Freedom of expression for Arab workers

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Dear friends,

 

Have you heard of the phenomenon where Arab workers have been dismissed for nothing more than having the wrong nationality? I was beside myself to hear that the assistant at a friends kindergarten was fired simply because she is an Arab. Parents at another kindergarten in Tel Aviv requested that the municipality order construction at nearby sites to stop, because they have Arab workers.

 

I understand that many Israelis are afraid and suspicious, and we are all concerned for our friends, relatives and especially our children. However fear and paranoia must not take over and lead us to condemn an entire population just because they are part of the Arab minority.

 

This phenomenon is shocking, disappointing, racist and most importantly…illegal!

 

These are not only the initiatives of concerned parents. As occurred last year during ‘Operation Protective Edge’, employers have again started to enforce sanctions against Arab employees, mostly Arab men, because of statements they have made or simply because they are Arab.

 

Only yesterday, an article was published in The Marker which quoted the manager of a food chain as saying: “We read the Facebook pages of Arab workers and give the police the names of employees under the age of thirty. Six of our employees welcomed the attacks or incited violence and were ordered to attend a hearing”.

 

To state the obvious: It is wrong to dismiss employees because of their nationality. Workers cannot be harmed or fired because of their opinions or expressions. It is none of the employers business. Even if we think that an opinion expressed publically is an incitement to racism or incitement to violence it is the job of police to prosecute it, and not the job of the employer. The courts then have the authority to determine criminality and guilt.

 

Dismissing an employee is only permitted in exceptional cases, when it can be shown that their opinions or statements affect their ability to fulfil their duties. In any case, an employer must not dismiss a worker without a fair procedure and hearing, in which the worker has the opportunity to defend themselves and respond to the allegations against them. In the vast majority of cases, the dismissal of an employee  (or the imposition of any other sanction against them) due to their self-expression outside the workplace is illegal.

 

This week we published a factsheet in Hebrew on freedom of expression for workers. It is intended for employers, employees and all of us who come in contact with workers who are sanctioned because of their opinions. I believe that every one of us has an obligation to clarify the limits of the law, and to end the current demonization of Arab workers.

 

These are difficult times, but we cannot let our fear and anxiety get the better of us. As we call for an end to the violence, we must also remain steadfast in our commitment to equality.

 

Yours,

 

Sharon

Sharon signature

Sharon Abraham-Weiss

Executive Director

Association for Civil Rights in Israel

 

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Categories: Arab Citizens of Israel, Freedom of Expression, The Right to Equality

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