My heart goes out to the approximately 360,000 residents of Michigan who have found themselves without electrical power in the last few days after torrential downpours, fierce winds and frequent lightning, which caused thousands of trees to fall on, and sever, over a thousand power lines throughout the state. I can only imagine the helpless feeling of being unable to escape the hot and humid summer temperatures, being left without air-conditioning of any kind.
I hope and pray that relief will come soon through the hard work of thousands of people, some of whom have apparently arrived from out of state, to repair the power lines and restore electricity as quickly as possible.
My family and I found ourselves in a similar situation in the winter of 2013 when over three feet of snow fell where we lived, on the outskirts of Jerusalem snapping branches from trees, severing electricity lines and causing a general power outage, which lasted for several days. Without electric power, the first batteries to die were those of our cellphones, followed by our cordless landline phones, eventually leaving us without means of remote communication. We were relatively fortunate, however, that our power outage happened during the winter. We were able to take the meat and dairy products out of our refrigerator and bury them in the snow, which kept them fresh for a few days. We were able to cook the meat over makeshift fires and consume the dairy products over a period of several days, without them spoiling immediately. The added frustration of rotting food and no alternative refrigeration in the summer, due to this massive power outage, must exacerbate the suffering of the residents of Michigan even further.
Seeing so many good, down to earth, hardworking people suddenly hit by a storm, and suffer its consequences with no justifiable reason, creates a sense of frustrating helplessness. This feeling is only compounded by the knowledge that the weakest and most vulnerable members of society are likely to suffer the most – the sick, the elderly, and the disabled.
From Michigan to the Middle East
This sensation reminds me of another type of storm suddenly raging against an innocent and well-meaning people. I am referring to the incessant attacks of Michigan’s Congressional Representative, Rashida Tlaib, against the Israeli job market, which creates economic security and livelihood for Israelis and Palestinians alike. The vast majority of Israelis and Palestinians, like the good citizens of Michigan, go about their lives day by day dealing with basic existential needs, working hard to scrape out a living and put food on the table for their families. Within this context, over 100,000 Palestinians are gainfully employed in Jewish-owned companies in Israel, Judea and Samaria in an economy which is a stellar example of peaceful coexistence.
The business communities, on both sides of the ethnic-national divide, are willing to ignore political tensions and work together for the economic benefit of all.
Congresswoman Tlaib, however, has attempted to raise a storm against the Israeli economy by calling on companies around the world to boycott Israeli businesses. The unfortunate victims of this tempest are vulnerable Palestinians, the same people which Congresswoman Tlaib claims to be representing. In fact, in the two examples in which factories have actually been shut down and relocated across the green line because of pressure exerted by the BDS movement (which is supported by Tlaib and her cohorts), namely the SodaStream and Bagel-Bagel factories, only Palestinians lost their jobs. These factories were reopened within undisputed Israeli territories, taking jobs from Palestinians and giving them to Jews.
Like the unfortunate citizens of Michigan, debilitated by the lack of electricity, these Palestinians suddenly found themselves in a helpless situation. Even if they could quickly find a similar job in the Palestinian economy, they would be making on average 20% of their previous salary, causing them to unexpectedly default on mortgages and loan payments for their children’s education. Apparently, Congresswoman Tlaib believes that the fact that her grandparents are Palestinian gives her the right to decide what is good for the Palestinian people, even if it means the sudden loss of their jobs, livelihood and economic security.
Welcome to Israel
I am pleased that our government decided last week to allow Congresswoman Tlaib, together with her colleague, Representative Ilhan Omar, to visit Israel. I hope that these two ladies, after actually seeing the facts on the ground, will have a change of heart and choose to embrace the principles of the UN Global Compact, which encourages investment and responsible business practices, rather than boycotts, in conflict areas. According to its 2010 paper entitled ‘Guidance on Responsible Business in Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas‘, “Business can also be a powerful incentive for bringing people together across national and cultural lines, creating relationships based on a shared sense of identity and purpose, overcoming differences that, in the wider society, are more difficult to surmount. These contributions can be made by companies of all forms: small and large, public and private, international and local” (Introduction, pg.6).
If, on the other hand, Congresswoman Tlaib should continue to support BDS even after her upcoming visit to Israel, my hope would be that she would lose political power at the same rapid rate that electrical power is restored to the good people of Michigan.