Wednesday, November 27

Israel and the Foreign Workers

“For use by white persons” – sign from the apa...
“For use by white persons” – sign from the apartheid era Español: “Sólo para blancos” – letrero de la era del apartheid (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Jewish Law of Return passport stamp
Jewish Law of Return passport stamp (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is a healthy development for people to integrate in their adopted countries. Many foreign workers arrived in Israel as refugees, or because of economic reasons in their countries of origin. Both groups seek a better life for their families. It is a natural phenomenon for people to leave their land of birth for other countries. 

They seek a livelihood and a better quality of life in another country. Naturally every group has its "rotten apples". Israel has received its fair share of "rotten apples" in every group that arrived, including many Jewish immigrants - yes - I mean it - Jewish immigrants! They are not the "Chosen People". Such a concept does not really exist except in the mind of racist, rabbinical bigots of which there is no shortage in Israel. Their influence on the Ministry of the Interior is great. The various "who is a Jew?" issues are still alive and kicking, even though it is dormant now. If your Jewishness is in question and you decide to come to live here, it is a hellish experience under the tentacles of the Ministry of the Interior and it’s "Holy Rabbinical Establishment Allies (HREA)” I think we should change the abbreviation from HREA to UREA, the U standing for “Ugly”! This does not mean that one must generalize or demonize any group that arrives here for whatever reason, irrespective of race, color or religion. If the Israeli Authorities accept them, it is irrelevant whether they are refugees or foreign workers. They must be given every opportunity to work and their offspring given the right to a decent education.

I think of Filipino caregivers who look after our aged and are devoted to them. At the end of the day, they are deported if they stay beyond 5 years and do not manage to find another job when their employer passes away - a true cruel "swinging-door policy created by the Interior Ministry, who view the Foreign Worker as a threat to Jewish identity and a move towards assimilation in the Jewish State. Why can we not be more accommodating and not be paranoiac over the danger of assimilation if there is any danger at all. The danger is in the mind of religious rabbinical bigots of the ruling Orthodox persuasion who creates division amongst Israel's citizens. After all, assimilation is healthy for the gene pool. Let us stop thinking in "national socialist terms" of racial purity.We,as Jews, have been down that road not so long ago. Many of us had close family murdered in the Nazi holocaust because they were Jews and a threat to the "herrenvolk" of Germany.

If Israel views itself as a democracy, and expects the world to see them as such, it must cease to hound foreigners by using the notorious Immigration Police that instills fear into these people by demanding them to show them their permits on demand to be in Israel. There are many informers (“stinkers” or “shtinkerim” in Hebrew) working for the Immiigration Police that ferret out foreign workers whose permits have expired.

This reminds me of apartheid South Africa, where I was born and educated. In those dark days, Black People had to have passes (the “dompas”) to work in white areas of South Africa. I remember as a teenager visiting Johannesburg and hearing an ear-splitting siren at 9.00 pm every evening. I asked my host what was the reason for the siren. I was told that after 9.00 pm the Blacks must disappear off the streets of the White areas or be arrested and if they did have a pass with their employers address, the employer would come to the police station to bail them out from the over night prison cells.

Many foreign workers in Israel have jobs that Israelis refuse to do. The caregivers, most of whom are Filipinos, care for our aged for many years until they pass away. They are on duty 24 hours a day and bear a great responsibility for their well-being as many are unable to help or feed themselves. The devotion of the caregiver is absolute in most cases. They never complain and are amazing. They perform jobs such as changing diapers of the aged that are incontinent, bathing them and doing so with love and care.

When the aged people under their care pass away, they have a problem. Apart from mourning the person they loved, they face deportation.  This can occur after a month. Is this the rewards these people, who have sacrificed their personal freedom for those under their care, deserve?

Care-givers do deserve more freedom to go out to visit their friends and get refreshed. Many work all day every day without even a day off or even being aloud the company of friends where they are living. Of course, everybody needs friends in his environment especially when off-duty. This hardly occurs in the case of the Filipino care-giver. There does seem to be a lack of sensitivity of the guardian of the aged towards this vital issue. The result is a form of indentured labor without freedom.

Many care-givers “burn out” because of stress. Some guardians or members of family install cameras in the homes of the aged and there are cases of violence against the aged under the care-giver. They take out their frustrations because of their situation of stress under their rigorous 24 hour schedule. Situations like this could be avoided if the employers of care-givers show more sensitivity to their needs. Unfortunately many care-givers are exploited by family of the aged under the care-givers care. They often use these care-givers to do housework. This is not in their contract.

What has happened to Israel? Instead of welcoming the stranger into their midst they are great at public exercises to show how great they are. They gave aid to the Philippines to areas stricken by the typhoon Orlanda. However, in Israel the foreigners are exploited and fear deportation. The Law of Return is applicable to Jews only. Why can we not be like other countries? Nobody says that Israel must take in everybody. No country on earth takes in potential immigrant indiscriminately. Foreigners, who are suffering in their home countries, and whose lives are endangered, are offered asylum in Israel. Many of these people are forbidden to work. They turn to crime. South Tel Aviv is an example of the severe problem created and the Israeli Authorities must share the blame.

Care-givers deserve better and they should have committees that attend to their rights in a more serious way than at present. The exploitation of these good and devoted people is a severe problem that has been overlooked by the government. Is this because they are not considered the “Chosen People”?

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Wednesday, November 20

Iran Nuclear Deal and Israel

Iran's history of hate for Israel since the 1979 revolution that toppled the Shah, and the policy of the first Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini, has continued unabated until this day. It is a paradox that the P5+1 are about to sign a treaty with Iran in order to ease the crippling sanctions imposed on it. Iran has not been brought to its knees yet and the P5+1 are showing signs of weakness towards Iran when it really should not.

Israel and all the Arab States including the Palestinians are under threat of a possible nuclear conflagration with Iran. Iran's policy of dominating the Middle East cannot be ruled out. It is unlikely that the Sunni Arab States will support Shiite Iran's quest for more influence and domination.

I wish that I could say that the Iranian regime hates Israel because of Israel's occupation of Palestinian lands. This is clearly not the case. Iran does not care about the Palestinians and makes cynical use of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict for their own political agenda of domination and influence in the Middle East.

History has a cruel habit of repeating itself in different contexts. If one were to re-examine history, we see that the same mistakes are made. An evil power will try and woo its potential enemy to make peace so that their evil agenda can be carried out unabated. An example of a big mistake occurred just prior to the World War 2. On 30th September 1938, Prime Minister of Britain at the time, Neville Chamberlain stepped off a plane after having signed a peace treaty with Adolf Hitler. He delivered his famous "Peace in Our Time Speech". Hitler had already embarked on his policies of annihilating the Jewish People, Gypsies and other peoples whom he considered inferior and needed to be exterminated to keep the Aryan race pure. This was a miserable period in British history - appeasement of an evil dictator, by a "peace treaty" that was not worth the paper on which it was written. Britain had embarked on a policy of allowing Germany to carve up Europe "for the sake of peace". There was no discussion about cessation of murder of so-called "inferior races". This was conveniently overlooked by Chamberlain. The parallel here is that Prime Minister of Britain, David Cameron, has made a courtesy call to President Hassan Rouhani (who is Khamenei's puppet) of Iran. Is Britain, like the US and EU, going to be a partner to repeat the same mistake of Neville Chamberlain in 1938? Khamanei is no paragon of human rights in Iran. Have we forgotten Iran's Green Revolution of 2009 when the opposition to the autocratic Khamanei regime was cruelly crushed by his puppet, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the Holocaust denier? Nothing has changed for the Iranian People in improving human rights.

The anti-Israel rhetoric has not ceased. Israel has every right not to trust Iran.  The purpose of the Rohani tactic is to ease the sanctions on Iran. However Iran will continue its nuclear programme clandestinely. This can be viewed as a danger to Israel and the Arab World. It is hoped that the soft-serve, pleasant rhetoric of President Rohani is not a cover for something more sinister in the mind of his boss, the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamanei. His word is the law and President Rohani's placating talk is music to President Obama's ears and the P5+1. Another hint of Iran's "peaceful intentions" is the unveiling of a new drone with claims that it can reach Israel. This drone called "Fotros" is claimed by Iran to have a range of 2000 Km enough to reach Israel and most of the Middle East. A country producing these drones does not do so unless it has an ulterior motive apart from a psychological one. It may be capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. Who knows? Can Israel and Saudi Arabia trust a country like Iran? It has nothing to do with Netanyahu's serious disagreement with the US. It goes far beyond that. If Iran showed signs of compromise and its attitude towards Israel would change to one of recognition, we would be the first to say to the P5+1 "Go for signing an agreement with Iran"! However, this is not the case.

There is a temporary problem in the signing of a treaty with Iran but at the end of the day they will sign. Iran wants to have its cake and eat it. It wants sanctions lifted as well as continue its nuclear programme to produce a bomb. Iran has secret enrichment facilities which will not be open for inspection. We cannot afford to be bluffed by Iran. If Khamenei and his evil secret police organization - SAVAK - are ruling Iran then we have every reason to doubt Iran's "peaceful" intentions. Iran is far from being a paragon of human rights. Its agenda is far from being open. We cannot afford to pander to Iran's whims and fancies.

The Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, is the most powerful authority in Iran. The previous president,  Mahmoud Ahmadinajad, was more blunt in expressing his hate for Israel. All the presidents of Iran are subordinate to the Supreme Leader. This is no less true of Rohani. He has to carry out orders from Khamanei even though his tactics differ.

Time will tell whether Iran is trustworthy or not. It is not beyond our suspicion that Iran will hide some of their nuclear facilities from inspectors if there will be an investigation.

It looks as if Iran, EU and the US are on the eve of embarking on a honeymoon in untested waters. Iran still remains hostile to Israel and is engaged in rhetoric against Israel's right to exist.

According to reports in Haaretz, Israel's allies are softening towards Iran, Britain and Italy are examples and this will snowball to include France as well. Naturally this is a worry not only for Israel but for Saudia as well. It could create an interesting scenario of bringing some form rapprochement between Israel and Saudi Arabia, with possible military cooperation between them against Iran.

One of the conditions that should be insisted in the Geneva talks should be Iran's recognition of Israel's right to exist as well as the cessation of nuclear activity before sanctions against Iran are lifted. Unfortunately, this has not been achieved and the policy of appeasement reminiscent of the "Peace in our Time" era of Chamberlain on 30th September 1938. 
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Saturday, November 9

Peace Talks between Israelis and Palestinians

Iran is talking with two voices. One voice to placate the US Obama administration with the "Ruhani moderate tactic" and the other voice to negate Israel's right to exist. Hardly surprising! Netanyahu uses the same tactics' support for a two-state solution to placate the US, while creating a situation on the ground that ensures this will never occur. The Netanyahu government continues to build settlements on Palestinian lands occupied by Israel in 1967. This is the very antithesis of a two-state solution. Even John Kerry, the US Secretary of State has made this clear to Israel in no uncertain terms.

However, on the issue of Iran, Netanyahu is correct. The US and its European partners seem to be adopting a policy of appeasement of Iran in the Geneva talks. A feeling of deja vu, maybe? In 1938 prior to the World War 2. Neville Chamberlain the PM of England at the time, negotiated with Adolf Hitler to prevent the outbreak of war. Human rights abuses in Nazi Germany against Jews, Gypsies and ethnic cleansing policies of the evil Nazis were overlooked. We all know the results of that! History has a cruel way of repeating itself. Iran is no paragon of virtue and, even though the negotiations with Iran have failed so far, the Russians under Putin towing the US behind will pressure the signing of an agreement which will be Iran's gain and the free world's loss as Iran has no intention of ceasing to produce uranium for the bomb. Why does Iran need nuclear energy when they have so much oil and also the expense involved while the country is crippled economically? Apart from that, Israel has every right to fear Iran developing nuclear capability. Iran wishes to "destroy the Zionist Regime". Nothing has changed in Iran! Iran is still under the rule of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and what he says is law. They are allies of Hezbollah and Bashar al Assad. Europe and the US fiddle in Geneva with them while the Middle East burns! If Iran adopted a different attitude towards Israel and recognized its right to exist while opposing the occupation then the situation would be different.

Also the chief Palestinian negotiator is the proverbial "resigner". Over the years of negotiations since the Oslo Agreements Dr Saeb Erakat has "resigned" numerous times over the same issues of disagreement and when he plays the brinkmanship game he somehow withdraws his resignation. Nothing has really changed. If anything, the two-state solution is.becoming less credible as the expansions of illegal settlements in the West Bank increases.

Facts on the ground have caused the two-state solution to become a dream or an idea that will never occur. Netanyahu knows that it will not happen, despite his verbal support for a two-state solution.

The Israelis and Palestinians are negotiating hot air under US auspices but both sides know that it is a futile exercise in polemics. The talks will drag on for the designated 9 month period and then what? The predicted break up of the talks will occur because Israel does not really have the desire to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This is a tragedy for both sides as each side has its own claims and counter-claims which are so incompatible towards reaching a just and permanent solution.

What is characteristic about these negotiations is the total secrecy and the atmosphere under which the negotiations are being conducted. Most of us are in complete darkness as to its progress (or lack of it). It seems as if John Kerry has put a lot of eggs in the basket of the two sides to prevent a breakdown. One thing is for certain, there are no breakthroughs nor will there be in the near future. It is a polemic exercise to satisfy the ego of the Obama Administration. Occasionally there are mini-leaks of lack of progress but the show must go on until the nine-month deadline is reached come what may. Tzippi Livni, the Israeli negotiator, has her hands tied. Netanyahu has his right wing Bayit Hayehudi with Naftali Bennett at the helm to placate, including the right wing settlers in the occupied territories. Every time there is any minuscule sign of progress in talks, the right wing scream "Gewald!" and threaten to bolt the government. A greater exercise in futility in these negotiations is unimaginable.

Every time the going gets tough for Israel and news of illegal increased settlement activity gets to the press, Netanyahu resorts back to the Iranian nuclear threat as a digression and the importance of increased sanctions against Iran. While the Supreme Leader of Iran Khamanei as mentioned earlier wishes to see Israel annihilated, Netanyahu is not achieving anything by pandering to his right wing partners, who are not willing to support any form of peace treaty with the Palestinians. Surely this is a "Catch 22" situation for Israel which shows no signs of changing.

Netanyahu has scored  a "victory" by the acquittal of his right wing partner, Avigdor Lieberman, the ex-Foreign Minister soon to be reinstated as Foreign Minister once more, as the three judges in his bribery and corruption case ruled that he is innocent after an investigation of 17 years including a number of hearings in stuffy smoke-filled interrogation rooms, Israel-style, by the police investigators. This is another smack for the peace negotiations. Lieberman is an uncompromising right-winger who shoots straight from the hip and as foreign minister he has done a lot of damage to Israel's image in the world. He will be a severe obstacle to any form of compromise with the Palestinians. He will continue to damage Israel's image even further in the future.

There are strong doubts, despite Lieberman's acquittal,  to his innocence. He had one of the best criminal lawyers, Dr J. Weinroth defending him. He is one of the country’s best-known lawyers, having represented Israel’s Presidents and Prime Ministers. Market surveys in the Israeli press, and surveys among the country’s lawyers, have consistently placed Dr. Jacob Weinroth as the lawyer most people would like to be represented by in any litigation. Dr. Jacob Weinroth is an expert in criminal, corporate law, and dispute resolution in Israel. It is the same old story. The more money one has the more justice one can buy, this is especially true in Israel, where a public figure, who is essential for the ruling government coalition, has possibly done a deal with the state prosecution team where files that could incriminate Lieberman were conveniently omitted from evidence that could have resulted on a different judgement on Lieberman.

It seems that if a public figure such as Avigdor Lieberman, essential to the Netanyahu Government, who has a number of criminal suspicions against him, it is prudent to pronounce him innocent because possible  witnesses in the Foreign Affairs Office have no doubts that the long knives will come out which could cost them their jobs. They probably had a gut feeling that Lieberman would return to be their boss. Straw companies of which Lieberman had interests were swiftly signed off to other family members leaving him as pure as driven snow. Something is rotten in the court system of the State of Israel. The irony of it all is that the Minister of Police is in Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu Party. Lieberman is very powerful and Bibi Netanyahu will be saddled with him as Foreign Minister because of his innocence, not because of his misdemeanors, as the judges who acquitted him, had pointed out.

These developments will make negotiations with the Palestinians even more complex as if it is not complex enough. The Lieberman-Bennett-Feiglin axis will be a severe stumbling block to a peace agreement let alone a two-state solution.


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