On March 30th Advocates of the Israeli Association for Civil Rights (ACRI) petitioned Jerusalem District Court on behalf of WAC. The petition came after the Registrar of Non-Profit Associations, Attorney Amiram Boget, informed WAC of his refusal to register it. Boget justified this refusal by recourse to reasons that we in WAC find unacceptable. He objected, for example, that WAC had called itself a Non-Profit Association (NPA) before he had approved it as such. Other reasons included the fact that under the name of WAC we celebrated the First of May, and that we organized a protest vigil at the Employment Bureau in Nazareth in support of the jobless from Ein Mahel, an Arab village. From Boget's letter it appears that he has been following WAC and its activities as a trade union, and that the aim of his refusal is to stop those activities.
WAC has decided to open a public campaign in Israel and abroad in order to explain the dangerous nature of the Registrar's decision. We shall also collect signatures in support of recognizing WAC as an organization that defends the rights of Arab and Jewish workers, especially the more impoverished among them.
Of the reasons Boget gives for refusing to register us, the first is a formal one. He claims that an NPA by the same name already exists, a fact that precludes his adding another with that name. This claim is doubtful: WAC first attempted to register in 1998. The registrar then asked us to make a few technical changes in the application, saying he had no objection to the name. After WAC complied with his requests, he added more, leading us into a run-around that has lasted two years, and now he says that during these years another group has come along and used the name.
The second excuse was the one we have mentioned: WAC called itself an NPA before the Registrar had approved it. Such a reason flies in the face of common sense. In a nation-state where freedom of assembly is permitted, one cannot prevent a group of people with a common interest from organizing for voluntary action. WAC's application to register as an NPA was merely intended to organize its activities better, to facilitate financial management and to report on itself to a recognized body, namely, the Registrar.
The falsest, most disparaging claim appears in Article Four of the Registrar's refusal. He claims, first, that WAC organized a gathering for the First of May in Nazareth and second, that it brought about "severe disruptions of order at the employment bureau of Upper Nazareth in October 1999, when they organized a violent demonstration of jobless workers from the locality of Ein Mahel." The registrar added: "It is a matter of patently illegal activity, which even reaches the level of criminal offenses of misrepresentation and apparent disruption of public order, and in the light of Article Three of the law, it is not possible to approve the registration of the NPA."
WAC is proud of the fact that it organized a gathering of workers to mark the First of May, a day revered by workers, and we do not see this as a criminal trespass or a disruption of public order. As for the protest vigil of the jobless from Ein Mahel, WAC did indeed organize such a demonstration at the Employment Bureau in Upper Nazareth on October 13, 1999, attended by two hundred workers from Ein Mahel. WAC informed the police in advance of the gathering, and order was maintained.
On another occasion, however, when the unemployed of Ein Mahel sought an audience with the director of the Employment Bureau, and he dismissed them with disdain, they demonstrated inside the bureau and some were arrested. WAC supplied their legal defense, and it condemned the behavior of the bureau director, who had taken part in the bureau's policy of racial discrimination, depriving the workers of their rights. As a result of WAC's struggle against that policy, the unemployed of Ein Mahel have received most of their rights back. WAC has now petitioned the High Court concerning the practices of the Ministry of Employment.
In the registrar's refusal to register it, WAC sees a dangerous violation of its democratic rights. Such political persecution returns us to the days of the military government over the Arabs in Israel. The Registrar of NPA's would appear to be nothing more than a tool in the hands of the government and the financial moguls, whose interest is to preserve the monopoly of the Histadrut in trade-union matters. The reason for this is that the Histadrut enables them to exploit low-income workers, especially Arabs.
WAC wishes to stress that until we attain our right to be registered we will continue to serve the workers as we have done till now. No one will keep us from fulfilling our duty in serving the most oppressed in our society.
We call on our supporters to send letters of protest to the Registrar of NPA's:
Attorney Amiram Boget
Ministry of the Interior
Kaplan St. P.O.B. 6158
Kiryat Ben-Gurion Jerusalem 91061
Mr. Ehud Barak
Prime Minister's Office
Please send copies to WAC.
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