The Israeli licensees of the Yellow Pages trademark are allowing businesses to advertise themselves as Arab-free, using an old Zionist codeword.
It turns out that certain businesses advertising in the Yellow Pages in Israel use the term “Avoda Ivrit” (Hebrew Labor) in their adverts, to reassure readers that they won’t be interacting with any Arabs should they decide to take their business there. Happy days.
The term Avoda Ivrit harks back to a classic (and therefore, nostalgic and partly legtimized – see below) practice of the first Zionist communities in Palestine, who employed only Jews on farms, factories and so forth. At the time, it was described as a campaign to reduce (Jewish) immigrant unemployment and to solidify the Jewish Yishuv as an independent economic polity in Mandatory Palestine. In hindsight, Avoda Ivrit was the first modern segregationist institution in Palestine, and played a key role in ensuring that immigrant Jews never integrated with the Palestinian majority, contributing to turning existing tensions into the all-out ethnic conflict that has plagued the country for three-quarters of a century.
Since 1995, thankfully, employment discrimination by nationality has been illegal. The businesses that state they guarantee their customers will not have to interact with Arabs are violating the law. But since enforcing these laws against the businesses is likely to prove difficult if not futile, a campaign has now been launched to at least get the Yellow Pages to stop facilitating their discriminatory practice. The small umbrella organisation Shutafut-Sharakah has produced a short clip pointing out that prostitution ads are illegal and are not allowed in Yellow Pages, but Hebrew Labor , equally illegal, still gets a free ride. (Full disclosure: Our fab web manager Shir Harel also provided technical support for that campaign). I’m not sure a society as racist and sexist as ours will be particularly shocked by the comparison – I imagine precious few people go around reporting escort / massage parlours / prostitution ads on the Internet and in various small print publications – but here’s the clip:
Shutafut-Sharakah also offers a form that you can fill in, sending an email directly to Yellow Pages requesting they removing the term Hebrew Labor from their ads. The form is in Hebrew, but the order of the fields goes as follows: Name – Email – Subject line – Content – Tick here for updates from Shutafut-Sharakah – Send.
So far, Yellow Pages have been responding to protests with a uniform letter. It bears quoting here in full:
In the last two weeks Yellow Pages was approached several times from both sides of the spectrum on the issue of Avoda Ivrit.
First, we stress that the Yellow Pages company denounces any and all instances of racism and discrimination based on gender, race religion [sic], age and so on.
Secondly, Yellow Pages does not have and never had a category named Hebrew Labor. The business index of the company hold individuals and companies who added the words “Hebrew Labor” to their company name or the content of their advert, but Yellow Pages itself does not have bearing on this content. We should note that Yellow Pages serves as an advertising platform for its customers and is not responsible for the content of the adverts, most certainly when the adverts are by a business or a company licensed by the company registrar at the Justice Ministry. The company is not allowed [sic] to investigate the conduct of its customers beyond the advertising submissions done at their own risk.
We would also like to remind you that [Hebrew Labor] is a turn of phrase in use in Israel for many years, and using the term Hebrew Labor does not constitute a violation of the law. There are musical concerts, television programs, and more that also use this term, sometimes even in their title.
If there are indeed companies that have advertised themselves in the Yellow Pages index and actually engage in illegal activities (theft, discrimination and so on), they should be reported on this conduct to the relevant authorities, namely the legal authorities that enable that activity.
CEO Office Director
That letter is so convoluted and stumbling over its own feet it barely needs deconstruction. I just hope Shutafut’s next step will be placing advertising in Yellow Pages itself, under company names like “Hebrew Labor Cloak and Dagger solutions for business competitors” or “Hebrew Labor Burglars ‘R Us,” or “Small investment – big returns: Children kidnapping for Ransom, Hebrew Labor Ltd.” They can list the Yellow Pages’ own phone number for contact.