RAMALLAH, October 19 (JMCC) - Israel's obsession with maintaining a strong Jewish majority affects foreign workers living in Israel illegally, along with Palestinians, writes
Mya Guernieri for Souciant
Human rights workers estimate that thousands of foreign workers in Israel who have settled in the country and borne Israeli children are being denied visas because they are not Jewish. Many of these women came to Israel searching for work and were held as prostitutes against their will by human traffickers. Even after being freed, they are trapped by the policies of the state.
In the past, most of Israel’s traffickers were from the former Soviet Union. But a 2007 report on the topic, co-authored by Isha L’Isha and Hotline for Migrant Workers points out that these men were citizens of Israel who took advantage of existing holes in the legal system, lax enforcement, and judges who meted out extremely light punishments.
And even after the state buckled to American pressure and began taking the problem seriously, it sometimes neglected the victims. This is where the demographics come in.
Chaikin recounts the story of a woman who had escaped sex slavery only to find herself in Israel, stateless. Her former owners had stripped her of all her documents. And, with no way to identify her, embassy officials were reluctant to issue a passport.
Chaikin recalls approaching a Knesset member for help, “The Knesset member’s assistant said, ‘If we set a precedent for her [by giving her legal status], then we have to do it for the Palestinians, too.’”
“And that’s how I understood that, yes, this is political,” Chaikin says.