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Foreign Workers support Israel in her war against Palestinian terrorism
The Jerusalem Post (www.jpost.com) has published an article that describes how foreign workers (from China, Chile, etc...) completely support Israel in her war against Palestinian terrorism.
"The Palestinians are very bad, they kill innocent people, including the Chinese," said one worker on the bus. "The Israelis are fighting because they have to stop the terror," said another. [...]
I copy the full article below.
They serve, suffer and still root for us
Watching the Israeli-Palestinian war from the margins, usually as bystanders - and occasionally as victims - foreign workers throw in their lot with Israel's.
The Chinese "guest" workers sat on the shuttle bus heading out to the runway at Ben-Gurion Airport, accompanying the coffins carrying the remains of their two countrymen and co-workers, which were now about to be flown back home. Lin Chun Mei and Cai Xian Yang were killed along with four Israelis in the April 12 bombing outside Jerusalem's Mahaneh Yehuda market.
"The Palestinians are very bad, they kill innocent people, including the Chinese," said one worker on the bus. "The Israelis are fighting because they have to stop the terror," said another.
Outside one of the many international telephone exchanges near Tel Aviv's Central Bus Station, an area that's become a kind of ex-territorial enclave of foreign workers, Jack Lisse, a restaurant employee from the Ivory Coast, was asked what he thought of Israel's invasion of the West Bank.
"First we have to make order in Israel. The Arabs are killing Israelis every day," he said. "The Jewish people are trying to make peace, but the Palestinians don't give a damn."
On a sunny and windy Saturday afternoon at Charles Clore Park on the Tel Aviv beachfront, a couple of hundred South American guest workers and their families were eating empanadas, drinking beer and listening to Spanish-language song cassettes while watching the weekly soccer league games between teams of South American workers. Chile, Bolivia, Uruguay, Argentina and other South American countries were represented on the field.
An Israeli flag and Chilean flag flew side by side behind the south goal.
"The whole world is looking at Israel like it's a bad country, but Israel is only defending itself," says Carlos, a construction worker from Bolivia.
He's been out of work for two months because the construction industry, like the rest of the Israeli economy, has gone into a tailspin since the Palestinian violence began. Sitting nearby on the sidelines, Felix Margonado, a house painter from Chile, said, "Ever hear of Pinochet? If Pinochet were here, there wouldn't be any Arabs. Inside a year, they'd all be dead."
ONE MIGHT expect that Israel's 250,000 foreign workers, who occupy the bottom of the country's socioeconomic ladder, and who are commonly exploited by greedy employers and mistreated by overzealous, sometimes xenophobic, government officials and police, would side with the Palestinians in their fight against Israel.
After all, the Palestinians, like the foreign workers, are underdogs, and it seems the whole outside world is against Israel these days. But as bad as they've got it in this country, as poor and hunted as they may be, Israel's guest workers, legal and illegal, are standing with their host country in this war.
There are several reasons why, but the most obvious is that the foreign laborers, too, are in danger from Palestinian terror. Aside from the two Chinese workers killed at Mahaneh Yehuda, two Philippine workers were killed in a Haifa bus bombing, two Romanian workers were killed by land mines near Gaza, and at least 30 foreign workers have been injured in the violence, says Hanna Zohar, director of Kav La'oved (Workers' Hotline), which aids guest workers who've been denied their legal rights. A bomb once went off on Neveh Sha'anan Street, the heart of the foreign-worker enclave near the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station; most of those injured, however, were Israelis.
"We don't feel safe enough even to get on a bus," said one of the Chinese workers at the airport. A few dozen foreign workers, mainly among the Romanians, are returning home because of the danger, says Zohar. Those remaining have to calm down worried family members watching the news back home in Thailand, Turkey, India and other places.
"My dad tells me he doesn't want me to stay here, but I tell him not to worry, I'll be all right," says Lisse from the Ivory Coast.
Paul Puyat, an agricultural engineer from the Philippines who now cleans houses in Israel, says he had just spoken to his son, Chester, on the boy's eighth birthday.
"He told me, 'Papa, be careful, I love you,'" says Puyat, smiling in embarrassment, as he waits with a friend in the cavernous Tel Aviv Central Bus Station.
Another reason for the foreign residents' pro-Israel sentiment is that outside the Western world, the liberal notion of trying to understand and even empathize with the enemy during wartime is unknown, especially among the modestly educated people who dominate the ranks of Israel's guest workers.
"In Chile there are no terrorists anymore. There was a revolution, the Communists came in, and Pinochet got rid of them. At 3 o'clock in the morning they were taken out of their houses and never heard from again," says an approving Ronny Gonzales, who came here 12 years ago with his boyhood friend, Margonado, and later married an Israeli woman and became an Israeli citizen.
Then there is the "white trash" syndrome - of being second to the bottom on the socioeconomic totem pole, and hating those on the bottom, instead of identifying with them, because they compete for your job, and because it's a treat being able to revile someone after being so reviled yourself.
"In the atmosphere of Israel today, it's very easy to start hating others," says Zohar. "There's a feeling of open season on the Palestinians, and the foreign workers pick it up from the street. I hear them saying, 'The Arabs this, the Arabs that.' "
For Zohar, this is a sad irony: Kav La'oved started out in 1991 helping Palestinian workers in Israel, switching its emphasis to foreign laborers who were brought in after one too many Palestinian workers killed their Jewish employers.
"Foreign laborers curse the Palestinians, and unemployed Israelis curse the foreign laborers," she laments.
Job competition fuels the foreigners' resentment. "When the Palestinians are allowed to work in Israel, people from South America lose their jobs because the Palestinians work for a lot lower wages," says Carlos, the out-of-work construction laborer from Bolivia.
Because of the "current situation" Lisse is working only two or three shifts a week at a Tel Aviv restaurant instead of his normal six - money is tight so people don't eat out as often, and they're afraid to go to restaurants in Tel Aviv, a favorite target of suicide bombers.
"If the situation with the Palestinians gets better, the jobs will be back and the money will be back," says a hopeful Carlos.
Then there is the religious connection - many workers, especially from Africa and the Philippines, are devout Christians, often of the evangelical brand, and outside of the far reaches of Jewish extremism, there are no more hawkish fans of Israel than evangelical Christians.
Yet even among Muslim workers from Turkey and other Asian countries, one doesn't hear anti-Israeli talk.
"They're not singing songs of praise to Israel," says Zohar, "but they're not cursing, either."
THE NATURE of Palestinian terror - the enthusiasm with which teenagers yearn to blow themselves to bits, as long as they can take Israelis with them, and the glorification of this mania by Palestinian society at large - has foreign workers shuddering. The distastefulness of Yasser Arafat - his looks, his manner, his words - has worked its effect on the foreigners as well.
"I saw one [Palestinian] on the news say he has many children, so if some of them get killed, the others will go on fighting. I thought, 'This man doesn't want peace,'" recalls Lisse. "They think that if they get killed they're going to get 10 houses or 15 houses [a reference to the Muslim belief that 72 virgins wait in heaven for the martyr]. And Arafat was saying that he will go along with all these young crazy people, whatever they do, he will do. This really got me mad."
Most foreign workers only have a superficial understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; some, though, know it in surprising depth.
"Arafat says he wants to make peace, but Al-Aksa [Fatah's Al-Aksa Brigades, the most destructive of all Palestinian terror groups] is part of his military organization, so how can he say he wants peace?" notes Puyat.
The little time foreign workers spent on the Palestinian side of the Green Line was not a happy one at all. Palestinian banks in Ramallah and Kalkilya took lower commissions than Israeli ones, so guest laborers, especially the Chinese, often went to those West Bank cities to do their banking prior to the outbreak of the violence.
"A lot of them were robbed, and often assaulted, which didn't raise their opinion of the Palestinians," says Zohar.
All foreign workers identified in this article had to be persuaded that the Interior Ministry or police wouldn't read it, pick out their names and deport them. Others couldn't be persuaded, and gave either their first name only or no name at all.
A great many foreign laborers approached for interviews flatly refused, especially women; and fear of getting into trouble with the authorities no doubt played at least a part in their decision. With unemployment now over 10 percent, Israel continues to deport illegal foreign laborers and limit the number of legal ones allowed in the country.
This policy is accompanied by often harsh official attitudes; racist remarks have been made publicly by a few Shas politicians with power over the workers.
A year ago, then-labor and social affairs minister Shlomo Benizri said: "I just don't understand why a restaurant needs a slant-eye to serve me my meal."
Israel need not worry, though, about the threat to its image; through it all, the foreign laborers have remained loyal.Posted by David Melle at July 13, 2002 10:24 AM
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