Israel’s Migrant-Labor Problems
Won’t go away, because Israelis won’t hire Arabs
The latest and longest in a stream of articles about Israel’s plan to deport a wave of illegal migrant laborers comes from Counterpunch magazine, which claims that Israeli finance minister Yuval Steinitz wants to expel 100,000 of those workers in the largest sweep since 2003. Yonatan Preminger, who’s described as being “active in the field of worker’s rights,” argues in the Counterpunch essay that these mass deportations will recur every few years until Israel stops importing cheap labor, mostly from Southeast Asia, instead of employing the Palestinian workforce in and outside of the Green Line. Even before the establishment of the Jewish state, Preminger contends, Jews in what’s now Israel have been trying to find a way around using Arab labor, whether to keep menial jobs for Jewish immigrants, as a security measure, or simply in order to “reduce the Arab presence on this piece of land.” That goal wasn’t fully realized, though, until the past couple of decades, as Israel’s economy has liberalized and become global, and legal and illegal migrant laborers from Thailand and the Philippines arrived in droves. (There are currently about 250,000 migrants in the country.)
Preminger’s essay ends on a bleak note: “Despite the economic crisis and associated rising unemployment, it is unlikely that Israel will wean its employers off cheap ‘foreign workers’ in favor of opening more employment opportunities to the Arab sector or Palestinians from the Occupied Territories: migrant labor has enabled Israel to open its borders to the globalized economy without endangering its Jewish identity, while bolstering the myth that Israel can be a country for Jews alone.”
The Strategy Behind Israel’s Migrant Labor Policies [Counterpunch]
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