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Last Updated: Friday, 2 May, 2003, 10:00 GMT 11:00 UK
Israel's shutdown: Your views
Man asleep while stranded at Ben Gurion airport
Many experienced travel problems as airports shut down

We asked you for your views and experiences of the general strike in Israel. The following are some of your responses.

If you would like to contribute to the debate please use the form at the foot of this page.

This strike is perhaps the stupidest and most absurd strike I have ever seen, in a nation noteworthy for stupid, wasteful, and absurd labor/management relations. Far from helping the weaker and poorer sections of Israeli society, this strike simply takes even more of what little money they have either to finance the powerful labor unions and their government monopolies or takes their hard earned money from them in the form of regressive taxes on goods and services. The most disheartening aspect of the Israeli labor system is that more than half of the country's workers are employed by the Israeli government - these workers' benefits and salaries are financed by the pitifully few Israelis who are productively employed in the small and heavily taxed private sector. In point of fact, each worker in the private sector has to support two families, his or her own, as well as some government worker. Worse is the system of social welfare benefits in Israel which rewards the unemployed and the unwilling to work with a life style better than the life style of those Israeli "suckers" who work for a living. What a surprise that there just happens to be 300,000 foreign workers here in Israel at the exact same time that there over 300,000 unemployed Israelis! Clearly the Israeli economic system is NOT working, and demands an overhaul. The ongoing war here and the world wide economic recession have simply exacerbated an already difficult situation. The Israeli Labor Federation, the Histadrut has shown profound irresponsibility and an atrocious lack of economic judgement by calling a strike at this difficult time. Indeed, I would characterize their actions in calling this strike as an economic felony against the Israeli people, and I for one hope that the Israeli government will take clear legal steps to destroy this monstrous labor federation.
Ken Besig, Israel

There is a lot of opposition to this strike, and I know many people who are working as usual. It appears to many of us that Mr Amir Peretz, head of the Histadrut is now fighting to protect the nice incomes of himself and his highly-paid managers, the ordinary workers are being cynically manipulated in his fight with the Likud government. He answered Benjamin Netanhyahu's challenge with ad-hominem comments!.
Meira, Israel

I, as anyone else who do not live where our distinguished ministers live (mostly abroad, naturally), am affected by the garbage piling up in the streets, by the shortage of cash in ATMs, by the disruption of services and public transportation, and yet, I am 100% behind Mr Peretz and the strike, and I believe him when he says he is fighting for the future face of our society. I don't want us to be as unjust and cruel as the US, which is one of the most unjust societies in the world today. I cannot tolerate such disdain of human life as we see here everyday. And here this strike is connected to the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Because disdain of human life doesn't stop at population X, but rather, its circles grow all the time. First, we don't care about Palestinians. And then, we don't care about the unemployed, the poor, the hungry. All we care about is the small comforts of our day, all we want is to repress the real garbage, and let the government lie to us, steal from us, and push us over, slowly enough, so when we finally wake up, it will be really too late to do anything about it. I just hope people will stop feeling so impotent, acknowledge the importance of this strike, and start moving themselves out to the streets, until this government and its vile so-called "economic plan", is history.
Yonit, Israel

I am unemployed and usually sign on weekly at my local job centre. The strike will mean that my social security benefit will be delayed and I can't check out the latest vacancies. Some commentators predict that the strike may be temporarily suspended next Tuesday on soldiers' remembrance day so as to enable relatives to pay their respects at military cemeteries throughout the country without unnecessary inconvenience.
Ellis, Israel

Maybe this will help move forward the independence of Palestine as the cost of the Israeli occupation starts to drown their economy.
Steven Francis, UK

To agree with Steven Francis, the best way to reduce the budget deficit would be to reduce the massive defence spending of the Israeli government. To do this though, Israel needs to be at peace. Perhaps inviting international peacekeepers to enforce a peace agreement would bring this. I make no suggestions as to the way forward on negotiating the peace but it appears to me that all sides are at fault, especially the international community which continually fails to bring the required level of pressure to bear on either side. Perhaps if our government thought that brokering the peace in Israel and Palestine was a vote winner we might see more movement - or am I too cynical?
Richard Chalkley, UK

The apartheid government in South Africa only began to tackle reality of negotiation when the economy began to unravel. Those who do not learn from the past are condemned to relive it.
Axel, South Africa

It's interesting that the US is willing to back Israel with a $9 billion loan guarantee if this economic plan is passed, when the only guarantee of economic progress is peace with the Palestinians. I think the U.S. is taking the wrong approach ... again.
Paul Griffitts, USA

While I am only marginally affected by the strike, as long as it does not go on for a long time, I fully support the unions in opposing the government on this issue. The government has singled out the poor, the disadvantaged and the lower paid as being responsible for the current economic debacle. At the same time it has given tax breaks to the rich. It continues to pour billions of shekels into the West Bank settlements. However the most dangerous bone of contention is the proposed anti-labour legislation. In this week when Israel pays homage to those who perished in the Holocaust we would do well to remember that the Nazis paved their way to power by destroying the organised labour movement in Germany.
Maurice Herman, Israel

I studied in Israel a few years ago and I remember there being a Histadrut strike back then. Although it was not as severe as the current one, I do recall that trash sat around for weeks in the hot summer and many government offices were closed, as well as university classes cancelled. I am thoroughly disappointed that the BBC as well as all posters here have turned this internal economic issue into an Israeli-Palestinian Arab issue.
Kevin, USA

It is most interesting that the United States has offered $9bn in aid on condition of the massive wage and job cuts. There is a similar move here that is still in the nascent state - there is a bill currently under consideration in Congress that will deprive the hourly paid workers of this country of their over-time pay rate. And yet there is precious little news of it in the media. I want to know why the Unions and Democrats have not spoken out loudly against this. The Project for the New American Century is a plan that will dramatically widen the gap between the wealthy few and the soon to be impoverished! many. It will happen here and in any country that the US has managed to "buy" with their conditional loan packages.
Carolyn Deck Romano, United States

Kudos to Kevin. It is predictable, but no less sad, that every mention of Israel somehow turns into mass demonisation by BBC viewers. The next time a story appears about British economic problems, I expect to see every self-righteous commentator on this board discuss how the "real story" is the cost of Britain's military occupation of Northern Ireland.
Matthew Leader, USA

This has got little to do with the Israeli-Palestinian situation but more the effect of the worldwide slowdown in the hi-tech sector. A similar economic slowdown caused recession in Britain in the early 1980s. Here too the unions shied away from the economic reality that governments cannot keep pouring in money to state industries and to increasing public sector wages ad infinitum. The private sector in Israel has been severely affected by the slowdown resulting in job cuts and wage reductions. Why won't the unions realise that they too must take a share of the burden? Like most strikes, this included, it comes down to power politics. Dare I say it but Israel may need to take Maggie's approach to bring the unions down to earth?
Daniel, Tel Aviv, Israel

The political situation is closedly tied to the economic situation in Israel. The Arab states surrounding Israel boycott Israeli products, but a small economy needs all the trade it can muster. The security situation has virtually wiped out all tourist receipts in Israel. Israel is basically bankrupt, and relies on loan guarantees from the USA and donations from wealthy Jews abroad to keep itself afloat. What Israel really needs is peace with the Palestinians, and improved trade relations with its neighbouring Arab states.
John R. Owen, UK

I wouldn't say that the illegal occupation and the cuts are unrelated at all. Sharon is spending millions of shekels on these settlements, that is, taxpayer shekels, and the money is coming out of public sector worker pockets. Nice one to the Israeli people though - when Bush did the same thing in the US (tax cuts for the rich and greedy while lower classes miss out) few people batted an eyelid because it was "inappropriate" to criticise the president.
Darryl LeCount, Hannover, Germany

I routinely travel in and out of Israel (based there) - the closure of the airport is a major constraint.
Dave, Israel - US

People such as Kevin, and Matthew never seem to amaze me with such close minded/biased statements. Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands equals Palestinian uprisings. Which ultimately leads to terror attacks, hence crippling one of Israel's dominant industries - tourism. By grasping this logic you should be able to understand that a major slowdown in one sector of a society produces a domino effect, which will ultimately lead to a depression. You should also take Israel's military spending into consideration - the fact of the matter is that Israel spends nearly 10% of its GDP on its military, which accounts for over $9 billion a year. This is money that is being spent on a sector of society that only takes in money, but never produces in return. Also there is the innumerable amount of security-guards in Israel, which like the military only take in money, hence depleting a labour resource that would be beneficial in another sector of society. So Kevin, I hope that I was able to point out the correlation between the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, and Israelis' economic grievances.
John Kav, USA

Kevin and Matthew, Although I'm sure there are other factors involved causing the economic crisis other than the occupation of Palestine, don't you think investor confidence and public opinion around the world affect the Israeli markets? Who wants to invest in a building that might not be there the next morning? I think the problems that Israel face come largely from the hard-headed conservatives in power, who are focused on their "war on terror," and ultimately their hard-line religious views of where Israeli borders should stretch. Similarly, our hard-headed conservatives here do not focus on our economy. I think if Israelis elect a more moderate government which isn't so hostile to the Palestinians and is more focused on economic recovery, their economy wouldn't suffer like this. The same can be said about our own government here in the US. Our administration, answering to their private special interests, are spending record dollars on finding "weapons of mass destruction" while we are in the worst recession in 20 years. It is only the people that suffer from these hard-liners, in Israel, the US, and Iraq.
Rooz, USA

Although it is slightly annoying that any mention of Israel or Palestine automatically brings up the topic of the conflict, it's not hard to see why. Perhaps it is a little naive to think that the current economic problems are entirely unrelated to the immense cost of policing a hostile, occupied area. It certainly isn't the only factor here, but it is worth mentioning.
Stu, UK

We are currently waiting to go to Israel as we live there temporarily. Now that the strike is on we are staying with our in-laws. I also have a job awaiting me in Israel and if I come back late I may be sacked. My husband teaches and he too is upset to have to miss a couple of days. Hope it will be over soon. Good luck to anyone else who is also waiting to fly.
Esti Rokach, England

Fraternal May Day Greetings In Solidarity With Israeli Trade Unionists. Defend The Values Of Socialist-Zionism. Victory To The General Strike!
Ian Sternberg, Oxford Trades Union Council, England.

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