel Aviv Mall Denies Entry to Three Arab Men

Azrieli mall says they were West Bank Palestinians; human rights lawyer cites ‘racism progressing toward de facto apartheid.’

Jack Khoury
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Arab men barred entry from Tel Aviv's Azrieli Mall, April 2015. Credit: Omer Senesh
Jack Khoury

Tel Aviv’s Azrieli Mall refused to let in three Arab men earlier this week, with the company saying they were West Bank Palestinians and citing Israeli law under which entry permits are granted only for specific purposes.

“In this case, they were given permits for work only,” the mall said, adding that its guards are responsible for protecting shoppers’ security. “The Azrieli security crew acted in accordance with the law.”

It is not yet clear if the three men were indeed West Bank Palestinians or Israeli citizens. The story hit the social networks because Omer Senesh, who works in the building, was walking by as the incident occurred and filmed it on his phone.

The video shows two young Arab men waiting on the pavement as the third hands his ID card to a security guard. According to Senesh, the guard said he was acting on orders from the mall’s management.

The three waited for about 15 minutes after the guard took their ID cards. They left after he told them they were barred from entry.

Senesh, who did not speak with the three, posted the clip on his Facebook page along with a text. “On what grounds does the Azrieli Mall detain Arabs, take their ID cards and ultimately bar them from entering? They came to buy shoes,” Senesh wrote.

“The guard: ‘This is the mall’s order; they don’t want them to come in.’ In truth, it’s wrong for them to dare to spoil the Jewish homogeneity, and on the eve of Memorial Day yet. Arrogant bastards.”

The post was shared hundreds of times, by both Jews and Arabs, and drew many responses. One person who shared it was attorney Shahda Ibn Bari, an activist for Bedouin rights in the Negev.

“Not a week has passed since Israel commemorated the victims of the Holocaust, who were victims of the most brutal racism, and yet here and now, at a mall in the State of Israel, they’re humiliating shoppers because of their Arab origin,” Ibn Bari wrote. “They inquire about their identity and, after they’re identified, they’re forbidden to enter the mall.”

He said the exclusion of people because of their origins was totally unjustified.

“It must be denounced. This racism is progressing toward the implementation of de facto apartheid, as the government turns an encouraging blind eye,” Ibn Bari wrote. “It would be interesting to know how the company would respond if this were a picture of young Jews being forbidden entry by the management of a mall in a foreign country.”