Discrimination in Israel

Christians living in the Holy Land face a complexity of pressures, reflecting lives lived under occupation, discrimination and as refugees. For Christians in Israel the invisible walls of employment discrimination pose their biggest challenge. A letter received from Susan Barhoum, a qualified MBA student of Haifa University’s ‘Building Bridges’ programme and resident of Nazareth, clearly illustrates this problem.

For a number of months FHL has been working with business leaders in Nazareth to create a mentoring programme to support young Christians in starting their own businesses. We are looking for partners to help us fund this scheme and would ask anyone interested to contact the office.

A message from Nazareth

Susan Barhoum reports...

"Palestinian Arabs, who live in Israel, are an indigenous minority that constitutes around 20.9% of the population, of these around 9% are Christians.

"Palestinian Arab Christians in Israel are a minority within the minority.  Their number is dwindling as more and more Christians are leaving to find better lives for themselves and their families.  Christians in the land of the Holy One have existed since the day of Pentecost and are an extension of the Christian presence around the world; therefore, it is of the utmost importance to strengthen this presence.  We do not want the Churches to merely become buildings without the presence of the ‘Living Stones’.  At the same time, Christians are not Icons in Shrines that can be hung on the wall, they, as others around the world, have needs and aspirations that need to be addressed.

"One of the areas where this discrimination is felt, is in work opportunities, pay and conditions, both because of the inadequate implementation of equal-opportunity legislation and because of entrenched structural barriers, which particularly affect women, and include poor or non-existent public transportation, a lack of industrial zones, and a shortage of state-run daycare centers.

 "One way in which Palestinian citizens of Israel are discriminated against and excluded from the labor force is by the use of the military or civil service criterion as a condition for acceptance for employment, often when there is no connection between the nature of the work and military experience. While the inclusion of military service in a job specification may seem neutral on its face, it has a discriminatory effect on Palestinian citizens of the state, as they are exempted as a group from performing military service on the basis of their national belonging.

 "Thus, unemployment rates remain significantly higher among Arab than among Jewish citizens. This is reflected in the socio-economic status of the Palestinian Arabs, where over 53% of Arab families and 66% of Arab children live in poverty.

 "The discrimination is expected to be further exacerbated with the passing of the Jewish Nation-State Basic Law in July 2018, which constitutionally enshrines Jewish supremacy and the identity of the State of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. This law, guarantees the ethnic-religious character of Israel as exclusively Jewish. It entrenches the privileges enjoyed by Jewish citizens, while simultaneously embedding discrimination against  Palestinian citizens and legitimizing exclusion, racism, and systemic inequality.

 

"Therefore, we continue to strive for justice in order to achieve peace and live equally, with open opportunities."