JERUSALEM, Dec 26 (Reuters) – Several leading Israeli companies on Monday pledged to strengthen their internal anti-discrimination rules after comments by far-right members of Israel’s new government were seen as undermining gender equality and minority rights.
The comments, including a call to scrap the Jerusalem gay pride march and another to ban anyone who supports terrorism or racism from running for parliament, have alarmed many Israelis and drawn a warning from the country’s president .
On Sunday, a member of the far-right Religious Zionism party — one of the parties in Prime Minister-elect Benjamin Netanyahu’s new coalition — told public radio that hotels and doctors should be allowed to refuse services to people on religious grounds, provided others are available .
Leading hospitals and healthcare providers apparently released a video in response, declaring, “We treat everyone.”
On Monday, Israel Discount Bank (DSCT.TA), the country’s fourth-largest bank, updated its lending policy and said it will not lend money to groups that discriminate against customers based on religion, race, gender or sexual orientation. The chairman said the update “officially formalizes the obvious”.
The $6 billion cybersecurity firm Wiz said Monday it will only work with companies that have committed to preventing such discrimination and said it would terminate its business relationships if that were breached.
“The recent calls for the repeal of fundamental rights that have been heard in the political arena in Israel are of great concern to our society,” Wiz said in a statement.
The head of Microsoft’s research and development center (MSFT.O) in Israel also got involved in the debate on Monday.
“Israel is a democratic and moral country and must remain so if it is to survive,” Michal Braverman-Blumenstyk posted on LinkedIn. “A discourse that promotes racism and discrimination of any kind has no place in an orderly society.”
Netanyahu, who plans to hold a confidence vote on his new religious-nationalist coalition in parliament on Thursday, has vowed to uphold principles of tolerance. His political rivals have accused the veteran conservative leader of being vulnerable to the political demands of his far-right allies.
Israeli President Isaac Herzog, whose role is largely symbolic, warned on Sunday against violating the rights of individuals.
Netanyahu has faced criticism from numerous local authorities after he appointed a far-right politician with a history of anti-LGBTQ speeches, Avi Maoz, to head a new “national Jewish identity” agency with powers over some school activities.
Maoz says he is not anti-gay, but against the LGBTQ movement and has called for the cancellation of Jerusalem’s annual gay pride parade.
Reporting by Steven Scheer; Edited by Ari Rabinovitch, Gareth Jones and Howard Goller
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