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The US State Department recently released their annual spotlight report on measurements taken by nations worldwide in order to prevent any type of human trafficking, including sex trafficking, forced labor and forced military recruitment.

For US closest allies in the volatile middle eastern area, Israel, it wasn’t a pretty read, and it seems there’s not much new under the sun if you compare the latest update to the one released in 2009. But on the other hand, everything lies in the eye of the beholder.

With a “tier 2” rating, there’s as The Jerusalem Post puts it, “room for improvement”. But what is at times a harsh portrait of Israeli state of affairs when it comes to buckle down and address this issue with the attention it deserves, it simply trickles out into empty rhetoric when the US human trafficking report concludes: “The Government of Israel does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however it is making significant efforts to do so.”

A sentence that could have been copy-pasted from the annual report of 2009, making you in the right to question exactly what those “efforts” boils down to. Israel being a destination country for migrant workers, refugees and eastern ladies of the night, the conditions applied to their existence still pretty much mimics those of previous years.

Southeast Asians and Chinese labourers arrive bound by the short lease of a temporary contract and heavy in-debt to employment agents and recruitment agencies; in their native country as well as in Israel, with fees just for getting there ranging between 4,000 to 20,000 USD. A hefty sum even for a western run-of-the-mill worker, but astronomical for a person where minimum wage is a step up on the poverty ladder. The only plausible solution for that equation is to put someone neck-deep in-debt at the other end of the equals sign.

This is money borrowed and owed at so many instances that the primary goal of sending money home isn’t done at all for the first three, four years. Israeli employers of this low-skilled labour force still resorts to methods of confiscated passports, restriction of movement and non-payment of wages.

History doesn’t repeat itself, it just never goes out of style. It moves to different areas, it moves underground or to where the fields of exploitation still lies unregulated. Go back to the turn of the 19th century and the influx of hunger-stricken Europeans crowding the border of the promised land, hoping for life, liberty and justice for all, but finding themselves at the losing end of the booming industrial era.

Quite literally, their blood and sweat was used to smear the cogwheels of Big Business.

The herds of hobos turning to the roads, hopping between one campfire to the next in search of a way to gain som bread, and more often than not paying their last cent to an employment agent, at that day and age simply known as a “shark” since its primary source of vitamins was other peoples fear, hunger and desperation.

Looking at the State Departments report on Israel, it’s pretty evident not much has changed for those who’s got little else to offer than their bare hands. And although the report states a number of serious flaws in Israeli dealings with human trafficking, any criticism can be comfortably filtered through the loophole of getting a B+ in effort.

By Juha Nilsson, for USA Pink

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