Thursday, October 26, 2006
Trafficking in Foolishness
1. The Knesset Traffics in Legislative Foolishness
by Steven Plaut
The Knesset has just given its final approval to one of the stupidest
pieces of legislation in recent years. It is ostensively a law against
"human trafficking". In fact, it is a legislative excursion into the
trafficking of political correctness that will produce considerable harm.
The new law's damages go well beyond the scope of trying to legislate away
"trafficking" of prostitutes.
First, I guess I must have been out of the room when prostitution morphed
into "human trafficking". Prostitution is prostitution, not human
trafficking, and calling it "human trafficking" is highly misleading.
Prostitutes may be a lot of things, but they are generally not slaves,
media mythology notwithstanding. Certainly today in industrialized
countries, most of them (of both genders) ply their trade by choice,
pathetic as that fact may be. And in Israel, any "working girl" seeking
to leave the profession need only walk into any shelter, police station,
or dial 100 (Israel's 911).
Israel, like every single other society in history, has plenty of hookers.
Prostitution is by and large out in the open, with the daily newspapers,
tourist magazines, and sometimes billboards filled with ads for "escort
services" and "massages". The Caring Classes have never had much to say
against those. Their only initiatives over the years have been to try to
"institutionalize" prostitution, meaning prohibiting the vice squads from
jailing the prostitutes. Bleeding Hearts have proposed trying to control
prostitution by "regulating it", requiring health checks for the "working
girls", income tax arrangements, etc. Leftist journalists and professors
regularly call for recognizing the "sex industry" as a productive sector
contributing to the gross national product, and oppose massive roundups of
Some of the hookers in Israel are recruits from overseas, mainly from the
poorer parts of Eastern Europe. These are sometimes smuggled into Israel
by pimps or "brokers" of sorts, while in other cases they enter as
tourists, the "trafficked humans" for whom the Caring Classes are suddenly
concerned. The press likes to carry lurid stories about prostitutes
being "enslaved" by their pimps and beaten, abused, etc.. It is
especially fond of stories about nice innocent Ukrainian girls having been
tricked off their farms into entering Israel, thinking they would work as
cashiers or models, and then being leased out to pimps.
Let me say that I have no personal acquaintance at all with this "market."
But that does not stop me from dismissing these media "enslavement"
stories for the nonsense they are. I do not believe there is a single
prostitute in Israel who came to the country as part of being "deceived"
into thinking she would get work as a stenographer. And if there WERE
such a person, she could go to any cop, any lawyer, or any women's shelter
to get a combative feminist attorney to set things right and sue the pants
off any pimps or "traffickers" involved.
Previous Israeli laws already granted free public legal representation to
women claiming they had been defrauded as part of "human trafficking" and
also set up taxpayer-financed shelters for them. And since most of the
prostitutes evidently speak Russian, along with a million ordinary
Israelis, they have no problems communicating nor getting all the
information they need about their rights.
The new law passed a few days ago again makes "human trafficking" illegal
(but not prostitution itself), which it already had been. It makes
beating up prostitutes illegal, but only by "traffickers", apparently not
by customers. The new law was the initiative of the far-leftist Meretz
party, along with some other individual Knesset members and leftist NGOs.
Before the new law, "human trafficking" was already illegal in Israel,
including when it involves any fraudulent acts to get someone to leave her
own country to come to work in Israel in prostitution or "slave labor".
The new law prohibits pimps from "buying" and "selling" street walkers
among themselves, which was already illegal in any case. No doubt these
prohibitions will make prostitution in Israel as unknown as it already is
in Las Vegas. In any case, all a "trafficker" now need do to get around
the law is to sign the working girl on a notarized affidavit that says she
knows what kind of work awaits her in the Land of Israel.
The new law simply makes the punishments for pimps stronger, with
imprisonment up to 20 years (for trafficking in a minor) and in other
cases 16 years, plus forfeit of all property of the "trafficker". By
making it harder for the prosecution to strike plea bargains with pimps,
the law actually guarantees that few will do real jail time.
There are other "feel-good" laws on the books in Israel, but in the case
of this new law, the damages go well beyond those already noted. There
are several reasons for this.
First, the definition of "human trafficking" and "enslavement" in the law
is so loose that it can be applied to any foreign worker who is employed
in Israel in legitimate, legal jobs, anything from home-care work to
construction. Anytime one of these now wishes to breach a labor contract,
or anytime some liberal lawyer or other bleeding heart decides that such
workers are "underpaid", for example when they are paid less than Israeli
citizens, the flood of litigation will commence. The bleeding hearts have
long sought to price all such foreign workers out of the Israeli labor
market altogether, by requiring artificially high wages and benefits for
them. Should they success in eliminating the employment of "guest
workers," they will damage the Israeli economy enormously, while forcing
those same workers to return home to jobs that offer them wages at a fifth
or less of what they get "underpaid" in Israel. It remains to be seen
whether all ordinary Israeli labor contracts will become breachable by
people claiming they have been "enslaved" by them.
Second, the law contains several "add-ons" that have nothing to do with
prostitution but nevertheless could be enormously harmful. The law
prohibits "trafficking in human organs" and also "trafficking in children
or minors", which could make some international adoptions problematic.
The prohibition on "trafficking in human organs" makes it illegal to buy
or sell body parts, such as organ donations from living or from dead
donors. The prohibition is general and even applies to voluntary donors.
Now it may well be that it is more dignified and ethical when organ
donations are made by donors (or their immediate family members when the
donor has died) with no monetary remuneration. But it is also true that
the quantity of such donations is only a tiny fraction of the need for
organs. It is a fact of life that allowing people to pay for and receive
payment for organ donations makes the supply of donor organs increase
significantly. Prohibition of such payment arrangements amounts to a
death sentence for many of those awaiting organs. It is true that
sometimes the sources for these organs may be poorer countries, where
people (and surviving family members) are willing to sell them. But the
squeamishness we all feel about such commerce ends the moment someone we
knows really needs such an organ.
There are also potential problems in the blanket prohibition on
transporting minors from outside Israel into Israel. As long as the
prohibition refers to transport for purposes of employment in
prostitution, all such laws are welcome. But the language of the law's
prohibition might make it difficult for infertile Israeli families to
adopt children from overseas. For many years, such families have adopted
children from other countries, in many cases making large payments for the
children, and in some cases using "gray" and "informal" channels for the
adoptions. (There are very few children inside Israel available for
adoption, in part thanks to Israel's abortion-on-demand rules.) Could
such families now face prosecution for "human trafficking" in minors?
Since the time of Genesis, no one has known how to eliminate prostitution
as a social ill. My personal preference is to use zoning to confine it to
special geographic areas, well away from residential neighborhoods and
minors and economists. In the case of Israel, Nablus, Kalkiliya and Khan
Yunis strike me as promising potential locations. But the new Knesset
initiative is not at all designed to end this scourge. It is a
"feel-good" law whose ability to end mistreatment of prostitutes by their
"traffickers" is dubious, while at the same time it creates quite a few
other unintended damages.
(Text of draft of new law in Hebrew is at
2. Ida Nudel speaks out:
A Former Refusenik's Disillusionment
I arrived in Israel exactly 19 years ago . on the same date, in
fact, that I write these words . from the USSR, where Zionist life was
thriving. I had come to the land of my dreams not as a refugee seeking a
small place under the sun in whatever country was available, but as
someone who knew why and for what purpose I had paved . for over 17 years
and often at risk to my life . the road to Israel for myself and for many
other Jews who shared my feelings and aspirations.
Israel.s mass media, Jewish Agency publications, and Voice of Israel
radio all declared that every Jewish citizen of Israel lived on his or her
land with dignity. All too soon, however, I discovered that most of the
proclaimed advantages of the Jewish state belonged to its glorious past.
The word Zionism has acquired a negative connotation in Israel. The
mass media, i.e., the country.s intellectual elite, inspire hatred between
Jewish immigrants from different countries and obstruct the revival of a
homogenous Jewish people after 2,000 years of dispersion.
The disdain of the weak and poor is actively and cynically
cultivated by the mass media. Schools actively practice selection of
children according to their families. material means.
The national bureaucracy hinders the integration of young people
into Israel.s economic life and thus pushes them to leave the country.
After 2001, when mention of national identity was removed from
Israeli IDs, the word .Jewish. virtually disappeared not only from
official documents but also from the pages of newspapers. Even the
anti-Semitic Soviet regime was never able to deliver such a blow to the
national dignity of Jews.
In the last decades of the 20th century, the interests of Jewish
national revival and those of Israel.s national bureaucracy came into real
conflict . one that endangers the idea of the Jewish national home. We
have witnessed how a persecuted and humiliated people.s glorious dream of
a resurrected Israel has been reduced, by the national bureaucracy, to a
venal vision of nurturing as many millionaires as possible.
The same individuals sit in the Knesset for decades. The
intellectuals are concerned only with their personal success, while the
mass media have turned into a mass brainwashing machine targeting poor,
semi-literate and politically na.ve citizens. New millionaires are
appearing at a striking rate, while the reverse process of mass
impoverishment is also accelerating. The middle class is gradually
vanishing from the country.s economic life.
A few days ago the world learned of this year.s winner of the Nobel
Peace Prize . a Bangladeshi millionaire banker who, at his own initiative
and in spite of bureaucratic obstacles, began fighting poverty and
illiteracy in his country. His hard and devoted work has won him
well-deserved worldwide acclaim.
This great citizen of a poor country has saved from poverty six
million of his compatriots and has given them a chance for a dignified
life. It looks like a fairy tale . a kind and resourceful wizard arriving
to make the poor people happy.
It turns out that even a lone millionaire, providing he is a genuine
patriot, can solve a national-level problem. Instead of making money on
poor people.s misfortune and gaining 400% annual profit . as often is the
case in Israel . he disdainfully puts the bureaucracy aside and addresses
the problem himself.
The myth of unemployment being impossible to eliminate has been
debunked by a one-man initiative. Can such a thing happen here in Israel,
among our people who declare their mission to be one of bringing light and
justice to humankind?
In light of the Bangladesh phenomenon, the economic and moral morass
in Israel appears more than ever to be attributable to Israel.s national
bureaucracy and political leadership.
Karme Yosef, Israel
(Editor.s Note: Ms. Nudel is a former Soviet Prisoner of Zion and a
winner of the Jabotinsky Prize.)
3. How to fix things:
4. Leftwing Neo-Nazi web magazine Counterpunch smears Elie Wiesel:
5. Mikey Moonbeam gets spanked:
Sir, - So let me see if I understand this: Michael Lerner writes an
article in which he asks me to stop attacking him, after he accuses me of
supporting torture and assassination, of being "one of the most detested
figures in liberal American circles" and of calling him an "anti-Semitic
rabbi" ("Alan Dershowitz! stop your personal attacks," October 24).
He knows that each of these charges is false. I oppose torture, but favor
accountability if and when it is applied. I only support targeted
assassination as a last resort to prevent imminent terrorist attacks. I
continue to be invited by and to receive awards from liberal organizations
(though not from the kind of far-left groups that Lerner admires; then
again, I never was a favorite of either political extreme).
And as I noted in my original column, though Lerner rationalizes his lies
about me by saying that I called him an "anti-Semitic rabbi," what I
actually wrote is that Lerner's support for divestment from Israel proves
that "even a rabbi can support anti-Semitic actions." Quite a difference!
Lerner claims that the genesis of our dispute is that he "criticized" me
for being a member of the OJ Simpson defense team. His exact words were
that my "hands" were "still dripping from the blood of the victims whose
assassins [Dershowitz] protected." So much for the rights of the accused.
(And Lerner says that my views are anathema to liberalism!)
Finally, Lerner's claim that he now disavows the Finkelstein
assassination-masturbation article that he forwarded insults our
intelligence. When's the last time he forwarded a David Duke article to
So here's my counteroffer to Michael Lerner. If Lerner promises to stop
lying about me, I promise to stop telling the truth about him.
(Prof. Dershowitz has one error in his letter: Lerner is not a rabbi)