In the midst of a wave of terror attacks, war in the territories, political crisis with Shas, and the emergency economic program, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon found time to order another 6,000 Thai workers to be brought to Israel - for the farms. But what about the building industry?
For years contractors have been claiming they are in desperate need of another 10,000 workers, a shortage holding up construction and development. So why have only the farmers been granted this boon? Is it because Sharon's family owns an agricultural farm which employs Thai workers?
Finance Minister Silvan Shalom toured part of the Trans-Israel Highway this week and saw foreign workers building the road. He immediately voiced his complaint: "It is inconceivable that while there are 250,000 unemployed Israelis, so many foreign workers are employed building this road."
Uri Savyon, managing director of the Derekh Eretz company constructing the road, was quick to explain that there are also many Israelis employed in its construction work. But Savyon need not have apologized. Instead, he should have sent Shalom to Sharon - and let him explain.
Bringing another 6,000 Thai workers to Israel now completely contradicts all government programs since it has stated that its goal is to lower unemployment. Even the new economic program includes an entire chapter on ways of to encouraging employment, by making life more difficult for the unemployed and recipients of income supplement benefits. But what good will this program do if the prime minister makes sure that Israelis' work places are taken over by Thai workers?
It is absolutely absurd that out of 250,000 unemployed Israelis, 6,000 agricultural workers and 10,000 construction workers cannot be found. It is outrageous that the government should have to keep paying out unemployment allowances, teaching people to live at the public's expense when there are many vacant positions to be filled.
Shlomo Benizri, until recently the Labor and Social Affairs Minister, dared to speak the truth when he stated that many Israelis will do anything to stay on the dole instead of going out to work, and that the state enables them to do so. He demanded that the farmers employ Israelis and not foreign workers. Indeed, employing Israelis would cost them more, force them to improve work conditions, and even bring about a rise in the price of fruit and vegetables in the markets - but this is the price we all must pay to avoid becoming a sick society.
Instead, Sharon and Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon are inventing a new Zionism for us. This time the Jews will be the kulaks - the landlords who own the farms and drive around in fancy, air-conditioned jeeps handing out orders to the vassals, the foreign workers, all with the aim of making a maximum profit with a minimum amount of Israeli labor.
If that is not enough, Israel can now boast a new international invention - the flying casino. According to the new plan, Israel Aircrafts Industries will convert a Boeing 747 into a casino. The aircraft will take off on a flight to nowhere and once it is outside Israeli airspace - the gambling will begin.
Transportation Minister Ephraim Sneh gave the green light for the flying casino's take-offs and landings. As far as he's concerned, it would also be okay for casinos to be set up in development towns to promote and develop them.
Sneh is thus offering competition to Sharon's Zionism - one builds Israel's agriculture on foreign labor, the other build the economy on gambling, not on industry or productivity mind you. No - build it on casinos, accompanied by their usual host of social illnesses of crime, black marketeering, extortion, loss of property, and even loss of life. Even in Turkey the government went the opposite way to change the country's image - and closed all the casinos.
The Zionist-socialist revolution of Israel's founding fathers believed in "reversing the pyramid" as Ber Borochov put it - turning diaspora Jews who lived off luft gesheft (air business) into a proud people living off their own labor. Now, Sharon and Sneh want an economy based on foreign work and gambling, for the glory of the new Zionism.
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