311_ship unloads in Haifa.
(photo credit: The Jerusalem Post)
Haifa Magistrate’s Court Judge Shimon Sher on Thursday ordered the owner of the Azad restaurant in the city to compensate Israel Navy NCO Raviv Roth in the sum of NIS 15,000 for having refused him service in 2010 because he was wearing a military uniform.
Roth visited the Arab-owned restaurant in February 2010 with his girlfriend, wishing to dine, when they were told by the shift supervisor that it was the restaurant’s policy not to allow entrance to people in uniform. Roth was told he was welcome to return any time as long as he wasn’t wearing his uniform, according to the manager, who claimed he wanted to ensure a relaxed and non-partisan atmosphere for all his customers.
Roth left peacefully, but later filed a lawsuit. Roth’s lawyer alleged that the restaurant broke anti-discrimination laws and humiliated the sailor.
Following the incident, the restaurant’s owners received several anonymous letters threatening to set fire to the place, but refused to back down from the uniform ban. The restaurant has since closed down.
According to Sher’s ruling, the main point of contention was not over the facts – on which both sides agreed – but rather over the interpretation of the law forbidding discrimination in the provision of goods and services and entry into public entertainment establishments.
The law includes a list of traits or characteristics on the basis of which it is forbidden to discriminate a person. It includes things like race, religion, sex, sexual orientation and membership in political parties, but makes no mention of discrimination over something like wearing a uniform.
“In my opinion, having a closed list of discriminatory grounds deals a ‘death blow’ to the law itself, since no one can predict the future, and any situation can take place that will leave the injured party with no grounds for redress,” wrote the judge in his ruling.
He added, though, that in this case and in the absence of any public
notice of the restaurant’s policy, failure to serve the sailor
constituted a violation of the spirit of the law, which forbids giving
different treatment to equals, even if the grounds don’t exist in the
wording of the law.
“I believe that it is important to express to the public – Jewish,
Muslim, Christian or any other religion – that tolerance is the
solution,” wrote the judge. “The action taken by the restaurant owner
only increases tensions, and led to a situation where his attempt to
bring about equality created inequality – which I am certain neither