Zehava Galon is a member of the opposition Yahad Party in Israel. In 2005 she headed a Committee Against Trade in Women that undertook a four year investigation into the problem of sexual exploitation. In the words of Galon the inquiry revealed how women are smuggled into Israel and “along the way, raped, beaten and then sold in public auctions.”
Up to 20,000 females have been smuggled into Israel from Eastern Europe. These women, many of them teens, are held as virtual sex slaves and viciously exploited in a country that has as it’s centerpiece a memorial to holocaust survivors.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has named Israel as one of the worst offenders in the world when it comes to the crime of human trafficking for purposes of sexual exploitation and forced labor.
This trade in the weakest and most vulnerable has been routinely covered up and soft peddled by Israeli authorities. Fortunately there are also Israeli activists who are confronting the problem head on. The human rights organization Isha L’Isha based in Haifa is one such group. However despite the good work done by groups such as this, until the government gets serious about this problem, the trade will continue to flourish.
The captive women are often teenagers, some as young as thirteen, who have been lured with false promises and fake contracts. They are smuggled into Israel via Egypt in most cases. En route they are subjected to rape and abuse, before being auctioned off to the highest bidder. Depending on the girl and her “attributes”, she can be sold to an Israeli pimp for as much as $10,000. These girls are then held in private clubs or private establishments and forced to service clients day and night.
Here is a description of one such auction via the Israel News Agency …
“Yosef took Anna to a hotel, and ordered her to strip in front of a roomful of men. The ordeal is known as an “auction.” Like traders in a cattle market, the traffickers inspect the “goods” and bid for the women they want to buy. The woman is made to stand naked in the middle of a room. The traffickers touch her breast, her ass. They check her tongue, her teeth, to see if she’s healthy. They touch her private parts. They tell her, ‘walk forward, backwards, strike poses like a model, wiggle it honey, bend over. Lower. Let’s see what you’re worth.’ Traffickers are not necessarily picky about the venue of an auction. In one case a woman was stripped, inspected, and sold for $6,000 in the men’s room of a McDonald’s.”
Considering that the ex Soviet Union and countries such as Romania, have been struggling out of difficult economic situations, there is of course a large underclass that is trapped in poverty. The traffickers target the young and the impressionable – teens who are already in a tough situation and facing many hardships. They betray the trust of these women, and in many cases destroy their very humanity by luring them from their native land and subjecting them to criminal assault and intimidation.
The sentences handed out to the few perpetrators who are actually convicted in Israeli courts is a joke. Some of these traffickers get community service and the clubs they run are often only temporarily closed. Some mysteriously re-open and carry on with business-as-usual. It is estimated there are close to 300 brothels in Tel Aviv alone, many of them holding women in conditions that could be likened to slavery.
The writer, Isaac Herzog, documented some of the appalling conditions these women face in transit in a Jerusalem Post article entitled “Time to Crack Down on White Slavery”. Herzog says the police have surveillance recordings of this “herding” of women across the desert, and he claims people simply would not believe what actually goes on. Hundreds of captive women have been route marched across the Egyptian desert into Israel. Any who break down on the way, or who become exhausted are simply abandoned – in Herzog’s words like “a dying freight animal”.
Some women who have been abandoned or who attempt to flee, have been targeted by the Bedouin. The article “Israel Sex Slavery Thrives” courtesy of the Israel News Agency contains the following statement from a victim named “Anna”:
“As early as Egypt I found out that I was going to engage in prostitution in Eilat … I tried to run away but a Bedouin got hold of me and beat me. In the evening, four Bedouin raped me, one after the other….I was bleeding and I couldn’t walk, it hurt me so much between my legs….I wanted to die.”
Amnesty International contend the Israeli government and the police have largely turned a blind eye to this trade going on under their nose. Exactly how a nation that arose on the back of a history of victimization can be so slow to act firmly to root out the systemic exploitation and abuse of smuggled females within their own society is a mystery that is difficult to fathom.
Many Jewish writers and commentators in the US and Canada have been shocked by the impunity of Israeli pimps and gangsters. Many are dismayed by the apparent unwillingness of the Israeli government to crack down on a trade that the authorities are all too well aware of. Here in Canada the respected investigative journalist, Victor Malarek, has done some excellent work in exposing the trade.
There is a strong racist element to the trade in Israel. Leah Gruenpeter-Gold, a co-director of the Awareness Center in Tel Aviv, claims that these young Eastern European women are being sacrificed to the sexual needs of males, in a culture that protects the virtue of the Jewish female. She and her associate spoke of their disgust at the manner in which some orthodox Jews take advantage of these women.
The haredin – orthodox Jews – crowd into Tel Aviv brothels on Friday mornings and afternoons for pre-Shabbat fun and games. In the area of the Stock Exchange and Diamond Exchange this activity is particularly in evidence. Since the orthodox cannot masturbate according to religious law, they must have sex with a woman. Their law prohibits them from using condoms, so they have to pay the pimps more in order to have “the privilege”.
Grunpeter-Gold claims the victims are being sacrificed …”because these women are not human beings … they are foreign women. The religious prefer it to be with foreign women because then they don’t wrong Jewish women.”
Why isn’t more done to stop the ongoing sexual victimization of women in Israel? According to the girls working in the trade, police and other prominent members of Israeli society are reputedly involved themselves – sometimes in taking bribes or other “business”, or just as clients. A percentage of orthodox as mentioned are also involved. Who knows how deep the collusion goes – it’s impossible to track. But certainly such connections would work against official attempts to crack down on the trade.