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The Other Israelis

Posted on Aug 7, 2011
Albert Sabaté

South Tel Aviv is one of Israel’s most diverse neighborhoods, with migrant workers and Israeli citizens of diverse backgrounds living in close proximity.

By Mary Slosson, Albert Sabaté, and Andrew Khouri

(Page 4)

Such regulations are a violation of basic human rights, said Kav LaOved’s Lebovitch.

“Who on earth has the right to tell you not to have a child? Not to start a family? Asking about regulating that it is ridiculous, because no one is allowed to regulate such a thing,” she said.

But Aren De Silva and her family have been given new life.

In April, the Israeli Supreme Court struck down the regulation. Workers can now remain in Israel with their children until their allotted 63-month employment period ends. New regulations, the court said, must not “unreasonably and disproportionately [violate] human rights, which should be guarded vigilantly.”


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The ruling, which stemmed from a 2005 suit brought by Kav LaOved, was a major victory for migrant workers and their children, one helped tremendously by an Israeli coalition composed of human rights groups, Jewish citizens and the workers themselves.

Since the government began formulating plans to deport scores of children two years ago, numerous Israelis and American Jewish groups have come to the aid of immigrants. Of all people, Jews—who have been subject to persecution for centuries—should recognize the plight of the children, they argued.

“It is sad to know the country can treat children like this,” said Michal Katz, an 18-year-old Israeli scout, who showed up to support the children at the Purim bash.

As part of her service in the scouts—a Zionist youth group that allows Israelis to defer army service for a year—Katz volunteers at Bialik-Rogozin, a South Tel Aviv school that serves migrant and refugee children and was featured in an Oscar-winning documentary.

“[The children] don’t want to go to another country. They don’t know other countries,” she said, adding that she noticed more Israelis turning against plans to deport the children.

“Those kids have a lot of support from the citizens in Israel,” she said proudly.

But the country constantly frets over demographic challenges to its Jewish majority, especially from its Arab citizens, who make up 20 percent of the population and maintain a higher birthrate.

“We all feel and understand the hearts of children,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last year, quoted by The New York Times. “But on the other hand, there are Zionist considerations and ensuring the Jewish character of the state of Israel. The problem is that these two components clash.”

At the March Purim festivities, Dave De Silva dismissed the notion of sending Drew Jade to the Philippines to ensure his family’s legal status as “idiotic.” Although he holds a conditional residency card, Dave said lawyers have warned him he could face deportation if his family is discovered.

“For me, I decided my son rather than the paper,” he said, as Aren and Drew Jade played on a seesaw perched on a green-topped playground teeming with other Filipino children.

Migrant workers are treated “like animals,” Dave said in March, explaining workers are imported to construct buildings, take care of the elderly and grow crops, but then forced out for the simplest human act.

“We are people who come here to work,” he said. “It’s natural: We fall in love. We have kids. We get married. But they don’t understand it. They think this must be religious, this must be Jewish.”

Reached by phone after the ruling, the 20-year-old father was unaware of the change in law. Dave said he has tremendous respect for the Israelis who have advocated for him and his family. However, he said, that respect doesn’t extend to Israel’s government, not even the historically liberal Supreme Court.

“I don’t trust them,” he said. “They will keep on catching kids.”

The Ministry of Interior has suspended its plans to deport the children and parents of migrant workers who became illegal under the former pregnancy regulation, said Lachmanovitch, who charged that illegal workers use their children as anchors to stay in Israel, even though many became illegal only after giving birth.

“Until the Supreme Court changes its mind, we will stop sending them back,” he said.

But for some, the ruling came too late.

In March, Kav LaOved’s waiting room bustled with workers seeking help navigating a complicated bureaucracy that governs their lives while in Israel.

In the corner, Aradhane cradled her 2-month-old baby girl, Alisha. The newborn was wrapped tightly in a multicolored blanket; nearly hidden from view except for a small, white fleece hat festooned on her tiny head.

The pair wouldn’t be together for long.

In four days, Aradhane said she planned to leave Israel, drop Alisha off in India, and then return in May to resume caring for elderly Israelis.

“I am going to leave [her] with my mother, because there is no choice,” the 30-year-old caregiver said in a reserved tone tinged with sadness. “Every time they scare us. They say ‘Children has to go, children has to go.’ ”

As of the Passover holiday, the government had deported seven women and eight children since announcing its plans last summer, according to the Hotline for Migrant Workers. About 400 children and their parents were targeted for deportation in August.

“If the government of Israel doesn’t want these children, they should stop bringing their parents,” said the hotline’s Rozen. “But as long as they bring their parents, they cannot ignore the fact that they are humans and not work machines.”

In 2010, 32,000 migrant workers entered the country legally on work permits, according to a government report. Approximately 211,000 migrant workers were in the country that year, the report said, about half of them illegally.

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By Inherit The Wind, August 10, 2011 at 12:02 pm Link to this comment

There have been numerous cases here in the US of flagrant abuse of immigrant workers, particularly home workers. Just pick up your local newspaper and you’ll find them. Some have been truly disgusting, holding passports and visas illegally, withholding wages, demanding sex, physically abusing, even torturing those helpless to resist.

And that’s not nearly as bad compared to the sex slave trade, which has gotten far worse since the Iron Curtain fell.

The line between consensual prostitution and sex slavery (which is, of course rape, kidnapping, and forced confinement, all of which are felonies) is very, very thin. 

I would guess (and I have no statistics) that only the highest priced call-girls and Nevada Bunny Ranch types actually can choose not to be prostitutes.  The rest face everything from beatings to murder if they refuse or try to escape.

The problem of mistreatment of non-citizen “guest workers” is universal.  Why is it a surprise that Israel’s no more immune than any other nation?

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By LocalHero, August 10, 2011 at 9:06 am Link to this comment

Nothing new here. Just more barbarism practiced by the terrorist-bandit state of “God’s chosen people” and it fits nicely with their organ-trafficking operation.

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By sand11, August 9, 2011 at 5:25 am Link to this comment

There is only one word to describe this whether it takes place in America or Israel: human trafficking. And it all takes place under a thin veneer of legality as long as one does not look too deeply. The exploitation of workers who are merely trying to make a better life for themselves and their families is shameful and to excuse it by saying that it happens in other countries also is beyond criminal.

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By walterbard, August 9, 2011 at 4:00 am Link to this comment

Yes there is a migrant problem worker problem in Israel, as there is in the United States and many other countries. But like the United States Israel is a Democracy with a free press. Haaretz has had articles on the problem and even more rightwing papers such as the Jerusalem Post have
discussed the issue. There are Israeli laws against exploitation that should be more vigorously enforced,
as in the United States. There are migrant worker rights groups in Israel, with many Jewish
Israelis participating. Many migrant cases have been brought before Israeli courts,
with favorable outcomes. 
Of course a virulent anti Israel rag such as Truthdig(liedig) predictably published an article which cherry picks it facts and quotes. Of course the exploitative treatment of some migrant workers
is wrong and should be corrected. But compared to the exploitation of migrants in Arab countries
it pales in significance.  What about Saudi Arabia? What about the massacre of Sudanese in
Egypt? One thing is certain Liedig will scrupulously scrutinize Israel for any wrong, ignore the efforts of Israel to correct them. And of course the wholesale violations of human rights
in Arab countries, in Gaza, in the West Bank are never given as much scrutiny by Liedig.But then
there is no free press in Gaza and the West Bank
so we rarely hear about human right violations there.

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By gerard, August 8, 2011 at 4:44 pm Link to this comment

What this points up, obviously, is the double fallacy of a nation-state whose citizenship is based on one particular religion—no different that being based on one particular race or one non-negotiable nationality. Any exclusion from full citizens’ rights makes for discrimination, second-class-citizenship, and exploitation.
  Worldwide it appears that nationhood is a remnant from pre-modern days, now rapidly giving way to international travel, communication, and all-too-visible disparities, unequal rights and opportunities, and gross differences between rich and poor.
  Nationalism will die hard,  however, due to old habits of thought and behavior, gross economic and educational differences and vast gaps between a relatively few rich, some middle (muddle) classes and billions in a state of desperate poverty.
  I believe the human race will muddle through - but
at the moment the problems are dauntingly complex and pressing. I believe it not because it’s obvious but because otherwise there’s no motivation to remain civilized (in the best sense of that word).

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By Arabian Sinbad, August 8, 2011 at 3:19 pm Link to this comment

I read this lengthy article through, up to each comma, period and other punctuation marks. However, I failed to understand the relevance of the article’s title to its contents!

My point is that the title of “The Other Israelis” is a very wrong title for such a piece, since the people whose human rights violations have been documented are not Israelis to start with. More appropriate titles for such a report can be:

* “The Sad Story of Migrant Caregivers in Israel”;
* “The Other Humans in Israel”;
* “Violations of Human Rights in Israel”;
* “When Jewishness Overrides Basic Human Rights in Israel”.

Though I commend the authors of this report for bringing up one dimension of human rights violations in racist apartheid Israel, I do wonder why they failed to give the report a more clear and appropriate title; or was it a deliberate choice of an editor at Truthdig to give this more subtle title for such unsubtle abuses in Israel?!

But what else do you expect from racist, colonialist, savage occupier, and apartheid Israel, artificially born in the womb of the racist whites of Europe, under circumstances of wars and colonialism, and artificially planted in the heart of Palestine to kill, dispossess and destroy the lives of the natives of the land?!

The final point: If they violated the basic human rights of the whole Palestinian nation, what is it for them to violate the human rights of few thousands migrant workers whom they would discard as pieces of garbage after they have exploited their noble work and sweat?!

Anyway, thank you Truthdig for helping to expose the fact that the idea of Israel was and is a cancer in the human body that should have not been allowed to exist, let alone to grow! With certain dangerous
diseases, preventive measures are the healthy way to deal with them!

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By talkmaster, August 8, 2011 at 1:31 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I stopped reading after the two words Jewish State

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By Mark P. Albright, August 8, 2011 at 1:02 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

You hardly need
travel to Israel to
document so tragic a
story. Large American
including the
country’s leading
meat packers,
routinely exploit
undocumented Mexican
workers as a source
of cheap, powerless
and readily
expendable labor they
offer up on a
rotating basis to
I.C.E. to meet their
enforcement quotas.
Don’t get me wrong -
I’m not saying the
situation described
in your story isn’t
appalling. I’m just
saying that “the land
of the free and the
home of the brave”
has every bit as much
blood on its hands,
and the documentation
of these horrors in
other countries
should not become an
excuse to deflect
well-earned criticism
of labor abuses right
here at home.

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