Editorial

Israel's Antisocial Services Minister

'I will not give recognition to an institution that supports terror,' said Labor and Social Services Minister Haim Katz, as he ordered the certification of hundreds of social workers from an East Jerusalem university frozen

Social Affairs Minister Haim Katz.
Emil Salman

On Sunday Labor and Social Services Minister Haim Katz signed a document that recognizes graduates of Al-Quds University as social workers. But on Monday the minister was questioned by the Israel Hayom newspaper, which referred to Al-Quds as “a supporter of terror.” Katz got cold feet, and announced he was withdrawing the recognition of the university’s graduates. “I will not give recognition to an institution that supports terror,” he said, as he ordered the certification of hundreds of social workers frozen.

Al-Quds University, based in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and its alumni have been battling the authorities for a decade to get recognition of its graduates’ professional training. The refusal is always based on political, rather than professional considerations. Government officials have in the past said that such recognition would undermine Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem. Thus, while graduates of other universities in the territories are recognized by Israeli regulators, it is the graduates of Al-Quds, most of whom are Jerusalem residents, who must search for work in other places, rather than where they live.

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After a lengthy battle, attorney Shlomo Lecker, representing the university, obtained recognition of its medical school graduates by the Health Ministry, a move that has helped relieve the shortage of doctors in East Jerusalem. Subsequently the degrees of paramedical professionals were also recognized. Only the social workers remain.

A year ago, following requests by the university, Deputy Attorney General Raz Nizri instructed the ministry to consider recognizing the university’s social work graduates. The Jerusalem Social Services Department supported the move. Recently, the professionals in the Social Services Ministry who examined the university’s curriculum agreed that its hundreds of graduates should be recognized so as to relieve the distress in East Jerusalem.

The decision reached the minister’s desk and he signed off on it. But then came the inquiry by Israel Hayom and Katz proved that the Likud primaries and catering to the right were more important to him than the fates of battered women, the emotionally scarred, the elderly and the disabled, all of whom need the services of social workers.

Katz – who is suspected of a series of crimes, including bribery, fraud and breach of trust – has joined other ministers, like Culture Minister Miri Regev and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, in sacrificing the professional concerns of their ministries on the altars of populism and kowtowing to right-wing voters. He has done wrong by East Jerusalem social workers and the people who need them.

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit will soon be asked to give his opinion of Katz’s behavior. One hopes that he will take responsibility and reverse Katz’s scandalous decision.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.