An Israeli swimming pool in the southern city of Bir al-Saba (Beer Sheva) refused entry to a Palestinian citizen of Israel, in the latest documented example of blatant racism in public accommodations.
Marisat was told by the clerk that the pool was only for residents of the city. Marisat, who studied in Bir al-Saba and has lived there for 11 years, is originally from the town of Tamra in the north of the country, but has not changed the address on his identity card.
After being refused entry the first time, Marisat went back a second time and recorded on video the exchange of him being again denied entry. Marisat is told firmly “go home” and that the local residents only policy was “new.”
That exchange, in Hebrew, can be seen in the Channel 10 report at the top of this post.
“A specific population”
The “Orly and Guy” program on Israel’s Channel 10 sent an undercover investigative reporter to the club to test whether it does indeed discriminate between Jews and Arabs.
The Jewish reporter was able to buy a ticket even though his place of residence was Netanya, a northern city far from Bir al-Saba. When the reporter asked about the policy of only selling tickets to local residents he was told by the desk clerk that the policy only applied to a “specific population.”
The video of the Channel 10 report included audio of this exchange recorded by the undercover reporter as he purchased a ticket. It is translated from the original Hebrew:
Undercover reporter: “How much is it?”
Pool clerk: “Seventy-five. Are you a soldier?”
Undercover reporter: “Uh - no. Is there any problem with me not being from Beer Sheva ?”
Pool clerk: “No.”
Undercover reporter: “No?”
Pool clerk: “It’s not aimed at you.”
Undercover reporter: “It’s not aimed at me? What does that mean?”
Pool clerk: “It’s for a specific population.”
Undercover reporter: “Do lots of Bedouins come here?”
Pool clerk: “Yes.”
Undercover reporter: “OK, thank you very much.”
Family turned away for being Arab
Marisat told Channel 10, “When I was there a woman came, with her children, with her husband, to come into the pool. An Arab woman, with her husband, and they didn’t let her in. She went back and her children started asking ‘why aren’t we going in?’”
After being caught red-handed implementing a blatantly racist policy, the club told Channel 10 that it “permits entry to any person who purchased an annual subscription, with no difference of color, sex, and religion.”
When it comes to day passes, of the type Marisat and the undercover reporter sought to purchase, the club claimed “entry is permitted only to Beer Sheva residents, regardless of their ethnic origins.”
To this, program host Orly Vilnai commented, “we saw that this was untrue.” And her co-host Guy Maroz observed, “They’re blaming the lowest ranking person!”
The program also noted that the mayor of Bir al-Saba did not respond to a request for comment even though the club is a municipal pool.
The exposure of segregation at the Beer Sheva Country Club follows other similar incidents in recent months including:
The Israeli theme park Superland segregating Arab and Jewish children on separate days.
Palestinian families were turned away from a resort near the Dead Sea as Europeans, Israelis and dogs were allowed to enter freely.
With thanks to Dena Shunra for translation and analysis.