Arabs, Religious and Chareidim Unite Over ‘Discriminatory’ Election Staff Demand

YERUSHALAYIM -
Counting ballots in the April elections. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Arabs, Religious Zionists and chareidim were all united Wednesday in their opposition to an apparent demand by the State Election Commission that all workers hired to supervise polling stations on Election Day will have completed “full army service,” according to recruitment ads by the company contracted to hire staff.

The ad states that salary for the day is between NIS 1,130 and NIS 1,300 – but does not define the term “full.” If that means a full three year stint in the army, that would exclude not only Arabs, who do not serve in the army, but also participants in the Hesder yeshivah army program, who typically serve 16-18 months in the IDF during the course of their five years in yeshivah. Many chareidim who do serve in the army serve under similar shorter structures, and yeshivah students in general do not serve until they leave yeshivah, and then usually for a much shorter period than three years.

MKs and rights groups representing Israeli Arabs demanded explanations. “This is a safety-related matter, not a security-related one,” said Dr. Suasan Zaher, deputy head of the Adalah Arab rights organization. “Demanding army service as a condition for employment is a code word for banning Arabs from a job, meaning discrimination based on national origin. Besides the obvious discrimination, this sends a message to Arabs that they cannot be trusted to supervise elections.”

MKs Osama Sa’adi and Ahmad Tibi (Ta’al) said in a letter to Elections Committee head Chanan Meltzer that “this ad is the continuation of incitement against Arabs, and a message that Arabs are too corrupt to ensure that elections are conducted fairly.”

In a letter to Meltzer, United Torah Jewry MK Rabbi Uri Maklev said that “discrimination against the chareidi public is a negative stigmatism, branding members of the community as suspicious and unworthy to handle that kind of job. It appears that this condition is designed to prevent certain groups from being hired for these jobs. Army service is completely irrelevant to the nature of the job.

“This kind of discrimination is totally illegal.” In addition,” MK Rabbi Maklev said, “this is the position of the court, which has already ruled that conditions such as these are an indirect form of discrimination.”

The commission has not yet responded to any of the comments.