FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Israel’s Arab Women Workers Need Not Apply

by JONATHAN COOK

Nazareth.

Israel’s finance minister was accused last week of trying to deflect attention from discriminatory policies keeping many of the country’s Arab families in poverty by blaming their economic troubles on what he described as Arab society’s opposition to women working.

A recent report from Israel’s National Insurance Institute showed that half of all Arab families in Israel are classified as poor compared with just 14 per cent of Jewish families.

Yuval Steinitz, the finance minister, told a conference on employment discrimination this month that the failure of Arab women to participate in the workforce was damaging Israel’s economy. Eighteen per cent of Arab women work, and only half of them full time, compared with at least 55 per cent of Jewish women.

He attributed the low employment rate to “cultural obstacles, traditional frameworks and the belief that Arab women have to remain in their home towns”, adding that such restrictions were characteristic of all Arab societies.

But researchers and women’s groups pointed out that employment of Arab women in Israel is lower than almost anywhere else in the Arab world, including such employment blackspots for women as Saudi Arabia and Oman.

“Most Arab women want to work, including a large number of female graduates, but the government has refused to tackle the many and severe obstacles that have been put in their way,” said Sawsan Shukha of Women Against Violence, a Nazareth-based organisation.

That assessment was supported by a survey this month revealing that 83 per cent of Israeli businesses in the main professions – including advertising, law, banking, accountancy and the media – admitted being opposed to hiring Arab graduates, whether men or women.

Yousef Jabareen, an urban planner at the Technion technical university in Haifa, who has conducted one of the largest surveys on Arab women’s employment in Israel, said the problems Arab women faced were unique.

“In Israel they face a double discrimination, both because they are women and because they are Arabs,” he said.

“The average in the Arab world [for female employment] is about 40 per cent. Only women in Gaza, the West Bank and Iraq — where there are exceptional circumstances — have lower rates of employment than Arab women in Israel. That gap needs explaining and the answers aren’t to be found where the minister is looking.”

He said a wide range of factors hold Arab women back, many of them the result of discriminatory policies by successive governments to prevent the 1.3-million Arab minority, which comprises one-fifth of Israel’s population, from benefiting from economic development.

These included widespread discrimination in hiring policies by both private employers and the government; a long-standing failure to locate industrial zones and factories in Arab communities; a severe lack of state-supported childcare services compared with Jewish communities; a shortage of public transport in Arab areas that prevented women reaching places of work, and a lack of training courses aimed at Arab women.

According to a study by Women Against Violence, 40 per cent of Arab women with degrees are unable to find work.

When interviewed, Mr Jabareen said, 78 per cent of non-working women blamed their situation on a lack of job opportunities.

Maali Abu Roumi, 24, from the town of Tamra in northern Israel, has been looking for a job as a social worker since she finished training two years ago.

A report by Sikkuy, an organisation promoting civic equality in Israel, revealed this month that Israel’s Arab population received 70 per cent less government funding for social services than the Jewish population, and that Arab social workers – in a poorly paid profession that attracts mainly women – had a 50 per cent higher workload.

Ms Abu Roumi added that, in addition, cash-strapped Arab schools, unlike Jewish schools, could not afford to employ a social worker, and that Israel’s Arab minority lacked the equivalent of the welfare institutions and foundations funded by wealthy overseas Jews that offered work to many Jewish social workers.

“Most of the Jews I studied with have found work, while very few of the Arabs on my course have been employed,” she said. “When a job comes up, it’s usually part time and there are dozens of applicants.”

The Alternative Planning Centre, an Arab organisation that studies land use in Israel, reported in 2007 that only 3.5 per cent of the country’s industrial zones were in Arab communities. Most attracted small businesses such as workshops for car repairs or carpentry that offered few opportunities for women.

“Israel’s private sector is almost entirely closed to Arab women because of discriminatory practices by employers who prefer to employ Jews,” Mr Jabareen said. He added that the government had failed to provide leadership: among governmental workers, less than two per cent were Arab women, despite repeated pledges by ministers to increase Arab recruitment.

Ms Shukha said: “The civil service is a major employer, but many of these jobs are in the centre of the country, in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, a long way from the north where most Arab citizens live.”

She noted that there were no regular buses from Nazareth, the largest Arab town in the country, to Jerusalem. “The transport situation is even worse in the villages where most Arab women live.”

In addition, she said, most could not travel long distances to find work because of the scarcity of child-care provision. Only 25 government-run daycare centres have been established for preschool children in Arab communities out of 1,600 operating across the country. Ms Shukha also criticised the trade and industry ministry, saying that, although it had invested heavily in training for Jewish women, only six per cent of Arab women were attending courses, and then mostly for sewing and secretarial work.

Mr Jabareen said that, according to his survey, 56 per cent of non-working Arab women wanted to work immediately.

“Since 1948 Israeli governments have been blaming poverty on ‘cultural barriers’ stopping Arab women from working, but all the research shows that the argument is nonsense,” he said. “There are hundreds of Arab women competing for every job that comes on the market.”

He said Arab men faced massive discrimination, too, but found work because they filled a need in the economy by doing hard manual labour that most Jews refused, often travelling long distances to work on construction sites.

“Women simply don’t have that option,” he said. “They cannot do that kind of work and they need to stay close to their communities because they have responsibilities in the home.”

Mr Jabareen added that on average Arab women in Israel had a higher number of schooling years than those in Arab countries and the Third World. There were even slightly more Arab women at Israeli universities than Arab men.

“All the research shows that the more educated the population, the more it should be able to find work. The case with Arab women in Israel breaks with the trend. It’s unique.”

A study by the Bank of Israel published this month suggested additional reasons for the high levels of poverty among Arab families. It showed that Arab men were typically forced into retirement in their early 40s, at least a decade before Israel’s Jewish workers and workers in Europe and the United States.

The researchers attributed Arab men’s early unemployment to the fact that most are restricted to physically demanding labouring jobs, and because they are rapidly being replaced by Third World workers who are paid less than the minimum wage.

JONATHAN COOK is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is www.jkcook.net.

A version of this article originally appeared in The National (www.thenational.ae), published in Abu Dhabi.

More articles by:

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is www.jkcook.net.

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

June 29, 2017
Dave Lindorff
Sy Hersh, Exposer of My Lai and Abu Ghraib, Strikes Again, Exposing US Lies About Alleged Assad Sarin ‘Attack’
Chuck Collins
What Happened to America’s Wealth? The Rich Hid It
Rev. William Alberts
When the Bible is the Root of Evil
Jeff Mackler
Trumps ‘No Fly Zone’ Escalates U.S. War Against Syria
Bill Willers
The Next World War Won’t Just Be “Over There” 
Ellen Brown
Sovereign Debt Jubilee, Japanese-Style
Jack Laun
Will There Finally be Peace With Justice in Colombia?
Binoy Kampmark
Holding the Police to Account in the UK
David Swanson
Against Ignoring the KKK
Rima Najjar
Israel’s Illegitimate Tactics Against Palestinian Armed Resistance vs. Legitimate Global Security Concerns
Mel Gurtov
Advise, Assist, Arm: The United States at War
David Welsh
Berkeley Capitulates to Police Militarization and Spying
Marion Andrew
Not Being Considerate of One’s Audience: US Television’s Coverage of Olympic and International Sports
June 28, 2017
Diana Johnstone
Macron’s Mission: Save the European Union From Itself
Jordon Kraemer
The Cultural Anxiety of the White Middle Class
Vijay Prashad
Modi and Trump: When the Titans of Hate Politics Meet
Jonathan Cook
Israel’s Efforts to Hide Palestinians From View No Longer Fools Young American Jews
Ron Jacobs
Gonna’ Have to Face It, You’re Addicted to War
Jim Lobe – Giulia McDonnell Nieto Del Rio
Is Trump Blundering Into the Next Middle East War?
Radical Washtenaw
David Ware, Killed By Police: a Vindication
John W. Whitehead
The Age of No Privacy: the Surveillance State Shifts into High Gear
Robert Mejia, Kay Beckermann and Curtis Sullivan
The Racial Politics of the Left’s Political Nostalgia
Tom H. Hastings
Courting Each Other
Winslow Myers
“A Decent Respect for the Opinions of Mankind”
Leonard Peltier
The Struggle is Never for Nothing
Jonathan Latham
Illegal GE Bacteria Detected in an Animal Feed Supplement
Deborah James
State of Play in the WTO: Toward the 11th Ministerial in Argentina
Andrew Stewart
Health Care for All: Why I Occupied Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse’s Office
Binoy Kampmark
The European Commission, Google and Anti-Competition
Jesse Jackson
A Savage Health Care Bill
Jimmy Centeno
Cats and Meows in L.A.
June 27, 2017
Jim Kavanagh
California Scheming: Democrats Betray Single-Payer Again
Jonathan Cook
Hersh’s New Syria Revelations Buried From View
Edward Hunt
Excessive and Avoidable Harm in Yemen
Howard Lisnoff
The Death of Democracy Both Here and Abroad and All Those Colorful Sneakers
Gary Leupp
Immanuel Kant on Electoral Interference
Kenneth Surin
Theresa May and the Tories are in Freefall
Slavoj Zizek
Get the Left
Robert Fisk
Saudi Arabia Wants to Reduce Qatar to a Vassal State
Ralph Nader
Driverless Cars: Hype, Hubris and Distractions
Rima Najjar
Palestinians Are Seeking Justice in Jerusalem – Not an Abusive Life-Long Mate
Norman Solomon
Is ‘Russiagate’ Collapsing as a Political Strategy?
Binoy Kampmark
In the Twitter Building: Tech Incubators and Altering Perceptions
Dean Baker
Uber’s Repudiation is the Moment for the U.S. to Finally Start Regulating the So-called Sharing Economy
Rob Seimetz
What I Saw From The Law
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail