The State of Israel imposes a regime of intentional systemic discrimination designed to maintain the supremacy of the Jewish people over the Palestinian people. This regime is akin to apartheid and to US Jim Crow laws. When companies operate in such an unequal setting, they are likely to exacerbate existing inequalities.
This section of Investigate includes companies whose business policies or practices discriminate either between Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel, or between Israeli citizens and Palestinians living under Israel’s military occupation. Such discrimination may take the form of:
- Discrimination in public accommodations, such as when a company provides its services to one population but not the other, or when the quality of its services are determined by race or national origin
- Workplace discrimination, for example in unequal salary or discriminatory hiring practices, unequal safety conditions, or when a company benefits from Israeli unequal labor protection laws.
Many Israeli state laws officially discriminate between the Israel’s Jewish and non-Jewish citizens, the majority of whom are Palestinian. According to Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, “direct and indirect discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel is ingrained in the legal system and in governmental practice.” Palestinian citizens of Israel face state-sanctioned discrimination in the areas of citizenship rights, land ownership, employment, access to health, education, and more.
In the occupied West Bank, Palestinians are subject to Israeli military law, while Israelis who reside in Jewish-only illegal settlements are subject to Israeli civilian law. Human Rights Watch called this two-tiered system “separate and unequal,” invoking the US legal doctrine that allowed racial segregation under Jim Crow laws in the US, and added that Israel gives “preferential services, development, and benefits for Jewish settlers while imposing harsh conditions on Palestinians.”
In 2017, the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) released a report that examined the Israeli treatment of the Palestinian people. The report concluded that the Palestinian people is living under “an apartheid regime,” and that Israel “is guilty of the crime of apartheid,” as it is defined in international law.
According to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, companies are expected to conduct a “human rights due diligence process to identify, prevent, mitigate and account” for their business activities’ impact on human rights. The global prohibition on racial, ethnic, or religious discrimination, both intentional and inadvertent, is one of the core tenets of international human rights law, so much so that it must be upheld even in times of public emergencies. In addition, there are emerging international norms prohibiting discrimination against minorities and indigenous peoples. With regard to work-related discrimination, companies have a responsibility to respect, in addition to any country’s domestic labor laws, the rights declared by the International Labour Organization in its Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, which include a prohibition on “discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.”
AFSC’s work against discrimination stems from the Quaker Equality testimony. We reject all forms of discrimination, whether based on race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, immigration status, class, gender, age, ability, or sexual orientation. We work to change the beliefs, practices and institutions that perpetuate prejudice, and we support affected communities in seeking their own liberation and equality.