Israeli Town Councilman Urges Residents to Stop Selling Homes to Arabs

The remarks in a local Whatsapp group, for which Shmulik Simchon apologized, have drawn criticism from local police and political figures, who called the statements racist and divisive

Noa Shpigel
Noa Shpigel
The entrance to Kiryat Tivon, November 10, 2017
The entrance to Kiryat Tivon, November 10, 2017Credit: Rami Shllush
Noa Shpigel
Noa Shpigel

A member of a northern Israeli town council sent out phone messages urging residents not to sell to Arabs, and threatening that any Arabs that move there would face pushback.

Haredi leaders learn harsh corona lesson as Israel sends in the troopsCredit: Haaretz

Shmulik Simchon, a veteran Likud activist and Kiryat Tivon councilman, made the comments in a voice message sent to a WhatsApp group with dozens of residents from the city’s Ramat Tivon quarter. His statements come after an incident last week in which a gun misfired and the bullet broke the window of a home in the neighborhood, which is near the Bedouin town of Basmat Tivon.

In a conversation with Haaretz on Saturday, Simchon apologized for his remarks.

In the message, he says: “Friends, what do you mean homes in the kfar [Arab village]? It’s happening in our midst, these are homes that our friends, the neighbors we once lived with, sold to Arabs, Bedouin. These neighbors shoot guns, these families are part of the Hani family [owners of a supermarket in Basmat Tivon] whose livelihood we contribute to. Continue giving them business, and they will continue buying homes, and continue to shoot and the chaos will continue.”

Simchon adds that “if we don’t stop this phenomenon of selling apartments here, all of us, this is what will happen to this neighborhood. The time has come for us to unite and after the coronavirus, we will start to handle matters here because the situation is getting worse. And anyone who sells an apartment here, we must go and warn them not to sell to an Arab, and that if he does and an Arab comes in, then we have to make a disturbance against that Arab. The time has come for us to be a little more practical and aggressive and not to let this situation slide, because that day is not far off.”

Kiryat Tivon Mayor Ido Greenblum wrote a post on Facebook condemning the shooting, saying that “the council is in touch with the police about the incident. We view this incident with great severity and so do the police, who are treating the incident seriously, and we are thankful for that.

“The police have found that the incident was unintentional and had nothing to do with anyone who lives in the area.”

Greenblum wrote that the incident led to “blatant racist remarks against residents of Kiryat Tivon and the surrounding area, and the remarks are by a public figure from whom we dissociate … particularly at this time, which calls for solidarity and cooperation.”

One of the members of the WhatsApp group responded to Simchon, saying that he was “100 percent right. Just now someone sold a house on Moran Street to Arabs. It’s intolerable.”

But other residents condemned the councilor’s statements, saying that police should be permitted to handle the incident “before we jump to conclusions and make all sorts of racist remarks.”

Another resident wrote, “I don’t know what’s worse: The incitement and racism or the gunfire.”

Some members raised the idea of gating the community.

Aviad Cohen, head of the town’s police station, wrote in response: “I can say unequivocally that there are no links between the shooting, the damage on Moran Street and any residents of Kiryat Tivon,” and called for calm. “This was a very serious incident, we are treating it with the utmost severity,” he added.

Basmat Tivon Council Head Ra’id Zubeidat condemned Simchon’s remarks as a “racist and divisive declaration,” adding that he condemned all acts of violence and that Arab communities were waging an “uncompromising war against the spreading violence in Arab society.”

Simchon said in response: “The comments were made in the heat of the moment and in anger. You have to understand it’s not normal for there to be a shooting just a few houses away from my children and me … I have spoken to people in the village and conveyed my apologies.”

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