Jerusalem, Dec. 7 – An Israeli court ruling in favor of an individual woman shed light Thursday on the state of Israel’s democracy and individual rights in the days leading up to International Human Rights Day this weekend.
A court in Rishon Le Zion ordered the Egged Bus Company to pay a woman 4000 shekels ($1100) compensation after the driver ordered her to the back of the bus "away from the men," the Yisrael Hayom newspaper reported.
In the past months media reports have covered attempts by orthodox sectors to restrict women’s activities, including segregation. However, the court ruled that the incident was a serious case of sex discrimination that contravened a 2010 Israeli Supreme Court decision prohibiting forced separation between men and women on buses. In response, Egged said the driver’s behavior was not characteristic of the company.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was proud of Israel’s “record as a vibrant, pluralistic, democracy – a democracy that has maintained its values despite security challenges faced by no other nation on earth. We’re proud to be a country that is governed by laws, not men -where protests in town squares is a way of life. It’s not a sign of revolution."
“A genuine democracy is what we’re about – not merely a majority vote, but individual rights, protected by an independent judiciary,” he said in a recorded speech released in advance of International Human Rights Day.
“We’re proud that in the Middle East, where women are stoned, and gays are hanged and minorities are persecuted, Israel has a woman who’s a Chief Justice,” Netanyahu said. “We have gay pride parades. We have over 1 million Arab citizens who are free. They’re free as I hope 300 million Arabs in the vast Middle East will be free one day.”
“Perhaps there is such a future beckoning us and we hope that in the coming year we’ll see the advance of human rights in a region where they've long been denied, but I assure you one thing, Israel will continue to proudly raise the torch for freedom and human rights.”