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Integrate, Don’t Discriminate

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EDITORIAL

5 Apr 09 | Ha’aretz

The appointment of Avishay Braverman as minister without portfolio for minorities is puzzling, not to say ridiculous. In his haste to take refuge in the government’s bosom so soon after passionately denouncing Labor’s entry into the coalition, Braverman has shattered his political credibility and the pretense of posing an alternative to the right wing.

Presumably, had Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not been forced to invent portfolios to pacify potentially disgruntled allies, this position would never have been pulled out of the dusty drawer of yesteryear’s politics. It’s regrettable that Israel, in its 61st year, views a fifth of its citizens as a separate population requiring their own, separate government office, and refuses to recognize them as equal citizens in all fields of life.

But even if Braverman believes in changing the system from within and enters office with the best of intentions, he will have trouble shifting the focus of a government lobbying against the integration of Arab citizens into society. For the first time in Israel’s history, this policy even demands Arabs’ unreserved allegiance as a precondition for citizenship. The lives of Arab Israelis who have been suffering well-documented discrimination and injustice for many years are not affected by special ministries but by the Interior Ministry, the Public Security Ministry, the Negev and Galilee Development Office and the Israel Lands Administration.

All the same, Braverman will hopefully breathe life into his unlikely position. He had an opportunity last week, when Israel Railways dismissed 40 Arab employees on the premise that they did not serve in the army. Those dismissals contravene the law on equal opportunity at the workplace, which prohibits employers from discriminating against job seekers based on their national affiliation; the layoffs also go against the Basic Law on Freedom of Occupation.

It’s safe to assume that the dismissed workers will receive legal aid and that the dismissals – a blatant violation of civil rights – will be reversed. But Braverman can act before the ruling is handed down and show a willingness to integrate Arab citizens into society. This would help ease some of the Arab community’s serious concerns about the formation of the government.

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Written by Editors

4 April 2009 at 7:34 pm

Posted in Opinion, Palestine-Israel

Tagged with ,

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