עברית   |   عربي  |  English

 

NEWS


 

 
 
 

 

Home - Articles

Tolerance in The Society of Israel? Equal Employment as a Stimulus

by Attorney Nidal Othman*

first Published  : 13/11/2016   Last Updated: 13/11/2016 

   

It’s not easy to be a member of a minority group in the State of Israel.   The International Day for Tolerance is a wonderful opportunity to remind everyone who, due to the rapid pace of life here, has forgotten this unpleasant fact.

Police profiling of people of Ethiopian extraction and of those belonging to other minority groups in the population - “migrants,” as they have been termed by the Police Commissioner - will certainly not stop.  National investment in infrastructure for disadvantaged Arab villages is not about to create wonders, not even in the framework of the upcoming bi-annual budget, perhaps in order to make it difficult for local residents to throng to the ballot boxes.  The base from which the future is supposed to blossom – the Ministry of Education – has failed systematically for years in its fight against racism and in its attempt to promote a shared life and tolerance (according to the sharply critical recent report from the State Comptroller).  In short, and to the point, we are definitely not a good example of social solidarity.

But, this International Day for Tolerance does not have to be a time just to complain and to flood the air with suffering.   I see in it also a wonderful opportunity to remind people that not everything is so bad here.  Look, for example, at the positive direction in which the labor market is striding.

According to official data from the Ministry of Finance, during the first half of 2016, there was a sharp rise in the employment percentages of Ultra-Orthodox and Arab men, two groups which headed the unemployment tables for years.  It’s too bad that we can’t say the same about the employment of Ultra-Orthodox and Arab women, despite the fact that there is active work being done by the government in this area, following on the critique of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).  The plan of the Ministry of the Economy, costing about 150 million shekels and begun already a few months ago, is meant to significantly improve this situation.  Under its auspices, a company that takes in workers from these sectors will be entitled to 30 months of government assistance in funding their salaries.  The assistance that the government is offering amounts to about 27.5% of the monthly salary of every worker from the population designated under this program.

This is a wonderful program that is expected to significantly advance the employment of women.  Just to understand the depth of the gaps and how much this program is needed: in 2014, according to a report from the Ministry of the Economy, only about 33% of Arab women between the ages of 25-64 were employed, in comparison to 71% of women in the total population.

The direction is wonderful, but our finger must stay on the pulse: will realization of the goals of this program help bring about fair employment and shared areas of employment?  Will these areas then succeed in advancing tolerance and solidarity between Israelis in daily life, too?

Exactly a year ago – on the 2015 International Day for Tolerance – I visited the Berlin utopia.  We arrived in Germany, a delegation composed of men and women representing various communities in Israel: Mizrahim and Ashkenazim, Arabs, Russian speakers, Ethiopian immigrants, and so on.  The purpose was to learn from the human rights organizations of that city, which today constitute a wonderful example of acceptance of others, of everyone, with respect to their actions in the field.  A beautiful picture revealed itself to me.  How varied it is there today, in contrast to all the theories of racial purity that brought tragedies to the world in the last century!

The labor market in Israel, despite the not-so-low unemployment rates in Arab villages, development towns, and the periphery, and a salary that must absolutely rise, can still be the hope for advancing a model of shared work like this.  It already exists in reality: the Ministry of Health succeeds in awakening in us a hope that there is another way, not just because of the success of Arab physicians, experts and leaders in their fields, who rise to key positions in the system, but also because the health system permits, in addition to the shared work area, an area of shared life in hallways and in hospital rooms.

Tolerance and social solidarity are the opposite of racism and discrimination.  The difficult conditions of the region will not permit us to be Berlin, but perhaps a repeated and systematic airing of the problems will succeed and will help us move forward to the goal we yearn for.


*The author is the Director of the Coalition against Racism