Jewish-Arab relations in the workplace prove resilient despite the ongoing crisis

 In blog

Photo: Jewish and Arab business leaders commit to shared existence with the President of the State of Israel, Nov. 2023.
Photo by: Amos Ben Gershom, GPO

The ‘Iron Swords’ war has created a critical challenge for DEI in the workplace, especially regarding Israeli Arab-Jewish relations. While Media and news channels tend to paint a grim picture, the situation in workplaces, though highly sensitive, remains stable and perhaps even hopeful. It is encouraging to see the commitment and uncompromising stand of the business sector to ensure a safe work environment for all and a vision of a shared existence. This was affirmed by business leaders, both Arab and Jewish, at a recent meeting with the President of the State of Israel.

Why is DEI so important now?
The majority of large businesses employ people from all population groups in Israel and are in fact a kind of microcosm of the Israeli society.
In the Israeli society at large, the tension between the groups is rising. Recent research indicates that each group assumes that the other will act in violence towards it, however violence towards the other is not widely supported within each group. Nonetheless, the immediate consequences include a drop in trust, and a rise in feelings such as anger, fear and hate.
It is unrealistic to assume or expect that ongoing events and social tensions can be left outside the boundaries of work and that business can carry on as usual. Therefore, businesses are required to be proactive, now more than ever, and boost their efforts to maintain a safe work environment for all.

Corporate response and action since the outbreak of war:
Over the past few years, the business sector’s commitment to DEI has risen, with numerous businesses initiating policies and programs, working with a number of highly effective NGOs to better create a sense of inclusion amongst Israeli Arabs. Those businesses have now been setting the tone of immediate response to the threats posed to diverse workplaces.
Among the main actions already being implemented:
– A dedicated workplan for managing DEI during this time of crisis.
– Workshops for managers on how to manage their diverse teams.
– Creating a mechanism for dealing with controversial incidents among employees.
– Taking extra steps for protecting employees.
– A dedicated hotline for support in a variety of languages (Hebrew, Arabic etc.).
– Internal communication strategy for addressing the topic.
– Strengthening work of ERG (Employee Resource Groups).
– Representation of diverse groups on the teams managing crisis-related issues.

Maala is working with organizations specializing in inclusion of Israeli Arabs to both support corporate efforts in the day-to-day challenges, as well as ensuring widespread support for Israeli Arab inclusion. The Co-Impact initiative, one such organization, recently facilitated a meeting with over 30 senior business leaders, both Jewish and Arab, and the President of the State of Israel to address these exact issues of Jewish-Arab relations in workplaces and how to ensure safe work environment, while reducing fear and increasing trust between the groups. The business leaders unanimously emphasized their determination to continue promoting a more equal shared society. Employment diversity, equity and inclusion, alongside organizational resilience, are crucial to achieve those goals, especially during the current crisis.

Looking ahead:
The Maala DEI Index 2022 showed that Israeli Arabs comprised around 11% of the workforce among large businesses. While these numbers are continuously on the rise there is still a way to go to reach their share of the general population. When looking at management the situation is less positive, with 5% in mid-level management and a mere 1% in senior management.
Maala is currently developing a more rigorous data-driven approach to DEI based on a new set of indicators, dashboard and tools in order to better equip companies to manage the crisis and make sure that inclusion of Arabs will keep its momentum.


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