This study reveals tensions between Jews and Arabs in the Israeli Social Workers’ Union, examining the characteristics, experiences and functioning of the Arab minority representatives over the years until the recent election of a new radical socialist-feminist leadership. Data were elicited from semi-structured in-depth interviews with Arab delegates to the union. It was found that the policies of the union’s institutions discriminate against Arab social workers in three dimensions: (1) under-representation in all its organs, including participation in paid staff in the headquarters and district offices; (2) lack of attention to Arab workers’ voice in the union’s published platforms; and (3) lack of consideration of Arab social workers’ unique needs in programmes more appropriate for Jews. The union fails in its role as the formal and exclusive representative of Arab social workers, who suffer from discriminatory government consideration, including unequal budgeting, lack of recognition and lack of participation in decision making.
The research investigated the scope, motivations and implications of Palestinian minority social workers permanently leaving the profession. Semi-structured in-depth interviews were conducted with ten former social workers. It was found that leaving their social work posts, either temporarily or permanently, was a rare occurrence in Palestinian society. The few who abandoned the profession explained that two factors hindered their proper functioning and provision of appropriate services: a severe lack of essential resources; and inappropriate intervention programmes for the unique nature of Arab culture. Those who left the profession expressed satisfaction with their new careers, working as self-employed or senior employees, explaining that their new work compensated for the deficiencies endured in social work. Their departure seems to be a direct result of the socio-political context in which Palestinian social work develops, in particular, Israeli government policies that do not adequately address the needs of Palestinian society’s welfare services.
This article investigates the way in which disadvantaged minority social workers’ professional excellence is encouraged, drawing data from an analysis of primary documents and in-depth semi-structured interviews with 21 Palestinian welfare bureau managers in Israel. It finds that the Jewish voluntary sector is the sole player encouraging Palestinian minority social workers’ excellence, but its encouragement maintains the status quo regime, politicisation and alienation, and pushes towards neoliberalism. Most of the Palestinian welfare bureaus consciously prefer to avoid encouraging social workers’ excellence to avoid confrontation with the central government in the form of the Israeli Welfare Ministry. A small group of welfare bureaus sufficed with indirect encouragement, enlisting non-governmental organisations for the task because of the paucity of resources. A small number of bureaus that granted excellence certificates and a token gift applied three considerations. Excellence awards constituted a method for coping with the challenges facing Palestinian minority social work.
The article traces social work’s development in Israel’s Palestinian society from 2007 until a reform of the welfare bureaus in 2018, based on primary and secondary written sources, interviews with Palestinian social workers employed at the time, and a survey of social workers throughout the country’s Palestinian local authorities. Despite gains, social work in this society continued to face historical government-based obstacles to its professionalisation, namely, significantly reduced resources compared to its Jewish counterpart, absence of the Palestinian narrative in service provision and lack of Palestinian representation in policy formulation. The result was a continuing dual welfare system: one for the country’s Jewish citizens; and a significantly more restricted one for their Palestinian compatriots.