Israeli Council Head Who Called Arabs Dirty Apologizes: 'I Was Misunderstood'

The local politician had said swimming pools should be segregated because Arabs have different hygiene habits from Jews.

Lower Galilee Regional Council head Motti Dotan.
Gil Eliahu

A council head from northern Israel who said he doesn't want Arabs in his towns' pools apologized on Friday, saying his remarks were misunderstood.

Lower Galilee Regional Council head Motti Dotan had told a radio station on Thursday that public swimming pools should be segregated because Arabs have different hygiene habits from Jews.

He offered an apology in a Facebook post on Friday. 

"My dear Jewish and Arab friends," he said. "Yesterday during a radio broadcast I was asked about the homogenous population that patronizes the pools in the council's towns. In my response, I addressed the cultural differences between the populations and their conduct at the pool. Unfortunately, it's possible that I was misunderstood, and may have had a slip of the tongue. In any case, I apologize to anyone who felt offended."

Later in the post, Dotan described himself as a "people person" who lives in peace with "the variety of populations in our region," and wished everyone "a good Shabbat."

In the radio interview on Thursday, Dotan said he doesn't hate Arabs "but I don’t want them at my pools. I don’t go to their pools, either."

Dotan claimed that his comments had nothing to do with racism. "It's cultural differences, it's not racism In non-Jewish, Arab culture, you go into the pool wearing clothes, trying to dictate all types of clothing, and that's why it doesn’t suit us. "

"The culture of cleanliness isn’t the same as ours," he continued.  "Why is that racist?" 

Dotan heads a regional council that includes 18 Jewish communities, some of which are located near Arab towns. For example, the Jewish religious kibbutz of Beit Rimon neighbors the Arab communities of Kafr Kana and Tur'an, and the Jewish community of Sarona is located near the Circassian Kafr Kama.

Dotan noted that "also with Arabs, if they act according to our norms I don’t have a problem with them, but it doesn’t happen, that's why I'm making a generalization."