Can't have it both ways. Foreign worker
Photo: Dudu Azoulay

The right to love

Op-ed: Israel only Western country banning migrant workers from engaging in romantic relationships

The UN committee to abolish discrimination against women has recently published its conclusions. One prominent area of their report was the way Israel treats its migrant workers, and in particular the Ministry of Interior’s controversial regulation – which states that if a foreign worker is caught in a romantic relationship, her work visa will be denied.


Yes, you read that right. The essence of a migrant worker, their whole existence and purpose is in a simple definition: They are here to work. Only to work. The harder they work, the better. The State of Israel expects that at the end of a long, exhausting day of work, the foreign workers – who receive a pitiful salary and are also deprived of most basic civil rights – return to an empty house, and heaven forbid there should be a loving spouse to greet them there. Love? Not here. Not in Israel’s vision.


Indeed, Israel’s motives, as well as her policies in regards to bringing the migrant workers here to work, don’t stop at philanthropy. The system works like this: The State and manpower companies bring the workers here, and in the process make a fortune. Bringing these laborers here makes a very nice profit for the companies and our country, employing them here and - believe it or not – deporting them, is profitable for the parties involved. The ones who pay the heavy price are solely the women who came here to work.


Sadly, the right to fall in love isn’t the only privilege denied to foreign workers here in 2011. Israel is the only Western country that forbids migrant workers from engaging in romantic relationships.


Modern-day slavery

The State of Israel has every right to decide that it doesn’t want foreign workers, but if that’s the decision, Israel needs to stop importing them immediately. We cannot have it both ways – on one hand, enjoy cheap labor, and on the other hand expect human beings to act like tools. If Israel chooses to keep encouraging migrant workers to come here, there is a human cost to pay; that is treating these migrant workers as human beings with equal rights, and not to deny them the right to love, and marry, and bring children into this world. If Israel isn’t ready to accept the cost, then it needs to stop ordering more workers this very day.


A few days ago the world celebrated Valentine’s Day, a day meant to symbolize the right of each one of us to fall in love, and be loved in return. In Israel, in 2011, the right to fall in love isn’t a trivial one, and one is only entitled to it if he or she were born to the right ethnicity, and came to this country under the right circumstances. No exceptions.


It’s time for Israel to start treating the migrant workers as people, and stop the modern-day slavery that has been created here. These workers are not machines or robots but living, breathing human beings who are entitled, just like us, to fall in love and have relationships, and to celebrate Valentine’s Day in any way that they desire with the people they choose to be with.


Noa Galili, Spokesperson for Israeli Children, the organization leading the fight against the deportation of migrant workers’ children



פרסום ראשון: 02.17.11, 11:58
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