Inside out: Equality in the Arab sector
Campaign was designed in response to data showing generally lower levels of employment among Arab university graduates.
Arab women Photo: Marc Israel Sellem
The Authority for the Economic Development of the Arab, Druse and Circassian
Sectors in the Prime Minister’s Office launched a large-scale ad campaign on
Sunday geared to encourage companies to hire Arab university
The campaign, which urges prospective employers not to
discriminate against non-Jewish applicants for jobs, was designed in response
to data showing generally lower levels of employment among Arab university
graduates relative to their Jewish counterparts, and a number of glaring
disparities in certain fields, such as high-tech jobs.
According to data
reported by Yediot Aharonot, 22 percent of Jewish employers openly said that
they discriminated against Arab job applicants, while 25% echoed prejudices
about employees from Israel’s non-Jewish sectors. Many Arab university graduates
are unable to find employment in their fields of expertise and, for want of a
better choice, are forced to take jobs as teachers.
The government should
be commended for its campaign to overcome racial discrimination and promote
heightened employment of Arab citizens in their fields of
According to a recent study by the Jewish Arab Center of Haifa
University, an overwhelming majority of the Arab citizens of Israel say they
would prefer to live in Israel over any other country in the world, and a
smaller majority, which might prefer a state of all its citizens, accepts
Israel’s character as a Jewish and democratic state. That said, 73% said they
feel they are treated as either second- class citizens or citizens who do not
enjoy full rights.
Reining in discrimination and increasing hiring of
Arab university graduates will certainly go a long way to alleviating
disgruntlement felt by the non-Jewish citizens, which is exacerbated by a
pervasive inability to find work in their fields merely because of their
ethnicity. It should go without saying that anyone proud of Israel’s democratic
nature must oppose and decry the existence of such barriers in
The government’s campaign is a step in the right direction
toward helping alleviate some the non-Jewish sector’s sense of being sidelined
and marginalized. More can and should be done to achieve that goal.
first and most self-evident step that should be taken is to make the study of
Arabic mandatory in all Jewish schools, just like English and math. Arabic is
one of the two official languages of the state, and is the mother tongue of
one-fifth of the population.
It is simply inconceivable that so few
Israeli Jews have even a rudimentary grasp of their fellow citizens’ language
and are unable to meet their Arab counterparts halfway, so to speak. The more
Israeli Jews understand Arabic, the less threatened they will feel hearing the
language being spoken around them and the more they will realize that their Arab
neighbors spend most of their time discussing mundane matters, just like they
do, and not, let’s say, plotting to overthrow the Zionist regime.
that, the mandatory study of Arabic will contribute to Israel’s ability to
understand and be integrated into the larger Middle East and, by the bye, meet
the security establishment’s need for Arabic speakers to work in
Another step that can and should be taken is to introduce
mandatory civilian service for the Arab sector in Israel, which will empower
young Israeli men and women from the Arab community. Civilian service will
provide them with an opportunity to do important work on behalf of both their
community and broader Israeli society, while shielding them from the allure of
crime, drugs and alcohol.
The graduates of those programs will then have
meaningful experience to list on their CVs when they apply for jobs, increasing
their appeal to prospective employers.
Lastly, the government must
prioritize fighting crime in the Arab sector. This can be done either by
allocating more existing police troops to the Arab cities, towns and villages or
by creating a large-scale program of community police in the Arab sector as an
alternative to civilian service.
According to data presented to the
Knesset in February, 40% of murder suspects are Arabs, as are 30% of convicts
serving time for criminal offenses and 45% of road accident fatalities. The
enormous quantity of illegal weapons on the streets of Arab communities is a
scourge that produced more than 1,100 reported incidents of gunfire in
On Sunday a demonstration was held in Ramle by a group of women
following the murder two weeks ago of Nasrin Musrati, a 26-year-old mother of
two who had spent the last two years of her life in a shelter for battered Arab
The victim’s sister, Huda, who had lost another sister to a
similar “family honor” killing in 2006, pleaded for increased police protection
and involvement, demanding that the police investigation of the murders be
pursued the “same seriousness with which they investigate the murder of a Jewish
By launching its advertising campaign to promote the employment
of Arab, Druse and Circassian university graduates, the government has taken an
important first step toward reducing discrimination against them and increasing
their sense of equality in society and before the law. More can and should be
done, to the benefit of Israeli society as a whole.
The author is a
veteran Israeli writer and translator.