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.

Racism on the Train (part II)

Posted: April 7th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, racism | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Israel Railway ganeral manager Yitzhak Harel

I’ve been following here the story of the Arab lookouts, who the Israeli train company, Israel Railways, wanted 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 opportunity law.

Yesterday, the Tel Aviv Labor Court gave a temporary order against firing the lookouts. Final decision will be given after Passover. Meanwhile, Labor’s Avishay Braverman, the new Minister for Minorities (yes, we have such an office), wrote the Minister of Transportation Israel Katz, demanding his intervention in favor of the lookouts.

The affair is far from over, but it seems that things have taken a positive turn. Given the current public atmosphere in Israel (read, for example, the comments on Ynet to the Labor Court order), it is very important to draw the line against these kind of racist acts whenever possible.

It is important, however, to understand that most discrimination in Israel is not the work of some right wing extremist, but rather the mainstream of the Israeli society. Israel Railways, which didn’t back up from its plan and is even ready to go to court in order to defend its right to fire the Arab lookouts, is run by the government (that means, BTW, that our tax money will be paying those court bills). The head of the train company is Yitzhak Harel (in photo), a former Major General in the IDF, who was appointed to the job by his former commander and current political ally, Shaul Mofaz, the no. 2 man in Kadima. Mofaz, who was at the time the Minister of Transportation, preferred Harel for the Job over some 80 other candidates. At the time, reporters wondered what special gift does Mr. Harel brings to his new job. Well, now we know.

Racism on the Train

Posted: March 30th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: racism | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments »

Ynet 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 (“Rakevet Israel”) forced the contractor to fire most of the Arab look-outs, and replace them with army veterans.

As I explained in the comments to the post, saying “army veterans” in Israel’s work market equals in essence to saying “Jews”. That’s why in such cases the courts usually rule that you have to prove a connection between the army service to the issue at hand in order not to be charged with racial discrimination. 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 men on this bus”. The Train Company – which is owned by the state, for god’s sake! – never even tried to make such claim.

Israel’s equal opportunity law states the following:

“2.(a) Employers shall not discriminate between their employees or between candidates for employment because of their sexual orientation, because they are parents, because of their age, race, religion, nationality, land of origin, opinion or party, in any of the following: (1) hiring; (2) working conditions; (3) promotion; (4) professional training or studies; (5) discharge or severance pay; (6) benefits and payments provided for employees in connection with their retirement from employment.

This goes for outside contractors as well, so this issue will most likely get to court, and the Train company will probably lose. But it is clear that the company couldn’t have even considered this step if it hadn’t been for the anti-Arab atmosphere in Israel.

Take the bus!