When Israel was black listed by the U.S. State Dept. in 2001 for being among the nations that facilitate the slave trade by failing to take "significant efforts" to eliminate human trafficking, billions of dollars in U.S. aid were in jeopardy. However, despite a damning Israeli government report criticizing the Jewish state for being lax on traffickers, who go unpunished, the State Dept. has upgraded Israel's status, removing the possibility of meaningful sanctions.
Under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (2000), beginning with the 2003 report, countries that fail to make "significant efforts" to prevent the trading of human beings will be subject to termination of non-humanitarian, non-trade-related assistance.
Although the government of Israel still does not meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, the State Dept. says it is "making significant efforts" to do so.
"Israel," Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said on June 5, when the 2002 trafficking report favorable to Israel was released, "worked with us to significantly strengthen their anti-trafficking efforts."
"Israel," Nancy Ely-Raphel from the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons added, had "aggressively pursued anti-trafficking initiatives since the first report was issued last year."
Six months later, however, a special Israeli parliamentary committee looking into the slave trade in Israel challenges the claims made by senior State Dept. officials. The special report revealed that "3,000 women are sold each year in Israel's sex industry, in transactions with an annual volume of $1 billion," according to the Israeli daily Ha'aretz.
The report described Israel's sex industry as a "modern form of slavery."
Most of the women slaves are sold to the owners of some 250 brothels in the Tel Aviv area, according to The Jerusalem Post. There are an estimated 300 to 400 brothels engaged in Israel's slave trade, it said.
Victims trapped in the sex industry "suffer physical and emotional abuse, rape, threats against self and family, passport theft, and physical restraint," according to a State Dept. description.
The women, mostly from the republics of the former Soviet Union, are usually smuggled in by traffickers who promise them legitimate jobs. The report said the borders with Egypt should be better controlled, making the dubious claim that it is along this border that women were being smuggled into the country.
Because Israel has some of the tightest border controls in the world it is highly unlikely that thousands of women could be "smuggled" into the country without the knowledge and acquiescence of the highest authorities.
Once in Israel, the women are sold and forced to work in the sex industry. They receive $25 - $30 per customer, of which the pimp takes between 80 and 90 percent, the report said. The women are forced to work 12 hours a day, six or seven days a week and receive an average of 10 to 15 clients daily, the report said.
Testimony provided by sex workers - and minors - who appeared before the Israeli parliamentary committee detailed the abusive, criminal aspects of trafficking. After the women are purchased, their passports are confiscated and they have to "buy back" their freedom, enduring constant threats, coercion and rape, the report said. ..