The Nation state law and employment integration

By Ifat Baron Goldberg,  Executive Director itworks

Published The Marker, July 31 2018 translated version

Hassan, 24, Western Galilee, sat in a chair across from me, a defeated expression on his face. I could see there was no hope left in his eyes. It has been a year since he graduated his studies in computer science from a well-known faculty, with flying colors. He's been sending out his CV since without much luck. Ironic, since job search websites are filled with ads from employers looking for workers with Hassan's knowledge. He asked me:" I feel this law (nationality, I.B.) is removing me further away from the workforce which I can't seem to integrate into anyway. How do I go forward from here?" I answered, with confidence, mixed with hope that my word wouldn’t be broken by reality: " we continue. We'll find an organization that can see through the nationality".

It seems the legislation surrounding us lately is taking us backwards, decades backwards. The gaps between progressive reality and legislation pretending to stop time, are wide. We're all treading the Acceptance road, integrating diverse people, only to be staggered by such legislation clarifying that our leaders are on a different track.

The Nation state law, passed a few weeks ago, has deep implications on Israeli society. I believe that the real implications on the workforce we're all making a living from, will be felt soon. For years now, unemployment rate has been low, the employment market is almost at capacity with a never- ending need for more workers in general and hi tech specifically- Israel's economic growth engine. It seems the workers are nowhere to be found. At the same time, number of computer science graduates from Arab society is rising exponentially, in contradiction to their ability finding employment and earning income. The gaps are widening and instead of taking proactive actions to close them, a law is legislated that will deepen and solidify those gaps for coming generations.

On the one hand, there are thousands of open positions, alluring offers to import engineers from China and India. On the other hand, there are university graduates, talented and motivated, looking for the right opportunity to integrate. If we thought it's difficult to integrate Arab graduates in the workforce until now- this legislation may leave us hopeless.

For over a decade, itworks has been working day and night to build the necessary bridges into the employment world. Bridges that connect employers to marginalized populations which, to them, dignified employment and integration into quality employment is a fantasy. Why is it a fantasy? Because what the Nationality law is trying to accomplish is categorization of individuals by criteria that doesn’t, and shouldn’t, have any relevance to employment: religion, gender, race, sex.

In recent years, we've identified openness in governmental corridors and that hope has been found in the form of statutory partners and policies. Employers were quick to understand the important role Arab society has in the workforce, that it'll be difficult to maintain a business for the long haul without them. But today, the Nationality law undermines that.

Whether we’d like to admit to it or not, Arab society is part of us. They're citizens contributing to Israeli economy- as workers and consumers. Now, when the Nationality law brands them officially as second-class citizens, how will we ever succeed in integrating them into the workforce and be part of Israeli society and economy?

I hope we’re still on our way to a more equal society. I hope we're wiser in our fight to protect our right: to have children, to earn a living and to lead an equal life excluding prejudice and irrelevant markings. Israeli citizens are "voting with their legs" taking the protest to the streets. I'm hopeful employers will see through all this and open employment opportunities to the Arab society allowing them to integrate like everyone else.