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May 8, 2017 3:36 pm

For New York Times, Story of Filipino Workers in Israel Is All About the ‘Occupation’

avatar by Ira Stoll


Illustrative. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The New York Times Magazine recently carried a long article about Filipino caregivers in Israel, who, like immigrant domestic workers pretty much everywhere, have challenging lives.

The article reported:

The monthly salary of foreign caregivers — $1,374, before deductions for food and board — is relatively high (equivalent to the Israeli minimum wage). Kathleen Joson, for example, earns about $1,100 after deductions: double what her mother was paid in Hong Kong and about three times what a caregiver can expect to make in the Arab gulf states.

It’s almost enough to make a reader wonder why the Times chose to write a long story about the Filipino domestic workers in Israel, rather than the ones in Hong Kong or the Gulf states.

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One clue came in this passage, toward the beginning of the story:

Israel’s victory in the 1967 war and its subsequent occupation of the West Bank and Gaza led to the introduction of Palestinian workers to the Israeli labor force. These workers, who were predominantly male, crossed the checkpoints into Israel each morning and were employed, for the most part, in construction and agriculture. By the late 1980s, their number topped 100,000 — about 7 percent of the Israeli work force. But with the outbreak of the Palestinian Intifada in December 1987, and the heightened security threat, Israel started to bar the Palestinians from entering the country; their jobs were left empty. The following year, the government decided on a new policy: the importation of migrant workers from developing countries. Slowly, Palestinians began to vanish from Israelis’ view, and in their stead, new populations arrived — people who did not leave the country’s borders at sundown.

For the Times, in other words, even a warm feature on the relationships between Filipino domestic workers in Israel and elderly Israelis turns out to be all about the “occupation” and Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian Arabs.

In this case, though, the Times’ narrative — that, from a peak of 100,000 Palestinian workers in the late 1980s, the Palestinians were barred from entering Israel and “began to vanish from Israelis’ view” — is, as usual, misleading to the point of total falsehood.

Don’t take my word for it. Here is a headline from the left-leaning Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, published in March 2015: “Number of Palestinians Working in Israel Doubled Over Four Years, Central Bank Says.” The subheadline of the Haaretz article said, “Palestinians have been displacing foreign workers because they are more reliable and stay at their jobs longer, the central bank said.”

The Haaretz article went on to report: “The number of Palestinians from the West Bank working in Israel both legally and illegally doubled in the past four years to about 92,000 in 2014, in many cases displacing overseas guest workers, the Bank of Israel said yesterday.”

Or don’t even just take Haaretz’s word for it. Here is a report from the Times itself, published in June 2016:

There are currently about 55,000 Palestinians with permits working legally in Israel, and an estimated 20,000 in the settlements, according to Palestinian Labor Ministry. That is down from a peak of 140,000 before the second intifada in 2000, the ministry says (when the population was about two-thirds the size).

Estimates vary widely on the number of illegal workers. Mr. Shikaki said 30,000 was a reasonable guess; Mr. Nuriel said it was closer to 60,000, depending on the time of year. Most work in construction, agriculture or restaurants.

Add those numbers up — 55,000 plus 20,000 plus 60,000 — and it equals 135,000 Palestinian workers. The Times Magazine‘s narrative that Palestinian workers were barred and “began to vanish” in the late 1980s, to be replaced by Filipinos (of which the Times concedes “there are about 30,000…legal and illegal”), is misleading to the point of total phoniness, not only by Haaretz’s account, but even by the account of the Times‘ own news staff.

Nor are the math and the inaccuracy the only problems here. If the Six-Day War — which the Times calls the 1967 War — and the “occupation,” as well as the Palestinian uprising and Israel’s response to it, are the explanation for Filipino domestic workers in Tel Aviv, then why are there also Filipino domestic workers in Hong Kong, “Arab gulf states,” and “the United States, Europe and Australia,” none of which has either an “occupation” or an intifada? It’s almost enough to make one suspect that opponents of Israel’s West Bank policies have seized on the Filipino worker issue as a convenient instrument to advance a pre-existing agenda.

I look forward to seeing a correction from the Times Magazine, but I’m not holding my breath.

The Times‘ public editor, Liz Spayd, wrote this week, “Though [President Donald] Trump’s improvisational approach to the truth has broken all records, fact checkers have found most politicians will bend the truth if it helps them make a point.” The Times Magazine will too, to judge by this story.

More of Ira Stoll’s media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.

The opinions presented by Algemeiner bloggers are solely theirs and do not represent those of The Algemeiner, its publishers or editors. If you would like to share your views with a blog post on The Algemeiner, please be in touch through our Contact page.

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