Veteran Hiring Bill Discriminates Against Those Whom Israel Chooses Not to Draft

Reverse discrimination is justified for groups that are disadvantaged or underrepresented. But is there anyone who can claim with any sincerity that demobilized soldiers are underrepresented in government jobs or the universities?

Gil Cohen Magen

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation is scheduled to discuss a bill sponsored by MK Anat Berko (Likud), which would require all public, and some private, organizations to give military veterans preference in hiring, education and benefits. The organizations affected by the draft law include government ministries, local governments, institutions of higher education and private organizations that are mainly funded by the state.

The bill is part of a long, populist tradition in which a proposal is put forth occasionally that violates the principle of equality and, in the guise of concern for the soldiers, promotes discrimination against groups that do not generally serve in the military – Arabs, ultra-Orthodox Jews and people with certain disabilities. A previous proposal of this kind, which was submitted by Berkos party colleague Yariv Levin, got stuck in a Knesset committee due to the fierce opposition it attracted.

The preamble to the bill gilds the lily in describing the gap between veterans and those who do not serve in the military, to the formers detriment – including the implication that the draft law constitutes a kind of affirmative action for veterans.

Reverse discrimination is justified in very specific cases, for groups that are disadvantaged or underrepresented, or in order to compensate for historical discrimination. But is there anyone who can claim with any sincerity that demobilized soldiers are underrepresented in government jobs or the universities?

Instead of fair compensation to soldiers for the time they invested and the risks they took, various programs are repeatedly proposed that go against equal opportunities in employment, and the principle of equality in general, by misusing military service as a criterion.

It should be remembered that it was the state that decided, at its establishment, not to call on Arab citizens to sign up for army service and also exempted most Haredim from the draft. In these communities, not doing military service is not draft evasion, against which punitive measures may be taken. Instead, its the norm established by the state.

The No rights without duties rhetoric is more suited to the party that coined this slogan – the Kahanist Otzma Leyisrael – than it is to the party of Menachem Begin, who said, rightly, that since it was the state that decided not to conscript Arab citizens, the argument that they should not enjoy equal rights is indefensible.

For some years now, the state has been making a genuine effort to increase the numbers of Arabs, Haredim and people with disabilities in the civil service and the universities – institutions where they are underrepresented. Berkos bill contravenes these efforts, and if passed will provide a legal basis for institutional discrimination.