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On 30 November 2010, Adalah, on behalf of the High Follow-up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel and its sub-group, the Committee against National Service, sent an urgent letter to the Education Minister, Gideon Sa’ar, demanding that those applicants who are seeking employment as teachers not be given preference for performing national service, as there is no relationship between national service and being a good teacher.
The letter was sent after Ha’aretz reported that the Education Ministry intends to give 30 bonus points to applicants who performed national service for employment as teachers. (You can read the letter here)
In the letter, Adalah Attorney Sawsan Zaher argued that there is no connection between national service and the required qualifications for teaching. Additionally, the new policy only applies to Arab teachers and not to secular or orthodox Jewish teachers who performed military or national service. This measure only applies to Arab citizens and therefore it is discriminatory as it based on national belonging. In general, Arab citizens of Israel are exempt from performing military and/or national service; a small number volunteer for such positions each year.
Attorney Zaher added, “Granting preferences to those individuals seeking employment as teachers, based on the performance of national service, aims to strengthen support for a particular political vision at the expense of education and this is legally unacceptable.”
She further argued that the preference violates the Equal Employment Opportunities Law (1988), which prohibits discrimination against applicants based on their national belonging or political opinions. The law also prohibits employers from requesting information about the military service status of those seeking employment.
The letter also noted that in 2004, Adalah petitioned the Supreme Court demanding that the General Security Service (GSS) be prohibited from intervening in the appointment of teachers to the Arab Education Division (AED) of the Education Ministry. Adalah contended that this interference results in unreasonable discrimination; allows a culture of fear, control and silencing to prevail; and harms the right of education of students and employment of Arab teachers. As a result of this litigation, in 2005 the Education Ministry cancelled the position of deputy director of the AED, which was held by a representative of the GSS, and the Attorney General recommended that in the future, a similar position should not be created in the AED or in any of its departments. (See HCJ 8193/04, Union of Parents of Arab Students in Israel, et. al. v. The Ministry of Education, et. al.; http://www.adalah.org/newsletter/eng/jun05/1.php)
Adalah further added that several courts have issued rulings prohibiting the use of military and/or national service as a criterion or qualification for continued employment. For example, in a recent case brought by Adalah, the Tel Aviv University Human Rights Clinic, and Sawt el-Amel, the Tel Aviv District Court decided that military service could not be used as a basis by the Israel Railway to dismiss Arab railway workers as it constitutes discrimination against them, as they are not obliged to perform military service. Further, the court found that there is no direct relationship between the military or national service and the core function of the position.