The Consequences of Bourgeois Chic: Exploitation, Racial Hatred, and Dependency on Imported Cheap Labor



    (Following article is in response to Deborah Sontag’s “Death and Daily Life Link Arab and Israeli”, published in the New York Times, Friday, May 02, 2001)

    Political conservatives frequently bemoan the demise of the “work ethic” and erosion of the “entrepreneurial spirit,” both considered the lifeblood or “mojo” if you will, of capitalism. But as the now unwisely discarded Marxian criticisms of capitalism’s built-in contradictions point out, the source for much of the conservatives’ ire is imbedded within the very political-economic system they revere. In the advanced capitalist economies of Germany, the United States, and even Great Britain, and in extraordinarily wealthy developing countries like those in the Gulf region, reliance upon imported, contracted labor is widespread. Incidentally, the US government generally denies this practice exists here in America; however, one need only look at the agricultural and hi-tech sectors to see that both serve as magnets drawing in hundreds of thousands of low wage laborers.

    In Saudi Arabia, reliance upon “expatriate workers” as they are euphemistically called, was so widespread that a virtual “security threat” emerged. The Saudis had imported nearly two million South Koreans during the early 1980s. They were mostly young men, and Saudi officials soon discovered that the majority of them had military training. Anyone who has been to Saudi Arabia in the past decade (I lived there in 1992) must have noticed a large number of Filipino, Pakistani, Sudanese, and Sri Lankan male and female laborers, but gone were the huge numbers of South Koreans. The Saudis discovered these nationalities were more malleable than the South Koreans; the latter did not take too kindly to employer abuses.

    In Kuwait prior to 1990, most of the professionals were Palestinians, who despite their years spent there, were denied citizenship. Little wonder that when Saddam Hussein’s army stormed Kuwait City on August 2, 1990, the Palestinians by and large welcomed it as a liberation army.

    In Germany, most of neo-Nazi violence is directed not at the 88,000 German Jews, but instead at the Turkish “ausléndische Arbeitnehmer” or “Gastarbeiter,” menial laborers who do the necessary but low wage tasks that a majority of Germans will no longer perform.

    And in the US, one of the reasons why Americans on average spend a smaller portion of their annual income on food expenses can be explained by the extraordinarily backbreaking and unappreciated work of Hispanic farm laborers. In all the cases cited above, the national citizens of these countries have for years refused to take a number of menial, dirty, demeaning, and backbreaking jobs. They have adopted a bourgeois chic posture that says, “We’re too good to get dirt under our fingernails.”

    Enter Israel: The Jewish State officially joined the ranks of “developed nations” in 1997, when the United Nations moved her into that category. Gone now are the Zionists’ quasi-socialist and romantic, heroic celebrations of Jewish manual laborers. During the past three decades Palestinians have performed the menial service sector, agricultural, and construction-related tasks. And now with the Al-Aqsa Intifada in its seventh month, more Israelis than ever before are calling for the importation of cheap labor from around the world.

    A plantation mentality will soon develop as more and more Israelis move into hi-tech employment and leave behind the world of manual work. Worse, the plantation mindset will be amplified by an over-dependency on the guest worker (“Gastarbeiter”), who more often than not derives from a developing country. Thus as a “person of color,” the guest worker not only faces low wages, low esteem, and employer abuse, he or she also must deal with ethnic and or racial bigotry. We read about such a process in Deborah Sontag’s New York Times’ article, “Death and Daily Life Link Arab and Israeli” (May 2, 2001). There is an interesting comment by an Israeli settler cited in the passage below:

    “Mr. [Zevulun] Boneh said that he believed that settlement expansion would be an effective response as would economic suffocation of the Palestinians. “I say to my friends, `Don’t give any work to Arabs,'” he said. `That’s the only way to get them to leave the country. If you need to expand your homes, tell the contractors to bring Romanian workers, bring Thais. We can’t say kill them or transfer them, but in our own little way, slowly, slowly and elegantly, we can chase them away.”

    Mr. Boneh noted that the new porch on which the mourners were gathering had been built by Palestinians from the neighboring village.”

    Notice that Mr. Boneh did not seem to object to the idea of genocide, just that it would be impolite to express in public support for such a policy. His comment “but in our own little way, slowly, slowly and elegantly, we can chase them away” is the essence of the Zionist agenda towards the indigenous population, unchanged since its inception began in 1897. It is what MIT professor Noam Chomsky has called Israel’s “slow motion genocide” of the Palestinians. And Mr. Boneh’s blunt but honest quote reveals the true motive behind Israel’s military governance of the occupied West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem, and Golan Heights: to chase away the Palestinians, to drive them into the sea of the desert.

    But with an over-dependency on Romanian, Thai, and other non-Palestinian low-wage laborers, Israel will expose more and more sectors of the human population to her polices of Apartheid and religious-ethnic exclusivity. Soon, more nationalities will experience firsthand that Israeli society’s antipathy toward the Palestinians is really a manifestation of an anti-Gentile animus deeply rooted in Zionist ideology. As we witnessed yesterday’s well-deserved expulsion of Israel’s “Master Simon Legree”, a.k.a. the US, from the UN Human Rights Commission, we should note that the twenty-sixth year anniversary of UN General Assembly Resolution 3379 (November 10, 1975), that equated Zionism with racism, remains as relevant today as it was back then. Mr. Boneh’s comment confirms the UN’s wisdom.

    Mr. Michael Lopez-Calderon taught High School Social Studies in Miami, Florida for seven years until March 2, 2001, when he was asked to leave the Jewish Day school where he had taught for the past five years. Michael was asked to leave for having posted pro-Palestinian comments on Palestine Media Watch’s subscriber-only e-mail. He remains an activist in the Miami area.