ACRI: Eatery broke no laws by banning soldiers in uniform

Israeli-Arab-owned restaurant says ban extended to all uniformed diners, not only soldiers, as uniforms harm the atmosphere of the establishment.

reserve soldiers 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
reserve soldiers 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
A Haifa restaurant that ignited a media firestorm last week for refusing to serve an IDF soldier in uniform did not violate any laws, a spokeswoman for the Association for Civil Rights in Israel told The Jerusalem Post Tuesday.
Spokeswoman Nirit Moskovich said the law regarding discrimination against people’s entry to public places did not cover soldiers or other officials or public servants in uniform, and therefore, the Azad restaurant had not violated the law.
Relevant legislation, passed in 2000 following an initiative launched by ACRI, only covers discrimination based on race, religious affiliation, nationality, country of origin, sexual orientation, personal viewpoints, political affiliation, or marital or parental status, Moskovich said.
Furthermore, she added, the law only allows for opening civil proceedings against a defendant, and would not allow for a criminal investigation or a state-mandated closure of the establishment.
On Monday, dozens of students from Haifa University protested outside Azad, on Haifa’s Rehov Hillel, demanding that the municipality shut the restaurant down if it didn’t change its policy toward uniformed soldiers. The students included a number of members from activist groups Im Tirtzu and Levia, as well as a representative from Lanetzah Ahi (“For Eternity, Brother”), a group that supports the siblings of terror victims.
By Tuesday, a Facebook group calling for a boycott of the restaurant had drawn well over 35,000 members, and a spokesman for the Haifa Municipality stated the city was looking into closing the restaurant, which is operating without a license.
The eatery’s ban on soldiers in uniform first came to public attention when soldiers who were refused service contacted Channel 10 last week. Since the report, Azad’s owners say they have received a number of phone calls and letters from people threatening to burn down the establishment.
The Israeli-Arab-owned restaurant said the ban extended to all uniformed diners, not only soldiers, as uniforms harmed the atmosphere of the establishment.
Moskovich said ACRI dealt with the issue of discrimination in public places on a daily basis, mainly in connection with minorities being turned away for housing or entry to public establishments.
The issue of uniformed soldiers not being allowed into restaurants was a very rare exception, she said, adding that she had only heard of one other case – that of anarchist vegan bar Rogotka in Tel Aviv, which had a ban on uniformed soldiers that it later rescinded.
She said she sympathized with the soldiers who had been turned away,adding that she could imagine how she would have felt if a similarthing had happened to her during her own military service.
Nonetheless, referring to the dozens of protesters at the restaurantMonday, she asked, “Where were they before this? Where were they whenpeople who were dressed perfectly well enough were not let into barsand restaurants, or weren’t allowed to rent apartments? If they’regoing to protest against discrimination, they should do so in allcases.”