The State Department just published its annual Trafficking in Persons report. Countries are ranked in three tiers: Tier 1 – for countries that fully comply with the standards for the elimination of human trafficking; Tier 2 – for countries that do not comply, but make significant efforts to; and Tier 3 – for countries that do not comply and also don’t care.
Israel is categorised as a Tier 2 country, along with countries such as Albania, Argentina, Azerbaijan, India and Indonesia (to list only the A’s and the I’s). Here is what the report has to say about Israel:
Israel is a destination country for men and women subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Low-skilled workers from Thailand, China, Nepal, the Philippines, India, Sri Lanka, and, to a lesser extent, Romania, migrate voluntarily and legally to Israel for temporary contract labor in construction, agriculture, and home health care provision. Some, however, subsequently face conditions of forced labor, including through such practices as the unlawful withholding of passports, restrictions on movement, inability to change or otherwise choose one’s employer, nonpayment of wages, threats, sexual assault, and physical intimidation. Many labor recruitment agencies in source countries and in Israel require workers to pay recruitment fees typically ranging from $4,000 to $20,000 – a practice making workers highly vulnerable to trafficking or debt bondage once working in Israel. One NGO noted that recruitment fees increased in 2010.
According to the Ministry of Interior (MOI), an increased number of migrants (approximately 14,000) crossed into Israel in 2010 from the Sinai, compared with approximately 5,000 in 2009. Organized Bedouin groups kept many of these migrants captive in the Sinai; an unknown number of them were forced into sexual servitude or labor to build homes and serve as domestic workers. Some women from the former Soviet Union and China are subjected to forced prostitution in Israel, although the number of women affected has declined since the passage and implementation of Israel’s 2006 anti-trafficking bill. Chinese sex trafficking victims are forced into prostitution for male Chinese workers in Israel. In the past year, the government and the media reported that four South American women were forced into prostitution. According to an NGO and a media report, some Israeli women and girls are subjected to sex trafficking in Israel, but the police could not corroborate these allegations.
The Government of Israel does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Israel continued law enforcement actions against sex trafficking and continued to make strong prevention efforts. The government continued to take inadequate steps, however, to identify and protect labor trafficking victims and prosecute and convict labor trafficking offenders in the reporting period.
The eighth commandment in the Decalogue is “Do Not Steal” (לא תגנוב). The Talmud explains (Sanhedrin 86.) that this commandment refers to the stealing of a human being – kidnapping – and not to the stealing of property, which is prohibited elsewhere in the Torah.
We should not avert our eyes from the horrific trade in human beings going on under our noses. We should demand that our government adhere to basic human moral standards and enforce the laws against this vile trade. How can we not bow our head in shame?