JERUSALEM, Dec 26 (Reuters) – Several leading Israeli companies pledged on Monday to strengthen their internal anti-discrimination rules after hard-right members of Israel’s new government made comments seen as undermining gender equality and minority rights.
The remarks, including a call to cancel the Jerusalem Gay Pride parade and another to ease a ban on individuals who support terror or racism from running for parliament, alarmed many Israelis and prompted a warning from the country’s president.
On Sunday, a member of the far-right religious Zionist party – a party in Prime Minister-elect Benjamin Netanyahu’s new coalition – told public radio that hotels and doctors should be allowed to refuse service on religious grounds. People provide services only if others are available.
Leading hospitals and healthcare providers apparently responded by posting a video declaring: “We treat everyone.”
On Monday, Israel Discount Bank (DSCT.TA), the country’s fourth-largest lender, updated its credit policy, saying it would not extend loans to groups that discriminate against customers based on religion, race, gender or sexual orientation. Its chairman said the update “officializes the obvious”.
Wiz, a $6 billion cybersecurity firm, said on Monday that it would only work with companies that are committed to preventing such discrimination, saying it would terminate its business relationship if it violated that rule.
“The recent calls heard in the Israeli political scene for the removal of fundamental rights are of serious concern to our society,” Wiz said in a statement.
The head of Microsoft’s (MSFT.O) research and development center in Israel also joined the discussion on Monday.
“Israel is a democratic and moral state that must remain so if it wants to survive,” Michal Braverman-Blumenstyk posted on LinkedIn. “Speech that encourages racism and discrimination of any kind has no place in a normal society.” place.”
Netanyahu, who plans to hold a vote of confidence in his new religious-nationalist alliance in parliament on Thursday, has vowed to uphold the principles of tolerance. His political opponents have accused the veteran conservative leader of being vulnerable to the policy demands of his far-right allies.
In a largely symbolic role, Israeli President Isaac Herzog warned on Sunday against potential harm to individual rights.
Netanyahu has drawn criticism after appointing Avi Maoz, a far-right politician with a history of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, to head a new “National Jewish Identity” agency that has powers over some school activities. Criticism by dozens of local authorities.
Maoz said he was not against homosexuality, but against the LGBTQ movement, and called for the cancellation of the annual Jerusalem Gay Pride parade.
Reporting by Steven Scheer; Editing by Ari Rabinovitch, Gareth Jones and Howard Goller
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