It sounds like something that might have occurred five decades ago, when Jews of different backgrounds, immigrants of just a few years in the newly-formed state, were just learning to get along with each other – but this story of anti-Sephardic discrimination took place just recently, and involved Israel Aircraft Industries, one of the country's most prestigious companies. The Tel Aviv Labor Court on Sunday ruled that IAI had discriminated against a job applicant on the basis of his ethnic background, and the company was ordered to pay the victim NIS 50,000 in compensation.
The victim, Mishel Malka, is of Moroccan Jewish descent, and he applied for a job as a paramedic at IAI. Malka holds a degree in emergency medical treatment, and has significant experience in field first-aid.
Malka said that he applied for the job and was rejected out of hand. A friend of Malka who is an IAI employee delivered his resume to the head of the company's medical department, Gil-Ron Bar-on, and said that his reaction to the resume was “what kind of name is this? Who is this 'street rat' (the Hebrew term is ars) that you brought to work here?”
Malka said that when his friend reported back on Bar-on's reaction, he decided to submit another resume, with the same experience and information – but using the name “Meir Malchieli.” This time, he said, Bar-on called him in for an interview immediately.
In response, IAI said that there was racism but it was not a factor in its hiring practices, and that Malka's resume was evaluated in the way all others were evaluated. Testifying in the case, Bar-on denied the claims made by Malka's friend, and stressed that the candidate's ethnic background had nothing to do with his not getting hired.
Awarding Malka the NIS 50,000, the court said that the evidence showed otherwise. While the question of who said what when was a matter of one party's word against the other, said the court, the fact that Meir Malchieli was called in for an interview immediately is not. Racism against the Mizrachi community is still alive and well, the court said, “and we must recognize this as a first step to eliminating this racism.”