So says Yuval Steinitz, Israel’s so-called finance minister who has no previous experience with finance. Steinitz had this to say about why so many Palestinian Israeli women are unemployed:
Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz…said at a recent conference on discrimination that Arab society in Israel is partially responsible for the low levels of employment for Arab women.
…The finance minister added that the low rate of participation of Arab women in the labor market was characteristic of societies in Arab countries.
…The “cultural obstacles, traditional frameworks and the belief that Arab women have to remain in their hometowns hold back this population’s integration in the work force.”
There are a few problems with Steinitz’s claim, namely that the facts get in the way. The Israeli NGO Sikkuy has done a survey of college-educated Palestinian Israeli women and found that 11,ooo are out of work. A separate study found that 58% of these say they want to work but cannot find a job. Only 29% say they are not working for cultural reasons. 21% of Palestinian Israeli women work while 51% of Israeli women overall work. The former figure compares unfavorably to other Arab countries. Even Saudi Arabia and Oman, two of the least likely nations in which to find women working, the percentages are 29 and 27%. The numbers are even higher in Morocco (41%) and Mauritania (63%).
What does this mean? Besides meaning that Yuval Steinitz knows next to nothing about the conditions in which fully 20% of Israeli citizens live and that he seeks to absolve his ministry of any responsibility for their problems, it means that Israel places huge barriers in the path of Palestinian Israelis who wish to work:
…The poor infrastructure and almost total absence of public transit to and from the Arab villages play a central role in the women’s social exclusion and have a negative effect on their ability – though not their desire – to join the work force.
A 2007 survey by the Kayan feminist organization for Arab women in Israel found that the public transit to and from 11 Arab communities in the Galilee and the Triangle region was less developed than the transportation in other parts of the country. The buses do not usually enter the Arab villages, forcing passengers to get on and off the bus at junctions leading to the villages. In addition, the buses only come in the early morning and at the end of the work day. For the most part, the buses run on main thoroughfares and through Jewish towns, and there is only one bus that serves a number of Arab villages, making the ride slow and tedious.
To this must be added the shortage of government employment assistance – there are only 14 Employment Service branches in Arab communities – and the lack of suitable employment training programs. Other factors that contribute to the low employment rate include the shortage of day-care centers in Arab towns (of 1,600 day-care centers for children under 3 that receive government assistance, only 25 operate in Arab communities) and government-supported industrial zones (only 3.2 percent are in Arab areas). In addition, Arab women constitute a mere 3 percent of civil servants, even though the civil service is the largest employer of women in Israel.
A number of right-wing readers here have propounded the same “explanations” as Steinitz for poverty among Israeli Arabs. This Haaretz article, written by Himmat Zoabi, coordinator of the Gender Studies Project at Mada al-Carmel (Haifa), the Arab Center for Applied Social Research, gives the lie to this entirely bogus claim. For a more detailed look at this subject, see her report Palestinian Women in the Israeli Labor Market (pdf).
“…the low rate of participation of Arab women in the labor market was characteristic of societies in Arab countries.”
This is completely bogus as you pointed out. And your reference to the lack of day care centers for “Arabs” in Israel reminded me that until George Bush so thoughtfully liberated Iraq, mothers who wanted or needed to work, and who did not have servants or family members to care for their children had available high quality state sponsored day care centers, something working mothers in the United States can only dream of.
An amazingly sexist and racist presumption on the part of Yuval Steinitz, but I can’t say that it’s surprising because it seems to reflect the attitude towards Arabs in general – that they are backward, ignorant and incapable of participation in “modern” society. Many times it is not tradition keeping women from getting good jobs; it’s attitudes like Steinitz’. How can a woman work if she cannot arrange care for her children? This situation is found in societies where a woman’s work is not seen as valuable to her society, and to imply that it is only Arab societies with this attitude is racist.
Steinitz is absolutely correct. Notice he says “partially”. Such complexity is apparently beyond the comprehension of the author the Haaretz article and readers of this blog who cannot understand that racism and sexism are not 100% responsible for everything they perceive to be negative. Also notice that the female employment rate in Saudia Arabia, Oman and Morrocco is lower than the total female employment rate in Israel so that the author did not in any way disprove Steinitz’s theory. In Mauritainia over 20% of children aged 10-15 work and child slavery is common (wikipedia) so I wouldn’t look at Mauritania as an exampe.
Richard Silverstein says
If he says “partially” but doesn’t acknowledge what the other causation is for this problem then he’s deliberately allowing you to believe that he believes culture is the major cause.
Don’t be dense, Amir. Steinitz claimed that Israeli Arab women refuse to work for cultural reasons & that their high unemployment level has little or nothing to do with closed economic opportunities. The best way to prove this is true is by comparing the employment levels for women in Arab countries to those of Israeli Arabs. Why should he include Israeli Jewish women in the comparison since they live by an entirely different set of rules & opportunities?
Exactly. Israeli Jewish women and Israeli Arab women live under incomparable circumstances. Steinitz’ claim that cultural restraints prevent Arab women from working is a blanket assumption which smacks of racism. Any close look at the employment opportunities for Arab Israelis in general is going to show that unemployment is higher for Arabs, which is evidence of the apartheid-like society in Israel.
Ha’aretz can’t be trusted because it is too ideologically slanted so I did a google search in Hebrew to see if anyone else covered this conference. This is what Steinitz said according to TheMarker dot com. (my translation): “The treasury has begun a series of discussions with the purpose of increasing participation of Haredim and Arabs in the workforce” He said “the main problem is low participation of Haredi men and Arab women in the workforce.” He said that “Haredi society (or culture) and Arab society (or culture) are partly to blame for their low participation in the workforce”
It turns out he’s not only racist and sexist, he’s also anti-semitic and sexist against men (/sarcasm).
This is how low Ha’Aretz has sunk, completely ignoring anything Steinitz said about Haredi men.
Richard Silverstein says
There only one problem w. yr comment. TheMarker.com IS Haaretz. There’s no difference bet. the 2 companies.
Everyone knows that Haredi participation in the work force is low. And everyone knows that the reasons for this have much less to do w. economic than religious/cultural reasons. The Haredi issue is entirely different than the issue of Arabs (men & women). The author of the article leads an NGO concerned specifically with participation of Arab women in the workforce. Hence the subject of the story.
So much for Haaretz conspiracies…
“The best way to prove this is true is by comparing the employment levels for women in Arab countries to those of Israeli Arabs.” Not true at all and to prove this I will change the wording a bit of the article using the exact same numbers.
“the finance minister added that the low rate of participation of Arab women in the labor market was characteristic of societies in Arab countries…The number of Arab women employed in Israel is very low … 21.1 percent this is comparable to the rate of women in the workforce in other arab countries. Saudia Arabia 29% and Oman 27%. In Israel, on the other hand, 51.3 of women are in the workforce. Even in Morocco fewer women participate in the workforce than in Israel. 41.9% vs. 51.3%.
Richard Silverstein says
So you’ve changed the wording & we’re still as befuddled as before about what you’re talking about. The statistic about all Israeli women is, once again, not applicable since it includes mostly Jewish women who do not face the same obstacles that Arab women do to join the Israeli workforce.
The last thing I wil say is the numbers for Saudi Arabia and Oman look fishy to me and most likely include foreign workers who are specifically there in order to work. I googled this too. There are twice as many non-Saudi women in the Saudi workforce than Saudi women.
The numbers for Morocco and Mauritania most likely reflect poverty and not feminism.
That is all.
Richard Silverstein says
Now you’re a expert demographer for Arab societies. How gifted you are. Why would the statistics include female foreign workers who are not citizens of the country. That makes no sense whatsoever nor do you have any proof whatsoever that what you guess is true.
If the numbers in Morocco & Mauritanian reflect poverty & a desperate need for work are you claiming that Israeli Arab families are so well off that the women do not similarly need to work?
One more thing. Here is a better article covering what Steinitz said though in Hebrew.
Arabs with Israeli ID can work for Arab companies. Why don’t they?
Richard Silverstein says
Can we please avoid nonsense?