Israeli Civil Rights Groups Urge AG to Probe Upper Nazareth Mayor for Racial Incitement

Controversial mayor of increasingly mixed city has made anti-Arab statements in the past, including declaring that 'Upper Nazareth will be Jewish forever.'

Eli Ashkenazi
Eli Ashkenazi
Eli Ashkenazi
Eli Ashkenazi

Two local civil rights organizations have asked the attorney general to investigate anti-Arab remarks by the mayor of the increasingly mixed Jewish-Arab city of Upper Nazareth.

As reported by Haaretz on Monday, as part of his bid for reelection Shimon Gapso has employed a two-stage device. The first, which appeared early in August, featured denunciations by left-wing politicians of Gapso’s actions and called for his removal by voters.

After the negative campaign ran for a few days, Gapso announced that he was behind it and rolled out the second stage.

On Monday, his “real” campaign posters went up around the city. One reads, "Upper Nazareth will be Jewish forever; no more shutting our eyes, no more grabbing on to the law allowing every citizen to live where he wants. This is the time to defend our home."

Another poster reads: "I will not allow the city’s Jewish character to be changed. I will block the establishment of an Arab school and will build neighborhoods for Jewish residents ... Upper Nazareth is a Jewish city!"

In their letter to Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, Tag Meir and the Israel Religious Action Center condemned Gapso’s election campaign as “consisting wholly of racist incitement."

Writing on behalf of both organizations, Israel Religious Action Center attorney Einat Hurvitz wrote that the remarks by Gapso on his campaign posters “do not belong in an equal, pluralistic society, especially not when made by an elected official. These are utterly racist quotes, since all of Gapso's re-election campaign is based on a clear racist line – the prevention of equal resources from Upper Nazareth's Arab residents, and an effort to drive out the Arabs from the city."

Upper Nazareth, which overlooks the ancient Arab city of Nazareth, was founded in the early 1950s as a “development town” to house new Jewish immigrants. In recent years Arabs have increasingly moved into Upper Nazareth.

Shimon Gapso appearing before the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee in 2012. Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

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