Several Israeli companies have taken a stance against the impending amendment to Israel’s law on discrimination. Israel Discount Bank, cloud security company Wiz, and More Provident Funds and Pensions have announced that they will not deal with businesses that discriminate against customers. This comes against the background of the commitment in the coalition agreements underlying the formation of Benjamin Netanyahu’s new government to amend the law on discrimination to allow privately-owned businesses to refuse to provide a product or service on the grounds of religious faith, as long as a similar alternative is available nearby and at a similar price. The measure is at the insistence of the Religious Zionist party.
The significance of the amendment has been made clear in interviews with MK Orit Strook and MK Simcha Rothman, who represent the party. Strook said, "If there is a medical procedure that is contrary to Jewish law, a religiously observant physician will not be compelled to perform it, irrespective of the identity of the patient. In the State of Israel, which was founded after 2,000 years of exile thanks to Jews who gave up their lives for the sake of keeping the Torah, a believing Jew will not be forced to transgress Jewish law."
In an interview on Kan Network B radio, asked whether a religious hotelier would be able to choose not to host a group of homosexuals, Rothman replied that he would, "if that is contrary to his faith and injures his religious feelings."
In response to Strook and Rothman’s remarks and the publication of the proposed amendment, Israel Discount Bank, headed by Uri Levin, issued an unusual statement. "The bank will not award credit to businesses that discriminate against customers in the State of Israel," the statement said.
A statement in the name of Israel Discount Bank chairperson Shaul Kobrinsky said, "The board of directors has adopted the recommendation of the bank’s management to revise the bank’s credit policy to state that Discount will not award credit to a business or organization that discriminates against customers on the grounds of religion, race, or sexual preference. We saw fit to amend the bank’s credit policy so that the obvious is given official force. This is our obligation and responsibility as an important business organization in the State of Israel."
Cybersecurity company Wiz, headed by co-founder Assaf Rappaport said in a statement, "The company requires all its suppliers to commit to preventing discrimination of any kind. Wiz believes in the values of equality and human dignity and makes them a central concern. The calls to erode these values as recently heard in Israel’s political arena are causing great concern at the company, and we are committed to doing all we can to prevent discrimination of any kind, including on the grounds of race, religion, nationality, country of origin, gender, and sexual preference."
Wiz set two conditions for any company dealing with it: "Any company dealing with us will not discriminate against a person for any reason… in receiving products and services or entering premises where the service is provided, except when this arises from the nature of the product, service, or place, even if this becomes permissible under the proposed amendment to the Prohibition of Discrimination in Products, Services, and Entry into Places of Entertainment and Public Places Law. The contracting company will undertake to impose a similar obligation on any company with which it has dealings."
Wiz stated that "Failure to agree to commit to these principles, or their breach, will constitute cause for Wiz to terminate any business engagement with the contracting company."
Wiz does not work with government ministries, but it provides services to Israeli banks, and to health funds where doctors or nurses will be able to refuse medical treatment if the proposals in the coalition agreements become law. Hotels and supermarket chains are also among Wiz’s customers, and they too could exercise discrimination under the proposed legislation.
Rappaport’s former partner Michal Braverman-Blumenstyk, a corporate vice president at Microsoft Corporation and general manager of Microsoft’s Israel Research & Development Center, posted a similar declaration on her LinkedIn page, though without the threat of discontinuing service. "Microsoft is a diverse home where racism does not enter. Diversity is the reason for the company’s success. Israel is a democratic and moral country and it must remain so if it wishes to stay alive. There is no place for discourse that encourages racism and discrimination of any kind in a decent society."
Team8, which forms and invests in technology companies, stated, "Our success and the success of the entire Israeli economy depends on mutual respect and avoidance of discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, gender, or sexual preference. The Team8 group believes that diversity is a key to its success and is proud of the equality of opportunity that it gives to women and men of different backgrounds."
More Provident and Pensions Funds: We won’t invest or give credit
The investment committee of More Provident Funds and Pensions has announced that it will not invest in or award credit to a business or organization known to discriminate among customers on the basis of religion, race, gender, or sexual preference.
Keren, chief investment officer at More Provident Funds and Pensions said, "As a financial institution that manages savers’ money, we believe that our responsibility does not end with professional and responsible investment management, but also extends to promoting values of diversity and inclusion. The decision not to invest in or award credit to organizations that discriminate on the basis of religion, race, gender or sexual preference highlights our sense of responsibility towards our customers and business partners, and the community in general."
AIG: We’ll stop insuring a business that discriminates
Insurance company AIG Israel has decided not to insure any business that exercises discrimination of any kind.
The company said in a statement, "AIG stands for the promotion of values of equality, tolerance, and human dignity and freedom, and will not accept actions that erode these values by its insured parties and its suppliers."
AIG Israel CEO Yifat Reiter said, "AIG has always set the values of tolerance, equality, and acceptance of the other at the top of its order of priorities. We have not agreed in the past, and we will not agree now, to accept words and deeds that injure different sections of Israeli society. With 2023 upon us, racist and discriminatory discourse is unconscionable. I call on leaders of the economy to act determinedly and to uproot this unacceptable phenomenon."
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on December 27, 2022.
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