Stop the Social Media Witch Hunt Against Arab Workers
Arab health-care workers have recently informed us and our colleagues at Kav LaOved – Worker’s Hotline that they have been summoned to pre-suspension disciplinary hearings, based on claims that their social media posts were “offensive” and “racist.” The wording of the summonses was both generic and uniform, neglecting to attach relevant material to indicate the posts in question. These letters were sent to workers on Friday in the evening hours, without informing union representatives and granting them the option to respond to or submit opinions. At the same time, far-right social media users led a witch hunt, wherein right-wingers searched for Arab citizens’ posts with the aim to get them fired. They circulated the profile photos of each worker who received a summons with the caption “we did it,” or simply a check-mark next to the consequences suffered by the worker: “suspended”; “fired”; etc.
Together with Kav LaOved, we contacted the Civil Service Commission and the Attorney-General, to demand that they issue clear regulations regarding permissible expressions of public employees in order to prevent witch hunts against Arab government workers. We also demanded that all the summonses recently sent by the Ministry of Health’s Disciplinary Department Director be nullified.
In our letter, Attorneys Michal Tajjer of Kav LaOved and ACRI’s Gadeer Nicola emphasized that the following constitutes political persecution of a minority: initiating disciplinary proceedings against a specific group of workers, who are members of a minority-group, while relying solely on information passed on by far-right actors, and ultimately issuing inadequate summonses to a host of Arab workers. They further noted that the Equal Employment Opportunity Act prohibits employers from discriminating against workers or job seekers, including removal from work, on the basis of worldview or opinion. Lastly, they cited the court’s previous ruling that a public employee’s right to express an opinion is restricted only if there exists near-certainty that such expression will harm the capacity for public service to function.
The Civil Service Commission’s Department of Discipline rejected our claims. The Ministry of Justice has since informed us that it is investigating the matter.
On 21.6.2021, we received a response that the Civil Service Commission, in consultation with the Ministry of Justice, refined the procedures for disciplinary proceedings regarding political speech and activities.