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The Schmooze

Officials: Israeli Light Rail Survey Is Racist

Dear New Yorkers:

We’re expanding the subway. It’ll pass through some bad neighborhoods. And we’re allowing Muslim-Americans to ride without security checks. Is that OK?

It sounds outrageous, but an Israeli company asked a very similar question of Jerusalemites after it won a city contract to run the city’s light rail system.

Haaretz reported today that Israeli Transportation Ministry officials are slamming the consortium known as CityPass for asking the following of Jerusalem residents: “There are three stops in Shuafat; Does this bother you?” and “All passengers, Jews and Arabs, can enter the train freely, without undergoing a security check. Does this bother you?” Shuafat is the Arab neighborhood in the city’s northeast.

Furious city officials called the questions “racist,” according to Haaretz; Jerusalem municipal director general Yair Maayan fumed in a letter to CityPass’ chairman that “we were flabbergasted to see how a private commercial consortium dared to address these subjects, which are none of its business whatsoever; to ask such racist questions and to arouse strife and contention in the city.”

CityPass, however, remained defiant. A spokesperson told Haaretz, rather disingenuously: “It is a shame that the municipal director general attributed totally unfounded significance to the survey, whose only aim was to improve the service to all the residents.

“This merely adds unnecessary fuel to the fire and certainly does not serve the interests of the city’s residents. The survey was not meant to offend any residents, and we shall change it accordingly.” But the episode must have already sent a chill through prospective passengers who don’t fit CityPass’ criteria for “security.”

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