Racism on the train (part V)

Posted: September 10th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, racism | Tags: , , , | Comments Off

During the month of April, I’ve been following here the story of the Arab lookouts that Israel’s national train company, Israel Railways, tried to fire and replace with Jewish workers.

This story includes all the familiar elements of institutionalized racism in Israel.

At first, the train company – which is owned by the state, and headed by a Kadima man, retired army Major General Yitzhak Harel – didn’t even deny that this was an attempt to favor Arabs over Jews. As it turned out, that was their initial mistake. Otherwise, nobody would have noticed the whole affair. Later on they tried to change the employment criteria for the post of a lookout, in a way that only army veterans (i.e. Jews) would be suitable for the job. This is a well known trick: you can get away with discrimination as long as you avoid saying actual words like “Arabs” or “Jews”.

Yesterday, the Tel Aviv labor court rejected the new criteria, and issued a restraining order against removing the lookouts from their job. Haaretz reports that:

Judge Ahuva Etzion of the Tel Aviv Labor Court rejected the new criteria on the grounds that the prerequisites did not relate to the nature or the substance of the work involved.

The article in the Hebrew edition of Haaretz states that judge Etzion also based her decision on “the circumstances that led the changes in the criteria”, hinting that if Israel Railways was bit more sophisticated in its first attempt to fire the lookouts, it could have gotten away with it.

Even so, the fact that the court specifically stated that “prerequisites must relate to the nature of the job” is important and could turn out to be very useful in future attempts to fight racism and discrimination through legal process.

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