"The betrayal of a dream" - a letter from Israel

We have received this letter from a worker in Israel which highlights the injustices suffered by the Arab workers under Israeli rule and also the impasse ordinary working class Israelis are facing.

Israel is a phenomenon in more ways than one. It is a wonder, a success and a disaster all at the same time. It is a mixture of a bit of Europe, of course a lot of the Middle East, and what most Israelis dream of aspiring to and even worship, the good old US of A.

When it comes to the latter one can see all of its trappings, a love of the market (the bourse as it is called) the charge to be at the top of that oh so slippery pole at any cost.

Israel even has it's own version of Silicon Valley, a whole town where you can find all the big names: IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, Intel; the list is endless. There are also home grown IT companies all employing the best of Israel's grey matter. The story of Israel's high tech explosion is almost a mirror of that of its giant mentor with phenomenal success kids straight out of university earning great money. They are just like their counterparts in the 'Golden Country', as the States were always called by the Jews of Eastern Europe as they left the pogroms of their native lands and braved the hazards of the trip across the Atlantic Ocean to Ellis Island all those years ago.

And just like its mentor, the Israeli IT industry had to find cheaper sources of labour, as the market demanded. So just as many had done before, it went to India to exploit that country's wealth of brainpower.

But to Israel exploiting "third world" labour was nothing new. We are old hands at the game. In fact the whole of Israel's economy has been based on this since the first Jewish pioneers came from Eastern Europe with their high socialistic ideals in the late nineteenth century. They came with their Russian songs to which they put Hebrew words. They toiled the land with more than a little help from the local inhabitants, whose land it was anyway.

Everyone was equal except the local Arabs. The high ideals of socialism were, supposedly, too intellectual for these "primitive people" to fathom. This attitude was to set a trend that would embed itself so deeply into the mentality of the ruling elite of Israel - whom these early pioneers (some might say pirates) were to become - that it would even be applied to the Jews from the surrounding Arab lands who were brought to Israel after the establishment of the state.

The real poison of this attitude would emerge like a boil that had been festering away for a long time after the Six-Day War. In the space of less than a week this small country the size of Wales had more than doubled its size, and what is more significant, it had acquired more than a million Palestinians. Yummy, so much cheap, and boy oh boy do I mean CHEAP, labour to exploit. And so massive building projects were started, and the Sephardic Jews (historically the Jews of Spain, Portugal, North Africa and the Middle East, but nowadays used more as a term to describe those who came from the Arab countries) now became bosses, (they could also speak the language of the Palestinians) and so the oppressed became the oppressors.

No one should forget that whereas Israel, long before the foundation of the state, had established a labour federation called in Hebrew the Histadrut, this was modelled on the Soviet style of being the representative of the workers and also their employers. It owned all the distribution and processing plants for the country's agricultural products, and also many industrial plants. It also owned a bank, where of course all the employees of the Histadrut had to have their accounts to get their wages.

The Arab workers had no such rights. They were hired more or less on a daily basis, standing at road junctions picked out at random, in some cases just like in a slave market. This despicable practice continued right up to the outbreak of the first Palestinian Intifada (uprising). The Intifada brought with it closure of entry to Israel for the Palestinian workers causing shortages of labour for both the building trade and the agricultural sector as nearly all the fruit picking was done by Palestinian women, supplemented by oversees volunteers on the Kibbutzes.

After the signing of the Oslo Accords things returned to normal and things were more or less as they had been before, but the recession that was plaguing other countries had started to creep into Israel. With the outbreak of the second Intifada, eventually a complete closure of entry into Israel for all Palestinian workers ensued.

And so we return to the beginning of this little story of the curse of the market economy driven by market forces, the exploitation of cheap "third world" labour, but with a twist! Unlike the computer programming market, one cannot have the building of homes and the picking of homegrown fruit done abroad, so you have to bring the workers to Israel. Now this, one would think - taking into mind Israel's established work practices - would be a logical thing to do. The problem is that we have a situation here where 300,000 Israelis are unemployed, with a similar number of both legal and illegal foreign workers from as far afield as Thailand and China, now standing at road junctions waiting to be hired on an ad hoc daily basis. And both left and right wing governments seem to approve of this.

In fact there was even a government sponsored commercial on TV trying to get people to buy homes, condoning this practice, saying that the reason why foreign workers are working in the building industry is because Israeli workers don't want to do that kind of work. Of course they don't! Because although $50 a day for a worker from China is a lot of money to send home, an Israeli can't live on it in Israel after he or she has paid tax, something the foreign worker does not do! In fact Israel is one of the most highly taxed countries in the world. This is because of the continuing policy of slowly grabbing Arab land, and having to maintain one of the world's largest and most up to date equipped armies in order to pursue this colonial policy in a post colonial world.

And the saddest truth of the situation is that the Israeli workers who suffer the most from this state of affairs are precisely those same Sephardic Jews who have the lowest standard of living, who are the worst educated, but keep continuing to vote for the right wing parties who are against peace. This is because of the way the pseudo-socialists treated them all those years ago.

It is only true socialism charted out so long ago by Karl Marx that can ever bring peace, prosperity and social justice to all in the Middle East and the rest of the world.