Constitution Committee Approves Bill Discriminating Against Those Who Did Not Serve in the Army

The Knesset plenum, photo by Itzik Edri

Today (22 May 2011) the Knesset Constitution, Law, and Justice committee has approved for first reading a bill promoting discrimination against persons who did not serve in the military. According to this government supported bill, tabled by MK Hamad Amar (Yisreal Beitenu), Israeli citizens who have completed military or national service will be given preference when applying for positions in the civil service. The bill stipulates that when two applicants for a civil service position have the same qualifications, preference will be given to an applicant that served in the Israeli military.
The bill discriminates against ethnic minorities and other individuals who are legally exempt from military service (e.g. religious women, Arab citizens of Israel, handicapped people) and stands in contradiction to the value of equal access to employment. The bill will harm various minority groups in Israel, groups that already suffer discrimination in employment and under-representation in the civil service.
This bill has garnered opposition from many human rights organizations, including ACRI and other organizations promoting equal rights for women, Ethiopian Jews, Arab citizens of Israel, and handicapped persons. 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.
After hearing the many objections to the bill, the Chairperson of the Constitution Committee, MK David Rotem (Yisrael Beitenu) announced that the bill will not relate to immigrants who immigrated after the legal draft age, internal tenders (for persons who are already in the civil service), and people with “real handicaps” as he put it (meaning people who were exempt from service for physical handicaps, not mental illnesses). As such, the bill will target Arab citizens of Israel, Orthodox Jews, women, and persons living with mental handicaps.
According to Alva Kolan, Policy and Legislation Promoter at ACRI, “the chairperson of the committee has completely disregarded the position of the professional advisers – the Ministry of Justice, the Equal Employment Opportunities commission, and even the legal advisers of the committee itself. The law will deepen the discrimination of groups that already suffer from employment discrimination – thereby undermining the efforts that the State of Israel is making to engage these very groups in the labor market.”

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Categories: Anti-Democratic Initiatives, Arab Citizens of Israel, Arab Minority Rights, Democracy and Civil Liberties, Labor Rights, Racism and Discrimination, Social and Economic Rights, The Right to Equality

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