Extraordinary demand for security check is racist - Majadle

Israel's first Muslim minister said he was the victim of "blatant racism" this weekend when members of the National Union-National Religious Party demanded he submit to a background check. Minister-without-Portfolio Ghaleb Majadle (Labor) is set to take over the Culture, Science, and Sport portfolio, which includes control of the Israel Space Agency. He said he was being asked to pass security clearance exams that a Jewish minister would not need to undergo. While certain appointments, such as the internal security and defense ministers, require security checks before they go through, most ministers are not required to undergo such tests. However, NU-NRP faction leader MK Uri Ariel sent a letter to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Thursday saying the Space Agency should not be placed under Majadle because it was responsible for sensitive, strategic plans that affect Israel's security. Ariel suggested the agency be transferred to the Prime Minister's Office. Majadle has said he would rather withdraw his candidacy for the post than submit to the security check. "This is something that smacks of racism," he said. He added that he had already undergone the general security check performed on all MKs and ministers.