MKs react to Superland's discrimination policy

After Jaffa teacher claims amusement park refused his students tickets, Livni calls on A-G to investigate, Yaalon voices shock.

Superland (photo credit: Courtesy
(photo credit: Courtesy
The Superland amusement park in Rishon Lezion on Thursday rejected a claim by an Arab high school teacher that it was enforcing segregation between Arab and Jewish groups.
“We emphasize that Superland is not, never was and never will be a place for racism,” it said in a statement to The Jerusalem Post.
“Arab and Jewish schools requested that their attendance be separated from each other, and perhaps we made an unintentional error by accepting their requests.”
It said that the park had been in business for many years, hosting children from all sectors, including both Jews and Arabs.
Khaled Shakra, a seventhgrade teacher at the L.B. Ajial High School in Jaffa, said he tried to buy 25 tickets for his students and at first was told that the dates from June 17- 19 were reserved for schools, but once the telephone operator realized it was for an Arab school, the operator transferred the call to another operator, who said Superland was sold out for the day he requested.
The teacher then decided to call back posing as a Jew, saying his name was “Eyal,” and he ordered the tickets without any problem.
The park has received a bombardment of criticism, and the Hashomer Hatza’ir youth movement canceled plans for its members to visit the park this summer, according to the group’s spokesman, Ofer Newman.
The Post asked Newman why Hashomer Hatza’ir canceled the trips, in light of the assertion that it was the schools, not Superland, that requested the separation.
Newman responded that it was Superland’s responsibility not go along with the discrimination and that the movement was ready to reinstate the visits as soon as the discriminatory policy was fixed. He emphasized that it was the the youth movement’s job to educate and its action in this case was part of this.
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni asked Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein to look into whether there was discrimination.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon voiced shock at the matter.
“I ask myself how would one of us react if in any other country, the director of an amusement park were to tell us they have separate visiting days for Jewish schools and other schools?” he wrote on his Facebook page.
Education Minister Shai Piron called Shakra on Thursday and expressed his outrage.
“I am shocked at this serious phenomenon and hope that this is the last time you will experience discrimination of any kind,” he told the teacher.
Such bias “has no place in Israeli society,” Piron said.
The country’s Declaration of Independence was based on equality, partnership and tolerance, he said.
Meretz MK Esawi Frej said, “I hope the attorney-general wakes up,” and will have “more of a fighting spirit” over this incident and not be silent over the racism at Superland.
Knesset Education Committee chairman Amram Mitzna (Hatnua) called on local authorities to weigh legal measures against the park. He urged schools to refrain from sending students to outings at the venue pending a legislative review of the incident.
The committee will discuss the incident in a special meeting on Monday.
MK Reuven Rivlin (Likud Beytenu) called for Piron to investigate the incident.
“If the reports are true, the education minister must instruct all educational institutions not to visit [Superland],” Rivlin said. “We need to stop the spread of racist nationalism, which is influenced by the atmosphere in the Knesset. We must take this seriously.”
MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta’al) wrote a letter to the attorney-general, asking him to put Superland’s owners on trial while asking the police to close Superland until the incident was investigated.
Amnon Beeri-Sulitzeanu, the coexecutive director of the Abraham Fund Initiatives in Israel along with Muhammad Darawshe, told the Post it was difficult to understand how this kind of thing could happen in Israel.
“It is a strong and powerful reminder of the situation,” he said.
The fund works to improve the integration and equality of Arab citizens of Israel.
The Post asked if it mattered that the schools themselves requested the separation, perhaps to avoid tensions or violence.
“I think it doesn’t matter who asks for the separation, it is very bad that they agreed to this request no matter who it was from,” said Beeri-Sulitzeanu. “Even separate but equal is not acceptable.”
He said that if there was violence then there were disciplinary ways to deal with that, to kick the offenders off the park, but separation “is not a long-term solution to the problem,” and in the end, it “will only encourage violence.”
Beeri-Sulitzeanu said that the Abraham Fund was willing to meet with the management of Superland to work out a better policy and perhaps even come up with a productive policy that promoted coexistence.
“It is important that the education minister does not give any legitimation to such policies of segregation in any cultural or recreational place,” he said.
Superland said it would ask that the Education Ministry hold a meeting to create a new policy for these cases so that such incidents can be avoided.
At the end of the statement, Superland seemed to apologize, saying that the park was open to all and “we apologize to Jews or Arabs who were offended as a result of our accepting the requests of the schools and we will work to determine the procedures for this matter on a national level.”
Danielle Ziri and Reuters contributed to this report.