June 18, 2002
Is It True That You Can't Find Good Help These Days?

Banana Counting Monkey tallies the advantages and disadvantages of building a Korean-style DMZ to separate Israelis from Palestinians. I have something to add on the last disadvantage listed:

There is also the loss of cheap palestinian labour that would hurt the Israeli economy (in particular the Kibbutzim). That would prove harder to replace.

My proposal is simple:

Israel should stop hiring Palestinians and bring in some Mexicans (or other Latin Americans) on long-term temporary contracts, perhaps one or two years. There's no shortage of possible candidates: given the relative sizes of the Israeli job market, the U.S. job market, and the Mexican labor supply, Israel could fill every possible job opening with a Mexican without driving up wages here or there, or even taking much of the pressure off the U.S. Border Patrol.

Disadvantages are obvious, though obvious is not the same thing as compelling when you look at the details:

  • Israel is a lot further from home. Travel should be more expensive, but in fact legal travel to Israel via chartered airliner would be almost certainly cheaper and certainly far less dangerous than crossing the desert or the Rio Grande at night with a 'coyote'. On the other hand, telephone calls home would surely be much more expensive.
  • Given the crime rate in the U.S., I'm not sure that Israel would even be more dangerous. I've read that the lowest rates in Europe for murder, rape, and mugging are in Belfast -- not surprising, given the number of armed soldiers on streetcorners. If I'm not mistaken, the decrease in apolitical murders outweighs the increase in assassinations and terror bombings. The same may be true in comparing Israel to the U.S.
  • Language would be a problem, but it already is. In any case, I believe that some Sephardic Jews still speak Ladino, which is an archaic form of Spanish, and I'm sure many American-born Israelis also know some Spanish.

There are clear advantages to my scheme:

  • A minor point is that money spent on transportation would go to above-board tax-paying airline-charter businesses, instead of sleazy tax-evading criminal coyotes.
  • The hot, dry climate of Israel would, I imagine, be more congenial to most Mexicans -- more like home -- than most parts of the U.S. Why shiver in an ill-heated apartment in Minneapolis or Omaha when you can sit outside under the olive trees, shooting the breeze with your friends, in Israel?
  • A chance to actually live in the Holy Land would be a big plus for the more religious workers. Israel is small enough that even a manual laborer working long hours for low pay would be able to visit all the Biblical sites on his days off without spending much money.

I would call the likely result of my proposal a 'win-win situation', but it's really a win-win-lose situation, with the Palestinians as the losers. After all the bombings and celebrations of bombings, many of us will consider that another plus.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at June 18, 2002 03:57 PM