Another Brick in Israel's Apartheid Wall

A new bill being promoted by Israel's ministerial comittee, which essentially legalizes discrimination against minorities in Israel, demonstrates the vigorously anti-democratic spirit of Israel's new government.

Haaretz.
Haaretz Editorial
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Haaretz.
Haaretz Editorial

If anyone thought that the wave of anti-democratic legislation that had characterized the previous Knesset would stop with the end of its term, a decision by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday demonstrates that this government and Knesset apparently plans to go its predecessors one better in oppressing minorities and codifying discrimination against them.

Behind the name “Rights of Those Who Contribute to the State Law,” hides one of the most dangerous bills ever approved by the ministerial committee. The bill would permit favoring someone who served in the Israel Defense Forces when considering job candidates, setting salary terms, hiring for civil service positions, providing and ordering services from both state and commercial entities, allocating lands and renting rooms in university dorms.

This would essentially legalize discrimination against groups that are already weak and excluded, including Arabs, Haredim, the disabled, the ill and others, who were exempted from military service.

There are those who try to justify the bill by claiming there is a need to recompense those who do reserve duty. But the bill doesn’t deal with such compensation, since the state could easily give such remuneration directly to those who serve. Moreover, the bill would allow favoring anyone who served in the IDF for 12 months or more, regardless of whether or not they do reserve duty. Preference would thus be given to a group that is already strong and well represented in Israeli society: Jewish citizens, primarily men.

The proposal distorts the principle of equality because it chooses to discriminate against those who enter Israeli society with the worst opening position of all − the Arabs. Because in fact, despite laws that prohibit discrimination, the Arabs and other groups − the ones whom this bill would hurt the most − are already discriminated against. Even today, they have less access to jobs, land and various services.

If this bill is passed, it would allow the circumventing of all current anti-discrimination laws by claiming legal favoritism toward army veterans. It would be legal to prefer a Jew over an Arab in hiring, to pay more for the same work to a veteran than to a disabled person who got a medical exemption, and to allocate more land to Jews than to Arabs.

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, whose opinion was submitted to the ministerial committee, has determined that the bill undermines the right to equality guaranteed by the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty. This bill should be buried quickly, because if not, it will be another brick in the Israeli apartheid wall.

The Knesset: The opposition argues that the bill is intended to reduce Arab representation.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

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