Racism on the Train (part III)

Posted: April 20th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, racism | Tags: , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Israel’s Labor Court had another hearing on the issue of the Arab lookouts I’ve been following. As I wrote here before, Israel Railways, the national train company, tried to fire almost all of its Arab lookouts, on the pretext that it prefers to hire Army veterans for the job, i.e. Jews. The court ordered the train company not to fire the lookouts until its next hearing.

This is becoming a case study for the way discrimination works in Israel. The first comment Israel Railways gave on the matter didn’t even try to hide its motives. “Israel Railways sees its duty in helping people who served in the army,” said the spokesman for the train company. Because the work of a lookout has nothing to do with army training, I have estimated that the train company might be in violation of Israel’s equal opportunity law.

On act II, the issue did reach the court, and Israel Railways lost the first battle.

On act III, the train company changed its story. On Sunday’s hearing, Israel Railways’ Director of Security, Yehuda Shaked, claimed that the move was intended to “improve the level of supervision”, since the job of a lookout requires operating a radio and “working in a hierarchic organization”.

It takes about 5 minutes to learn to operate an Army radio. Your average cell phone is far more complicated. But that’s not the point. The point is that Israel Railways is moving from the blunt discrimination it tried to employ to the more hidden one, common in the Israeli work market.

Israel Railways will lose this battle. But if the train company had used the “radio argument” from the start, it could have gotten away with it.