Here’s a brilliant way for Israeli officials to mend the ongoing diplomatic crises between the Obama and Netanyahu administrations: ensure that explicit racial and religious profiling is used in the US capital.
The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations claims that Muslim employees of the hotel were explicitly discriminated against during the Israeli delegation’s visit, symptoms and told that their shifts had been rearranged or that they were forbidden from going to the eighth and ninth floors, where Mr Barak and his entourage were staying.
“They’re Israelis there, and they don’t want no face-to-face with Muslims,” one supervisor reportedly told a Muslim hotel worker whose job involves going to all the hotel’s floors.
One hotel employee, who has worked in close proximity to other VIPs (including former US President George W. Bush) with no problem, said he was mocked by other workers who called him a terrorist after the incident.
“I work for [the hotel] 12, 14 hours a day, and they profile me like I’m a criminal, like I’m going to harm them,” he said. “I’m like, ‘If I’m going to harm them, why would you keep me in your hotel even one day?'”
In addition to Muslim hotel workers being banned from specific floors, 12 workers were told not to come in for work after a routine US State Department background check found “irregularities” in the workers’ records.
“We need to determine what criteria were used to remove these people from their positions,” said Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesperson for the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “It’s of concern to us that there’s at least a perception that they were singled out because they were Muslim or Middle Eastern.”
“We don’t know the reasons why,” said the hotel’s general manager Amanda Hyndman, defending Mandarin Oriental Hotel‘s procedures and promising to investigate the incident. “We uphold our policies of anti-discrimination.”
The Israelis do not comment on security issues as a matter of policy, and the State Department has told reporters that there are no special standards applied to the Israelis and background checks do not include “questions regarding religious or political affiliation.”
Racial profiling is an open part of security procedures in Israel, but it is rare for Israeli security officials to make it explicit in such situations outside of Israel. There was, nonetheless, a similar incident in 2004, when Israeli security officials asked supervisors at the Madison Hotel to keep a Muslim security guard off the floor where the Israelis were staying.
US State Department background checks are not, in and of themselves, questionable. But for a hotel supervisor to be telling employees that the Israeli delegation does not want to see Muslims is deplorable, and indicative of a racist, under-the-table understanding reached between the delegation’s planners, the hotel and perhaps the State Department as well.
The hotel should, in the least, publicly apologize for the supervisor’s statement, and conduct a thorough and transparent investigation into the incident, with publicly reported results.
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