Meet Israel’s Bernie Sanders: MK Ilan Gilon [ssba]

Meet Israel’s Bernie Sanders: MK Ilan Gilon

The original article was written by Nir Yahav and published in Walla Magazine on December 22, 2016. We thank Dana Mills for translating and Peter Eisenstadt for editing.

In early December, to the surprise of Israel’s right-wing government, the Knesset passed MK Ilan Gilon’s bill on a preliminary reading making disability benefits at least equal to the minimum wage. In effect the bill would more than double the monthly allowance paid to the disabled to equal the minimum wage. Currently disability benefit is 2,341 shekels ($616), while the minimum wage is 5,000 shekels ($1,315). Read More »

Ziv Berkovich Fadida, The Elderly, too, Deserve a Dignified Life [ssba]

Ziv Berkovich Fadida, The Elderly, too, Deserve a Dignified Life

One in three elderly Israeli is forced to choose between food, medicine or heating in winter. More than half have no pension, and the existing state benefits amount to a ridiculous sum that doesn’t guarantee subsistence, let alone a dignified life. A new initiative demands that the state commits to a minimum income that will lift elderly citizens out of poverty.

Let’s start at the end: we cannot accept a reality where more than half of elderly Israelis live in poverty. And refusing this reality means fighting for change.

The struggle of We Stand Together (Omdim Beyahad) alongside Koach LaOvdim (a democratic trade union) is based on the premise that everyone has the right to a dignified life. We have the right to live a dignified life during our working and retirement years. While the minimum wage guarantees the minimal ability for existence during our working years, the state does not guarantee its citizens’ ability to live a dignified life after they retire.

And retirement is exactly the age expenses increase (such as health expenses) and people who worked their whole life expect a sharp decrease in their earnings. Why? Because the state’s retirement benefits amount to 1531 NIS ($404), and with extra funding to a ridiculous 3000 NIS ($792) per month. But what about pensions? Well more than half of retirees have no pension arrangements. And a large percentage of us still working have miserable pensions and arrangements that won’t really guarantee anything beyond a few hundred NIS per month after retirement.

Now let me return to the everyday reality of the elderly Israelis. State statistics show that one in four elderly citizens lives well below the poverty line, and one in three has to choose between food, medication and heating in winter. These aren’t the deplorable cases of elderly people who live on the margins of society, but our grandfathers and grandmothers and parents. This sad reality cuts across Israeli society: Jews and Arabs, Mizrahi and Ashkenazi, Holocaust survivors, and residents in the center as well as the periphery. I think of my grandmother, a 78-year-old woman, who was born in this country, and couldn’t survive without her children’s and grandchildren’s help. And there are many like her. But not everyone has this assistance. I think of my parents, my daughter, and myself.

We have an opportunity to change this reality and promise a (bit) better future for all of us

This is why over the past months, we, at We Stand Together initiated our struggle for the minimum of 5000 NIS ($1320). [The goal], first and foremost, is living and aging in a dignified way in this country. But beyond that, we believe in the ability of a common social struggle to bring people together—from different places and different communities—and fight for this common cause. As it gains support, this struggle will be a struggle of everyone who lives here. That is why it was clear to us when we founded this movement that it’s a bilingual struggle: we speak both Hebrew and Arabic.

There are sources of funding

Our demand is simple: the state would guarantee a monthly income of at least 5000 NIS for each retired citizen.

We demand a differential mechanism to ensure that after calculating all an elderly citizen’s income, the state would contribute funds to reach the sum of 5000 NIS.

The plan we propose will benefit many populations in Israel’s working sector. First, it would help those who retired before 2008, when the Obligatory Pension Law went in force. Second, the plan will help immigrants who do not have pensions in their countries of origin.

Among these populations we can find Ethiopian and former Soviet immigrants, who immigrated near retirement age, but have to work well throughout their 70s and 80s. In addition, this plan will profoundly help Israeli Arabs who’ve for years suffered discrimination in funding and forced unemployment, and therefore lack pensions.

In the three days since we launched our campaign many people said our demands are important but there is no money. Well, thank you for asking. We have a very clear answer.

We simply suggest to take from the wealthiest among us to fund our demands: to charge the full tax on international multinational corporations and tycoons instead of decreasing it. And finally, we suggest to put in place in Israel, like in many western countries, a tax on any inheritance over 7 million NIS ($1.8 million).

This struggle for minimum 5000 NIS is gaining force and we intend to go as far as we can: to concentrate maximum power in as many populations possible and then bring this power to a conclusion in the Knesset and government. This is not only a struggle for the amount of money elderly Israelis receive. This is a struggle for a dignified life in Israel.

Ziv Berkovitz Fadida campaigns in We stand together and is a leader of Koach Lavodim, a Trade Union.

The original was published in Local Call

Translation: Dana Mills

Zehava Galon, They Stopped Trying to Show They Care [ssba]

Zehava Galon, They Stopped Trying to Show They Care

Two children were orphaned on Friday. In a split second the few memories they had of their father became the only memories they will ever have of him. They’ll have to make up the rest from stories and photos, and from the void in the lives of his relatives.

I don’t know what happened near the Ofra Settlement on Friday and why the Iad Zacharia Hamid was shot to death. Yedioth Ahronot explained that the soldiers felt threatened because Hamid got too close to the secured booth in which they were stationed. It might be true. But two children lost their father, and someone, probably an 18 year-old, has to live with it now.

Just recently Reserve General Uzi Dayan described how he had covered up the killing of five unarmed Palestinians, and everyone was fine with it. This week an unarmed Palestinian was killed in El Fawaar and 32 were injured, mostly in the knees. Some will never walk again. Perhaps the soldiers felt threatened there too. It is hard to judge a kid who enters a Palestinian village and fears for his life. But the media and politicians gave this incident almost no attention.

We and the Palestinians live in an insane routine. Both sides pay a hefty price. Though there is no doubt that the Palestinians pay a heavier price. Over the last few weeks we’ve gotten reports of more raids and more injured. Not all the injured were armed. I understand that people have given up on solving the conflict, but too many times it seems that politicians have given up as well. Every week more people die and more get injured. Every year or two we have a military operation in Gaza. But at the moment the only thing the government cares about is a scandal involving the Minister of Transportation. They’ve stopped even trying to show that they care.

You can find the original post here.

Translation: Dana Mills

Ready to Fight for the Future of our Kid’s Education [ssba]

Ready to Fight for the Future of our Kid’s Education

The following is Dana Mills’ translation of Zehava Galon’s Facebook post:

This morning the Ministry for Education froze the Ministry’s support for pluralist Jewish education. In the last budget only 16.5 million NIS out of 290 Million NIS were allocated for organizations which offer a pluralistic alternative. The rest went mostly to Orthodox organizations. Today Naftali Bennett killed this orphaned lamb, too. Read More »

Impoverished Thinking, Impoverished Lives [ssba]

Impoverished Thinking, Impoverished Lives

Israel woke up the other day, 14 January, to the news that it is now the leader in poverty rates among the OECD countries. According to the report, about 21 percent of Israelis within the Green Line are living under the poverty line – more than in countries such as Mexico, Turkey, and Chile. In the mid-1990s, Israel’s poverty rate stood at just 14 percent. Further, Israel has the third highest gap between the rich and the poor in the world.  A country once founded out of a socialist ethos is now becoming even the most committed liberal’s nightmare. Indeed, the entire world is facing a steady and frightening rise in inequality, but even in this context Israel seems to triumph in this questionable race towards poverty and impoverishment.

On the day this statistic was released, Meretz Chairwoman MK Zehava Galon noted a direct connection between these sad statistics and the general erosion of compassion and retreat from any kind of egalitarianism within the Israeli society. She discussed her proposed bill to allow single mothers to receive child benefits at the same time as they go out to work, noting that if women earn above the ridiculous sum of 641 NIS per months (equivalent of $161) 60% of their child support allowance would be deducted by the government. Galon’s efforts to change this situation were hit by resistance of 51 coalition members who voted against the bill.

There is, of course, great poverty on the West Bank and Gaza. In a press release from last February the Deputy Prime Minister of Palestine, Mohammad Mustafa, and UN Deputy Special Coordinator for Middle East Peace Process, James W. Rawley, outlined a strategic response plan requesting 705 million to address humanitarian needs of 1.6 million Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. Dr. Mustafa said: “the past few months have been the grimmest in our history”. Read More »

Netanyahu Partitions Israel [ssba]

Netanyahu Partitions Israel

Yesterday, November 29, the world marked two events: the 68th anniversary of the UN Partition of Palestine decision and the International day of Solidarity with the people of Palestine. At a moment suspended between symbolism and irony, PM Netanyahu retaliated yesterday for the EU decision to mark products made in the Occupied Territories by announcing the suspension of EU role in peace process with Palestinians.

A senior official at the Foreign Ministry argued that the EU decision is “a discriminatory step that smells of a boycott” and added that “it is inconceivable that Israel will hold dialogue with EU institutions on how to advance a peace process while the EU simultaneously initiates measures against Israel.” Israel, the official said, “will examine each case individually with the guiding principle of making sure Israel’s interest vis-à-vis Europe and EU nations are not harmed.”

In wake of the Paris attacks, while the world raises its eyes to the Paris Climate talks, acknowledging that discussion and collaboration are the only ways forward, Israel does not. Instead, PM Netanyahu throws his toys at the EU and refuses to play.

Read More »

Boycott of Settlements’ Produce is a Move towards Peace [ssba]

Boycott of Settlements’ Produce is a Move towards Peace

Haaretz reports that Israel informed the European Union on Wednesday that it had cancelled a number of consultations with EU officials scheduled over the coming weeks.This was Israel’s response to the EU decision to mark produce manufactured in the settlements.

This decision created a divergence of responses. As MK Tamar Zandberg wrote that a “loud catharsis among right wing MKs” who fall back on the label of anti-Semitism as de-legitimizing any critique of Israeli policy. Zandberg writes that “the settlements are not part of Israel and are illegal according to international law…..they are the main obstacle on the way to peace”.

Read More »

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