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IW 06

Middle East

Israel: Attack against the Arab unemployed

LET'S DEFEND "SAWT EL-AMEL)

 

The so-called Wisconsin programme was launched in August, 2005 by former Finance Minister Binyamin Netanyahu as part of his privatisation and dismantling of social services agenda. the main cities where this programme was applied were Jerusalem and Nazareth. When he launched the programme, Netanyahu reaffirmed what had become the pet subject of his economic reformation plan: "From now on, no one will be able to escape from work and fraudulently receive unemployment benefits". A document from the Ministry of Finance published this week is boasting that the Wisconsin programme has been "successful" beyond the ministry's expectations and has already reduced the cost of State expenses for unemployment benefits by 35 %. In the same official document it is written that 10 % of the unemployed have automatically lost their unemployment benefits because they didn't come forward and register, and the right to unemployment benefits was eliminated for 10% more people because they didn't meet the mandatory requirements. But the reality is that this programme has not bring jobs to the unemployed and thousands of families are driven into utter poverty by this programme, mainly in the Arab sector.

Indeed, this programme is aimed at denying the rights of the unemployed to unemployment benefits and it is forcing them into poverty. The proof is that the company which is in responsible for implementing the Wisconsin programme sends unemployed people to work in fictitious places that do not need them or to places where they are employed for wages that are much lower than the minimum wage.

The fight against the Wisconsin plan has been conducted in Nazareth by the Sawt el-Amel (Workers Voice) association. This association was created after the Intifada when a large number of Arab workers in Israel lost their jobs as result of the political situation. The Galilee region with Nazareth as its largest town has the highest unemployment rates in the country (over 25% in some of the communities served by the Kufr Kana branch office).

In recent months, the unemployed protest movement has grown and every Friday hundreds of unemployed gather outside the premises of the programme in Nazareth, at the appeal of Sawt el-Amel. Undoubtedly, the Zionist government is worried by the extent of the unemployed protest movement. Sawt el-Amel also denounces the ambiguous attitude of the Nazareth local authorities led by a coalition headed by Hadash, the front of the Israeli Communist Party, which participate in the programme and try to prevent Sawt el-Amel from campaigning against this programme among the population of the city.

On December 30, 2005, a meeting, organised by Sawt el-Amel and an action committee, brought together hundreds of unemployed workers outside the premises of the company in charge of implementing the Wisconsin programme in the Arab city of Nazareth. This gathering denounced the bitter reality of what implementing this programme means. While it was supposed to resolve the dramatic situation of thousands of unemployed people from Nazareth and find jobs for them, instead it is driving them into poverty. In the evening, the Sawt el-Amel offices was attacked with petrol bombs by people whose identity is unknown.

We solidarize with Sawt el-Amel and the unemployees from Nazareth and all the country in their struggle against this programme and all the capitalistic economic programmes. This struggle is an oportunity to unify the Arab Palestinians workers living under the direct rule of Zionism and the Jewish masses in a same class struggle. Most of the Arab parties that have a bourgeois agenda have betrayed the struggle against umployent. The naissance of an independent movement of unemployees in the Galilee is a prove of the necessity of the Arab and Jewish workers to build a class party to put forward a common struggle for the democratic, national and social questions, in the framework of a democratic, secular and socialist Republic in all historic Palestine.

By Ytzhak Betzabel