"Hebrew labor" lives on as Israel Railways fires Arab guards
Jonathan Cook, The Electronic Intifada, 6 April 2009
A decision by Israel's state-owned railway company to sack 150 Arab workers because they have not served in the army has been denounced as "unlawful" and "racist" this week by Arab legal and workers' rights groups.
The new policy, which applies to guards at train crossing points, is being implemented even though the country's Arab citizens -- numbering 1.2 million and nearly one-fifth of the total population -- have been exempt from serving in the military since Israel's establishment.
Ahmed Tibi, an Arab member of the Israeli parliament, complained to Israel Railways and the attorney general last week, arguing that the move was meant "to cleanse the railways of Arab employees."
"It is an especially grave matter as this is a public company whose operations are meant to benefit all citizens," he said.
The Laborers' Voice, a workers' rights group based in Nazareth, said the new condition of employment was designed to reserve rail jobs for Jews, most of whom are conscripted for three years after finishing school.
It added that Israel Railways was following dozens of other major Israeli firms and thousands of small businesses that keep jobs off limits to Arab workers by defining the roles as security related.
Israel Railways announced last month that all crossing guards would be required to produce a discharge certificate from the army or face dismissal. The first 40 Arab workers received their notices last week, taking effect almost immediately.'
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