Saturday, August 8

Demonization in Israel

The intense and cruel summer with its merciless sun is upon the people of Israel. Israel, being part of the Middle East, also shares the same intolerable heat with its neighbors. Things seem to be more intense here. Behavioral patterns of many people deteriorate and tolerance levels between people lowers.

Something is rotten in the State of Israel. It is common practice to demonize the Palestinian People irrespective of whether they are associated with a terrorist group or not. Generalizations are common place. These stereotypes are held with a passion. The problem is that those who generalize against another people are not immune from generalizations towards their own.

In Jerusalem, the wrath of the ultra-Orthodox was leashed against the car park being opened on the Sabbath in the city center. Garbage cans were set on fire. Street lamps were smashed and those who "desecrate the Sabbath" were stoned. This has been going on for weeks now. Is this the "United Jerusalem” Israel portrays to the world? Jerusalem is a divided city - divided between Palestinians and Israelis as well as between Ultra-Orthodox and secular Israelis. Surely the time is ripe to accept this and recognize Jerusalem as the capital of two states, Israel and Palestine! The Haredim (Ultra-Orthodox) must decide whether they are part of Israel or Palestine. The extremists amongst them are against Israel and do not accept Israel's jurisdiction over them.

Any attempt to "unite" Jerusalem is futile! A two-state solution with Jerusalem as the capital of both Israel and Palestine deserves support. There is no third way.

Some elements in Israeli society are developing disturbing patterns of violence and intolerance to those who are different.

The attitude towards migrant workers is shocking if not inhuman. It all began with the legalizing of contract labor from overseas. Many unscrupulous contractors enlist foreign workers by enticing them to come to Israel to work under contract. This is done by emissaries who go to countries where the economic situation is poor and many people are looking for a way out. The Philippines, Thailand, Nigeria, and India are a few examples. These workers replace Palestinian workers who are unable to get permits to enter Israel to work. On arrival, the reality is far different to what was promised. Many contracted workers have their passports confiscated by their contractors and are housed in overcrowded inhuman conditions. The salaries they receive are poor. Many of these workers are employed as care givers for the elderly, agricultural workers, building laborers and other jobs that Israelis are not prepared to do.

When their contract expires, many remain in Israel illegally. They are hounded by the immigration police who imprison them under inhuman conditions until deportation to their countries of origin. Some of these workers are married and have children born in Israel. These children are Israelis, know only Hebrew, and attend Israeli schools. They live in intense fear of deportation and their parents are on the run in fear of being discovered by the immigration police known as the Oz Unit. To date no solution has been found to legalize these people's status in Israel. A three month reprieve has been given in order to find a solution.

The authorities consider the migrant workers a threat to Israeli job seekers. The truth is that they are no threat. They seek jobs that Israelis are not prepared to do. This is why contractors enlisted them to work in Israel. They did this by stealth.

Mobsters initiating gang wars leave a trail of blood because of targeted killings for revenge. Unfortunately innocent bystanders are caught in the crossfire. Recently there was a tragic attack on a lesbian and homosexual support center in the center of Tel Aviv. The perpetrator shot and killed 2 people and wounded 15 others. The police to date have not found the killers. The motive for the killings is unknown. Speculations are countless. There is one theory that could hold water. Homosexuals and lesbians are considered bestial and are much maligned by the religious extremists including their mentors well represented in the Knesset and their "rabbinical sages" who pull the strings in decision making at a national level. They must share the blame for the atmosphere leading to these brutal killings. They have virtually outlawed the right of homosexuals to lead their lives according to their choice. One need not overstretch one's imagination to realize that a religious extremist could take it open himself to murder homosexuals for their sexual preferences as they have committed a sin worthy of capital punishment according to his mentor's interpretation of the Torah.

On the Palestinian track, there is an uneasy calm on Israel’s borders. No progress has been made for finding a solution to the conflict. Hamas has ceased its violence against Israel. Is this the lull before the storm? Violence could begin at the slightest provocation.

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