Israeli minister apologises for Arab police insult

Israel Materials 17 June 2009 12:49 (UTC +04:00)

An Israeli cabinet minister apologised on Wednesday after being caught by television cameras using a racial slur in addressing an Arab police officer, Reuters reported.

The remark by Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch of the ultranationalist Yisrael Beitenu Party was broadcast by Israeli television and radio stations on Tuesday.

Aharonovitch was seen and heard telling the officer, who had apologised for his uniform not being clean: "What do you mean dirty? You look like a real 'Araboosh'," a derogatory term for an Arab in Hebrew slang.

"This remark is too racist, and very, very undesirable and incorrect for the current diplomatic climate," Afou Agbaria, an Israeli Arab lawmaker, said in response, speaking on Army Radio.

In a statement, Aharonovitch said: "This remark does not reflect my positions or world view and I apologise to anyone who was insulted."

Aharonovitch's party, headed by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, has come under fire for introducing several bills seen as aimed at curbing the rights of Israeli Arab citizens.

Israeli Arabs number about a fifth of the population of the country. Most are descended from Palestinians who stayed in Israel when hundreds of thousands of others either fled or were driven away during fighting over Israel's establishment in 1948.