Palestinian sources in the city of Haifa have said that a group of rabbis has sent threatening letters to hotels and banqueting halls in the city, warning them not to host any New Year's Eve parties or display any Christmas decorations. The warning refers to the celebration of "Gentile" festivals. Should the warning be ignored, the rabbis have threatened to withhold religious services and the monthly inspections which provide Kashrut supervision.
In response, Knesset member Ahmed El-Tibi, the chairman of the Arab Movement for Change, sent a letter to the Mayor of Haifa, Yona Yahav, demanding that he should intervene and take the necessary measures to confront these threats.
"You take pride in Haifa as a multicultural city," wrote El-Tibi, "where members of all religions coexist peacefully, but this threat by rabbis in Haifa is racist towards the Christians in the city."
Moreover, said El-Tibi, the threat deprives Christians of the opportunity to celebrate their festivals like the people of other religions. "What would you do if the Jews were prevented, in Europe for instance, from lighting Hannuka Lights?" he asked the mayor.
An Arab activist in the city, Kamil Sader, said that the rabbis' threat violates the principle of coexistence in Haifa and represents an attack on other races and religions by imposing Jewish norms on everyone.
Calling the rabbis' letter an attempt at "blackmail", Sader pointed out that the latest Rabbinate move is one of a series "which aims to impose the Jewish religious lifestyle on public life in the city as a means of restricting Arabs, prior to deporting them."