Modi Govt Conspires to ‘Export’ Indian Workers to Israel
Israel’s proposition to ‘import’ Indian workers is akin to indentured slavery!
The Indian working class must rebuff all such attempts!
As Israel continues to escalate its genocidal war against the Palestinian people, it is finding itself increasingly isolated from the rest of the world. All its attempts at ‘normalisation’, painstakingly built through supporting authoritarian reactionary rulers from Morocco to Bahrain over the decades, has now been undone. The massive upsurge of the youth and the working class against the Israeli occupation of Palestine means that Israel is unsure of its long-term dependence on the West.
Apart from the Ansarallah/Houthi militias threatening to disrupt Israeli commerce in the Red Sea, the war has taken a very heavy toll on the Israeli economy. It is estimated that the war is costing Israel $220 million USD (₹1831 crore INR) every day. Gross domestic product will fall — from forecasts of 3 percent growth in 2023 to 1 percent in 2024, according to the Bank of Israel. Some economists predict contraction.
Mobilisation of 220,000 IDF reservists have weakened major sectors of Israel’s economy especially in tech, agriculture, finance, navigation, and pharmaceuticals. Tourism has come to a complete end and Israeli exports of gas from its Mediterranean gas fields has also stopped. Crucially Israel has withdrawn the work permits of 100,000 Palestinians, mainly employed in the construction sector. In order to replace them, Haim Feiglin, vice president of the Israel Builders Association, told Voice of America in early November that they were negotiating with India to import workers.
Reinventing Indentured Slavery
In May, 2023 during the visit of the Israeli foreign minister Eli Cohen to New Delhi, both countries signed an agreement for 42,000 Indian workers in Israel, out of which 34,000 were to be brought into the construction industry. Such treatment of Indian workers by the government as an exportable commodity is reprehensible in itself, but the further implication that they can ‘replace’ Palestinians is even more dehumanising.
A 2015 report by Human Rights Watch pointed out that Thai agricultural workers faced low pay, excessive working hours, hazardous working conditions, and poor housing. Another report from February 2023 demonstrates how foreign caregivers are trapped in Israel through debt incurred while paying the recruitment fees. Many of these workers have remained trapped in Israel, an active warzone, because they have essentially become trapped by debt. What guarantees are there that Indian workers will not be subject to the same conditions? None.
The use of Indian indentured workers in colonial economies is not new. From 1834 to the end of the WWI, Britain had transported about 2 million Indian indentured workers to 19 colonies including Fiji, Mauritius, Ceylon, Trinidad, Guyana, Malaysia, Uganda, Kenya and South Africa. The BJP government is taking Indians the same path of colonial subservience.
The proposed deal with Israel isn’t the only such deal being made by the BJP. In December 2023, the Union Cabinet approved the Migration and Mobility Agreement between India and Italy according to which India will send 12,000 non-seasonal workers and 8000 seasonal workers to Italy every year. Naturally this brings into focus the Modi government’s failure to ensure employment of Indians in India.
We must strongly resist such tendencies to commodify Indian workers and ensure the safety and wellbeing of all migrant workers. Stand in unflinching solidarity with the people of Palestine and the Palestinian working class!