SETH J. FRANTZMAN NEW 58 NEW.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
There is a mentality in Israel among certain sectors on the Left and among those
who lead the various human and civil rights lobbies that any benefit given to
former soldiers is a form of hidden discrimination against Arab citizens. As
such, the proposed civil service bill being considered by the Knesset, which
would provide discharged soldiers priority for civil service jobs, is already
under attack. The bill stipulates that when there are two equal candidates and
one completed national or military service, he or she would get preference for
the job opening.
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel, one of the
largest human rights lobbies, claimed “the bill discriminates against ethnic
minorities and other individuals who are legally exempt from military service
(e.g., religious women, Arab citizens of Israel, disabled people) and stands in
contradiction to the value of equal access to employment.”
ACRI claims that “the Ministry of Justice, the Equal Employment Opportunities
Commission, and even the legal advisers of the Knesset Constitution Committee –
have all voiced their opposition to this bill.”
Avirama Golan wrote in a
recent oped that “the MKs will have to examine the extent to which the proposal
undermines the constitutional right to equality.” Golan also claims that
Ethiopian and haredi women in particular will be discriminated
It is interesting that these voices consider it unequal to give
people benefits for serving in the army, but consider it equal to ask only
certain citizens to serve. Why does the right to equality in Israel vanish the
day Druse men and non-haredi Jewish men and women reach the age of 18 and then
suddenly reappear when they are 22? While these Druse and Jews are conscripted,
their peers who do not serve may go to college or get jobs and learn skills that
that make them more qualified in access to employment. This fact in itself
constitutes a violation of right to “equal access to employment.”
time one condemns a law that grants benefits to those who do military and
national service, one implicitly supports inequality.
human rights organizations use is to cling to the claim that Ethiopians are
being discriminated against. The reason groups like ACRI mention Ethiopians is
that they know that most of the Israeli public doesn’t have much sympathy for
the Arab or haredi sectors. But they are either misinformed or misleading when
they place Ethiopian Jews in the mix.
According to an anonymous,
well-informed government source, 52 percent of Ethiopian Jewish women go to the
army, and many of those who do not go choose national service as an alternative
(Ethiopian Jewish women make up 6% of women in national service, while they are
only 2% of the female Jewish population). Since the bill treats national service
and military service in the same manner, Ethiopian Jewish women receive its
benefits. Furthermore, there is already affirmative action at play in the civil
service, which means rather than being harmed, they are benefiting even
BUT THERE is a hidden reality to the opposition to this bill. Very
few Arabs are in the civil service. Despite recruitment drives, few apply –
perhaps because the pay is low and they feel awkward working for the Israeli
According to the Civil Service Administration, Arabs and
Druse make up only about 7% (4,200 employees) of the civil service sector, and
they are mostly employed in jobs that deal with the Arab community.
logical that providing points to Jewish veterans puts this 7% in jeopardy?
Rather, it is the Druse who compete for these jobs, and they are the ones who
have given three years to the country while their peers worked or went to
college, so it is they who most need the points in order to equalize their
It is precisely for this reason that Druse MK Hamad Amar is
one of the major supporters of the bill.
Perhaps it is the 93% of jobs in
the civil service that are currently held by Jews that we should be looking at.
The number of secular Jewish draft-dodgers is the same as the number of haredi
Jews who don’t serve. In 2009, the IDF’s human resources department revealed
that only 74.6% of Jewish men and 56% of Jewish women enlisted. Many secular
women feign being “religious” to avoid military and national service. It is
precisely these Jewish draft-dodgers who today receive unequal access to
employment in the civil service. They skip army service, and while their
brethren serve, they learn skills that make them more qualified for civil
Haredi Jewish women, who are supposedly discriminated
against by the bill, all could choose national service, just as Arabs can, but
most do not.
Equality? If we want equality we need to level the playing
field for those who sacrifice three years of their life for this country. We
need to put them at the front of the line, or at least at an equal starting
position with those who are choosing not to serve.
As it stands
currently, we are putting the burden of a fake equality on those who serve by
demanding they forsake equality when the country demands it and then become
equal when the country no longer needs them. Ethiopian Jews and Arabs aren’t
harmed by this bill: Because of affirmative action, and in the case of
Ethiopians their zealous service record (88% of Ethiopian men join the army)
they are being increasingly recruited to the civil service.
Only the 34%
of Israeli Jews who find a way out of the army and national service are being
affected, and it is they who deserve least to work in the civil
The Knesset must not allow a distortion of the truth to continue
to harm those who, with little choice in the matter, give to their
country.The writer has a PhD from Hebrew University, and is a fellow at
the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies.