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As tensions run high, Arab workers pay the price

As a result of the latest round of violence, Arab workers are becoming subject to harassment, boycotts, and arbitrary dismissals.

By Maha Shehade Switat

Palestinian workers enter an unlicensed service taxi in the West Bank. (Activestills.org)

Illustrative photo of Palestinian workers enter an unlicensed service taxi in the West Bank. (Activestills.org)

These are days when calling for the boycott Arab workers and “expelling” them from their workplace is received with open arms. These are days when cities refuse Arab workers entry into schools during school hours. Days when Arab workers go through security checks on their way to work for the sake of public safety. These are days when we understand that morality, not to mention the rule of law, doesn’t exist in the workplace. This is how Arab workers have been abandoned.

This racist public discourse erupted and has continued since last summer, in light of the tensions between Jews and Arabs. Since then employers, managers, and employees have enlisted in the fight for a common goal: maintaining the Zionist consensus.

The rights of Arab workers are violated on a regular basis: they are fired from their jobs arbitrarily, are sent to their homes until “things calm down,” suffer from harassment at work and changes in the conditions of their employment solely because they are Arabs — because of their national identity, their worldview, and their ideas — not to mention pressure from a public that calls for boycotts and exclusion.

During the last war on Gaza, Israeli employers kept their eyes on Arab workers. The wave of dismissals solely affected Arabs, despite the fact that both the public sphere and social networks were awash with incitement and racism against Arabs by Jewish coworkers. Employers turned into the thought police, summonses looked more like interrogations, and dozens of Arab workers were fired.

However, if during the war on Gaza Arab workers were fired primarily for remarks made on social media, today they are being fired simply because they are Arab.

Today, in order to hold on to their job and livelihood, Arab workers are resigned to suppress their feelings, while self-regulating and censoring their thoughts. After all, the walls have ears, especially those on Facebook.

This behavior by employers goes against the Law for Equal Opportunity in the Workplace, which forbids employers from discriminating against his employees based on their nationality, worldview, origin, or religion. It also goes against their constitutional right to free speech — one of the cornerstones of any democratic society — anchored in international conventions.

Despite what is written in the law books, the reality is different and turning darker every day. Arab workers are wary of taking legal action against their employers, as it may affect their already low chances of finding a new job. Moreover, past experience has led many workers to grow skeptical of the legal system, which they believe could even work against them in a time of emergency.

As the situation has escalated, employers have become more sophisticated, learning how to hide the motivations behind the dismissals. During times of tension, this can be enough to slam the doors of the courts shut in the face of the workers.

The enflamed public discourse and the harassment and dismissal of Arab workers are part and parcel of the hostile attitude toward the Arab public, which is fueled by the government and the public atmosphere. This blow to the worker’s livelihood only adds insult to injury when considering the difficult economic conditions facing Arab society, along with the high unemployment rates, poverty, and the lack of work opportunities.

These days, when freedom of speech has paradoxically become a tool to silence the Arab public, we need to take a clear stance against the political dismissals and the calls to harm the livelihood of Arab workers.

Maha Shehade Switat is an attorney with Kav LaOved — Worker’s Hotline.

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    COMMENTS

    1. Ben

      Suddenly when the boycott shoe is on the other foot it’s nice and comfy and A-OK. But if it’s against Israelis? Why it’s an anti-Semitic outrage of course. Natch. But you know, Arabs don’t feel pain like we do. It’s no big deal. What’s the problem? Pass the potato chips.

      Reply to Comment
      • Gustav

        Nacht the Arabs have been offered the chance to get their own state and an end to the occupation at least twice in the last 15 years. But they don’t want to pay the price for it. They don’t want to recognize the Jewish state and accept that it is here to stay as a Jewish state instead of it becoming the 23rd Arab Muslim state.

        Ok if that’s what they want then they shouldn’t complain about the occupation. And if they do, we say put up or shut up.

        Reply to Comment
        • Ben

          What’s next? Transfer all the males or all the females to Nigeria in exchange for an illegal undercover arms deal? Spay and neuter the Palestinians? Got any good ideas? Uri may have some.

          Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            Benny rambling on.

            Two peace deals his daaarlink Palestinian Arabs rejected in the last 15 years because they would have been required to come to terms with the existence of the Jewish state had they accepted.

            Bill Clinton blamed Arafat for missing an opportunity of a life time to get their own state and end the occupation. Arafat responded with an intifada instead.

            Ya reap what ya sow Benny, you racist little twerp.

            Reply to Comment