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Looking for a business that's Arab-free? Try Yellow Pages!

The Israeli licensees of the Yellow Pages trademark are allowing businesses to advertise themselves as Arab-free, using an old Zionist codeword.

It turns out that certain businesses advertising in the Yellow Pages in Israel use the term “Avoda Ivrit” (Hebrew Labor) in their adverts, to reassure readers that they won’t be interacting with any Arabs should they decide to take their business there. Happy days.

The term Avoda Ivrit harks back to a classic (and therefore, nostalgic and partly legtimized – see below) practice of the first Zionist communities in Palestine, who employed only Jews on farms, factories and so forth. At the time, it was described as a campaign to reduce (Jewish) immigrant unemployment and to solidify the Jewish Yishuv as an independent economic polity in Mandatory Palestine. In hindsight, Avoda Ivrit was the first modern segregationist institution in Palestine, and played a key role in ensuring that immigrant Jews never integrated with the Palestinian majority, contributing to turning existing tensions into the all-out ethnic conflict  that has plagued the country for three-quarters of a century.

Since 1995, thankfully, employment discrimination by nationality has been illegal. The businesses that state they guarantee their customers will not have to interact with Arabs are violating the law. But since enforcing these laws against the businesses is likely to prove difficult if not futile, a campaign has now been launched to at least get the Yellow Pages to stop facilitating their discriminatory  practice. The small umbrella organisation Shutafut-Sharakah has produced a short clip pointing out that prostitution ads are illegal and are not allowed in Yellow Pages, but Hebrew Labor , equally illegal, still gets a free ride. (Full disclosure: Our fab web manager Shir Harel also provided technical support for that campaign).  I’m not sure a society as racist and sexist as ours will be particularly shocked by the comparison – I imagine precious few people go around reporting escort / massage parlours / prostitution ads on the Internet and in various small print publications – but here’s the clip:

Shutafut-Sharakah also offers a form that you can fill in, sending an email directly to Yellow Pages requesting they removing the term Hebrew Labor from their ads. The form is in Hebrew, but the order of the fields goes as follows: Name – Email – Subject line – Content – Tick here for updates from Shutafut-Sharakah – Send.

So far, Yellow Pages have been responding to protests with a uniform letter. It bears quoting here in full:

In the last two weeks Yellow Pages was approached several times from both sides of the spectrum on the issue of Avoda Ivrit.

First, we stress that the Yellow Pages company denounces any and all instances of racism and discrimination based on gender, race religion [sic], age and so on.

Secondly, Yellow Pages does not have and never had a category named Hebrew Labor. The business index of the company hold individuals and companies who added the words “Hebrew Labor” to their company name or the content of their advert, but Yellow Pages itself does not have bearing on this content. We should note that Yellow Pages serves as an advertising platform for its customers and is not responsible for the content of the adverts, most certainly when the adverts are by a business or a company licensed by the company registrar at the Justice Ministry. The company is not allowed [sic] to investigate the conduct of its customers beyond the advertising submissions done at their own risk.

We would also like to remind you that [Hebrew Labor] is a turn of phrase in use in Israel for many years, and using the term Hebrew Labor does not constitute a violation of the law. There are musical concerts, television programs, and more that also use this term, sometimes even in their title.

If there are indeed companies that have advertised themselves in the Yellow Pages index and actually engage in illegal activities (theft, discrimination and so on), they should be reported on this conduct to the relevant authorities, namely the legal authorities that enable that activity.

Kind regards,

Gilia Shapira

CEO Office Director

That letter is so convoluted and stumbling over its own feet it barely needs deconstruction. I just hope Shutafut’s next step will be placing advertising in Yellow Pages itself, under company names like “Hebrew Labor Cloak and Dagger solutions for business competitors” or “Hebrew Labor Burglars ‘R Us,” or “Small investment – big returns: Children kidnapping for Ransom, Hebrew Labor Ltd.” They can list the Yellow Pages’ own phone number for contact.

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    COMMENTS

    1. Ben Israel

      It would be interesting to know how many Arabs work in institutions that have a lot of Leftist/Progressives working in them, such as Israel Radio (I am not aware of any Arabs newsreaders although I have heard a couple of Arab correspondents), or at the big newspapers (Ha’aretz has one Arab columnist that I am aware of, the guy’s who name I forgot who writes a humorous column). How many Arab professors are there at the big universities? Are they 20% of the staff on the faculties, which is their percentage of the population?

      Reply to Comment
    2. Y.

      “The term Avoda Ivrit harks back to a classic (and therefore, nostalgic and partly legtimized – see below) practice of the first Zionist communities in Palestine, who employed only Jews on farms, factories and so forth. At the time, it was described as a campaign to reduce (Jewish) immigrant unemployment and to solidify the Jewish Yishuv as an independent economic polity in Mandatory Palestine. In hindsight, Avoda Ivrit was the first modern segregationist institution in Palestine, and played a key role in ensuring that immigrant Jews never integrated with the Palestinian majority”
      .
      What Dimi doesn’t mention is that Jews required immigration licenses in order to be able to enter the Mandate (unlike Arabs which were allowed to immigrate freely). Getting a licence required to get someone to vouch that he was willing to employ you[1]. Under these circumstances, getting more jobs was the only way to be able to get Jews away from then-Europe and into the Mandate. Also, the Labour movement’s dream of ‘returning the Jews to the land’ – i.e. changing their occupational profile – all but required this policy.
      .
      [1]
      http://cojs.org/cojswiki/British_Limits_on_Immigration
      .
      “…labor certificates were assigned first to employers, then to private applicants with assured prospects of work, and finally the unexpended certificates were given to the Zionist Organization which was permitted to request the entry of persons for whom it estimated that work might be found and for whom it stood ready to promise a year’s maintenance.”

      Reply to Comment
    3. Leonid Levin

      Ben, why should you always change the subject of an original article and attempt to hijack the discussion?

      Reply to Comment
    4. Leonid Levin

      Ben, why should you always change the subject of an original article and attempt to hijack the discussion? The article is about businesses who advertise themselves as Arab-free. If someone started to advertise businesses as Jewish-free in Israel, US or Europe, this would lead to an outrage from every quarter.

      Ygrek, you too pick up on some side issue and do not address the major point. That’s truly pathetic.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Y.

      The practice is illegal per Israeli law, so I find no reason to add yet one more condemnation. On the other hand, I do care about the various attempts to defame Israel.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Igor

      IMHO, it’s rather a good thing there is a place where you can find a comprehensive list of racially discriminating businesses, and never ever use their services.
      Another thing is, racism is so deeply rooted in Israeli society that public boycott of these business will probably be negligible.
      YP would consider adding a warning to these ads, in large print, reading “Beware!Racist business!”, so we won’t have to look for a fine print.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Ben Israel

      Leonid-
      I do this to show the continuing hypocrisy of the Left/Progressives in Israel. As “Y” said, the point of this thread, like many here, is to defame Israel, to show that it is a uniquely evil, racist country, unlike the Arabs and others. Being Leftist/Progressives, most of the bashing is directed at the Right wing and religious/YESHA settler sectors. I am simply pointing out that the Left does the same thing, all the while claiming they are NOT racists and not “occupiers”.
      Roi Maor has been more honest and has pointed out that the “Establishment” in Israel, which is nominally Leftist/Progressive is guilty of the same attitudes that the that group accuses the Right of. (BTW- I am not saying that I necessarily hold these things to be evil, I am just pointing out that they do and yet behave the same way in the end.)

      Reply to Comment
    8. aristeides

      Ben Israel would doubtless prefer that the truth about Israel be hidden. The fact is, that Israel couldn’t be “defamed” if it weren’t odious.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Leonid Levin

      Ben, the article is about businesses that advertise in Yellow Pages with “Avoda Ivrit”. These businesses can be both “left” or “right” or neither of the two. As a right-winger, you seem to take any criticism of what’s going on in Israel personally and as an attack on the right wing.

      I have no doubts that the Israeli establishment is just as racist, so what? I don’t see the people who are posting here as members of the establishment. They are trying to set up an independent news outlet that can criticize both the establishment, the right, the left, the settlers, the army, the media, etc.

      Reply to Comment
    10. max

      Leonid, it seems like yours is quite a wishful thinking, as when you look at the topics discussed on the site, you’ll get the impression that once the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is solved, Israel will be the ultimate human rights observant country.
      I don’t have a problem with a group focusing on a specific segment of HR problems. I do find, however, that addressing these issues in a militant, biased way, is good for venting frustration and attracting like-minded feedback, not for education or a discussion forum meant to promote corrections.
      .
      This post is not even symptomatic, and yet it goes from what to me seems like a valid observation of an illegal practice to the false accusation of usage of illegal classification code; it then honestly provides the (legal aspect) reply of Yellow Pages, only to refer to it as “so convoluted and stumbling over its own feet it barely needs deconstruction”.
      Why not stick to the facts? Aren’t they strong enough?

      Reply to Comment
    11. Leonid Levin

      So, Max, why not just write why you find the Yellow Pages response fine and why it’s not convoluted, etc. ? That would contribute much more to education and discussion than changing the subject, as Ben en Y have been trying to do.

      Reply to Comment
    12. max

      Leonid, I’m disappointed by your accusation that I changed the topic – mind to explain?
      .
      Here’s the concise YP response:
      1. “Yellow Pages does not have and never had a category named Hebrew Labor”
      2. “Yellow Pages itself does not have bearing on this content”; “Yellow Pages serves as an advertising platform for its customers and is not responsible for the content of the adverts”
      3. “using the term Hebrew Labor does not constitute a violation of the law” [and therefore a simple Search won’t solve the problem – Max]
      4. “… companies that have advertised themselves in the Yellow Pages index and actually engage in illegal activities … should be reported on this conduct to the relevant authorities…”
      Quite clear and comprehensive.
      .
      Back to Ben Israel’s point: I read that a BGU prof. called for breaking the neck of the people that celebrated Jslm day, and that Palestinians were caught starting a fire meant to look like the settlers did it: what are the chances that such incidents will be mentioned here? What are the chances that poverty in some orthodox groups and its implication to HR issues will be mentioned here?
      I don’t know what Ben Israel thinks about the issues themselves, but agree with him that the presentation leads many to ignore the content and focus on the blatant bias; apparently, for some visitors the defamation is the essence.

      Reply to Comment
    13. aristeides

      Interesting that none of the racist apologists here are claiming the article is false. They simply want to quash any truth that places Israel in a bad light of its own making. In short, they advocate the lie of omission.

      As for the YP, their excuses are transparently lame. Would they so readily accept ads that proclaimed JEWS TO THE OVENS? In racist Israel, some odious statements are tolerated and others are not.

      Reply to Comment
    14. Leonid Levin

      Max, sorry for the misunderstanding, I was referring to Ben and Y, not to yourself. I am not a native English speaker and am not always articulate enough to express what I want to say. Sorry.

      Although YP response may be perfectly correct from the legal standpoint (I’m not a lawyer), companies, especially big and respected ones, can and often do take a stand against immoral practices.

      I don’t know why the incidents that you mention are not reported here. That’d be a good question to the bloggers. It may be bias, but it can also be due to the basic difference between the immoral policies of the state and its supporters who claim to adhere to the universal human values, on the one hand, and disorganised pronouncements and illegal/immoral actions by frustrated (groups of) individuals, on the other.

      I wonder why it is that while some see defamation, others see a struggle for human rights and human dignity of the oppressed. My take on this is that many people tend to identify themselves too closely with the state, which in my opinion amounts to idol worship (one of the gravest offences in Judaism). Much like football fans, they are proud and cheer when the state is recongized and praised (cf. Bibi in the US Congress), and they are full of righteous fury and indignation when the major principles of the state’s policies are subjected to criticism.

      Reply to Comment
    15. max

      Leonid, I agree that if this issue is wide spread, YP should take active steps to address it. So how many are there? I searched.
      I found around 20 such instances, 7 of which being translation services with a good reason to use the term.
      So is this an indication of a trend? Of an Israeli problem? Is fixing this something YP has to do? This isn’t only about it being legal, it’s also about common sense and business practices.
      Back to my previous point: why is this topic on the site? Was the search I made done by Dimi? Is this really the – or even ‘a’ – problem of the Israeli society?

      Reply to Comment
    16. Leonid Levin

      Max, good questions. Jerusalem Post has published an article about this today: http://www.jpost.com/LandedPages/PrintArticle.aspx?id=217772
      If this topic is in Jerusalem Post, why not on this site? I don’t know if Dimi did the search. Some in Israel find this a problem, others finde it less of a problem. If businesses in the US or Western Europe published ads (even only a couple of dozen of such ads) in the Yellow Pages advertising “white labor only” or “Christian labor only”, I think Jewish anti-discrimination groups would be among the first to condemn this and demand action on behalf of YP.

      Reply to Comment
    17. max

      Leonid, thanks for the link … and what a difference the style and breadth of data (even without the compilation of the various voices) makes!
      The JP blog is one that addresses the problem in a way that few Israelis, I think, would resist; it’s meant to educate, not leaving much room for incitement.
      I was glad to see that my number was correct 🙂 and that Aiman Saif’s view is similar to mine.

      Reply to Comment
    18. Leonid Levin

      Max, I’m glad you feel vindicated 🙂 I hope you that, apart from the ads count and the opinion of Mr. Safi, you also noticed some other opinions and feelings expressed in the article.

      Reply to Comment
    19. Borg

      The Park Hotel in Netanya is a pioneer in employing Arab labor. It guarantees an explosively good time

      Reply to Comment
    20. Talia

      “Y”,

      Israel defames and delegitimizes themselves all on their own. The need no help.

      Reply to Comment
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