Monday, 16 March 2015

Unreported Israel: Poverty, injustice and child abuse


As the Israeli parliamentary and general elections edge closer to finishing, the United States and the world has their gaze focus on Israel for the moment. Netanyahu is unpopular across Israel despite his popularity in Congress. He has been using last ditch war mongering threats and the usual tough guy imagery for supporters. Compared to his rivals, Netanyahu is completely out of touch with ordinary people. Ordinary Israelis are more concerned about the continual family, student and homeless poverty experienced by 1 in 3 Israelis, high cost of living and austerity measures in Israel and scandalous corruption than about the threat of Iran. For the past four years since 2011, Israelis have protested against crushing poverty in Tel Aviv and elsewhere.


The article below was written by Moti Leybel, an Israeli social activist and researcher fighting against child abuse in Israel, an injust foster system and rampant childhood poverty common in many Western countries. The article was originally published here.

Unreported Israel: poverty, injustice, child abuse


By Moti Leybel

Below is an open letter by Moti Leybel, an Israeli citizen who is prepared to risk arrest and even his life to tell the world what is happening in unreported Israel. The letter was received via Marianne Azizi, author of the book Sour Milk and Stolen Honey,
My name is Moti Leybel. I live in Israel. I am a blogger, journalist and activist.
I want to tell you some of the things that are happening here that the people of the world don’t really know about.

There is growing awareness throughout the world of the plight of Palestinian kids. Many people here also feel very bad about this and wish things were different. Instead of war we would like peace but, unfortunately, war is better for the rich and for big companies, and most of it is caused by our prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu.
The economy here is very bad; it is not as the government tries to represent it to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and to the rest of the world.

Many of us have to work in two or three jobs in order to exist, and everything here is so expensive that sometimes we just can’t afford food.
Over 30 per cent of the population is living in poverty, and 800,000 of them are children. It is the equivalent of 20 million people in Britain living in poverty. This is unacceptable.
People in Israel can’t afford to own a home. Owning a home has become a dream for most of us.
Many of us have to work in two or three jobs in order to exist, and everything here is so expensive that sometimes we just can’t afford food.

But our prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, doesn’t care about any of this. He never talks about it here and does nothing to fix it. All he will talk about is the security situation in Israel.
This is the only thing Netanyahu was elected for. He makes wars to scare us and then says: “I am the best for Israel’s security.” But what about our financial security? Our health? Food?
What I will say next will shock most people.
Israel is making people poorer and poorer, to the extent that we cannot afford food or clothing for what is defined as “children at risk”.
Once our children are declared “at risk”, the welfare authorities do their utmost to take them from us and put them in institutions or in foster homes. In either case, we are talking about private hands that are making a lot of money from our kids. I call it child trafficking.

… people of the world, I challenge and beg you: please help our children. Publicise my words widely and let everyone know what is really happening in Israel.
Social workers in Israel form relationships with the businesses of child institutions and foster organisations. I believe that they benefit financially from these relationships.
The social workers here often complain about their low incomes but the fact is that many of them live in expensive homes located in upmarket areas – homes that are out of proportion with their declared incomes. At any one time 85,000 kids will be living outside of their parents’ homes, and every year 12,000 kids join them (these are official welfare and social security figures, but we believe the real numbers are much higher).

Human rights organisations here tend to ignore the hard cases that we bring to them.
Children are being beaten and raped in the foster homes and institutions, all in the name of “the children’s welfare” – or is it? We believe that the real beneficiaries are the rich people’s bank accounts.
Some groups here in Israel try to draw the world’s attention to these horrors, but the media here are not cooperating with us. On the contrary, they take the authorities’ side.
So, people of the world, I challenge and beg you: please help our children. Publicise my words widely and let everyone know what is really happening in Israel.
Help us.
Moti Leybel

Unreported Israel: the stark facts

Marianne Azizi adds:
Moti Leybel’s letter is representative of a growing number of Israelis dissatisfied with the lack of social justice in Israel.
Some 95 per cent of Israelis are pessimistic – and who can blame them!
With the eyes of the world on the upcoming Israeli elections and the increasing international pressure in relation to the Palestinian issue, here are some facts and figures in unreported Israel regarding the social injustice and human rights abuses of Israel’s own ciizens.
  • Israel has not signed up to any international human rights treaties, making it impossible for Israelis to appeal against human rights abuses.
  • Israel has signed up to the United Nations Children’s Rights Convention (UNCRC). It not only avoids liability for any children in the occupied territories, but is also in flagrant breach of a large number of articles affecting its own children’s wellbeing, welfare and safety.
  • A poll taken in November 2014 found that 95 per cent of Israelis are pessimistic about their future, with one in four in poverty having contemplated suicide.
  • Over 800,000 children are in poverty – the official UN poverty line is USD 7 per day. Over a third of Israelis are on or below the poverty line.
  • Freedom to leave Israel is often denied to citizens, turning them into hostages in their own country. (Israel conceded to the UN that 30,000 citizens are prevented from leaving the country every year but unofficial figures are much higher.)
  • Israel is viewed unfavourably according to a recent poll in Europe, placing it on a par with North Korea, Pakistan and Iran.
  • Corruption in Israel in on the rise, and the country ranks 24 out of 37 in the OECD’s corruption index. Real corruption is much higher.
  • Wages are the lowest in the OECD, yet child support demands upon divorce are the highest. Women are exempt from consideration in financial settlements, leaving many fathers paying 80 per cent of their income, often without visitation rights.
  • Statutory gender discrimination exists against men in divorce, resulting in 1 in 72 divorcing men committing suicide, one of the highest figures per capita in the developed world.
  • Contact centres for child visitation are six times higher than in any other developed country, implying that children are at more risk in Israel than in any other country in the developed world.
  • Children are being taken by the welfare authorities from parents in poverty and placed in institutions, contributing to the USD 1 billion family breakdown industry.
  • Bizarrely, on the UN happiness index Israel ranked 11 in the world in 2012. How could this be possible when one in three people are in poverty?
Israel is a nuclear power, along with the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan and North Korea. Most of these countries have high poverty. Israel, despite evidence, refuses to confirm or deny its nuclear arsenal but, with the statistics above, it is clear the GDP is not being spent on the people of the country.
These facts are hardly ever reported. The Israeli people are tired of the corruption, lack of public spending and the arbitrariness of the family courts, which are causing the breakdown in the very fabric of the country which never tires of declaring its right to exist.
Perhaps it is time to move beyond existence and begin to give the citizens a life.

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