Israeli-Arab women protest unemployment, go racial

Posted: March 14, 2009 by Jonathan Boyko in Israel, Israeli Palestinians
Israeli-Arab women unemployment demonstration

The banner says: "Want work not unemployment"

Saturday was a somewhat unusual day for Tel Aviv residents, as Israeli Arab women marched through the city, protesting high unemployment rate in Israeli Arab female sector. The women stated they have a right to provide for their children.

Which is all nice and great, if the wouldn’t turn the issue into racial one:

“There is a deliberate policy of ‘importing’ foreign workers which leads to unemployment among women in the Arab sector,” Michal Swartz of the Workers Advice Center told Ynet.

“(Foreign workers) make up 50% of the agricultural workforce, effectively closing the door on it as far as Arab women are concerned. We demand this modern slavery trade stops in favor of job openings for Arab women.”

The government may say the sector’s unemployment problem is not its responsibility but rather the making of the global economic crisis, she added, “but this has been an unspoken policy for the past 15 years and no one cares because after all – these are Arab women from the periphery.

See? It’s governments policy in the past 15 years to close the door for Arab women.

That statement is, of course, ridiculous. Unemployment rate is high all over the country, including areas and industries with relatively little Israeli Arab presence. Foreign workers – from Thailand, for example – were hired by Israel agriculturers themselves, without government needing to create a “policy”, for a simple reason – foreign workers are cheap. The situation is same in many countries, and is especially visible in the United States, where outsourcing abroad is reaching great proportions. I could beleive those women demonstrate just now, because the economic crisis leads to many of them being fired.

Yet, it is unfortunate they do not understand that statements like ones made by Michal Swartz hurt them – a lot – as Israelis are tired of hearing about discrimination. Israeli-Arab sector blames Israeli government and Israelis themselves for discrimination, while forgetting the need to be loyal to the state, waving Palestinian flags on demonstrations and openly supporting Hamas and Fatah.

I am quite ready to beleive there is a discrimination in Israel against Israeli Arabs. Yet, the problem is way less within the Israelis than what Arab representatives try to present. First of all, it is clear that in today’s world, education is very important – the higher, the better – and while this generation of mature Israeli Arabs was growing, this factor was way less important, as many worked since being young – while the Israelis gave high priority to education. It is also important to understand, that for many Israelis entering Israeli-Arab town, villages and neighborhoods is outright dangerous and no one likes being stoned by youth, thus projects, that require high presence of Israeli officials on Arba-controlled territory (the mayor, municipality workers, advisers, etc.) are hard to implement, as each such arrival requires great security expenses, especially on the part of the police force.

So while I can understand Arab women’s frustration with the system, their position is not unique, and turning the issue as being Israelis against Arabs is ridiculous.


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