These days, Israelis are having a tough time avoiding the sad stares of “discharged soldier Rani Carmeli,” “university student Noa Harel,” and their others friends in the Interior Ministry’s new campaign under the banner “Don’t hurt our livelihood.”
“I’m a special education student,” says “Noa Harel” as she directs a sorrowful gaze into the camera, with quiet music playing in the backdrop. “I was thinking of finding work taking care of children or cleaning homes in order to pay the crazy tuition and rent costs.” However, Noa’s plan fails. Just like her other campaign colleagues, she remains unemployed because “every time you choose to employ a foreign worker illegally, you rob an Israeli of another place of work. Don’t hurt our livelihood.”
The Interior Ministry is obviously speaking to our hearts – because it’s obviously not directing its message to our minds. Questions regarding the connection between unemployment and poverty to the government’s economic policy, for example, have no room in the campaign. According to the Interior Ministry, those at fault for unemployment here are work migrants.
The fact that the State of Israel chose to bring in tens of thousands of work migrants without formulating a long-term policy on the issue is apparently irrelevant.
Don’t insult our intelligenceOther prosaic matters are also irrelevant, such as the weak enforcement of protective labor laws and the destruction of organized labor, or the shameful abandonment of peripheral areas that have been hit by unemployment forever. Also of no interest is the turning of the fields where work migrants are employed – such as nursing and agriculture – to employment ghettos where labor laws are no more than an unconfirmed rumor and where disgraceful employment norms completely block Israeli workers from taking up such jobs.
As far as the Interior Ministry officials are concerned, they can present us with the regular foolishness; that is, try to convince us of yet another insulting piece of nonsense regarding the accountability of work migrants to the latest problem. Of course, in the course of history we saw other nations who chose to blame unpopular social groups for social ills and the creation of poverty. Meanwhile, cynical politicians built glorious careers by making weak social groups quarrel with each other.
Nonetheless, we can still be amazed in the face of the level of populism, hypocrisy, and simple xenophobia which the Interior Ministry tries to sell us in the guise of an immigration policy.
We should certainly be mad to see a highly important public discussion being drowned in xenophobic demagoguery. It is still vital to note that a government campaign that reeks of hostility towards an unpopular population group is a condemnable act.
Hence, you too should direct a sad gaze at the camera, arrange for some quiet music in the backdrop, and present the Interior Ministry with the following request: Please, don’t insult our intelligence.
Hani Ben Israel is an attorney with the Worker’s Hotline, a nonprofit non-governmental organization committed to protecting the rights of disadvantaged workers