Trampling its own laws
By Yaser Awad
For almost 60 years, Israel's Arabs have been trying to carve out a
niche for themselves in Israel's public sector and government companies,
but a hidden hand raises impassable obstacles. Yet wonder of wonders: what
the leaders of Israel's public sector never accepted when it comes to Arab
representation in the government sector, the leaders of the private
sector, most notably hi-tech, have come to realize well.
Social organizations have been fighting against anti-Arab
discrimination policy in government employment, and for equality, for more
than a decade. Ironically the fight is based on laws and resolutions that
the government itself made, but does not honor.
The data proves that the government breaks its own laws. Although Arabs
comprise 20% of the population, the Civil Service Commissioner's report
for the year 2005 shows that only 5.7% of the workers in government
institutions are Arab, which works out to 3,251 out of 57,058 civil
The proportion of Arabs among the 55,000 people working at government
companies is just 1%. The number of Arab directors in government companies
is 54 out of 557, or 9.7%, which is half their proportion in the general
population. And this is more than a decade after the government passed
laws requiring proper representation of Arabs in state
On the other hand, hi-tech companies such as HP, Intel, Amdocs, SAP and
others have grasped what the government fails to, and support human
diversity, as do companies in Europe and the U.S. Their belief conforms
with the economic principle of cost/reward, as well as the greater good of
their public image. Also, diversity among the workforce promotes social
stability and helps bolster the collective economic strength of the
In Israel, HP has introduced a revolutionary practice to diversify its
human capital and to establish a situation of trust with the Arab
population. The company's human resources manager, Adi Bildner, who
believes in human diversity in the workplace, is pursuing the practice
without compromising on the quality of candidates.
A commitment to diversity is becoming part of the contracts that many
Israeli companies sign with manpower companies. The drive includes
workshops for Arab higher-education graduates in writing resumes and
interviewing at hi-tech companies, as well as seminars for Arab
high-school seniors to expose them to the hi-tech world, and so on.
But meanwhile, the mills of equality-diversity in government service do
nothing but creak. A hidden hand is acting to block diversity from
reaching the hallowed halls of government. But the government should learn
from the private sector and hire manpower companies in order to increase
Arab representation in government service.
It can influence beyond the sphere of government as well: it would be
enough for the government to require that its suppliers execute the
principles of diversity in their workforces for Israel's socio-economic
reality to look very different.
Is the Israeli government genuinely committed to equality between the
citizens, and to removing the barriers blocking Arabs from work in
government? Is it? Let its deeds speak.
The author manages a Fair Representation program at
Sikkuy - The
Association for the Advancement of Civic Equality in Israel.