Violating Promise to High Court, Jerusalem Jobs Office Turns Palestinians Away

Officials in west Jerusalem Employment Service office say they can’t serve Palestinians because there aren’t enough Arabic-speaking employees

Palestinians wait at the employment center in Wadi Joz, February 2018
Emil Salman

The state Employment Service isn’t letting Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem receive service at its office on the western, virtually all-Jewish side of Jerusalem, in violation of the state’s promise to the High Court of Justice.

Officials in the west Jerusalem office have said they can’t serve Palestinians because there aren’t enough Arabic-speaking employees, according to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and Ma’an, the Workers Advice Center. Consequently, Palestinians are being sent to the East Jerusalem office.

In some cases, Ma’an added, clerks have said they could help Palestinians only if they brought their own translators.

>> Read more: Israel's government liaisons to East Jerusalem are mostly ex-Shin Bet ■ Why Israeli police are terrorizing this Palestinian village

The Employment Service insisted that Palestinians can obtain service in western Jerusalem, but warned that the service might be inferior due to the language barrier.

The state promised last year to let Palestinians use the service’s west Jerusalem office in response to a High Court petition by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel. The petition argued that conditions at the East Jerusalem office, located in the Wadi Joz neighborhood, were terrible, with long lines and people forced to wait outside for hours.

The reason for the overcrowding is that the Employment Service office is located in the same building as the Population Authority office for East Jerusalem, and Palestinian residents of the city need the latter’s services frequently.

But numerous incidents show that the state’s promise to let Palestinians use the west Jerusalem office isn’t being implemented. And on top of breaking its promise, wrote attorney Abir Joubran Dakwar of the association, the service’s “continued referral of job-seekers from East Jerusalem to the office in Wadi Joz constitutes discrimination based on national and group affiliation, undermines the principle of equality and violates the right to dignity and to access to basic services.”

Crying children, women fainting from the heat and men climbing the fence are routine sights outside the Wadi Joz office. Mohammed Amira, a 65-year-old Egged bus driver from East Jerusalem, recalled going to the office last year because he was scheduled to go on an organized tour with his colleagues and needed paperwork to enable him to leave the country. Dozens of people were crowded outside the entrance, he said, and the guards refused to let him in.

“They told me, ‘You don’t have an appointment, go home.’ It’s impossible to talk to them.”

The Employment Service said its orders to employees are “clear”: The west Jerusalem office must provide service to every resident of Jerusalem. “We plan to clarify this order to the workers and ensure that it is in fact carried out,” its statement continued.

“At the same time, it must be pointed out that the level of service a job-seeker who doesn’t speak Hebrew will receive at the west Jerusalem office will be of lower quality, and we will have less ability to help him,” it added. “That’s because the vast majority of those who come to the west Jerusalem office are Hebrew speakers,” and therefore, so are the office’s employees.