Thursday, January 16

Xenophobes in Israel

It is a very sad, unpleasant fact that we Israelis have forgotten our tragic history. Our ancestors were persecuted in Europe for centuries because they were Jews. The climax of persecution was the Holocaust during the notorious Nazi rule in Germany, when six million Jews were slaughtered for just being Jews. The world did nothing to prevent this "ethnic cleansing" (to use a modern term that has become trendy for the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians) that was not only carried out against Jews but also against other minorities such as Gypsies, Slavs, homosexuals and opponents of the Nazi regime in Germany.
Sudanese Demonstrators

Over the weekend of 11th January 2014, the ex-Prime Minister of Israel, Ariel Sharon passed away after being unconscious for 8 years. He was buried on 13th January 2014. Everything came to a stop for two days and all the other problems, including those of xenophobia, were shelved for the duration.
Now with all the ceremonials of Sharon's burial over we can return to our routines.

The problems of foreign workers and refugees in Israel remain. There does seem to be a lack of distinction between foreign workers and refugees from the Sudan. What is important to remember is that both groups have much in common concerning the attitude of the Israeli Government towards them. Both groups need work to survive economically.

The reasons for both groups being here are different but the result is the same. Many foreign workers are here because of the "swinging door" policy of the Ministry of the Interior. These workers are no threat to Israeli workers as they do menial labor that Israelis are not prepared to undertake. Jobs like care-giving to the aged, agricultural work, cleaning staff who works under sub contractors and the building trade, are just a few examples of work that is no threat to employment of Israelis.

Refugees are housed in camps in the Negev under shocking conditions and their freedom to find work is undermined.

In many countries, refugees are given the opportunity to become citizens of their adopted countries. Their offspring have the right to education and most become loyal citizens of the countries that have given them shelter.

Foreign workers, and in this category I wish to use the care-giver as an example of a gross injustice by the Israeli Authorities. The arm of the law is the dreaded Migration Police.

Rose Fostanes who came first in the X-Factor TV show in Israel

Care-givers perform a devoted service to the elderly under their care. Their job is being on duty for 24 hours a day and many do not even have free time. Many aged people have Alzheimer’s disease, depression and other chronic diseases. They are dependent on nursing care. Care-givers have a hard time trying to find a replacement in order to have a break from their very exhausting routine. This is essential for their well-being. Working with incontinent aged as well as feeding them also has a heavy price on the care-giver's mental health. This very often results in physical abuse of the aged by the care-giver who is caught in a trap because of the stress under which they work.

These matters are hidden very often from the public. There is exploitation of the care-giver in many cases. Not only do they care for the aged, they cook and clean the house as well which is not part of their contract. The employer breaks the law as care-givers were granted visas for that purpose only but the employer or their guardian uses these people for cleaning and cooking. According to the law they are not allowed to receive pay for extra duties not stipulated in their visas. This creates a situation of abuse of the care-giver for which he/she has no address.

The aged under nursing aide care very often pass away and the care-giver must find a job within a month or they lose their working visa in which case they are considered illegal and are sent to detention centers to await deportation when discovered. The Immigration Police do spot checks of foreign workers at various centers where they are known to congregate. This is a humiliating experience for foreign workers, whose permit has expired. When the victim of a Migration Police round up asks why he/she is being detained, the answer is "We are only carrying out orders!" Is there a feeling of déjà vu in this answer?

The "swinging door policies" are a kick back from the days when Eli Yishai of the xenophobic Shas Party was Minister of the Interior. The policies towards the foreign worker and refugee are based on a xenophobic fear of assimilation which is viewed as a danger to Israel's character as a Jewish state.

The ramifications of this go even further. If there is the demonization of the non-Jewish foreign worker and refugee, it snowballs and the cry of danger to Jewish existence in Israel becomes exaggerated.

Right wing yeshivas know how to exploit this situation and the racist rabbis of these institutions are the chief culprits of creating hatred towards the non-Jew. The brainwashed students, who were educated in these yeshivas under the influence of these rabbinical bigots, create destructive groups such as Price Tag who regularly go on the rampage destroying property of Palestinians, including mosques and churches. The amazing outcome of this is that nobody has been apprehended. Is it possible that vandalism not aimed at synagogues but at churches and mosques, is overlooked?

Another aspect of xenophobia Israel Authority-style is detention without trial. Mandatory laws are enforced creating tremendous difficulties for the foreign worker and refugee. Surely these people should have the right to appeal against deportation orders if these orders are felt to be unjust.

There are care-givers, mostly Filipinos, who have given years of faithful service until their employer passes away. This creates enormous stress to the care-giver who is on the horns of a dilemma - finding a job within a month or face detention and then deportation.

A care-giver, who has a permit only to work as such, cannot work in another position. I think of the Filipino winner, Rose Fostanes, in the recent X-Factor competition on Israel TV Channel 2. She cannot develop her singing career in Israel as she has a permit to work as a care-giver only. She may perform in concerts without pay. She cannot enjoy the fruits of her success in Israel. The reason - xenophobes have crept into the law - making processes with the idea of preventing assimilation that is viewed as a danger to the survival of Judaism in Israel.

Is Israel becoming a racist state? Foreign workers who have lived in Israel for many years and have made a great contribution to alleviating the suffering of our aged deserve to be given the option of becoming Israeli Citizens. This will not be a danger to Jewish survival.  

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