Beersheba police will open an investigation into allegations of racism at a local health club following a Channel 10 expose that highlighted apparent racism on the part of employees of the facility.

The investigation is the first time police have pursued a criminal probe following such allegations since a bill against racism in public places was passed 13 years ago.

The investigation follows a segment aired on Channel 10’s “Orly and Guy” program showing Arab visitors being denied entry to the facility by cashiers who said that only residents of Beersheba could enter. The show included footage of a Jewish man identifying himself as a resident of a city outside Beersheba, after which he was granted entry.

The man was told by the cashier that the restrictions of the facility “are for certain populations, not for you.”

After the report was aired, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel sent a letter to the Beersheba police calling for them to open a probe against the facility.

Police initially said that such cases are usually treated as civil cases, but following additional requests by ACRI attorneys they decided to open a criminal investigation.

In a statement sent to the press on Monday, director of ACRI’s public hotline attorney Tal Hassin is quoted as saying: “The opening of an investigation means that finally the criminal component of the law will be applied and perhaps even result in an indictment against a discriminatory enterprise, which will force business owners to think twice before they engage in discriminatory behavior.”

The case is the latest in a series of Israeli television investigations of racism in Israel, including one earlier this year at a Tel Aviv amusement park that showed the owner turning down a visit for an Arab school. The Arab teacher then called back later posing as a Jew and was told that it would be no problem to host the school trip.

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