By Mary Slosson
Expert on the politics of the Middle East and USC Professor Laurie Brand pointed me towards some interesting reading on immigration and Israel recently — namely, that the tension between Israelis and immigrant workers began in the late 1990s, when the Israeli government began allowing foreign workers in order to replace Palestinian labor.
This Guardian article from 2003 details how one contingent of Chinese workers were “forced to agree not to have sex with or marry Israelis as a condition of getting a job,” and were “also forbidden from engaging in any religious or political activity.” Their work contract “states that offenders will be sent back to China at their own expense.”
Preventing assimilation into Israeli society was clearly the intended effect of such contractual stipulations. The Guardian further writes that “advocates of foreign workers, who also come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania, say they are subject to almost slave conditions, and their employers often take away their passports and refuse to pay them.”
Do such contracts still exist today?
It is clear that there will be many angles to the story of foreign workers in Israel: labor conditions, religious and cultural assimilation, political and civil rights, and more.