Report claims Israel stole $2B from Palestinians

The American Journalist at work

The American Journalist at work

The American media is known primarily for its sobriety and even-handedness, especially concerning Palestinian rights, which is why I’m deeply surprised that the latest controversy out of Israel hasn’t been covered by any American media outlets at all.

Electronic Intifada is reporting that Israel has stolen as much as $2 billion from Palestinian workers since 1970:

Over the past four decades Israel has defrauded Palestinians working inside Israel of more than $2 billion by deducting from their salaries contributions for welfare benefits to which they were never entitled, Israeli economists have revealed.

A new report, “State Robbery,” to be published later this month, says the “theft” continued even after the Palestinian Authority was established in 1994 and part of the money was supposed to be transferred to a special fund on behalf of the workers.

According to information supplied by Israeli officials, most of the deductions from the workers’ pay were invested in infrastructure projects in the Occupied Palestinian Territories — a presumed reference to the massive state subsidies accorded to the settlements.  

The report was compiled by two human rights groups — the Alternative Information Centre and Kav La’Oved — who go on to say that their estimate of the total fraud is very conservative, and could in fact be much larger.  The report won’t be released until later this month, at which point I’ll try to follow up on the reaction, if there is one. 

If the reaction to the Goldstone report — which accused both Israel and Hamas of committing war crimes during last year’s Massacre of Gaza, but was proportionally critical of Israel — is any indication, don’t expect this latest report to radically alter the dialogue in America. 


It’s also worth remembering that one sees far more willingness to criticize Israeli policies in the Israeli press than in the American press.  H’aaretz published an op-ed today by Gideon Levy, whose rather explicit headline reads:

The message is clear: Israel must not strike Iran

Levy goes on to say:

[The diplomat’s] message was clear and razor sharp – Israel must not attack Iran. This would only cause harm. If anything could bring Iran closer to the bomb, it would be an Israeli offensive, which seems imminent. The European diplomat is convinced that Iran does not intend to produce a nuclear bomb, only to walk on the edge and prepare for the option of developing it. This has become a matter of national honor for the Iranians.

An Israeli attack, on the other hand, which in his view would put off the bomb by merely two years, would only spur the Iranians to develop it. Tehran knows that the United States wouldn’t have dared to invade Iraq and Afghanistan had these countries had nuclear weapons. The Iranians are sure that this goes for them as well. So their way to maintain the regime, if it feels threatened, is to develop the bomb. The threats to attack Iran will only push them toward this. [emphasis added.]

Contrast that sensibility with a recent column from America’s Bravest Man, Thomas Friedman:

We also need to keep alive the prospect that Israel could do something crazy. I don’t favor Israeli military action against Iran and hope we’re telling Israel that privately. But I do believe that U.S. officials, particularly the secretary of defense, Robert Gates, need to stop saying that publicly. Gates is a smart power player. He knows better. If any U.S. official is asked for an opinion on whether Israel should be allowed to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities, there is only one right answer: Refer them to former Vice President Dick Cheney’s 2005 comment that Israel “might well decide to act first” to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, and say nothing else. [emphasis added.]

What great advice!  And how muscle-y and brave.  That’s what passes for enlightened political thought in this country, and until Friedman — and all those like him, ie, the American Punditry Class — is acknowledged as the blood-thirsty hack that he is, the limits of debate will remain destructively small.

If this report follows the same path as the Goldstone report,  expect it to be cast as anti-Semitic and to languish on the back burner of public opinion while we excitedly look forward to more and more war.

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14 Responses to Report claims Israel stole $2B from Palestinians

  1. Michael Peck says:

    So if I understand this correctly, Palestinian guest workers in Israel are being ripped off? And this is a huge scandal, because guest or migrant workers are never ripped off in Europe, Asia or America? Does this mean that if Mexican illegal farm workers are mistreated in California, this should “radically alter the dialogue” in Israel or Sweden?

    • John Knefel says:

      If Sweeden’s foreign policy in some way enabled California specifically, or America generally, to extort money from migrant workers, I would say yes, that should alter Sweeden’s national dialogue.

      • Michael Peck says:

        That’s interesting, John. So we should have a national dialogue about our trade relations with Venezuela, where the leftist government has banned opposition TV stations? Or Switzerland, where new mosques are banned? And certainly a dialogue about our relations with the Arab world, where South Asian guest workers are routinely beaten. Seems to me we’re going to doing an awful lot of dialoging. Perhaps it could be part of Obama’s jobs package?

        I don’t disagree with your criticism of Israel for holding on to Palestinian wages. It’s wrong and the money should be returned to those who earned it. What I find disturbing is your conclusion that this some sort of monstrous human rights scandal that the U.S. media should leap on, even though migrant workers are routinely mistreated around the world. I don’t see any calls for national dialogue about that.

  2. John Knefel says:

    Those examples are all issues that should be receiving more attention. And, no, this isn’t a unique scandal by any means.

    I’m just pessimistic that it will get any attention at all.

  3. Raymond Wong says:

    Does this really need attention???

    This is not a unique situation by a long shot.
    This only serves to spur the larger Isreali/Palistinaian conflict. No one will be focused on whether the migrant workers were paid unfaily. All your story serves to do is encourage the hatred and deadly conflict that the world is helpless to stop.

    All migrant workers not just Palistinians are facing unfair wage issues. So why target an area rife with deadly conflict to create more turmoil when we need to reverse the problem??

  4. Raymond Wong says:

    Does this really need attention???

    This is not a unique situation by a long shot.
    This only serves to spur the larger Israeli/Palistinaian conflict. No one will be focused on whether the migrant workers were paid unfaily. All your story serves to do is encourage the hatred and deadly conflict that the world is helpless to stop.

    All migrant workers not just Palistinians are facing unfair wage issues. So why target an area rife with deadly conflict to create more turmoil when we need to reverse the problem??

    • John Knefel says:

      If we follow your argument to its logical conclusion, then the worse a conflict gets, the less attention it deserves. The world is not “helpless” to stop (or at least lessen) the injustices in Gaza and the West Bank. But for that to happen, attitudes in the US have to change.

      • Eileen White Read says:

        Guys, left out of this argument is the absurdity of calling Palestinians who work in Israel “migrant workers.” It’s insulting and legally inaccurate.

      • Michael Peck says:

        Calling them “slave laborers” would also be insulting and legally inaccurate, Eileen. The closest analogy would be guest workers, and if and when there is a Palestinian state and Palestinian citizens work in Israel, that’s exactly what they’ll.

        The Israeli government is collecting taxes and not providing services? There are more than a few taxpayers in America with the same complaint/. The Israelis stole $2 billion in Palestinian wages? That’s a hell of a lot less than the Palestinian leadership has embezzled form its own people. A corrupt Israeli labor federation? Maybe they learned it from the Teamsters. Which doesn’t excuse Israeli wrongs, but not every Israeli wrong is a front-page issue.

      • Raymond Wong says:

        You can make something out of nothing anytime.
        I am Asian, and the term Oriental was used all the time. 20 years later come to find out, Oriental is supposively now an insultive term.
        The supposed insult was news to me.

        The term black or colored is also an unendearing term too. So where does one draw the line???

        Is the term “white man” going to be the next new insult??

        Migrant worker, undocumented worker, imported labor, volunteer worker, guest worker, prison labor, slave labor, foreign labor, welfare worker…..
        So what is politically correct??

      • Raymond Wong says:

        Your story isn’t going to fix anything. It is adding ammunition for the muslims to keep the deadly fighting going. The Palestinians are not going to stop with a realization they were unpaid fairly and take them to court. They are going to send more suicide bombers and rain missiles on Israel. Israel will respond in like.

        I want to know how presenting to the world that Israel paid workers unfairly will pressure any kind of correction? Were the workers told about the pay structure which they still accepted? What do you think will happen when all sides read your story, Muslims, Jewish, European, American, Asian???

        Your intentions are wonderful, but the outcome maybe completely opposite of what you are trying to acheive.

  5. Raymond Wong says:

    My apologies, I hit submit twice.

  6. Joe D'Allegro says:

    Can I get angry too?

    I had a rough day.

  7. cliveshome says:

    THEY ALWAYS STILL: ranging from, money to land they do as they please

    has a word on palestine

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