Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Insane Logic of Ma’ale Adumim

First I have to take a deep breath. I know that if I publish this blog I am going to receive the kind of angry mail I don’t want. But if I say nothing I will hate myself. So here goes…

The November 13th edition of the Forward contains a very troubling article: “Palestinian Workers Plan To Sue Settlement, Seek To Fall Under Israeli Law.” According to the article, Palestinian workers employed by the West Bank municipality of Ma’ale Adumim, a Jewish settlement just outside Jerusalem, are suing the city and insisting that they be hired according to Israeli law rather than Jordanian law. The difference is that while the Palestinians make more than minimum wage, their benefits package is below that of Israeli workers.

The issue is purely one of financial justice. The workers want more; the city wants to pay them less. But the wild thing is the logic Ma’ale Adumim employs. According to the city’s lawyer, Gilad Rogel, “Ma’ale Adumin is not under the jurisdiction of the State of Israel—it is a settlement in the occupied territories.” The city operates under Israeli law because Israelis live there, but with regard to Palestinians it can choose to operate under another legal system, in this case that of Jordan.

In other words, Ma’ale Adumin wants to claim it is part of Israel when it benefits them and part of Jordan when it doesn’t. It also wants to discriminate against Palestinian workers. And all because of money. Has Zionism been reduced to an economic scam? Has Jewish justice been reduced to cost effectiveness? Is this what Israelis risk their lives for every day?

Let me be clear: this isn’t a uniquely Jewish or Israeli issue. The theft of people’s homes by the municipality of New London, CT at the bequest of the Pfizer Corporation in 2005 only to have Pfizer leave the city in 2009 after reneging on its plans to build a research facility near the confiscated land is the same thing—a city government driven solely by dollars. My point is simply this: Israel isn’t any different than any other state. It can claim no moral high ground. It has no special status with God. It is, just like the rest of us, out for itself.

OK, I can accept this. But when I do, I have to ask myself why I should give a shit about just one more country driven to injustice by economic concerns? I am told over and again that Israel is different, and because it is different it is worthy of my love, trust, and financial support. But is it? I just can’t see it any more. I want to. But I don’t.

This isn’t a matter of moral equivalency. I’m not comparing Israel to Palestine or any other country. I’m just saying that if the West Bank can be used as a scam to exploit Palestinian workers, I don’t want to be a part of it.

The case is going before the Israeli Supreme Court. In a similar case in 2007 the court sided with Palestinian workers. Other cities have followed the High Court’s precedent, but Ma’ale Adumin is trying to find a loophole. If they do, and the Court sides with the city, the hole they find is going to be the grave of justice.


Grégoire said...

I don't usually reply to your Israeli centred articles only because I don't usually know enough specifics about Israel-Palestine to comment; but I think you've touched on a very important point: national chauvinism.

I see it often with workers in the US and their attitudes toward workers from Mexico. Canadian workers have the same attitude toward Chinese and Sikh descended workers. Wherever I go I see working people pitted against one another for meaningless reasons (usually based on skin colour or national origins).

Workers everywhere want the same things. Capital wants the same things too, but capital is truly international and not silly enough to divide itself up along phony national/language/religious/racial lines, which is why capital always wins.

Palestinian workers want to get more money per hour, while international capital wants to pay them less. They want to own their own land while capital wants them to keep paying rent or -- better yet -- have them landless so that they can take their place in the surplus labour pool.

My point? That Israeli workers want the same thing as Palestinian workers. Their interests are precisely similar, they just don't realize it. They're busy fighting and killing each other (in the service of capital) when they ought to be promoting their own identical interests and working together.

Is there a solution? I don't know. It's very difficult to see one. The shenanigans of Ma'ale Adumim are the same shenanigans which are being perpetrated in North America by big business. We all work hard and even the most prosperous of us live less well than we could live if we could get this monkey off our collective backs. Building a more just world will require us all to wake up, which may be too much to ask; but it's worth hoping for.

Jordan said...

Shalom Rav,

If the Israeli Supreme court rules on the side of the Palestinian workers and thus against Ma'ale Adumim, I hope that you'll then let us know in another blog post that justice was served.

Fair and balanced you know.


Rabbi Rami said...

Thanks to both of you. If I read the results in the Forward, I will post them. The Israeli Supreme Court has done the thing about this in the past. I hope it will do so again.