Protesting African migrants sent back to Israeli detention center


Israeli police on Tuesday sent back to custody about 150 African migrants who had abandoned a desert detention center in protest against a new law allowing them to be kept there indefinitely.

Aided by rights groups, the migrants had travelled to Jerusalem to demonstrate outside the Israeli parliament, which last week passed a law allowing authorities to hold illegal migrants in an “open facility” until they leave the country.

The Israeli government says that most of the 50,000 African migrants, mostly Sudanese and Eritrean, who have since 2006 crossed over the Egyptian border into its territory, are illegal job-seekers who threaten the Jewish state's social makeup.

But rights groups and liberal lawmakers say many are asylum-seekers fleeing hardship and persecution in their homelands.

“We came from a war-place and we want our dignity. We want to save our lives. We are not criminals,” one migrant, who did not give his name, said at the protest.

Police and immigration officers broke up the migrants' demonstration and loaded them on to buses headed for prison. A police spokesman said there were some minor scuffles at the scene, but no one was hurt.

An Israeli immigration official said the migrants would be held in prison for up to 90 days, for breaking the terms of custody in the newly-built open facility that they had abandoned late on Sunday.

The center, in a remote southern Israeli desert, allows the 400 migrants who were moved there from a nearby prison last week, to leave during the day and return at night.

The newly-passed law says they may be held there pending voluntary repatriation, implementation of deportation orders or resolution of their asylum requests.

“The law is the law and it surely applies to the illegal job-seeking infiltrators. The infiltrators who were moved to the special facility can stay there or go back to their own countries,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

Rights group have appealed the new law, which replaced previous legislation, annulled by the Supreme Court last September.

Writing by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Angus MacSwan

The truth about settlements


Whenever the Middle East peace process is a topic in the news or in discussions, its factual stagnation is almost automatically blamed on the Israeli settlement development. It is one of the most controversial issues in the Middle East conflict. Even friends of Israel dissociate themselves when it comes to questions of the settlement policies. Without any intention to define in any form what steps should be undertaken in this regard, it is extremely important that some central points concerning the settlements question are explained factually:

1. “The West Bank is illegally occupied territory, and all Israeli settlements there are unlawful.”

The reasoning that the settlements in Judea and Samaria are illegal is based on the 49th Article of the Geneva Convention IV, implemented after World War II and the Nazi occupation of European states. Accordingly, the oppressive relocation of a civil population to other states is prohibited. Such a kind of relocation, however, never took place in the West Bank.

Moreover, Israel did not — and this must be specifically stressed — occupy any territories of a recognized, sovereign state. Jordan, from which Israel took over these areas in the Six-Day War (that was provoked by the Arab states), never had been able to enforce there its sovereignty because its occupation of the territories had been illegal and not been recognized by any state except by England and Pakistan.

But most of all we must in all explicitness be reminded that the League of Nations — the decisions of which were taken over by the United Nations (Article 80 of the U.N. Charter) — at the time had clearly determined in San Remo that Jews are allowed settle down in all areas of Palestine.

These areas thus are not a matter of “occupied territories,” and the construction of settlements there does not contradict international right. The term “occupation” is linked to many dismal associations, according to which the West Bank is “stolen” territory, and consequently has to be eliminated in political discussions.

This of course does not mean that under a peace agreement this land should not be redivided — but the moral and legal grounds for the peace negotiations have to be clearly defined: It certainly is not about illegally occupied, but about disputed territories to which people make a claim and the future of which must be determined in the context of a peace treaty.

2. “Jerusalem is an Arab town, and Jews cannot legitimately build there.”

This is a totally untenable assertion. For thousands of years (see 1. Book of Kings, 8,48), Jews all over the world have prayed toward Jerusalem — not least for the good of their Holy City, and in the hope of soon being able to return in this “City of Peace” (uru-salem). 

In the 2,000 years since the Roman rule, Jews practically uninterruptedly have lived in the Holy City, and for 150 years they again have represented the majority in Jerusalem.

Until 1967, Jews were absolutely prohibited to access the Western Wall. In total contrast, the State of Israel thereafter left the administration of the Temple Mount and its mosques to the Arab side, in order to create the grounds for a peaceful atmosphere in Jerusalem. This tolerance-minded act however has been badly rewarded: Until today, it has been strictly forbidden to Jews to pray on the Temple Mount.

And now, in defiance of all these facts, it should be forbidden that Jews build up their homes in large parts of Jerusalem — what an irony! As the Arabs expelled the Jews by force from Jerusalem in 1948, and now, as a “result” of this illegal attack, a return to the city of their dreams should be prohibited to them? What a peculiar idea.

3. “The settlement construction inhibits the continuation of the peace talks.”

This is a strange statement. The absolute hostility toward Israel’s existence has accompanied the Jewish state ever since its founding in 1948. The PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization), the forerunner of the Palestinian Authority, was founded in 1964, i.e. at a time when there were no “occupied” territories yet — unless one considers the whole of Israel (also Tel Aviv, Haifa and Beer Sheva) as illegally occupied areas. But most important is that in the Oslo Accords, on which the Palestinian-Israeli efforts for peace are based, there is no talk of a settlement stop as a precondition for peace negotiations. The Accords explicitly state that the settlements in question shall be discussed only in the last phase of the peace negotiations.

4. How did the expansion of the settlements come about?

Right after the Six-Day War (1967), in which Israel was able to successfully ward off the Arab states’ attack, the Old City of Jerusalem and the West Bank were liberated from Jordan’s illegal occupation, and Israel was hoping for peace negotiations. But eight Arab states unanimously decided on a triple “no” in Khartoum: no peace negotiations, no recognition of Israel, no peace with Israel. At that time, the Israelis started, for historical and security-related reasons, to populate primarily those territories that have been a direct part of the Jewish history, such as the regions around Jerusalem and Hebron. Because of the Arabs’ rejection to negotiate with Israel, these construction activities then broadened, but it has always been clearly determined that no privately owned land may be used for settling, and to this date, Israeli courts give assistance to Arabs who can evidence their rights to private property.

At the same time, it has always been obvious that in the course of true peace negotiations certain settlements would be evacuated. So it happened for the peace agreement with Egypt (Sinai settlements). And later, Israel retreated from the 25 (!) prosperous settlements in the Gaza Strip (thus causing 10,000 people to lose their homes), in order to promote a peace process. This, however, was badly rewarded: Instead of settling Palestinian refugees in this area, these settlements were turned into bases of terror from which towns in southern Israel and their civil populations are permanently shelled. This is no confidence-inspiring development in view of future negotiations regarding the settlements!

Three years ago, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decreed a 10-month settlement stop in order to facilitate the peace negotiations — this, too, without any success.

5. How can the question of settlements be resolved within the scope of a peace treaty?

By means of a true will from all sides concerned to peacefully coexist in the Middle East. To achieve this, it is indispensable to accept each other, to recognize the other’s rights and to believe in an acceptable modus vivendi.

Israel has done much already in this regard. It recognizes the rights of the Palestinian Arabs and their cause to have their own state, and it prohibits (also by its courts) any attacks against the latter’s population. Also, Israel has proved that within the Jewish state, a large Arab minority (far more than 1 million people) can live freely and with full civil rights.

The Palestinian Arabs, however, still have to undertake a lot in this regard. For the time being, they deny, also in official documents, any rights of the Jews to Israel and the Holy Land (“no rights, even in Jerusalem”); they reject the formula “two states for two people” and are not willing to recognize Israel as a Jewish state; they use their official media against Israel and Judaism and to highly praise the worst of terrorists. And as far as the settlements: They time and again declare that the West Bank must become totally “judenrein” (free of Jews)!

In spite of all the internal difficulties, the Palestinian Arabs now have to change their basic attitude toward Israel and the Jews — then the question of settlements certainly can be resolved, be it by the elimination of settlements in areas densely populated by Palestinian Arabs, be it by the exchange of territories or be it by the peaceful coexistence also in a Palestinian state, as it has been the case within Israel since 65 years. Moreover, it would probably also be a natural solution to link the West Bank with Jordan. Jordan rules over more than 77 percent of the classical Palestine Mandate, and the majority of its citizens are Palestinian Arabs.

With a candid will of all sides, it will certainly be possible to find ways to a true peaceful coexistence in the Holy Land.


Arthur Cohn is an international film producer whose films include “The Garden of the Finzi-Continis,” “Central Station” and “One Day in September.”

Jahalin Bedouin fear new Israeli transfer plan


Id Khamis Jahalin sits in his sparsely furnished, illegally-built shack, and worries about his future. A father of seven, he was born in this community of tents and shacks about ten miles east of Jerusalem.

Sitting on a thin mattress that substitutes for a couch during the day and a bed at night, Id Khamis told The Media Line that a new Israeli plan to relocate the Jahalin Bedouin community, “is the worst one yet. It is not appropriate for us at all. The place they want to move us to is surrounded on all four sides and it is very crowded. I am a Bedouin and I want to live like my parents.”

Id Khamis says he used to have more than 100 goats, but as grazing land became more limited, he ate or sold most of them. He also used to work in nearby Jewish communities built on post-1967 land such as Kfar Adumim, less than a mile away. But in 2009, when residents illegally built a new school out of mud and tires, He says all of the Bedouin here lost their jobs.

Since all of the homes are built without the approval of government authorities, there is no access to water or electricity. Id Khamis has installed solar panels outside which produce enough power to run a television and lights. He has no refrigerator.

“My wife has to work very hard preparing all of the food fresh,” he says with a smile.

Several years ago, Israel tried to move these Jahalin Bedouin, along with 22 other communities — a total of 2300 people — to another location near a garbage dump. Israeli lawyers hired by human rights organizations appealed to Israel’s Supreme Court to thwart that plan. Id Khamis says the new plan is even worse.

“This is private land. It is not appropriate for Bedouin. It’s like a prison. It is surrounded on all four sides. I am a Bedouin…but this is not acceptable to me. Israelis wouldn’t want to live like this, either.”

Id Khamis says Israel is trying to remove all Palestinians from Area C, the 60 percent of land Israel acquired in the 1967 war over which it continues to hold both security and administrative control pursuant to the 1994 Oslo Accords. He sees it as proof that Israel is not interested in a long-term peace with the Palestinians.

“Once they have removed all the people, they will say that the land belongs to them,” Id Khamis argues. “This is like the last bullet in the head of the peace process.”

Israeli officials say the plan has not been finalized and they are not sure why the Jahalin are launching their objections now.

“They are living there illegally and we are looking at a series of options,” Guy Inbar, spokesman for the Civil Administration, the Israeli body which administers the post-1967 areas, told The Media Line. “One option is to relocate them to the Jordan Valley. We are working with the Palestinian Authority on a proposal for 800 building units, but it has not been decided.”

Inbar said the plan is being drafted by a Palestinian company was awarded the project in a bidding process, and that Israel is simply trying to improve the Jahalins’ quality of life.

“We are trying to improve the living standards of both Palestinians and Israelis,” he said. “We want the Bedouin to live in an area where they get all the infrastructure they need, like water and electricity, instead of living in tents that could be demolished.”

All of the structures in this village, including the school, have outstanding Israeli demolition orders against them.

Inbar said he was not sure why the plan’s detractors were coming forward now but insisted that nothing has been finalized.

But attorney Shlomo Lecker, who showed The Media Line a copy of the plan, said he had information that it will be presented in the next 2-3 weeks.

“The homes will be built on the outskirts of Jericho in Area A (which is under complete Palestinian control),” he explained. “Then Israel will use it as a bargaining chip in negotiations with the Palestinians. They will offer to give the Palestinians this area in exchange for annexing part of Area C — [where there are Israeli communities built on post-1967 lands].”

Lecker also says that temperatures in the Jordan Valley reach 120 degrees during the summer and most Bedouin will not be able to afford air conditioning.

Speaking to The Media Line, Stephen Wilkinson of the non-profit organization Dikania explained the position of those who accuse Israel of violating international law, a charge it denies. “According to the Geneva Convention, Israel, as the occupying power, has very clear obligations when it comes to the occupied people, in this case the Bedouin. Forcible transfer of protected populations is prohibited. International law can be very complicated, but on this issue it’s very clear that it is illegal,” he charged.

Are critics of Israeli occupation getting nervous?


It’s a sure sign of nervousness when people start using the vocabulary of absolute certainty — when they refuse to allow for even the possibility of debate.

That’s precisely what Hussein Ibish did in his response in Daily Beast/Open Zion to my column last week where I suggested that Israel’s presence on the West Bank ought to be characterized as “disputed” rather than “illegal”— he refused to give an inch, or even a millimeter.

His headline captured his certainty, if not his smugness: “Of Course the Settlements are Illegal.” His point of view was not even a point of view; it was, he declared, a “political and legal fact.” Anything else is an “entirely fictive alternate reality” where people who disagree with him “neurotically retreat.”

[Related: Love ‘em or hate ‘em, Settlements are not illegal]

I don’t blame Mr. Ibish for his anxiety. For years now, Ibish and other critics of Israel’s occupation have had the field pretty much to themselves. It has become one of the world’s hard-rock truisms that Israel’s occupation is “illegal,” repeated reflexively throughout the world’s media and spawning the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign to isolate and delegitimize the Jewish state.

So, you can understand if these critics were somewhat flummoxed last July when a respected juror, former Israeli Supreme Court Justice Edmond Levy, led a commission that concluded that “Israeli settlements are legal under international law.”

I quoted that report in my article, and, interestingly, Mr. Ibish never refers to it in his rebuttal. Apparently, Ibish is so sure that this is a black and white issue that he won’t even waste his time studying a report that introduces plenty of gray.

Is the issue of the settlements’ legal status really so settled? How can we assess whether it’s even worthy of debate?

Well, keep reading and decide for yourself.

Let’s start with the Levy report, which Mr. Ibish chose to ignore. I will elaborate on why I consider its conclusions to be eminently fair and reasonable.

The report concludes that the laws of belligerent occupation do not apply de jure to Israel’s presence in the West Bank.  Is that reasonable?

As Avi Bell, professor at the University of San Diego School of Law, notes: “One of the sine quibus non of belligerent occupation, as reaffirmed recently in an expert conference organized by the International Committee of the Red Cross, is that the occupation take place on foreign territory,” adding that “considerable state practice supports the traditional view that captured territory is ‘foreign’ only when another state has sovereignty.”

Bell asserts that the Levy commission “is on solid ground in observing that neither Jordan nor any other foreign state had territorial sovereignty over the West Bank in 1967 and that the territory cannot therefore be ‘foreign’ for purposes of the law of belligerent occupation.”

In fact, as we shall see, one could persuasively argue that Israel itself was already the lawful sovereign over the West Bank in 1967.

Ibish probably knows all that, which is why he chose to ignore the binding League of Nations agreements which laid down the Jewish legal right to settle anywhere in western Palestine, the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, an entitlement unaltered in international law.

This “Mandate for Palestine” was fully embraced by the international community. Fifty-one member countries — the entire League of Nations — unanimously declared on July 24, 1922:

“Whereas recognition has been given to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country.”

As Eli Hertz and other experts have pointed out, political rights to self-determination as a polity for Arabs were guaranteed by the same League of Nations in four other mandates — in Lebanon and Syria [The French Mandate], Iraq, and later Trans-Jordan [The British Mandate].

You might be shocked to know that an Arab entity called Palestine never existed; the term Palestine referred only to the Jews.

Moreover, the Arabs never established a Palestinian state when the UN in 1947 recommended to partition Palestine, and to establish “an Arab and a Jewish state” (not a Palestinian state, it should be noted).

Nor did the Arabs recognize or establish a Palestinian state during the two decades prior to the Six-Day War when the West Bank was under Jordanian control and the Gaza Strip was under Egyptian control; nor did the Palestinian Arabs clamor for autonomy or independence during those years under Jordanian and Egyptian rule.

It’s a fact, not an opinion, that the Arab Palestinian movement came of age only after the Arabs lost the Six Day War and the hated Zionists took over the West Bank.

And yet, Ibish has the chutzpah to refer to the disputed territory as “their [the Palestinians’] land.” Who’s living in an alternate universe?

But let’s go deeper. Ibish’s main argument for calling Israel an illegal occupier is what he calls a “mountain” of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions. He begins with the big one: UNSC Resolution 242, which was adopted unanimously by the UN Security Council in the aftermath of the 1967 Six-Day War.

The resolution calls for a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict based in principle on states having the right to “just and lasting peace” within “secure and recognized boundaries.”

But what Ibish fails to tell you is that Resolutions 242 and 338 never branded Israel as an “unlawful occupier” or an “aggressor.”

The fact is, the resolution never called on Israel to withdraw from all the “territories,” while the wording of the resolutions themselves clearly reflect Israel’s contention that none of the territories were occupied land taken by force in an unjust war.

In contrast, the revisionist International Court of Justice, which critics like Ibish like to quote, repeatedly talks of the “… illegality of [Israel’s] territorial acquisition,” misleading readers by ignoring Arab aggression and concealing “the provisions of the Charter concerning cases in which the use of force is lawful,” as was the case of the 1967 Six-Day War.

In fact, if you study the minutes of the six month ‘debate’ over the wording of Resolution 242, you’ll see that draft resolution proposals that speak of “occupied territories,” “aggression” and called on Israel to “withdraw immediately all its forces to the positions they held prior to 5 June 1967,” were all defeated.

As is well documented, one can easily trace the General Assembly’s attempts to change the status of the Territories, doctoring the definition of their status from “territories” to “Occupied Territories” to “Arab territories” to “occupied Palestinian territories” to “Occupied Palestinian Territory” and finally to “occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem.”

All of the above has been documented in detail by legal expert Eli Hertz. Ibish doesn't get into all those details, and who can blame him? They would severely undermine his “black and white” case.

As if all that weren’t enough to show that this is hardly a slam dunk case, Professor Bell notes an additional reason for questioning the de jure application of the laws of belligerent occupation to the West Bank: Israel’s peace agreement with Jordan.

He quotes expert Yoram Dinstein on this point: “The rules of belligerent occupation cannot be applied to Israel’s presence in the West Bank in light of the combined effect of … the Jordanian-Israeli Treaty of Peace of 1994 and the series of agreements with the Palestinians.  There is simply no room for belligerent occupation in the absence of belligerence, namely, war.”

On the issue of settlements, Bell continues, “the Levy report likewise adduces several strong arguments to the effect that even if the laws of belligerent occupation applied to Israel’s presence in the West Bank, the Fourth Geneva Convention poses no bar to the kinds of actions that are subsumed under the term ‘settlement activities.’”

Again, Ibish chooses to ignore the crucial fact that while The Fourth Geneva Convention forbids “transfers” and “deportations” by the occupying state of parts of its population into occupied territory, it does not forbid “settlements.” As Bell explains, officials of the state of Israel have provided services to settlers and sometimes encouraged them, but the state of Israel has not transferred any Israeli to the West Bank against his or her will.

In fact, as even anti-settlement activists like Talia Sasson acknowledge, “there was never a considered, ordered decision by the state of Israel, by any Israeli government” on settlements.

“There is no precedent,” Bell writes, “for any other state being adjudged to have violated the Fourth Geneva Convention simply on the basis of permitting or facilitating private preferences in the way Israel has done.”

In a worst case scenario, even if facilitating private Jewish residential preferences in the West Bank were otherwise suspect “transfers,” the Levy report notes that sui generis rules apply to the area:  “Article 6 of the Mandate of Palestine demands ‘encourage[ment], in cooperation with the Jewish Agency … [of] close settlement by Jews on the land, including State lands …’”

Bell quotes the late Yale professor and international law expert Eugene Rostow as asserting that “this command is preserved by article 80 of the UN Charter, and, if the West Bank is under belligerent occupation, by article 43 of the Hague Regulations.”

I could go on, but you get the picture: The deeper you investigate the accusation that Israel is an “illegal occupier,” the more you realize that this is hardly an open and shut case.

Ibish calls me “reliably hawkish,” but if he’s any less ideological, why did he so easily dismiss evidence that contradicted his case—going as far as not even mentioning the Levy report which I quoted?

Here’s what I think. Since the Levy report came out, Ibish and other critics of Israel’s occupation have been getting nervous. Their views have been unchallenged by the mainstream media for so long that they can’t fathom, let alone handle, any serious pushback. That’s why you see smug language like “Of course, the settlements are illegal,” and juvenile accusations that anyone who disagrees with them is “neurotically” retreating into an alternate universe.

What would happen if this “alternative” view ever gained traction? Well, for one thing, the global movement to make Israel the most hated nation on the planet would definitely stall.

Deprived of their cherished “illegal Israeli occupation” lightning rod, what would the Israel haters do then? Would they be forced to finally confront the unpublicized and miserable conditions of Palestinians living in Lebanon and Jordan, who are much worse off than Palestinians living in the West Bank?

Would they be forced to admit that the Arabs with the most human rights, the most freedom and the most economic opportunities in the Middle East live in that hated Zionist state, Israel?

Would they also have to admit that Israel has offered to end the occupation three times, and that the Palestinians refused each time?

What would happen if the mainstream media ever got hold of the narrative that the Israel occupation may not be so illegal after all?

As shocking as it may sound, one can make a case that it might benefit the peace process. How so? Because Israel can’t credibly negotiate “land for peace” if it is seen as having no rights to the land in the first place.

As I wrote in my original column, one of the reasons negotiations with the Palestinians have gone nowhere is that, since Palestinians believe the land is already theirs, they have no incentive to negotiate, let alone compromise.

Until they realize that Israel does, in fact, have rights to the land, why should they compromise? What is there to negotiate?

Of course, don’t bet on any of these “alternate” views gaining traction any time soon. Ibish and his ilk know that there’s a better chance of convincing the world media that Ahmadinejad is a peacenik than convincing them that the Israeli occupation is not illegal. Truisms against Israel die hard.

But cynicism is no excuse. The “disputed, not illegal” position is a fair and reasonable one.

This debate has nothing to do, it must be noted, with whether one thinks the occupation is a good or moral idea or even in Israel’s interest. Those issues have dominated the dialogue up until now.

The debate ignited by the Levy report is about legal rights. This is an important debate that is long overdue. If Israel can credibly assert its rights, this could have positive implications for the peace process and put the ills of the Middle East in a fresh perspective.

The pervasive propaganda that for decades has made Israel the Middle East’s favorite scapegoat — because of its “illegal occupation”— has only hurt the people of the Middle East.

No matter what people like Ibish tell you, this should be the beginning of a great debate, not the end of one.


David Suissa is president of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal and can be reached at davids@jewishjournal.com.

Illegal Israeli mall workers drawing attention from U.S. law enforcement


CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story implied that Rami Feinstein was an undocumented worker in the United States. Feinstein is in fact a U.S. citizen. The story has been amended to reflect this.


In 2006, aspiring Israeli singer Rami Feinstein faced a big-time dilemma: Would he sign a 19-year contract with a top talent agent and relinquish 45 percent of his future profits, or take a job selling cosmetics at an American shopping mall?

Feinstein took the job at the mall — and it worked out better than he expected.

Not only did he make enough money to cut an album the following year, he found inspiration in the most unlikely of places. The sales pitch he used on clients at the Minnesota mall became the lyrics of “Something Amazing,” his first single.

“The song is about a bittersweet memory from that period,” Feinstein told JTA by phone from Tel Aviv. “As a musician I wanted to make music. But in order to do that I suddenly found myself having to sell cosmetics to American women at a shopping mall. That conflict gave birth to my song.”

Feinstein is an American citizen, but many if not most of the Israelis who find easy money selling brand-name cosmetics at mall kiosks across the United States are not. And not all of them enjoy Feinstein's fairy-tale ending.

Last month, 13 Israelis were arrested when Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents rounded up salespeople at two shopping malls in Houston. Meanwhile, the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv has been working to stem the flow of illegal workers at the source, producing a video warning would-be Israeli kiosk salespeople that beside the ignominy of being jailed, they faced a potential lifetime ban on entering the United States if they are caught.

“It is true that thousands of Israelis have traveled over the past 10 years and worked at these kiosks,” Charles Shannon, an embassy official, says in the video released in June 2011. “The difference is we know about it now.”

In the United States, talk of undocumented workers is more likely to conjure images of sun-parched Latino agricultural workers or nannies caring for the children of the affluent rather than pushy Israeli salespeople in air-conditioned emporiums hawking eye lotions and hand creams.

But increasingly, the flow of illegal Israeli workers is capturing the attention of American law enforcement, which treats them much as they treat any worker caught working illegally in the United States.

Even so, Israelis continue to flock to U.S. malls, judging the rewards to outweigh the risks.

“I earn more money in one month working at a shopping mall in the U.S. than I would in Israel in a year,” said Noa, who recently returned from a stint at a Texas mall and asked that her real name be withheld.

Noa, who spends the Christmas shopping season working at U.S. malls, says she can earn up to $8,000 in a good month — nearly four times the average Israeli monthly salary. Of her many friends who have worked in the business, very few have been caught, she said. Some use the money to open businesses back home, while others used it to pay for trips to South America.

“You're standing at the cart all by yourself trying to communicate with people around you, but they're all saying 'no, no, no,' ” Feinstein said. “Just like an artist, you're constantly being rejected. But if you're strong and you have something interesting to offer, then eventually you'll be rewarded.”

After a few weak years, insiders say the kiosk business at malls is booming again. Kiosks are eager for new recruits, and recruiters typically offer to pay to transport potential employees to malls across the United States. Workers are housed communally; rent is generally free for the first month and then heavily subsidized.

Kiosk workers say they live and breathe salesmanship. Shifts are 12 hours long and they receive one day off per week. At night they laze around playing guitar, singing and exchanging stories about their top sales. First thing in the morning they're back at the kiosk.

The flow of illegal Israeli workers is seen as one reason for the failure of legislative attempts to exempt Israelis from having to obtain U.S. travel visas. A bill co-authored by Reps. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) and Ted Poe (R-Tex.) would waive the requirement for Israelis to obtain a visa prior to traveling to the United States. But the bill is stuck because Israelis have a visa rejection rate of 5.9 percent. By law, visa requirements cannot be waived for citizens of countries with a rate above 3 percent.

Hoping to reduce the rate, Yigal Tsarfati, head of the Israeli Foreign Ministry's consular section in Jerusalem, recently took the unusual step of asking young Israelis not to apply for tourist visas to the United States.

“I would be happy if young adults would spare themselves the experience of waiting in line, paying high fees and the anguish of having their application rejected,” Tsarfati said, according to the daily Maariv. “By so doing they will contribute to efforts to reduce the number of those rejected.”

In 2009, Congress made an exception to the 3 percent rule for Hungary, Latvia and Lithuania, countries with higher rejection rates than Israel. Sherman said a similar exception could be made for Israel. He scoffed at the notion that doing so would open the floodgates to illegal Israeli immigrants.

“Proportionally, there are more illegal immigrants from Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia and about 100 other countries I can get you than from Israel,” he said. “If you're in a Jewish environment, then you hear 'bubbe meises' [old wives' tales] about the Israeli illegal immigrants at the mall. But there are probably more illegal immigrants in the country from Canada and the UK. We can't shut down our relationship with them over that, can we?”

Migron must be evacuated in a week, Israel’s high court rules


Israel’s Supreme Court ruled that the West Bank outpost of Migron must be evacuated by Sept. 4.

All 50 families must leave the outpost, the court ruled Wednesday in response to a petition filed by the families requesting a delay in the eviction until the modular homes being built for the evacuees are completed. They reportedly will not be habitable for several weeks.

The outpost’s homes must be razed by Sept. 11, with the exception of the 17 families who claimed in a petition to the court that they have purchased or repurchased the plots on which their homes are located.

Those families also had asked the court to allow them to remain in their homes—a request that essentially was denied by Wednesday’s ruling.

In March, the Supreme Court ruled against an attempt by the government to postpone to 2015 the demolition of Migron, which the Palestinians say is built on their land. Deferrals against the demolition stretch back to 2006.

The settlers, who deny that Migron is built on private Palestinian land, had signed a deal with the Netanyahu government agreeing to relocate to a nearby hill.

Jerusalem court clears way for S. Sudanese migrants’ deportation


A Jerusalem court ruled that Israel could deport South Sudanese migrants who entered the country illegally.

Thursday’s decision in Jerusalem District Court was in response to an appeal by NGOs representing African migrants. The appeal was filed after Israel’s Interior Minister Eli Yishai issued a decision to return the migrants.

Israel recognized South Sudan a day after it officially announced its independence from Sudan on July 9, 2011, and initiated formal ties three weeks later.

The decision paves the way for the deportation of about 1,500 South Sudanese who entered Israel illegally. Yishai said that he hoped the decision would be a precedent to allow the deportation of African nationals from other countries.

“This is not a war against infiltrators,” Yishai said, according to the Jerusalem Post. “This is a war for the preservation of the Zionist and Jewish dream in the land of Israel.”

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein said last month that South Sudanese could be repatriated to their country now that it has achieved independence and is deemed safe by the foreign ministry. Each asylum application must be considered individually, he added.

The Jerusalem court said that the deportations could commence since the case had not proven that those South Sudanese to be deported would face “risk to life or exposure to serious damage.”

It is not known when the South Sudanese migrants will be deported.

Israel must criminalize purchase of sex


In Israel, an estimated 15,000 individuals are involved in prostitution, including 5,000 under the age of 18, according to reports shared with the Task Force on Human Trafficking by Knesset member Orit Zuaretz of the Kadima Party, as well as other experts and activists. The reports say that the average age of entry is just 14 and that more than 90 percent of those involved in prostitution in Israel are subject to severe physical abuse, often by their clients.

Justifications abound for having prostitution be legal. Some claim that prostitution is a source of easy money or that its lengthy history points to its inevitable continuity. There’s even the dubious claim that it is a necessary conduit allowing men to fulfill their biological needs. Such myths clash dramatically with the truth and conceal a sordid underworld of violence, rape and the worst forms of abuse.

Merely utilizing terms such as “employment” and “profession” to describe prostitution lends credence to a system that preys on women who have faced severe physical and emotional oppression. More than 80 percent of women in prostitution have been sexually or physically abused in their youth, often by family members, according to reports shared with the task force. Entry is not a matter of choice but an unwitting endpoint in a cycle of abuse and despair.

Even with its recent decline — attributed to pressure from civil society organizations and the United States — Israel remains a destination country for human trafficking. The industry thrives on the vulnerable and exploits the troubled past of victims of abuse.

So why, especially if the negatives are even more disturbing than we had imagined, is this practice allowed to continue — with emphasis on the word “allowed”? For in the most basic sense, not enough has been done to combat an “industry” that thrives on the degradation and abuse of women and is supported by human traffickers. Allowed because though it is illegal to traffic human beings, run a brothel or work as a pimp, becoming a “consumer” of prostitution is still legal in Israel.

Essentially, though it is illegal to sell women, buying them is deemed acceptable. Though the world of prostitution is a hub for physical abuse, the transmission of fatal diseases and the restriction of freedom, it is still legal to fuel this horrid practice. The result should come as no surprise.

With no attempt to reduce demand, there is a constant incentive for criminal bodies to provide the supply. Targeting pimps and brothel owners is simply not enough, as evidenced by an average of more than 1 million brothel visits every month in Israel and a trade that accounts for more than $500 million each year, according to the reports.

Some argue that regulation and control of prostitution is needed, not prohibition. It’s a route that could provide for safer environments, less criminal involvement and an end to human trafficking. However, when such laws were enacted in Germany and Holland, conditions for women failed to improve and the laws were proven to be abject failures.

On Feb. 12, Zuaretz will bring a law to the Knesset that places criminal responsibility on those who purchase sexual services. What’s more, the legislation, which was proposed in 2010 to a ministerial hearing and is based on a law that has been enacted in Sweden, Iceland, Norway and, most recently, France, would allow Israel to join the ranks of those nations working tirelessly toward a world free of modern slavery.

The result of this legislative action speaks of far more than simply whether we Israelis will choose to punish individuals who perpetuate these crimes. It will ask us to determine where we as a society stand in a debate centered on how we appropriate human rights. Do we feel that all individuals deserve liberty and justice, or have we set criteria that ultimately strip those less fortunate of the opportunities that freedom entails?

The challenge has been issued, but whether Israel decides to place itself on the right side of history has yet to be determined.

Gili Varon, an attorney, is the director of the Task Force on Human Trafficking, a joint project with ATZUM that aims to engage the Israeli public and government agencies to confront and eradicate modern slavery in Israel.

Israel demolishes third illegal outpost this week


Israeli security forces demolished an illegal West Bank outpost, the third this week.

Israel Defense Forces troops and Civil Administration inspectors early Thursday morning evacuated and demolished the Mitzpe Avichai outpost near Kiryat Arba. The outpost was home to nine families, including 20 children.

The forces evacuated the families from the outpost at about 3 a.m. and then razed 10 structures, nine living quarters and a synagogue, according to reports. The outpost was established in 2007, in memory of Avichai Levy, who was killed by a Palestinian terrorist; it is the third time that the outpost has been razed.

Earlier this week, security forces demolished the Givat Arye and Gal Yossef outposts, both near Shilo.

All of the evacuations occurred without clashes, according to reports. 

Residents of Mitzpe Avichai have vowed to rebuild the outpost.

Agreement could save illegal West Bank outpost


A pending agreement between the settlers’ council and the Israeli government will prevent the destruction of the Ramat Gilad outpost in the West Bank.

Under the agreement, the outpost in the northern West Bank would become part of the Karnei Shomron municipality and five of its 10 caravans would be moved from an area that is considered private Palestinian property to state land, The Jerusalem Post reported, citing Army Radio.

The agreement has not been finalized, according to the Israeli Defense Ministry.

Danny Dayan, the head of the settlers’ Yesha Council, told Army Radio that the agreement had been “95 percent ready” last week before the “provocation” of forces heading to Ramat Gilad and the settler attacks that followed.

The parts of the outpost on private land are scheduled to be razed by the end of the year by order of the Supreme Court.

Ten families live on Ramat Gilad, which was established in 2001 in memory of Gilad Zar, who was killed by Palestinians in a drive-by shooting. Zar’s father, Moshe, claims to own the property on which the outpost is constructed.

Agriprocessors’ Rubashkin denied new trial



Former Agriprocessors executive Sholom Rubashkin was denied a new trial by a U.S. appeals court.
 The St. Louis Court of Appeals ruled Sept. 16 that Rubashkin did not prove in his bid for a new trial that the presiding judge in the original case, Linda Reade of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa, should have recused herself because she was involved in planning the May 2008 federal immigration raid on Agriprocessors that led to the company’s bankruptcy later that year.

 

Rubashkin, the former head of what once was the nation’s largest kosher slaughterhouse and packing plant, located in Postville, Iowa, was convicted of financial fraud in 2009 and sentenced to 27 years in prison. Rubashkin is in a federal prison in New York state.

In the federal raid on the plant, 389 illegal immigrants were arrested, including 31 children.
The appeals court also disagreed with Rubashkin’s contention that the sentence was too long.

A Rubashkin attorney told the Des Moines Register that his client would appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.
 


Israel begins building barrier on Egyptian border


Israel began construction of a barrier along its border with Egypt.

Engineers were scheduled to fan out along Israel’s southern border Monday and prepare the ground of for the construction of the barrier and electronic fence.

The nearly $375 million, 155-mile project is being undertaken in order to prevent migrant workers from entering Israel as well as to deter terrorists and drug smugglers.

Hundreds of illegal migrants from Africa enter Israel each week. Nearly 11,000 have entered Israel since January, according to Israel’s Population and Immigration Authority. Most are economic migrants searching for work, though a couple hundred asylum seekers have been granted refugee status in recent years.

Dozens of migrants, who pay smugglers thousands of dollars to help them cross the border from Egypt into Israel, have been shot and killed by Egyptian soldiers.

Living and Working [Il]legally in America — It’s Not Just for Latinos Anymore


Hardly a day goes by without some news about them — the undocumented. Congress debates the issue of how to handle them, and pundits argue even as the number of illegal immigrants grows. Supposedly, there are more than 12 million of them in the United States. Thinking about them, we tend to see the shadowy figures on this week’s cover: Mexicans or Central Americans scurrying across the road at night, abandoned by their coyote in the desert dust. They pick our fruit, cut our lawns and bus our dishes. But what does illegal immigration have to do with us?

More than you might think. According to statistics compiled by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), during 2004 alone, 540 Israelis were deported or about to be deported. If that many Israelis were caught, it stands to reason that there are many thousands more — in Los Angeles as well as the rest of the United States — who have not yet been located by authorities. And we know from interviews we conducted that — besides Israelis — there are many Jews from Latin America and elsewhere who also fall into this category.

Morris Ardoin, who handles media relations for the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), said that he knows of no way to determine how many Jews are in the United States without a valid visa or working in contravention of the law. “Making a guess on that would be a shot in the dark,” he said. “Like asking how many stars in the sky.”

Maybe there aren’t quite as many as there are stars in the sky, but there are undoubtedly many thousands of illegal Jewish aliens throughout the United States and in Los Angeles, and they have their own stories to tell. The following are three very different stories of the Jewish experience of illegal immigration.

More Information on Getting That Visa


Visa Violations

The U.S. government estimates that about 40 percent of people who are in this country illegally arrived on a legal visa but lost their legal status either by overstaying or otherwise violating the terms of their visa. These are sometimes referred to as “nonimmigrant overstayers.”

Nonimmigrant overstayers include those who came here on a student visa (F-1 or M-1 visa, depending on the type of studies pursued) or their family’s visa (F-2 or M-2). Others come on a tourist visa (B-2) or temporary business visa (B-1).

Another visa commonly used by nonimmigrant overstayers is the H-series visa (H-1, H-2, etc.), which permits those with specialty occupations to enter the country, as well as their families, who enter with an H-4 visa. Another visa commonly used is the R-1, those permitted to enter the United States as “religious workers” and their spouses and children, who enter with an R-2 visa.

All of the above-cited visas are violated if the bearers remain in the United States in a different status from that stipulated in the visa, or if they stay beyond the valid period.

Aid for Those Who Overstay

There are a number of agencies that can help people who are here illegally and would like to talk with someone without fear of being arrested or deported.

Here is a partial list:

  • HIAS, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, offers a variety of services and acts as advocates for migrants’ rights. Their main office is in New York, 333 Seventh Ave., 16th floor, New York, NY 10001-5004. (212) 967-4100, (212) 613-1409 or (800) 442-714. www.hias.org.
  • In Southern California, Public Counsel has a program called Immigrants’ Rights Project, which offers a variety of services. Public Counsel, P.O. Box 76900, Los Angeles, CA 90076. (213) 385-2977. Their office is located at 610 Ardmore Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90005, and their phone number at that office is (213) 385-9089. They accept appointments only, no walk-ins. www.publiccounsel.org.
  • Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA) offers a variety of services. They are located at 5228 Whittier Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90022. For more information, call (213) 640-3883 or visit www.lafla.org.
  • The American Civil Liberties Union also offers aid at 1616 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90026. (213) 977-9500. www.aclu-sc.org

There are also many private attorneys and legal firms that offer services to those in this situation. L.A. newspapers in Spanish, Hebrew, Russian and other languages all have ads for immigration attorneys who are experienced in dealing with cases involving nonimmigrant overstayers and other immigrant issues.

The Slop Sink


At the heart of the tenement kitchen was the slop sink, a metal basin maybe a foot shorter than a standard bathtub, but a few inches deeper. Here the woman of the house washed vegetables and clothes, and on occasion herself and her children. Before indoor plumbing, that water came from a pump outside. It was carried up in heavy buckets for five floors of dark stairs, heated, then put to a multitude of uses.

I stood looking at a slop sink while touring the Lower East Side Tenement Museum this week and thought: Well, there’s a perfect metaphor for the illegal-immigration debate.

That debate is about preserving the economic viability of our local governments. It’s about providing health and education for the poorest among us. It’s about bilingualism and it’s about terrorism — who knows who’s sneaking across our borders. It’s about keeping America “American” and about doing justice to our own immigrant past. It’s about the faceless muscle of the agriculture and construction industries — and it’s about the face of the men and women who make our food and mow our lawns and watch our children.

Like the slop sink, a lot of stuff gets dumped into the illegal immigration debate.

The issue has been played out in recent weeks in the halls of Congress, where a House immigration bill aims to make it harder for employers to hire illegal immigrants and more difficult for illegal immigrants to stay here.

Democrats, who tend to favor more liberal amnesty policies for those here illegally, are looking on gleefully as the Republican Party splits over this issue, with the more hardline wing clinging to a no-amnesty position even as it alienates Latino voters. How do you say schadenfreude in Spanish?

The Lower East Side Tenement Museum in Manhattan is worth a visit for several reasons, not least of which is the light the museum’s dark hallways can shed on one of today’s most contentious issues.

The museum itself is housed in a tenement originally built in 1865. Until its upper floor apartments were closed down by the landlord in 1935, 97 Orchard St. was home to some 7,000 people from more than 20 countries.

Visitors to the building see the apartments and hear the stories of two families, the Gumpertzes and the Baldizzis.

The Jewish Gumpertzes arrived around 1870 from Prussia. Their three-room, 350-square-foot flat lacked light, heat, running water, plumbing and gas. After her husband Julius mysteriously disappeared one October morning in 1874, Nathalie Gumpertz supported her four children as a seamstress. She heated the water for her slop sink on a coal stove in a room with no windows or ventilation. The only bathrooms were four wooden stalls down the stairs and outside. Nathalie’s youngest child, Isaac, died of dysentery.

The Catholic Balidizzis arrived just in time for the Depression. Thanks to public-health laws, their flat had ventilation, gas, running water and electric light — a palace compared to a generation earlier. But the family struggled to make ends meet, going on and off the public dole as Adolpho Baldizzi roamed Lower Manhattan with a toolbox, looking for work as a day laborer.

One lesson of the museum is how unromantic our immigrant past was. It was short, nasty and brutish — filled with the pain of leaving family and the familiar behind for a long shot at economic opportunity or freedom.

I’m one of those who fails to see how today’s illegal immigrants are that much different from the Gumpertzes and Baldizzis.

Well, the hardliners could respond, our people came here legally, with papers and a name on microfiche at Ellis Island to prove it.

But that’s only partially true. As Tamar Jacoby of the conservative Manhattan Institute has pointed out, Americans did little to control immigration until the mid-19th century. But beginning in 1840, anti-immigrant sentiment grew, often linked to anti-radicalism, anti-Catholicism, protectionism and, in many cases, such as the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, bigotry.

Still, illegal immigration persisted. The Baldizzis came to America in 1923 in defiance of immigration quotas against so-called undesirable races, such as Sicilians like themselves.

And the Chinese population of New York nearly tripled in the decade following 1882 — and we all know what a drain the superlative children and grandchildren of those illegal Italian and Chinese immigrants have been.

None of this takes away from the serious social and economic problems illegal immigration now presents.

But as Jacoby has pointed out, we as a nation — conservatives like herself included — are better off focusing on assimilation. Business needs a flow of immigrant labor, immigrants need legal rights and protections and we all benefit when the Garcias — and others from points around the globe — have a way to move from the untouchable caste to citizenship, just as the Gumpertzes and Baldizzis did.

Yes — you knew I’d say this — we’re all in that slop sink together.

U.N. Failing in Conflict-Resolution Role


In Indiana in the 1960s, billboards proclaimed a central message of the John Birch Society: “U.S. Out of the U.N.”

The United Nations, the right-wing crusaders believed, was part of a communist plot to undermine our sovereignty. Soon, Americans would be slaves to the puppet masters in Moscow.

Decades later, that fear looks almost comic. The United Nations is too inept to undermine anything expect itself and, perhaps, any movement toward peace in the Middle East.

The plain fact is, the world needs an international body for conflict resolution more than ever, but the United Nations is a pitifully inadequate vehicle for it.

All of this comes to mind in the face of this week’s effort by the Palestinians to generate anti-Israel resolutions in the General Assembly in response to the recent ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) — the judicial but injudicious arm of the United Nations — that Israel’s controversial new security barrier is illegal and must be torn down.

There are many reasons to object to the fence as planned by the government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. In fact, Israel’s high court has done just that, forcing changes in its path.

But the ICJ proved itself a kangaroo court — and that may be an insult to marsupials. The United Nations’ preoccupation this week with using the ruling to strike more blows against Israel is deeply revealing of why this is a failed institution.

In an international organization that is supposed to transcend mere politics, everything at the United Nations is political, even the black-robed justices of its court.

Some U.N. abuses border on the obscene. Its Human Rights Commission has proudly counted some of the world’s most notorious human rights abusers among its members, including Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Libya is a former chair. This year, Sudan joined the commission — even as other U.N. agencies were hand-wringing (a U.N. specialty when faced with catastrophe) over that country’s continuing genocide in the Darfur region.

But the commission can always agree on one thing: That Israel is just about the worst human rights abuser in the world. Who cares about genocide, when you have a security fence to worry about?

The United Nations set back the worldwide fight against racism by allowing its conference on the subject in 2001 to be hijacked by anti-Israel racists who turned it into a festival of outright anti-Semitism. Its refugee agency in the Middle East has perpetuated the misery of displaced Palestinians to suit the political needs of local despots — and in the process helped breed generations of terrorists.

The ICJ decision, in which some justices announced their views even before the case was even heard, was just another chapter in the same old story.

Instead of addressing both Palestinian concerns about the disruptions the fence is causing and Israel’s concerns about terrorism and the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to quell it, the court just took another political swipe at Israel that will inevitably make it harder to bring the two sides back to serious negotiations. It was an act of judicial vandalism, not an effort to give a fair and balanced ruling.

The United Nations has sowed suspicion and bitterness among Israel’s friends. Even many who agree Israel must give up all or most of the land captured in 1967 and who abhor its treatment of the Palestinians are frequently appalled by its actions.

Its Israel obsession is the flip side of the United Nations’ persistent unwillingness to act against genuine horrors in the world.

During the 1994 crisis in Rwanda, the United Nations, apparently unwilling to judge a Third World member the way it routinely judges Israel, was mostly mute. It’s reaction was “willful ignorance and indifference,” according to one member of the U.S. mission to the United Nations at the time.

In the case of Sudan, it had to be dragged kicking and screaming by the United States into even acknowledging there is a problem. Having acknowledged it, the General Assembly will no doubt quickly forget about it as it addresses Israel’s security barrier — a case of misplaced priorities that would be farcical, if it wasn’t so tragic.

The smugly timid U.N. leadership (“Kofi Annan” may someday become a synonym for high-toned cowardice) and a General Assembly that gives the worst despots and rights abusers the same rights as the most representative democracies are forever part of the Mideast problem, not part of the solution.

The results have made Israelis of all political persuasions rightly suspicious of international involvement in their country’s troubles.

And the biased, unhelpful United Nations is a perpetual boost to the Israeli extremists who make political hay from their claim that the whole world is against Israel — a claim that the United Nations, sadly, does its best to reinforce.

The Birch Society was wrong. We need a strong international body to promote peace in a time of escalating danger. Unfortunately, the biased, weak-willed United Nations doesn’t fit the bill.

Bombing Adds Insult to Ruling on Fence


The International Court of Justice may have ruled it illegal, but Israel’s West Bank security barrier has at least one new supporter.

For Sammy Masrawa, it was more baptism by fire than conversion, after Masrawa witnessed a bombing that killed an Israeli woman and wounded at least 20 others in Tel Aviv on Sunday.

"I am an Arab from Jaffa, a leftist, and I was opposed to the separation fence until today," said Masrawa, who survived the attack at a downtown bus stop with mild injuries. "But the terrorists do not distinguish between Jews and Arabs. After what I saw today, I hope to set up a lobby in favor of the fence."

The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, the terrorist wing of Yasser Arafat’s Fatah faction, said its men planted the bomb detonated by remote control to avenge Israel’s killing of its leaders. The blast was the first terrorist attack in Tel Aviv in more than six months. It left Bat Yam resident Sgt. Ma’ayan Nayim, 19, dead.

For Israeli government officials, the attack added deadly injury to the insult of the July 9 ruling at The Hague that the fence is illegal and must be dismantled.

"This morning’s act of murder is the first to have occurred under the auspices of the opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague," Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said in opening remarks at his weekly Cabinet meeting. "I want to make it clear: The State of Israel completely rejects the International Court’s opinion."

"This is a one-sided opinion based solely on political considerations," Sharon continued. "The opinion completely ignores the reason for the construction of the security fence: murderous Palestinian terrorism."

Though it’s only partially complete, the fence already has saved thousands of lives, officials said, noting the dramatic decrease in successful Palestinian terrorist attacks since construction began.

In its nonbinding advisory opinion, the International Court of Justice, a U.N. body, ruled that the barrier contravenes international law, that parts of it built beyond the Green Line — the 1949 armistice line between Israel and the West Bank –must be dismantled and that Palestinians whose land was confiscated must be compensated. The court said that the barrier could impede the Palestinians’ right to self-rule.

Israel argues that the fence is a legitimate means of self-defense, and that the court had no jurisdiction to rule on what is essentially a political conflict.

The key question is to what extent the court’s ruling might aggravate Israel’s isolation on the international stage. Israeli officials see the Palestinian appeal to the court as part of a longstanding strategy to delegitimize the Jewish state and bring it to its knees through international ostracism.

The idea is to have Israel stigmatized as a pariah state, much the way South Africa was before the collapse of the apartheid regime.

Indeed, calling the fence the "apartheid wall" — as Palestinians and their supporters often do — is an overt attempt to associate Israel with the old South Africa.

The first major success of this Palestinian strategy was the 1975 U.N. resolution denigrating Zionism as racism. That resolution was overturned in December 1991, after the launch of the Madrid peace process.

When peacemaking bogged down a decade later, the Palestinians resurrected their strategy, scoring a success at the U.N. World Conference against Racism in Durban, South Africa in August-September 2001. Now they have followed it up with the ICJ ruling.

But there’s a difference. The anti-Zionism campaign sought to delegitimize the founding principle of Jewish statehood, but the attack on the fence aims to delegitimize Israel through its occupation of supposedly Palestinian territory.

That can cut two ways, however. It may be harder for Israel to defend against accusations of occupation, but that critique carries within it an implicit recognition of Israel’s right to exist within its pre-1967 borders.

In an article in Ha’aretz, Tel Aviv University law professor Eyal Benvenisti writes that those who would deny legitimacy to the Zionist enterprise may not want to invoke the ICJ ruling. 

Israel’s battle now will focus mainly on Europe. With Palestinians hoping to translate the ICJ ruling into anti-Israel measures at the United Nations, European and American support will be important in the General Assembly and, even more so, in the Security Council.

The General Assembly sent the issue of the fence to the court last December, asking it to prepare an advisory opinion on the "legal consequences arising from the construction of the wall in the Occupied Palestinian territory."

Israeli officials say the language of the request essentially prejudged its outcome: The Palestinians call the barrier a wall though over 90 percent of it actually is a fence and could be moved. Israel also does not consider the West Bank "Occupied Palestinian territory" but rather "disputed territory" whose status must be determined in negotiations, as per Security Council Resolution 242, which has guided Israeli-Arab peace talks for the past 25 years.

Considering the way the General Assembly presented the issue to the court, Foreign Ministry Jonathan Peled said, it was no surprise that the court ignored the heart of the problem and the very reason for the fence: Palestinian terrorism.

Dore Gold, a former Israeli envoy to the United Nations and now an adviser to Sharon, told JTA that while Israel respects international law, it opposes the politicization of international bodies such as the ICJ.

"The terms of reference that the court was given by the U.N. could only result in a decision that was tantamount to the outlawing of the shield, while condoning the continued use of the sword," he said.

Palestinian leaders were overjoyed at the ruling. Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat called it a "victory for justice," while P.A. Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei described the ruling as ‘historic"

The leader of Hezbollah, the Lebanese terrorist group, called Saturday for Palestinians to step up attacks on Israelis.

"What removes the barrier," said Hezbollah’s leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, " is the will, determination and resistance of Palestinians, with the backing of the [Arab people]."

Europe has been sending mixed signals. Though many European nations were among the more than 30 mainly Western countries opposed to referring the matter to the ICJ, the European Union put out a statement after the ruling saying it corresponded with the E.U. view that the fence is illegal.

Foreign Minister Bernard Bot of Holland, which currently holds the E.U.’s rotating presidency, threatened Israel with unspecified "consequences" if its "dialogue with the E.U." over the fence and other diplomatic matters did not improve.

In trying to drum up international support, Israel will argue that the court ruling was too one-sided to be taken seriously. Moreover, in circumscribing Israel’s right to self-defense while saying nothing against Palestinian terrorism, the ruling is more likely to encourage more terrorism than a peaceful solution, Israel will argue.

Israel’s own Supreme Court has ruled that the government must strike a better balance between legitimate defense needs and Palestinian human rights. It questioned the route chosen in several areas, and more complaints are under consideration.

Despite Sharon’s forthright rejection of the ICJ’s decision, he remains bound by whatever the Israeli Supreme Court rules. And, in anticipation of further Supreme Court decisions, Israel is considering rerouting some unbuilt portions closer to the Green Line, causing far less disruption to Palestinian life — while, some fear, providing less security for Israelis.

Israel will say the measures were taken in deference to its own Supreme Court, but such moves also might help placate the international community.

Settlers Struggle to Hold Biblical Israel


A battered shipping container was Itai Harel’s first home on this steep, windswept hilltop.

Now he lives in a trailer with running water and electricity, and land has been leveled for more permanent housing in this illegal settlement outpost. He and his fellow young settlers are gearing up to fight for their new hilltop home.

Migron, the largest and most established of the 100 or so illegal Jewish outposts set up across the West Bank, is on the front lines of a looming showdown between the settler movement and the Israeli government. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon recently pledged to dismantle such settlements in accordance with the U.S.-led “road map” peace plan.

On Dec. 28, Israel ordered the removal of four of the outposts. The settlers can now petition against the action through the courts.

But settler rabbis called upon supporters to physically prevent the settlements’ dismantlement, and called upon army officers not to order their soldiers to dismantle the settlements.

Harel expressed similar sentiments.

“We are staying here. It’s our home,” said Harel, 29, vowing to return if the government somehow manages to remove them.

“It is our right to be here; this is our national home,” he said, sweeping his hand toward the view of Arab villages and Jewish settlements on nearby hillsides.

However, the settlers’ position may have been undercut by the National Religious Party (NRP), the main settler political body.

The NRP’s chairman, Housing and Construction Minister Effi Eitam, said Dec. 29 that the NRP would support the removal of four unauthorized outposts if no way could be found to authorize them.

The NRP “is part of the government, part of the rule of law in the State of Israel. If, in the end, after every avenue has been pursued, these outposts cannot be authorized, then we will not be able to support anything that is not legal,” Eitam told Israel’s Army Radio.

Over the past two years, 42 families have moved to Migron. They are young, defiant and fiercely ideological. Casting themselves as part of a continuum of ancient and modern Jewish history, they view their unauthorized building of an outpost about 20 minutes drive north of Jerusalem as key to strengthening the Jewish claim to biblical Israel. They also see it as similar to efforts by early Zionists to create “facts on the ground” in what became Israel proper.

Critics and the U.S. government see the outposts, built hastily and without government approval, as yet another obstacle to peace efforts with the Palestinians.

Harel and his friends at Migron, which is named after a biblical-era settlement in the region, are hesitant to say exactly how they would resist soldiers should they attempt an evacuation.

Pinchas Wallerstein, who heads the local settlement region of the West Bank, called Binyamin, said he hopes the Israeli courts will help prevent an evacuation order.

If that fails, he said he foresees thousands of supporters coming to Migron to help thwart police and army forces.

“If we have 7,000 to 10,000 people here it will not be possible to evacuate us,” Wallerstein said, addressing a wedding party from Houston that had come to see Migron as part of a tour of West Bank Jewish settlements. “Why is it legitimate to evacuate Jewish settlements but we cannot withdraw [Arab villages?]” he asked, calling any evacuation a reward for terrorism.

Before climbing back on their bus, the visiting Americans posed for pictures with Wallerstein, who has temporarily moved the Binyamina headquarters to Migron to head the campaign against its possible removal.

In a show of solidarity, Israel’s well-organized settler movement has helped facilitate visits by thousands of people to Migron in recent weeks.

Jerry Silverman, one of the wedding party members, said he hoped the issue would be resolved through negotiations.

“The American government is not in charge of Israel,” he said.

Sharon, long a patron of the settler movement, is under intense pressure from the U.S. administration to fulfill Israel’s obligations under the road map, beginning with the dismantling of illegal outposts that have cropped up over the last several years. Many were established in the immediate aftermath of Arab terrorist attacks on local settlers.

In a speech earlier this month, Sharon said some settlements would have to be evacuated if Israel disengages physically from the Palestinians.

The first Israeli presence on the hill where Migron stands today were cell phone towers built by local phone companies four years ago. Young settlers followed about two years later.

The Israeli government said it expects to begin evacuating settlement outposts in the next few weeks. Officials hope settlers will leave without a fight.

“If the outposts are illegal, then they will be dealt with — hopefully with persuasion, but otherwise with force,” said Zalman Shoval, a foreign policy adviser to Sharon.

“Hopefully that won’t be necessary,” he added quickly.

The four outposts slated for quick removal reportedly are Ginot Aryeh, near Ofra; Hazon David, near Kiryat Arba; Bat Ayin Ma’arav, in Gush Etzion; and Havat Shaked, near Yitzhar.

Only one of the outposts — Ginot Aryeh — is inhabited, with about 10 families living there as well as a few single people.

Unlike most other outposts, Migron is more than a small collection of tents and trailers. There is a paved circular road and two buildings with stone facades, one that serves as a synagogue, the other a nursery school.

Still, amenities are basic.

Next to the community’s row of portable toilets is a large white plastic tent for meetings and celebrations. Trailers are clustered in muddy patches of land. A private security guard in a fleece jacket and armed with an Uzi machine gun mans the entrance. A fence topped with rings of barbed wire surrounds the outpost.

“It’s clear it is worth the price. We are here to live a quality life, to live an ideal,” Harel said.

Peace activists say that ideal is misguided and dangerous. It also does not represent the views of most Israelis, who according to polls, are willing to withdraw from most West Bank and Gaza Strip settlements in the event of an eventual peace deal with the Palestinians.

As long as settlement building continues, “we will be doomed to more and more international condemnation, economic recession and violence,” said Dror Etkes, who coordinates Peace Now’s Settlement Watch Project. “Another settlement is another rock in the occupation and oppression [of the Palestinians].”

Etkes said he saw Sharon’s recent policy speech as a potential turning point since the Israeli government has yet to dismantle any settlements of significant size.

“If the settlements are uprooted then the first inroads will be made,” he said. “Migron could be the first uprooted and this will be a historic event.”

Shlomo and Hagit Ha’Cohen, both 25, see Migron’s place in history differently.

They say they are living Jewish history in their decision to live and establish a family in Migron. Hagit, who teaches history and civics at a Jerusalem high school, is expecting the couple’s first child in January.

“We see this as our home forever, even if there are problems along the way,” said her husband, a yeshiva student who plans to study civil engineering. “With all due respect to the Americans, at the end of the day we are the ones who decide.”

Sitting in their bookshelf-lined three-room trailer, for which they pay $70 a month rent, Shlomo cites the story of Chanukah and the conflict between the ancient Greeks and the Israelites.

“Many imperial powers have told us what to do throughout history. They no longer exist. Israel is still here,” he said. “Our path is clear, we know where we want to go.”

Credibility Gap


Prime Minister Ehud Barak and his closest political allies have been scrambling to limit the damage to their government following a scathing report on the financing behind Barak’s election campaign last year.

The effort at damage control comes as Barak needs all the public support he can muster for his peace policies.

Barak’s battle to defend his credibility is expected to go on for many months, following a one-two punch squarely aimed at the campaign finance of his One Israel bloc.

First came a report issued last week by State Comptroller Eliezer Goldberg, claiming that Barak’s party and several others were guilty of illegal campaign funding practices.

The second blow came soon after, when Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein decided to launch a criminal investigation of the parties’ funding practices.

In the view of Barak’s friends, as well as foes, his immediate reaction to the criminal probe was pretty lame.

According to the comptroller’s report, Barak’s One Israel bloc set up nonprofit organizations to funnel donations for his campaign against Likud incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Among the alleged violations of these organizations, Goldberg said, was channeling money from abroad, in violation of campaign financing laws.

While the comptroller found allegations of widespread campaign financing violations in several parties, Goldberg singled out One Israel and its political leader, Barak, for the severest of the suspected violations.

The state comptroller fined One Israel some $3.2 million, the Center Party, $700,000, and the Likud Party $125,000 for their activities.

Barak went on prime-time television last week to declare that he knew nothing of the intricate network of charitable foundations — known in Hebrew as amutot — that were set up by his campaign aides and through which funds were funneled to pollsters, activists in the field and others involved in the day-to-day work of the election campaign.

Barak reiterated during the television appearance what he had told Goldberg during his brief interrogation about the alleged irregularities — that he was too busy campaigning to know what was going on in the campaign.

But public reaction has been one of broad skepticism, not to say outright disbelief.

As prime minister, and previously as army chief of staff, the intellectually gifted Barak has made a name for delving into details. Many here find it hard to believe that he kept aloof from the details of his own campaign.

Barak is also claiming that the alleged misdeeds were not criminal because the attorney general himself, in two formal letters he wrote in 1997, had ruled that funneling funds through amutot was not a chargeable offense in the context of the prime ministerial elections.

Rubinstein’s two letters, sent to Labor Party lawyers and signed by his top legal aide, pointed to gaps in existing statutes — namely that election finance legislation specifically applies to the Knesset elections, but has not been explicitly extended to cover the relatively new direct elections for prime minister.

For this reason, the attorney general explained at the time, he decided not to launch an investigation into alleged funding irregularities in Benjamin Netanyahu’s successful campaign for prime minister in 1996.

Barak argues that the gaps in the existing laws reflect a glaring weakness in the system — and says he will initiate urgent legislation to set things right.

But regarding the 1999 election, he maintains, his campaign finance activities, while condemned and fined by the comptroller as administrative excesses, are not chargeable as criminal offenses.

This second line of defense put up by Barak in the immediate aftermath of Goldberg’s report — and subsequently reiterated by his top ministers and aides — is supported by many independent jurists and other commentators.

Barak and his advisers are now trying to decide whether to risk taking their case to the High Court of Justice, where they would petition the justices to countermand Rubinstein’s order to open a criminal investigation.

This would be a rare step for the court to take, but not an unprecedented one.

If Barak loses in the high court, however, his embarrassment and political travails would be exacerbated.

Rubinstein let it be known this week that he is concerned not only with the alleged violations of the election funding law but also with alleged irregularities among the long list of amutot that Barak’s supporters used to channel funds.

Sources close to Rubinstein spoke of suspected breach of trust and fraudulent bookkeeping.

Two figures repeatedly mentioned in this connection are the Cabinet secretary, Yitzhak Herzog, and the campaign director, Tal Silberstein.

Briefing a Knesset committee Monday, Rubinstein said he would have been blatantly remiss in his duties had he failed to instruct the police to begin criminal inquiries.

“Anyone in my position would have done the same,” he said.

As a third defensive measure, the beleaguered Barak has very deliberately sought to step up the pace of diplomacy and peacemaking.

He flew Sunday to Cairo to meet with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and was expected to meet with Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat later in the week. At the same time, teams of Israeli and Palestinian negotiators embarked on what was trumpeted as a marathon round of talks aimed at hammering out an outline of a final peace agreement before a mid-February deadline.

But Barak’s attempts to invigorate the peace process, as a way of shifting attention from the campaign-funding scandal, seemed threatened by a dramatic downturn in southern Lebanon.

On Sunday, the second-in-command of the Israel-backed South Lebanon Army, Col. Akel Hashem, was assassinated when Hezbollah gunmen set off a bomb by remote control.

Filmed footage of the attack sent crowds in Beirut wild with rejoicing.

Barak later promised that the perpetrators would be punished, while Israeli army officers worked overtime to dissuade the SLA from an orgy of revenge shellings that could ignite the entire front.

But by Monday, the specter of a flare-up loomed large after Hezbollah gunmen killed three Israeli soldiers and wounded five others during an attack on an Israeli patrol in southern Lebanon.

Barak has warned Syria, the leading power broker in Lebanon, that an escalation of Hezbollah activities would set back the prospects for peace.

In the wake of the latest developments in southern Lebanon, Israel and Syria flung recriminations at each other via the media — hardly the backdrop for Barak’s hoped-for surge in peacemaking.

Worse yet, political analysts say Barak’s domestic troubles could seriously hamper his prospects of winning a majority in the referendum he has promised on any future peace deals with Syria and the Palestinians.

Under constant attack from the Likud opposition, and haunted by his own less-than-convincing initial defense of his actions in the campaign-funding scandal, Barak could find his much-vaunted credibility fraying — just when he needs every bit of it to persuade the public to support the concessions that peace will require.

Sewing Controversy At Museum of Tolerance


Visitors to the Museum of Tolerance expect to encounter evidence of brutality and organized evil. The current third floor exhibit, built around a reconstruction of a slave factory with barbed wire, and featuring video testimonials from survivors, seems predictable enough.

Yet the events documented didn’t happen in Eastern Europe during the 1940s. The victims were rescued by government authorities, and the illegal garment factory imprisoning 73 Thai workers was located in El Monte, California in the early 1990s.

“Between a Rock and a Hard Place: A History of American Sweatshops 1820-Present,” the controversial exhibit that opened on Nov. 15 at the Museum of Tolerance, examines mostly garment working conditions within the context of human rights.

Originally shown at Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of American History in 1998, the exhibit has evoked intense debate over its appropriateness, balance and perspective. That it was sponsored in part by the UNITE garment workers union during UNITE’s media campaign against clothing sweatshops in the Third World has led the fashion industry to continually question the exhibit’s objectivity.

The Aug. 1999 decision to mount a slightly revised version at the Los Angeles Museum of Tolerance has provoked more questions.

For Liebe Geft, the relatively new director of the Museum of Tolerance, the connection between sweatshops and the museum’s core mission seems clear. “The issues pertain to the dignity of human beings,” she said, adding, “the apparel industry is part of our story.” Some museum board members agree. Others remain skeptical and worry that the world-class Holocaust museum may have misstepped.

“I’m quite disappointed,” said Bernard Melamed, a Jewish activist and past president of Los Angeles Congregation B’nai Brith, who lobbied against the exhibit. In a May 14 letter to Simon Wiesenthal Center Dean Rabbi Marvin Hier, Melamed wrote, “I feel the exhibit is harmful to the Center, the Jewish garment industry, and the Jewish community. It’s biased and one-sided.”

Several individuals who didn’t want to be quoted for this story expressed similar reservations. “Why isn’t this at the Museum of Science and Industry?” said one.

Acknowledging the complicated situation of Jewish involvement in the fashion industry and possible misperceptions caused by the exhibit, Geft said, “We are extremely mindful of [the criticisms]. These issues are not one-sided, but are very complicated. The whole exhibit goes beyond victims and villains.” Geft notes that today the garment industry continues to provide immigrants employment opportunities sewing and selling clothes.

“A sweatshop is more than a lousy job,” begins the brochure text that accompanies the exhibit. “Although there is no single, precise definition, [sweatshop] generally refers to a workplace where relatively unskilled workers toil long hours for meager pay in unhealthy and unsafe conditions.” Noting that the term originated in the tailoring trade during the 19th century, the brochure notes that “sweatshops exist in other industries as well.”

The opening section, “1820-1880: The Seamstress,” exclusively displays items from the apparel industry, and juxtaposes visuals of middle class women wearing fancy dresses and poor women working at sewing machines.

Section two, “1880-1940: Tenement Sweatshops” also examines garment industry practices and reform efforts. Highlighting the role of Jewish and Italian women, the panel describes how, “fierce competition among contractors for work and immigrants’ desperate need for employment kept wages down and hours up.” The Triangle Shirt factory fire, union efforts to organize the apparel industry, and the Franklin Roosevelt Administration’s pro-labor policies are documented with photographs, shirts, and union posters.

The third and most controversial section, “1940-Present: The Resurgence of Sweatshops” combines pamphlets, pajamas, and archival photographs to illustrate changing conditions in the apparel industry. During the 1940s and 1950s, wages and conditions improved, but the increased reliance on contracting work out and the global economy since the late 1960s have lead to some less positive developments. Although the exhibit brochure carefully notes that “similar conditions persist in a variety of industries,” almost all of the visuals describe garment industry sweatshops.

The large reconstruction, with barbed wire, of the slave-like conditions at the El Monte factory raided by federal officials in 1995 dominates this section. Freed Thai workers describe their imprisonment and rescue on the videotape playing in the background. The display lends itself to immediate emotional and mental connections to other museum exhibits with barbed wire, work camps, and prisoners.

Around the corner, a colorful world map entitled “The Fashion Food Chain” shows countries involved in the complex global system of manufacturing and retailing clothes. The average wage per hour, for example, in China is listed as 28 cents and the average apparel hourly wage in the United States as $9.56. Nearby, a short video celebrates the competitiveness of the American apparel industry because of the trained workforce, excellent technology, and ability to quickly respond to changes in the fast changing fashion industry.

The museum has added a short videotape to the exhibit. Donated by the industry’s California Fashion Association, it showcases the humanitarian efforts of the California fashion industry. A factsheet on the fashion industry in Los Angeles County notes that its wholesale volume is $17.2 billion, that the apparel and textile industries account for approximately 125,900 jobs, and that an additional 850 textile-related businesses (printing, dyeing, and finishing) employ another 16,000 workers. “Fashion, and related sewn products, is the largest manufacturing sector in Los Angeles, and the second largest over-all for California,” says the factsheet.

The industry contributions, said museum officials, were added to “broaden the dialogue.” But exhibit critics scoff at the exhibit’s supporters’ assertion of objectivity.

“It’s unbalanced and incomplete,” said Ilse Metchek, executive director of the California Fashion Association. “There is nothing related to the legitimate fashion industry in Los Angeles. The exhibit was bought and paid for by UNITE and the Department of Labor.”

“The Museum offered us a piece if we paid for it,” she said. “We’re a non-profit, we didn’t have the budget for it, and we passed.” According to Metchek, the price for an opinion statement in the original exhibit would have been between $5,000-$20,000.”

According to Geft, the Smithsonian sold sponsorships to the exhibit, which allowed industry sponsors such as TV host and fashion promoter Kathy Lee Gifford and the Levi Strauss company to add their comments to the show. In Los Angeles, Wiesenthal officials sought out unpaid-for input from the fashion industry, said Geft. “We wanted new perspectives and other voices,” she said.

But Metchek faults the exhibit for saying “nothing about the tremendous progress made in the last three years due to increased compliance monitoring, and no discussion of solutions.” For example, the most recent Department of Labor statistics document a dramatic decline in workplace violations. Despite UNITE’s sponsorship, the union , according to Metchek, “is irrelevant” in Los Angeles garment industry since the union has fewer than 1,000 members in California and only 446 members in Los Angeles City.

“There is no direct relationship between sweatshops and what appears in the malls,” adds Metchek. Partially agreeing with that criticism, Geft observes, “It’s very clear that El Monte came more from the exploitation of immigrants than the nature of the apparel industry. We don’t tell people what to think, but we want them to think about the extremely complicated and difficult issues.”

Likewise, Geft readily concedes that “sweatshops exist across several industries and are not isolated to the garment industry.” Nor does Geft, despite the UNITE sponsorshi
p believe that unionization is the automatic solution. “There are union shops that are just as guilty of violations as non-union shops.”

Does the current exhibit reflect those complexities? That, like beauty, seems to be in the eye of the beholder.

Sponsored in part by an aggressive union in the apparel industry, the exhibit certainly seems to cast as much blame as shed light.

“These issues are so complicated,” says Geft, giving an example from fashion industry lawyer Steve Levy. “Take the situation of a 14 year old girl in Southeast Asia working six days a week, 72 hours a week in a factory. That sounds cruel, but what are her other options? She can work seven days a week in agriculture from sun up to sun down. She can be sold into servitude. She can become a prostitute… Everything is relative.”

In a similar vein, Metchek acknowledges that sweatshops exist in Los Angeles’ massive underground economy. “There is a huge underground garment economy,” says Metchek. “They are our worst competitors.” The four shirts for $10 at Venice Beach vendors, for example, usually come from shops that employ undocumented workers and sometimes pay less than minimum wage. “Nobody wants sweatshops in any industry. Sweatshops are an outgrowth of illegal immigration.” Metchik notes that working conditions are far safer in the fashion industry than construction, agriculture, and other fields where heavy machinery is routinely used.

“Beyond the problems, what are some of the solutions?” asks Metchek.

He ironically noted that exhibit corporate sponsors Kmart and Levi Strauss no longer have clothing manufacturing factories in the United States. “Kmart makes virtually nothing here, and Levi Strauss closed their last plant last year.” Expressing dismay and some exasperation, Metchek emphasizes the need to protect Los Angeles’ largest manufacturing industry.

“We have the ability to bring manufacturing back,” he continues. “It’s not all terrific in Mexico and in China. Retailers want products fast and on time. They would prefer quick time production. Let’s put the spotlight on what is made in the United States and Los Angeles.” The recent trade agreement with China, according to The New York Times, will probably lead to a loss of 150,000 textile jobs in the United States.

What are solutions? According to Metchik, “compliance monitoring, increased enforcement, closer State and City cooperation” are part of the answer.

Surprisingly, Metchek also finds common ground with some union activists on another, broader solution. “We could have a possible amnesty for undocumented workers gainfully employed in the industry for three years,” he observes. “They would suddenly become legal workers and could work in legitimate shops where they could be able to make the money they deserve.” Metchek notes that La Opinion regularly runs five columns of classified ads for employment in legitimate clothing shops where green cards are required.

In addition to UNITE and Kmart, other exhibition sponsors include the Council for Excellence in Government, Dura Cost Products, Inc, Leonard and Joan Beerman Peace Fund, the Leo Baeck Temple Foundation, Milberg, Weiss Bershad, Hynes &Lerach LLP, Southern California Gas Co., Ted and Rita Williams Foundation, Susan Choo & John Kades, Hyundai Motor America, Pacific Bell, and the Edwin Weinrot and Irene Weinrot Philanthropic Fund. The exhibit runs to March 2000.