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Jerusalem, September 9 - New legislation brought by the left-wing Meretz Party would outlaw what it calls manifestations of discrimination on the basis of religious belief, making it a crime to refuse to hire a Muslim as a bartender simply because his religion forbids him to serve alcohol.
A bill co-sponsored by Meretz MKs Tamar Zandberg and Ilan Gilon was submitted to the Economic Development Committee today, that would make it a misdemeanor for a caterer, restaurant, liquor store, or bar to discriminate against a Muslim applicant because he may refuse to serve alcoholic beverages. The bill sets a NIS 10,000 fine for a first offense, NIS 20,000 for a repeat offense, and six months' imprisonment or two years' community service for anyone who violates the provision.
Zandberg said she was moved to introduce the bill after realizing that despite years of patronizing establishments in virtually all of North Tel Aviv, she had not once spied a bartender in traditional Muslim garb, and concluded that discrimination must be the root cause of that absence.
"We must take down all barriers to gainful employment for all citizens if we are to claim the mantle of a progressive, democratic society," said Zandberg. "Muslims are not to blame for the strictures of their faith, and it is up to our society to accommodate them in any way we can. A bar owner or manager who sees fit to exclude a person simply because that person's religious observance keeps him from performing all the functions of the position engages in religious discrimination and will be penalized."
Gilon told reporters the original draft of the legislation also included more sweeping provisions, but that they scaled back its contents to make the shifts more manageable. "We intend to reintroduce the other elements in separate pieces of legislation later on," he explained. "For example, while the current proposal does not include anything other than the alcohol issue, by January we will tackle other types f discrimination that are just as troubling in a democracy. By way of illustration, currently there is nothing that prevents law enforcement agencies from banning violent criminals from joining the police force. This is a clear violation of those potential police officers' rights, as it unjustly curtails their employment prospects."
"Additionally, we are looking into the practice among academic institutions of only accepting applicants with a certain level of academic achievement," he said. "That is a gross violation of less-accomplished applicants' rights."
Gilon and Zandberg added that the provision to bar religious discrimination explicitly did not include religious Jews, who should know better than to cling to that outdated, barbaric system.