Israel’s Foreign Labourers: Exploitation is the Norm

Photograph by Sharon Ben-Arie

A recent (November 26) report by CNN discusses a problem apartheid Israel is facing because of the Hamas uprising of October 7. The ‘journalists’ who wrote the article bemoan the fact that, due to that action, at least 10,000 farmworkers, and possibly as many as 40,000, have departed Israel since that day, and more are expect to leave.

This, of course, causes many hardships. “Without hands to work on the farms, crops and animals would have been left to die.” And, they lament, that without these workers, the future of Israelis farming on stolen land near Gaza will be impossible.

Oh, woe is me! The apartheid regime can no longer successfully exploit foreign workers, mainly from Thailand.

The writers of the article quoted anthropologist Matan Kaminer, who studies Thai labor in Israel. This quotation is interesting: “On Israel’s farms, ‘the vast majority nowadays of the kind of the people who are doing the grunt work, you know, the heavy work for low wages are Thai and have been since the early 90s….’”

In the United States, Canada and across the globe there are many organizations advocating for the rights of migrant workers. They work tirelessly, and with only minimal success, to prevent the exploitation of people who do ‘heavy work for low wages’, something that is common on farms in the U.S. and Canada. Migrant farm workers from Mexico especially, but from other countries in Central and South America, make the long and dangerous trek to the U.S. and Canada and work long, hard hours for low wages. Apparently, the same is true in Israel, with only the source nations being different.

One farmer quoted in the article “… said the manpower shortage has already forced him to abandon his tomato crop. Without the volunteers (Israelis who are assisting), the zucchini would have met a similar fate, he said. Long-term, he doesn’t know how he can keep his farm running at capacity without the return of foreign laborers.”

There are two crucial points missing in this article:

1. The article discusses how Israeli officials believe that Hamas was intentionally targeting the Israel economy, with nary a mention of how Israel has decimated the Palestinian economy over the years. The poor, unfortunate farmer whose zucchini might have met a tragic fate similar to that of his tomatoes is interviewed, but nothing is said about the millions of people who barely know where their next meal is coming from, due to the seventeen-year siege of Gaza.

2. We are told in the article about Thai migrants do ‘grunt work’; that is unskilled, ‘heavy work for low wages’. Does this not raise red flags to the ‘journalists’? Should there be at least some mention of the injustice of this exploitation? They actually say this in the article, with absolutely no critique: “Today, many farm workers come from poorer areas in Thailand’s northeast, providing a cheap labor force for Israel. Strict conditions govern their work in Israel, keeping them on short contracts in manual work, with no right to raise families there.” Is this not a step above slavery? Cheap labor, strict conditions, short contracts, manual labor, no families; why no mention of the gross and obvious injustice in this?

Are journalists supposed to be apologists for Israel? It is somewhat astounding that the people who wrote this article could discuss the calamity of Israel being deprived of its cheap, exploited labor force without mentioning anything about the victimization of the members of that labor force.

But not to worry! Israel, according to this article, despairing of the return of its exploited Thai workers, is now attempting to entice workers from other poor countries to do the job; Sri Lanka is the one country mentioned, but only as an example of the Israeli government’s noble effort to keep its agriculture economy afloat on the backs of another impoverished people.

One may have become accustomed to Israeli injustices over the years. While their main victims are the people of Palestine,  Ethiopians in Israelanti-Zionist Israelis,  Christians in Israel and many other ethnic and religious groups face brutal persecution in what the U.S. proclaims is ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’.

Today, as this is being written, there is a brief respite from the genocide of the people of Gaza by apartheid Israel. But the so-called ‘leaders’ of many Western nations have refused to demand a ceasefire, a demand that the U.S. could enforce by threating to withdraw the nearly $4 billion it gives to Israel annually. Instead, we hear that U.S. President Joe (Genocide Joe) Biden is working to convince Israel to end its genocide against the Palestinians.

But there is change in the wind; throughout the world, millions of people have taken to the streets in cities large and small, to demand a ceasefire. Biden’s re-election chances, never very strong in the best of times, have all but evaporated as he has lost crucial youth, progressive, Arab and Muslim support in states he needs to carry to win the election. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a man with no business being the head of a dog house, let alone a nation, has been stuttering and stammering and trying to backtrack, without actually backtracking, his unconditional support for Israel in the face of obvious genocide.

Articles such as the one from CNN discussed herein only demonstrate the blindness of the people who thoughtlessly proclaim that they ‘stand with Israel’, overlooking its many violations of international law and human rights, and its war crimes and crimes against humanity. But around the globe, as demonstrated even in cities that attempted to ban pro-Palestinian rallies (London and Paris are two), huge numbers of people recognize blatant, murderous injustice. It is long past time for their leaders to listen to them, and act accordingly.

History will judge Biden, Trudeau and many others harshly with the clear facts that these world leaders supported and even financed genocide.

Robert Fantina’s latest book is Propaganda, Lies and False Flags: How the U.S. Justifies its Wars.