Second Class

Posted: March 18th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: racism, this is personal | Tags: , | 7 Comments »

I’m usually having troubles explaining to people how discriminated and alienated the Arab minority in Israel is. It seems that things are getting worse by the day, but Israelis – and their supporters abroad – still think we are a first class liberal democracy.

Check out, for example, this debate I got into at the right-wing blog “The Augean Stables” (what a great name!).

Therefore, I’ve decided to write more often about cases of discrimination in Israel. Given the new government, I’m sure I won’t be short in examples.

Here is something I found today, just to start with:

Due to recent accidents, the national train company has decided to place look-outs on major junctions throughout the country. As it turned, most of these look-outs – hired by an outside contractor – were Arabs.

As Ynet reports, the train company has now decided to change the terms of the contract, and informed the contractor that all look-outs must be army graduates. That means that all the Arab employees will be fired.

The train company is owned by the state, and must keep a strict equal opportunity policy. To bypass this problem, many employers link the contract’s demands to the army service itself. For example, they might say that look-outs are posted in dangerous places and are required to carry arms, and therefore should be army graduates.

What’s incredible in this case, is that the national train company didn’t bother to disguise its racist policy.

In its response to the item on Ynet, The train spokesperson simply said that “the train company  prefers to give an opportunity to people who served in the Army”. Meaning Jews.

As always in this kind of cases, if you read Hebrew, I recommend you check out the comments to this item on Ynet. They are so racists it makes you sick.

More to come.

UPDATE: Prof. Richard Landes, who writes “The Augean Stables”, objects to my reference to his blog as a “right-wing” one. While I do think I can classifies his positions (regarding Israel) as part of the political Right (as well as what I called here before “Neo-Zionism”), I also believe we should avoid labeling people against their own will.

7 Comments on “Second Class”

  1. 1 Richard Landes said at 9:31 am on March 18th, 2009:

    i really object to being referred to as a right wing blog. that’s just the kind of labeling that makes self-identified “left-wing” blogs so much of a closed circle. i uphold the classic liberal and progressive principles of fairness and empathy. i just don’t think we need to be suicidal in applying those principles; that we have to empathize with our neighbors (figure out what they’re really thinking and feeling) rather than sympathize (imagine they’re a replica of us).

    as for the debate, it was not over whether arab-israeli citizens suffer from unequal treatment, but what are the proper contexts in which to understand and interpret that discrimination, and, more to the point, whether apartheid is an appropriate term to use for the situation in the territories.

    you and any of your readers are always welcome to comment at my blog.

  2. 2 noam said at 9:44 am on March 18th, 2009:

    fair enough. I’ll update the post with a new reference to your’s.

    Regarding the issue itself: I didn’t label the train company’s policy as Apartheid. I called it “racism”. I think it’s an appropriate term. the reference to the debate I had with other commentators on your blog was made because I felt most people I argued with over there objected to the notion of any racism at all in Israel.

  3. 3 Aviv said at 11:33 am on March 18th, 2009:

    Racism means discrimination based on race. Race, if it exists other than as a social construct, is a property that can’t be changed.

    Military service is a property that can be changed, as many non-Jews volunteer to serve in the IDF even though they’re not required.

  4. 4 noam said at 12:19 pm on March 18th, 2009:


    You are ignoring the political structure in the implication of these categories. Without the context, the debate is meaningless – we could say anything and disguise any action.

    It’s true that a few Arabs do serve in the military, but as a rule, Arabs don’t serve, so saying “army graduates” equals to saying “Jews”. That’s why in such cases the supreme court declared that you have to prove a connection between the army service to the issue in question. For example, you can’t say: “I only let army veterans drive this bus”. But you can say: “I only hire army veterans to be the security man on this bus”.

  5. 5 Promised Land » Blog Archive » Is Israel an Apartheid State? said at 8:26 am on March 28th, 2009:

    [...] other minorities in other democracies. Maybe the Arabs are in better shape than some other groups. Maybe not. What I’m talking about is their legal statues. Many countries discriminate minorities in [...]

  6. 6 Promised Land » Blog Archive » Racism on the Train said at 12:40 pm on March 30th, 2009:

    [...] and Haaretz have a follow-up on the Arab look-outs story I wrote about two weeks ago. It seems that the media pressure didn’t help, and the National Train Company [...]

  7. 7 Promised Land » Blog Archive » Racism on the Train (part II) said at 1:59 pm on April 7th, 2009:

    [...] to fire, on the excuse it prefers to keep those jobs open for army veterans, i.e. Jews. I also wrote that to my estimate, by doing so the train company might be in violation of the Israel’s equal [...]