A Just Strike

Israelis should embrace Wednesday's strike with the same enthusiasm they joined the summer protest.

Israelis don't like strikes. In fact, they loathe them. Their ski vacation flights are delayed for a few hours. Garbage piles up and the banks and theaters are closed. The treasury and media keep pumping up the damage caused by the strikes, more than NIS 2 billion a day, and the Israelis blast the strikers. Shame on you, general strike. Ugh, Ofer Eini.

Israelis have no respect for a strike, any strike. They find even the most justified strike, like Wednesday's, despicable. Even when they all agree that the extent of employing subcontracted workers in Israel has reached disgraceful proportions and the conditions in which some of them work are scandalous, they still don't want a strike. They want the street sweepers to continue working with no social benefits, the tea ladies to shut up and the social workers to remain silent - as long as our pleasant routine is not disrupted. Solidarity? That's a movement in Poland, isn't it? Nobody's heard of it around here.

The subcontracted workers' state, with its subcontracted teachers, subcontracted security guards, subcontracted cleaners and subcontracted nurses - a large public of some 400,000 underprivileged people - does not want a strike. It was fun in the summer, with the enthusiastic demonstrations, the exotic tents and Eyal Golan on the stage. But now, leave us alone. Social justice is fine, but only if the struggle for it doesn't inconvenience us too much.

Every strike evokes tsks of disapproval and even outrage. Not because of the injustice that caused the strike but due to the injustice it causes the tidy, spoiled people. The grumble of those held up in Ben-Gurion Airport always sounds louder than the outcry of the subcontracted workers. A closed bank branch is displayed more prominently than the miserable bank account of a subcontracted worker.

Wednesday's strike should have been a real general strike, bringing the entire country to a standstill, not a toy strike. It erupted because of an ongoing injustice to numerous Israelis and deserved all the Israelis' support. Is our street sweeper not entitled to job security? Does the old man searching through our bags at the mall entrance deserve to be fired every few months?

But the discourse, if there is one at all, deals with trivia. What are Eini's hidden motives? What about his personal life, which is no less hidden? And what about the hassle this man from the Histadrut is causing us?

True, Eini isn't always right and his hands aren't always clean. But when he's right, like this time, he's right. The subcontracted workers are too many and too unfairly treated and we don't care, even though hardly anyone thinks it's right.

Remember the Palestinians' trade strikes in the first intifada, which were clearly non violent. They too were the weak man's weapon. They too were portrayed as severe disruptions of order and IDF soldiers were sent to break them up. Now the strike is portrayed that way as well, like a disruption that must be stopped. This time, the disruption is being halted not by the army, but by the National Labor Court.

The soldiers broke the Palestinians shops' locks and the judges are breaking the strikes. Both are infringing on a basic human right, the right to strike. Why didn't they sign an agreement before the strike, Israelis always ask. But mostly there is no other way to strive for justice here but by using force, striking or protesting. Has the summer protest failed? If so, it's because it was too polite and too painless.

Justice is on strike here. A justice-seeking state should have been completely paralyzed Wednesday, including its holy temple, Ben-Gurion Airport, which was out of action for only a moment. Israelis should have accepted the temporary inconvenience with understanding, they should have spoken out in appreciation of Eini for the inevitable step he took. They should also have displayed solidarity with the subcontracted workers close to where they live.

The people who were the cause of the strike serve the Israelis faithfully, clean their streets and look after their welfare, some of them in insufferable conditions. They don't deserve to be so transparent. Israelis should have embraced the strike for their rights with the same enthusiasm they joined the summer protest. "We are traded like slaves," nurse Irit Baranes said on Wednesday. But nobody heeded her cry in the din of delayed passengers in the duty free shop at the airport.

Read this article in Hebrew