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The Other Israelis

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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 5)

Needing the money and choosing not to live illegally, Aradhane simply referred to her choice as “the best solution.”

Lachmanovitch said he didn’t know whether Aradhane could bring her daughter back to Israel due to the ruling, citing his lack of training as a lawyer. He also couldn’t say whether the ruling would be applied retroactively.

“She can ask the Population Authority and they could give her the information,” Lachmanovitch said.


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Amid the chaos and clamor of the Purim party in Levinski Park, an Israeli playwright was painting faces. His father was an immigrant to the state of Israel during its tumultuous years.

“Especially as a society that knows exactly how it is to be a foreigner, it’s really shameful,” said Zadok Zemach, 43. “This country, after all we have been through, after all those years. I believe that these [migrant workers] are important to Israel.”

Zemach inadvertently struck at the fundamental difference between the waves of Jewish immigrants to Israel and the others, the ones who clean floors, take care of the elderly and build new homes.

“They’re not Jewish. That’s it,” said Lebovitch. “If they live here, they might even marry a Jew, and their children will not be Jewish which is like the worst thing that can happen in Israel.”

Late one Monday night in March, the lights in Kav LaOved were on late into the evening as migrant caregivers came to seek assistance for work visa, wage and workplace abuse issues.

Squeezing in interviews between counseling appointments with caregivers, the staff was working frantically to weave a makeshift safety net for these embattled workers.

“We are in a war,” said Shaked as a group of Chinese construction workers shuffled into her small office. “There is such a huge gap between the religious people and the secular people in Israel. The religious people are becoming more and more strong and opinionated.”

The religious people, like Yishai, who controls the Ministry of Interior, “have no tolerance whatsoever for migrant workers,” Shaked said. “I am afraid.”

Just down the hall, Lebovitch echoed Shaked’s sentiment.

“I’m not that optimistic,” she said. “I’m just hoping that it doesn’t get any worse.”


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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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LocalHero's avatar

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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sand11's avatar

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
agribusinesses,
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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