Employment

The recent announcement that Palestinian communities in Israel will be provided with a bus service for the first time since Israel’s founding – that is, in 62 years – surprised observers who had not realised second-class citizenship also extends to being deprived of a bus line.

Unemployed computer engineer Morad Lashin would like to work in Israel’s Electricity Company, a large state utility, but admitted his chances of being recruited are slim. The reasons were set out in graphic form this month when a parliamentary committee revealed that only 1.3 per cent of the company’s 12,000 workers are Arab, despite the Arab minority constituting nearly 20 per cent of the population.

Israel’s finance minister was accused last week of trying to deflect attention from discriminatory policies keeping many of the country’s Arab families in poverty by blaming their economic troubles on what he described as Arab society’s opposition to women working. A recent report from Israel’s National Insurance Institute showed that half of all Arab families in Israel are classified as poor compared with just 14 per cent of Jewish families. Eighteen per cent of Arab women work, and only half of them full time, compared with at least 55 per cent of Jewish women.

The increasingly harsh political climate in Israel under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government has prompted the leadership of the country’s 1.3 million Arab citizens to call the first general strike in several years. The one-day stoppage is due to take place on October 1, a date heavy with symbolism because it marks the anniversary of another general strike, in 2000 at the start of the second intifada when 13 Arab demonstrators were shot dead by Israeli police.

A decision by Israel’s state-owned railway company to sack 150 Arab workers because they have not served in the army has been denounced as “unlawful” and “racist” this week by Arab legal and workers’ rights groups. The new policy, which applies to guards at train crossing points, is being implemented even though the country’s Arab citizens – numbering 1.2 million and nearly one-fifth of the total population – have been exempt from serving in the military since Israel’s establishment.

Among the images of Israel’s 60th Independence Day celebrations to be found on the internet is a photograph of CNN reporter Ben Wedeman being kicked firmly on the behind as he tries to run from the boot of an armed policeman. All around him, as other photographs reveal, journalists are fleeing for safety, families are being charged by mounted police, and parents can be seen grabbing toddlers as clouds of tear gas engulf them. The stragglers are shown with bloodied faces after a beating with police batons.