Israel’s Knesset Scraps Hearings on Arab Issues During Muslim Holiday

After a raft of complaints, a committee will postpone its talks on worker safety in the construction industry and national civilian service.

Worshippers pray outside the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem on the first day of Id al-Adha, January 10, 2006.
Reuters

The Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee will defer committee hearings that had been scheduled for a Muslim holiday next month, ensuring that Muslim MKs and other officials will be able to take part.

Their attendance is considered vital because the panel will be considering matters that have a particular impact on the Arab community.

Id al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice, falls between September 11 and 14 this year, about three weeks before Rosh Hashanah.

The committee hearings were scheduled to go ahead despite requests from Knesset members and nonprofit groups to reconsider. The issues of national civilian service and worker safety in the construction industry had both been slated for September 11 to 14.

“I attach supreme importance to the holiday periods of the Arab community,” said MK Eli Alalouf (Kulanu), the committee's chairman. “There is no reason to hold hearings, particularly ones that affect the Arab community, at the expense of Id al-Adha.”

Amnon Beeri-Sulitzeanu, the co-chief of the Abraham Fund Initiatives that promotes Jewish-Arab coexistence, had contacted Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein and Knesset committee heads on the matter.

He welcomed Alalouf’s decision but added that “the matter should be enshrined in the Knesset’s rules and regulations rather than being dependent on the goodwill of the Knesset committees.”

MK Yousef Jabareen (Joint List) and Amir Peretz (Zionist Union) had also called for the panel’s hearings to be postponed until after the holiday.

“I have no doubt that [the original scheduling] was unintentional and done inadvertently, so the decision must be changed,” Peretz said. “The Knesset should not show insensitivity toward more than 20 percent of the population.”

Still, the Abraham Fund Initiatives notes that from September 11 to 14, other Knesset committees have scheduled sessions – on changing the party funding law and on the confiscation of property in cases involving human trafficking or the detention of people in conditions of servitude.

A committee is also due to tour the Israeli communities bordering the Gaza Strip.