David Bedein

Facilitate justice for migrant workers

On May 29, 2012, the economics page of the Israel’s leading daily newspaper, Yediot Aharonot, carried a news story which reported that the Israel Hotel Owners Association dispatched a delegation to negotiate with Israeli government officials to allow hotels to keep migrant workers.

Yediot quoted the heads of the Israel Hotels Owners Association who pleaded their case with the government that they “cannot manage” without their migrant workers, who work below minimum wage and without any benefits, which is a felony.

A case in point: Israeli hotels in Elat prefer to work with African migrant workers and, as result, have thrown an estimated 8,000 Israeli workers in Elat out of work.

In a city of 49,000 people, that is a significant number of people to have been thrown out of work.

While visiting Elat, I heard complaints from the office of the Mayor of Elat that “orders from above” prevented the law from being enforced against hotels that were engaging the services of workers, below minimum wage and without any benefits, which is a felony.

Yet thanks to the Yediot piece of May 29, we now know that owners of the hotels in Elat are proud to admit to multiple felonies.

However, the Israeli police have not brought one case against any hotel which employs migrant workers, below the minimum wage and without any benefits

Perhaps that is because of the political and corporate clout of the Israel Hotel Owners Association, whose members contribute generously to all major Israeli political parties at a time when the Israeli government coalition is comprised of an unprecedented 95 members of Israel’s 120 Knesset Parliament.

However, there is hope for justice, even if the Israel Law Enforcement System will not take the initiative.

Israel’s legal system enables any citizen, whether from Israel or from abroad, to file a police complaint, if that citizen witnesses a felony. And the law requires the police to follow up that complaint with the person targeted in the complaint

Bottom line: If you witness a non Israeli migrant giving service in an Israeli hotel, politely ask for the migrant’s name.

Remember: You have no gripe with that migrant.

That migrant worker works in a quasi slave situation at the hotel.

Your problem is with the hotel owner.

Take an elevator to the lobby of the hotel.

Ask for the name of the hotel owner and for the name of the hotel owner’s representative, who is often on the premises of the hotel.

Dial 100. Ask for the Israeli police, so that you can file a citizen’s complaint against the hotel owner, for engaging the services of a worker, below minimum wage and without any benefits, which is a felony.

By filing a police complaint against an exploitative employer, you will do wonders to address an issue of wanton injustice, towards the migrant worker and towards a citizen of Israel who deserves the opportunity to work with dignity in that hotel, at minimum wage and with appropriate social and medical benefits.

At a time when the Israeli government announces that it is cracking down on migrant workers, the time has come to help the Israeli law enforcement establishment crack down on powerful corporations which exploit the migrant workers, while discriminating against Jewish and Arab Israeli citizens.

About the Author
David Bedein, who grew up in Philadelphia and moved to Israel in 1970 at the age of 20, is an MSW community organizer by profession and an expereinced investigative journalist. In 1987 he established the Israel Resource News Agency, with offices at the Beit Agron Int’l Press Center in Jerusalem, where he also serves as Director of the Center for Near East Policy Research. In 1991, Bedein was the special CNN middle east radio correspondent. Since 2001, Bedein has contributed features to the newspaper Makor Rishon. In 2006, Bedein became the foreign correspondent for the Philadelphia Bulletin, writing 1,062 articles until the newspaper ceased operation in 2010. He is the author of " The Genesis of the Palestinian Authority" and "ROADBLOCK TO PEACE- How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict: UNRWA policies reconsidered"and the director and producer of the numerous short films about UNRWA policy which can be located at: