'We Don't Drive Arabs': Israeli Taxi Company to Compensate Arab Clients

Driver with the Jerusalem-based taxi company refused to drive two brothers after hearing them speak Arabic ■ Taxi company says men's demeanor led to refusal, despite recording of operator saying 'we don't transport Arabs'

Illustration
Eyal Toueg

An Israeli court has ordered a Jerusalem taxi company to pay 43,000 shekels ($12,150) in compensation and over 9,000 shekels ($2,540) in court fees to two men it refused to transport in 2017 because they were Arabs.  

Two years ago, after Suhil Tarzi and his brother attended a meeting at a law firm in Jerusalem, an employee at the law firm booked a taxi for them from the Rav Shefa taxi service.

When the driver came to pick them up, he overheard them speaking Arabic and drove away before they could get into the cab.

In a phone conversation with the Rav Shefa operator, attorney Lior Gidon, who worked at the Jerusalem law firm, was told that the company does not drive Arabs. Gidon recorded the conversation, which was played in court.

In the recording, Gidon is heard asking: "What's happening with the taxi?" The operator answered: "I told you we don't drive Arabs, brother, we don't want to transport Arabs, period. I answered you," and then hung up. Later, the operator reiterated his remarks in several additional conversations.

The taxi company argued that the two men's behavior is what led the driver to forgo the call. It also argued that one of the two men was living illegally in Israel, and therefore Rav Shefa was entitled to refuse service to the pair.

Magistrate Court Judge Samah Saber Massarwi rejected both arguments and ruled that the taxi station had violated the law banning discrimination.

"The recordings and testimonies from company employees attest to the fact that Rav shefa implemented the practice [of not providing service to Arab costumers] adopting it as a disguised policy," Massarwi said, adding that the taxi station had multiple opportunities to reverse its discriminatory policy, but chose not to.