Israeli PM condemns racism towards Arabs after alleged segregation at amusement park

JERUSALEM (AFP) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday condemned acts of racism against the country's Arab population after an outcry over an amusement park that segregated Jewish and Arab children.

And he also pledged to bring to justice Israeli extremists behind the wave of so-called "price tag" hate crimes against Palestinians.

"I would like to strongly condemn recent phenomena of racism against Israeli Arabs and hooliganism against Palestinians, which were without any provocation or justification whatsoever," Mr Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting.

"We reject with disgust these phenomena and we shall use the law and enforcement means at our disposal to stop them," he said in remarks carried on Israeli radio.

Last week, a furore broke out after an Israeli amusement park called Superland was found to be operating a discriminatory policy against Arabs.

According to Haaretz newspaper, a teacher at a school in Jaffa had called to book places for an end-of-year trip, but when the park realised he was calling from an Arab school, they told him the date he had chosen was not available.

When he called back posing as the representative of a Jewish institution, he had no problem booking the "sold out" date.

A representative of the park told the paper it admitted Jewish and Arab groups on different days at schools' requests, to avoid confrontation.

"The management of Superland had received requests, from Jewish and Arab schools alike, to conduct these events on separate days," it said, saying that mixed visits "are liable to lead to tension and violence between the different groups".

But it said it would review its policy following the outcry.

The "hooliganism" mentioned by Mr Netanyahu refers to "price tag" extremist hate crimes that generally target Palestinians.

Initially carried out in retaliation for state moves to dismantle unauthorised settler outposts, such attacks have become a much broader phenomenon unrelated to any anti-settlement moves.

They tend to involve the vandalism or destruction of Palestinian property. and have included arson attacks on cars, mosques and olive trees.