Should South Africa Break Relations With Israel?

By Kenneth Mokgatlhe

South Africa has been an active participant in the Israel-Palestine conflict debate where its activists and academics suggest solutions. There are constantly calls led by Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) to boycott or sanction Israel. South Africa’s government took a difficult decision early in 2019 to downgrade its embassy to a liaison department in Israel to appease the Palestinians.

As South Africans, we acknowledge that all is not well in that region, but we want our government to be an active player in trying to break the impasse between the Israelis and Palestinians. South Africa has always respected the sovereignty of other nations and therefore should resist taking sides but set its sights on striving for meaningful peace for both paries.

Too quick to label Israel with apartheid, that South African abomination and the current Israel-Palestine situation differ significantly. They differ in their divergent histories, people, the time period, collective traumas, international and domestic narratives and security. Rather than being patently partisan, South Africa – if it is to contribute –  should suggest fair, just  and workable solutions to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Mustafa Barghouti, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and a prominent anti-Israel activist,  was recently in South Africa and was interviewed (see article below or link to the article) in which he made several comments accusing Israel of practicing Apartheid and several other untruths.

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Voice For Sanctions. Speaking in Lenasia, south of Johannesburg in September 2019, Mustafa Barghouti called on the South African government to downgrade its embassy in Tel Aviv.

https://www.pressreader.com/south-africa/cape-times/20190920/281840055380901

Mustafa Barghouti’s understanding about the history of Apartheid is wrong. Apartheid was unique to South Africa. A political and social system introduced by the white Afrikaner Nationalist government, Apartheid enforced racial discrimination – the word apartheid means “separateness” in the Afrikaans language.

And yet, after 25 years of democracy, blacks only own 4% of private land, and only 8 percent of farmland has been transferred to black hands, well short of a target of 30% that was meant to have been reached in 2014.

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Sow The Seeds. Israel farms out its agricultural knowhow to small-scale farmers and producers in Africa helping break the cycle of hunger and poverty. Seen here is Israeli NGO Fair Planet founder Shoshan Haran introducing Israel’s cutting-edge seed technology. (Photo by /Fair Planet)

Barghouti should know that South Africans were given an inferior education system which only fulfilled the economic interests of the “master” (oppressor), and that this education tragedy still haunts us today, 25 years after democracy. Our people were not only dispossessed of their land, but they were also exploited by the multinational conglomerates which are still taking advantage of us today.

In 1960, South African police massacred 69 peaceful protesters in Sharpeville – mostly shot in the back while fleeing – and this system of state barbarity persisted towards the twilight years of Apartheid. A brutal and pivotal milestone occurred on the June 16, 1976, when police massacred over 100 proteststing schoolchildren who were resisting a new law that forced them to learn Afrikaans in schools. While not undermining the plight of the victims of the Israel-Palestine conflict, we cannot afford to erroneously compare the two tragedies.

Who are we helping and who are we hurting?

Can South Africa really afford to boycott Israel? What is the cost of this position? We have an economy which is dramatically declining and that may result in many companies closing down and ultimately people being retrenched. We always hear economists suggesting that we desperately need abundant foreign investment. Why then, should we obstruct Israeli companies from investing here that will benefit South African workers?

Our foreign policy should be determined by the interests of our own citizens. People want be part of the economy and that can be better achieved when foreign companies invest their expertise and capital in South Africa. This will benefit all our people – empowering them whether as employees or partners. South Africa is a peace-oriented nation  – and should not take sides in complex foreign disputes that could rebound negatively on the welfare of South Africa’s citizens.

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Big And Firm. Israeli NGO Fair Planet is helping Ethiopian tomato farmers improve their crops. “Their tomatoes used to be small and soft. Now they are bigger and firmer with a longer shelf life, and can be marketed to higher-end markets in a wider window of time. This is a life-changing opportunity, a tool to exit the cycle of poverty,” says Fair Planet founder Shoshan Haran. (Photo: courtesy)

Afterall, look at our behaviour with our northern neighbour – Zimbabwe. There, despite the former president, Robert Mugabe killing the very freedoms he originally fought for, South Africa chose not to interfere. It was silent in the face of patent abuse of its people. While the West (UK and USA) imposed economic sanctions against Zimbabwe, South Africa maintained being its most important trade partner. There was no talk of boycotts and sanctions!

When the opposition in Zimbabwe, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) – recently called on Pretoria to intervene in a political impasse, we were reluctant as our politicians made the case that it not in our nature to do so unless both parties wanted us to perform the role of mediator.

We fail to show such sensitivities when it comes to Israel!

Downgrading relations with Israel as advocated by Mr. Mustafa Barghouti will never resolve the Israel-Palestinian conflict which dates back over a century. It is misguided for South Africa to believe it has the insights and expertise to play a role by being exclusively partisan.

This is not diplomacy but arrogance.

South Africa is a still a developing country – not powerful as Africa’s former colonial masters  – Britain, France, Italy, Germany and Portugal –  and therefore should be cautious as how it chooses to interfere in global conflicts.

However, no harm done in advocating for peace between people –  – but we should do so fairly.

Debate Not Downgrade

One positive point that Barghouti made in his article is that there should be national debate. However, “debate” is not South Africa dictating to others because it believes it knows best.

We are not a “colonial master” and should not believe we can dictate to others. Our brief should be to see peace triumph.

It is unwise to obstruct relations with a country like Israel that could contribute so much to our people. Engaging Israel will benefit our economy and introduce technological innovations from hi-tech to water management and agriculture. These are all areas that we could benefit from Israel’s cutting-edge expertise.

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Hot Off The Terrain. A local farmer harvests hot peppers on a Tikkun Olam Ventures pilot site in Butajira, southern Ethiopia, in June 2018. An American Joint Distribution Committee initiative, over 5,000 Ethiopian farmers participate in a $14 million agricultural loan and education program utilising Israeli agriculture technology and improved seeds. (Courtesy JDC)

We must  prioritize our people before anyone or anything else.

There are many countries across the globe that interfere in the affairs of other countries from the USA in Venezuela to Russia’s military  occupation of Crimea in the Ukraine.

Does South Africa take a position in these disputes? No.

One of our biggest trade partners is India, predominantly Hindu, that administers – some would argue treats as a colony –  Kashmir, and which has a longstanding dispute with Muslim Pakistan. Has South Africa taken a position over this conflict that has persisted since 1948 – the same year Israel became independent?

No again.

I am not dismissing Mustafa Barghouti’s struggle but  his appeal for South Africa imposing sanctions against Israel. Why? Because it penalises the citizens of the country doing the imposing. Following Mr. Barghouti will be denying South Africa’s population access to opportunities. We are living in a global village; we are more connected than ever, and politics should not divide people but rather unite them.

 

 

image006 (8).pngKenneth Mokgatlhe holds BA Honours (political science) from the University of Limpopo. He was a spokesperson of the Pan Africanist Congress from 2015 to 2018.  Mokgatlhe has written for Political Analysis South Africa, and is a frequent columnist for South African papers, notably – The Star, Sunday Independent, Sowetan and Cape Times.

Israel Wings It

Israel Aerospace is flying high and is set to manufacture over 800 F35 wings by 2034.

By David E. Kaplan

Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. (IAI) is Israel’s  major aerospace and aviation manufacturer, producing aerial and astronautic systems for both military and civilian usage.

Founded in 1953 under the initiative of the late State President and Nobel Peace Laurette, Shimon Peres – when Israel was under threat of annihilation by all its neighbours in the region –  IAI today, designs and builds civil aircraft, drones, fighter aircraft, missiles, avionics and space-based systems no longer exclusively for itself but also for export.

Renowned for its state-of-the-art electronics –  IAI’s products are in hot demand by foreign militaries.

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Dream Machine. The F-35 stealth fighter jet on the tarmac at Berlin Air Show. (photo credit: ANNA AHRONHEIM)

A case in point is the joint collaboration of  IAI and Lockheed Martin that this month marked the delivery of the 100th advanced combat aircraft  F-35 stealth fighter  wing delivered by IAI at a ceremony held at the company’s wing assembly line.

Established in November 2014, the wings manufacturing center of IAI’s aviation division has established a solid reputation in making wings for the F-16 and T-38. The centre is now expected to manufacture over 800 pairs of F35 wings by 2034 using state-of-the-art technology which includes a unique composite layer of materials called AFP (Automatic Fiber Placement). The 3mm. thick threads that eventually become one unit, give the wings the ability to evade radar detection.

On December 2018, IAI inaugurated an innovative line for production of F-35 wing skins, expanding the collaboration between the two companies.

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Israel Spreads Its Wings. The wing designed and manufactured by Israel Aircraft Industries in collaboration with Lockheed Martin for the advanced combat aircraft F-35 stealth fighter.

Out Of This World

Israel Country Executive of Lockheed Martin, Joshua Shani, said that the delivery of the 100th wing signals “a significant milestone” for the F-35 programme. “We take this opportunity to mark the broad cooperation Lockheed Martin holds with the local industries as a whole and IAI in particular, who play a major role in the global F-35 programme. The F-35 is the leading 5th Generation fighter jet in the world, manufactured by the highest standards along the supply chain. We look forward to deepening the fruitful, strong cooperation of today and in future programmes, with both the Ministry of Defense and Israeli defense industries.”

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Shaking On The Future. Joshua (Shiki) Shani (left), country executive of Lockheed Martin Israel and Nimrod Sheffer, IAI President and CEO (Photo: IAI)

Global leader

Nimrod Sheffer, the president and CEO of IAI, said that “IAI’s collaboration with Lockheed Martin has major business and strategic importance for us. We regard it as a vote of confidence on behalf of Lockheed Martin and the US administration in IAI’s capabilities as a global leader. We are excited to deliver the 100th wing and believe our collaboration will expand even more in the future.”

Having invested multiple resources in the most advanced systems and technologies, IAI has established a production line characterized by the utmost of precision.

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Delivery On Time. Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) delivered its 100th F-35 stealth fighter’s wing to Lockheed Martin’s wing assembly line and has announced that it would manufacture over 800 units by the end of 2034.

The production line, which will last around 20 years, is expected to generate revenues of more than $2.5 billion during the next 10-15 years

At the launch in December 2018, IAI vice-president Shlomi Karako said that “the opening of the production line constitutes a significant milestone in the realization of the company’s strategy for building advanced capabilities in the field of composite materials manufacturing technology. Thanks to this move, IAI will belong to a ‘limited club’ of companies with these manufacturing capabilities.”

I am reminded when interviewing Shimon Peres for Haaretz when he became State President in 2007, and him saying:

 “When in the 1950s Israel was mostly an economy based on agriculture and I pushed for industry,  people said, “What; you’re crazy, the country can’t even build bicycles!” Look who’s crazy; where are those people today and where is Israel.”

From the days when Israel failed to “build bicycles”, Israel today is a world leader in converting ideas into reality.

 

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Two of three new F-35 fighter jets land on an airstrip in the Israeli Air Force’s Nevatim base in southern Israel on June 24, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

Israeli Devices Revolutionize Breast Cancer Surgery

By Rolene Marks

Tatas, boobies, knockers, bazooms, tits, the twins, breasticles or whatever you like to call them, October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. A whole month has been dedicated to raising awareness of breast cancer but this is something that we should be aware of everyday. Did you know that one in eight women will develop this and it is the most common type of non-skin cancer?

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One in eight women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. Israeli scientists hope to improve the odds. (Photo by http://www.shutterstock.com)

Men are not immune to breast cancer either and reports of diagnoses are not uncommon. Early detection is imperative and the good news is that if diagnosed early enough it can be beaten!

Gents, you should also be doing the routine checks for lumps as well!

Although breast cancer seems to be more prevalent in Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Northern Europe, Israel has taken a leading role in researching causes, diagnostics, and treatments – with groundbreaking results!

Let’s explore some of the ways that Israel is leading in this field.

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True Colours. Israeli Society of Plastic & Aesthetic Surgery wear pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. (photo credit: ISRAEL HADARI)

MarginProbe

Israel’s Dune Medical Devices has developed an instrument to help women with breast cancer avoid undergoing dreaded follow-up surgery to remove residual cancer cells after a tumour is removed. It can be quite a long (and stressful) process waiting for results. This device is already being used by surgeons on patients in more than 100 hospitals in the US and in Israeli medical centers.

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Dune Medical’s MarginProbe reduces amount of follow-up breast cancer surgery (Courtesy)

The MarginProbe device consists of a hand-held gadget that looks like a large pen or ultrasound instrument and a console. After the tumour is removed and while the patient is still on the operating table, the surgeon uses the probe to check the margins of the just-removed tissue. Sensors on the probe send signals to the tissue, and a further signal – both visual and acoustic – is then reflected back, indicating either positive, i.e. there are still cancerous cells on the margins, or negative, giving the all-clear to close up the patient.

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With MarginProbe, surgeons can assess the tissue in the operating room to give them greater confidence that they successfully removed all the cancer in the first lumpectomy surgery.

We have developed the only technology in the world that has a commercial product that allows surgeons in operating rooms, in real time, to check the margins of the tumour, identify cancerous tissue and decide on the spot if more tissue needs to be removed or not,” General Manager of Israeli Operations, Gal Aharonowitz, told The Times of Israel.

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Chief Operation Officer and General Manager Israel, Gal Aharonowitz, leads R&D, manufacturing and worldwide logistic activities of Dune Medical Devices. An industry veteran with more than 18 years of experience in leading product development and engineering teams, Gal earned a BSc degree in mechanical engineering from Ben-Gurion University in Israel.

IceSense 3

The IceSense is a medical device that is used to freeze tumours. Made by IceCure, the device is already being used by US doctors to destroy benign lumps.

The cryoablation process takes five or ten minutes under local anesthesia in a doctor’s office, clinic or breast center. No recovery period or post-care is necessary and there is no scarring!

Tel Aviv University (TAU) researchers embarked on a research project aimed at trying to block a cancer cell’s ability to change shape and move. In their research, they delivered microRNAs (small RNA molecules) to primary tumours in mice to halt the spread of cancer. Cancer cells spread by altering their structure in order to squeeze past other cells, enter blood vessels and travel to organs like lungs, the brain or others.

The researchers explored the mutations in a tumour to identify precisely which ones to target. The scientists then procured an RNA-based drug to control cell movement and created a safe nano-vehicle with which to deliver the microRNA to the tumour site.

U.S. Embassy Illuminated in Pink for Breast Cancer Awareness
Global Issue. US Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman and his wife Tammy (right) stand before the USA Embassy building in Tel Aviv illuminated in pink in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Of Mice And Men

Two weeks after initiating cancer in the breasts of their rodent “patients”, the researchers injected a hydrogel into primary tumor sites that contained naturally occurring RNAs to target the movement of cancer cells from primary to secondary sites. Two days after this treatment, the primary breast tumours were destroyed.

The mice were evaluated three weeks later using CT imaging, fluorescent labeling, biopsies and pathology. The researchers discovered that the mice that had been treated with two different microRNAs had very few or no metastatic sites, whereas the control group — injected with randomly scrambled RNAs — exhibited a fatal proliferation of metastatic sites.

If it could be successful in mice, imagine how it could be adapted to humans!

These are just a snapshot of the many ways that Israel is contributing in the fight against Breast Cancer.

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Code Pink. Israeli jet fighter painted pink to bring attention to the ‘battle’ against breast cancer.

So, wear your pink ribbon with pride this month and make sure that whatever you decide to call them, you check your breasts regularly.

 

 

Afternoon Prayers

By Gina Jacobson

Whenever I read an article or see a BDS (Boycott Divestment and Sanctions) headline crying that Israel is an apartheid state, I think about a moment I had a while back, while I was traveling home from work on the bus.

The drive is quite scenic and meanders through forests and fields and I often sit by the window just taking in the unique beauty around me.

Well, this day, we came to a stop about halfway home and I noticed a truck pulled over on the side of the road. While there was nothing particularly unusual about that, something else caught my attention. It was then I saw a man get out of the truck. He had something rolled up under his arm and as he looked around, I realised what it was.

The driver of the truck was Muslim, and it was time for late afternoon prayers.

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Prayer Time. Muslim man gets out of his lorry and prayers peacefully in a street in a suburb in Jerusalem.

He found a spot just behind his truck on the shoulder of the road and laid his prayer rug down. He then proceeded to kneel and go about his afternoon prayers. Nobody disturbed him; nobody told him that he couldn’t.

Think about that for a moment. A Muslim man, in Jewish state, taking time out of his workday to pray. No one stopped him. No one harassed him. No one even batted an eye.

Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. The only place where people of all faiths are free to practice their religion without condemnation or harassment. Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist – all are welcome and receive equal rights that are protected.

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Common Sight. Muslims praying in street in the Old City, Jerusalem.

These are rights that are enshrined in Israel’s Declaration of Independence and the country features high on the Freedom House index on democratic values and freedoms.

Apartheid was a system of laws of racial discrimination that governed every aspect of a person’s life and was unique to South Africa.

What is “Apartheid” about a country where you are not only free to practice your own religion; but you also have equal opportunity for citizenship, employment, schooling, voting rights, representation in government and serve in the army ?

And if you’re still not convinced, why not pop on over to the Old City of Jerusalem, see the Jews praying at the Kotel (Wailing Wall) , watch the Muslims retire for prayer five times a day as they are summoned by the muezzin and listen to the church bells ring out across the hills and valleys. This is something that is so unique to Jerusalem – and Israel.

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Muslims pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque or what Jews refer to as the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

Catch a train and see a microcosm of Israel’s citizens or visit any university campus. You get the picture…

The accusation from Israel’s detractors that the Jewish State is an Apartheid practitioner is nothing but a cheap ploy to try and get the global community to isolate her.

I have one thing to say to Israel’s detractors who are accusing the Jewish state of having Apartheid policies. Once you have done all of this and seen for yourself, the reality on the ground, then you can confidently tell me this is an “Apartheid” state. I’ll wait….

 

 

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Gina Jacobson is a mom, a wife, a dreamer. She loves coffee and when she’s not reading, she’s writing.

Israel’s Unionized Labour Recognizes No Borders

Over 7,000 Palestinians join Israel’s top Trade Union

By David E. Kaplan

Long before Israel emerged as a country in 1948, it’s labour got organised. Established in December 1920 during  Mandatory Palestine, the Histadrut – or the General Organization of Workers in Israel – represents today the majority of trade unionists WITHIN the State of Israel.

However, this summer something quite extraordinary occurred.

It’s most unusual in any country for foreign workers to enjoy equal workers’ rights but Israel is responding with its national trade union  – the Histadrut – not merely accepting but recruiting Palestinian members who live not in Israel, but within the PA controlled West Bank. Resulting from the recruitment campaign, over 7000 Palestinians who enter Israel every morning to work, have joined.

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A New Dawn. Early morning enthusiasm amongst Palestinian workers in Israel to learn from Histadrut activists the benefits of becoming members of the Israeli trade union. (Photo: Daud Daud)

The message of Nihad Sharkiya, who headed the campaign, resonated:

A worker is a worker, no matter where he comes from, and he deserves his rights

A Gulf Apart

This is a far cry from those who reflexively point the proverbial finger at Israel. Take the Gulf  region for instance who are quick to support the Palestinians in theory but according to Amnesty International, ensure that Palestinians in particular, as well as Yemenis, suffer harsh working conditions. They are not alone. Foreign workers from Southeast and East Asia also encounter constant obstacles.

Possibly the most suffering are migrant female workers. Some 60% of non-Kuwaiti women are maids who are not covered by the social insurance and financial benefit provisions of the Kuwaiti Labour Code.

The allure of the Gulf frequently translates dreams into nightmares.

As one newspaper revealingly sited that “Dubai, with its artificial islands, megamalls and seven-star hotels, along with Qatar’s new World Cup stadiums have only been possible due to years of graft by cheap foreign labor, imported mostly from Asia and Africa.”

The promise of much higher wages than at home, seldom materializes. What usually plays out are that low and unskilled migrants often end up trapped for years in their host countries, indebted, exploited and forced to work long hours in hazardous or brutally hot conditions.

Another Way

The outreach by Israel’s Histadrut reflects the lyrics of “There Must Be Another Way” – a song by Jewish-Israeli Achinoam Nini and Arab-Israeli Mira Arad which they performed at the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest. Their message was a simple call to respect the humanity of others.

Over the course of ten days in mid-July 2019, Arabic speaking representatives of the Histadrut met with Palestinian workers at the border crossings, offering advice and handing out pamphlets containing detailed information about workers’ rights in Israel. The Palestinian workers received advice and instruction from the representatives on issues like wages, pensions, safety and welfare, as well as an invitation to contact the Arabic language union hotline. As reported in the Histadrut’s online publication Davar, “The Arabic language hotline was set by the Histadrut to offer guidance to Palestinian workers in Israel, who often speak very little Hebrew.”

It reported a spike in calls following the outreach.

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Operation Outreach. Histadrut unionisation campaign with Palestinian construction workers at Palestinian-Israel border crossing. (Photo: Tal Burstein)

Wahil Abady, who heads the Arabic language information center for the Histadrut, told Davar that the Palestinian workers were excited about the campaign as reflected in the large number that signed up for membership. “These people need someone to take care of the problems they face at the workplace. We never dreamt of such high numbers. We were receiving so many questions that we had to open a special Arabic telephone line for them. In one month,  we received more calls than we got all of last year.”

Approximately 80,000 Palestinian workers cross the border into Israel every day. There, to meet them at the border crossings on their way into Israel before sunrise were the Histadrut activists. “Our people were spread across ten of the border crossings, and over the course of ten days they got to speak to about 15,000 workers coming in from the Palestinian Territories,” said Tal Burstein who took charge of the campaign. “The responses we got from the workers were amazing. We gathered a huge amount of information about breaching of labor laws and various other problems that the Palestinian workers face in Israel. We’re dealing with a very serious problem,” he said.

The relatively high wages and tight restrictions imposed by the Israeli authorities make the visas issued to Palestinian workers a rare asset in the Palestinian Territories. For security reasons, Israeli authorities issue visas mostly to older, married men with families back home who are deemed less likely to participate in terrorist attacks.

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Enlightened Engagement. Important questions and detailed answers characterised the exchanges at this border crossing between these Palestinian workers and the officials from the Histadrut. (Photo: Tal Burstein)

Notably, the Palestinian Authority provides no pension scheme. This means that often the wages paid to a Palestinian working in Israel will go towards supporting his parents and his wife’s parents, on top of his own family in the West Bank.

The problems for Palestinians are numerous but not unusual.

Why did Jewish workers need a trade union nearly 30 years before a state emerged in 1948? To avoid exploitation of course – of one description or another?

Well it is no different for Palestinians and being foreigners, they’re invariably vulnerable.

The problems may range from not getting sick leave to not even getting holidays off. “Every time the work stops, for whatever reason,” says Burstein, “the Palestinian workers are the first to pay the price”.

Mostly involved in the construction industry, these workers are under the radar of most Israelis. “These workers are completely invisible,” says Amihai Satinger, head of the unionization division of the Histadrut, who played a major role in the Palestinian project.

As far as many  employers are concerned “they are totally replaceable. When one of them goes another comes along.”

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Inspiring Leadership. Histadrut union representative Nihad Sharkiya, who led the unionisation campaign amongst Palestinian workers (Photo: Tal Burstein)

Contra South Africa – a “Time Bomb”

If the foreign workers in Israel are “invisible”, back to my native South Africa, they are too “visible”  resulting in resentment and subject to horrendous violence.

The recent outbreak of xenophobia, says  local community organiser Papi Papi – pointing across the road to a new informal settlement of over 100 metal shacks crowded onto a small patch of wasteland – “Is a time bomb.” He describes the death of a Zimbabwean man during the unrest,  who was “caught in his car and then burned alive.”

I found the nature of the problem is South Africa tragically exposed by a group of men playing a game of Ludo on a scrap of cardboard.

“I’m not xenophobic,” insisted a man who gave his first name as Alfred. “But these foreigners are prepared to work for less.”

“They work for small money,” his friend Frederick agreed. “And they hire their own, so it’s hard for us to compete. There is frustration.”

These unemployed “political scientists” wasting away their time playing Ludo, articulate a not too infrequent scenario resulting in the death of foreign workers and the destruction of their property!

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Xenophobia In South Africa. More than 120 Nigerians have lost their lives to gruesome killings in South Africa since 2016 – two stabbed to death in this photo above. South African citizens continue to make their country a dangerous place for foreigners.

How do South Africa’s trade unions respond?

The country’s two biggest trade union federations, Cosatu and the newly formed South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU), have basically given the thumbs up on restricting foreign workers.

Despite the alarming climate of xenophobia, the labour movements are significantly silent.

“The way we treat African foreign nationals is our own fault, starting with the government and ending with ordinary citizens,” writes South African journalist Shaazia Ebrahim in his article  “South Africans need to face some harsh truths”.

While lauded the world over for their peaceful defeat of Apartheid and progressive constitution, South Africans are not nearly as beloved on the African continent itself.

A continent away to the north, the Histadrut in Israel went all out  during the campaign to hear and record the stories from the Palestinian workers. Said Burstein:

“They know about the Histadrut, and most of them have been in touch with us in the past. They know us because the Histadrut fought to apply Israeli labour laws to Palestinians working in Israel a few years ago. That made a big difference.”

Countering BDS Obstructionism

As a humanitarian issue, Palestinians working in Israel have long been a cause for concern for Israeli trade unions. This is evident as Gary Kaplan, an officer of the Histadrut’s International Relations Division explains: “the Histadrut represents Palestinians working in Israel – predominantly in the construction industry –  regardless of whether they are members. These construction workers earn and receive what is part of the Construction Sector Collective Agreement regardless of membership. This is unique to Israel. However, now as members, they will be entitled to free legal advice when required.” As part of the campaign, the Histadrut promoted awareness of Palestinian workers rights by advertising in Palestinian newspapers as well as placing in city centers across the West Bank.

Despite the overwhelming positive response from Palestinian workers recognizing how their lives as workers would improve, the Palestinian Journalist Syndicate warned several media outlets “not to publish any material by the Histadrut,” and predictably, the BDS movement joined in those negative efforts.

Nevertheless, the Histadrut persevered.

Peter Lerner, Director General of the International Relations Division at Histadrut, revealed to the media that the Histadrut works in close coordination with the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU).

Noting the complex and challenging political reality, Lerner explained  that “this collaboration is based on long term understandings,” providing “an island of stability.” Although “every act on our side creates some kind of opposition on the Palestinian side, we focus on what’s good for the workers in Israel, whether they’re Israeli, Palestinians or foreign workers.”

Encouraged that  so many thousands of new workers are joining the union proves that “unionized labor recognizes no borders.”