On the Establishment of Agricultural Migration Industry in Israel's Countryside
Migrant workers have become an integral part of the Israeli economy since the 1990s, including agricultural workers who are an essential part of Israel’s agricultural economy. This paper recounted the early stages in the establishment and growth of the agricultural migrant worker industry in Israel when control of this industry was in the hands of the largest organization representing the Israeli farmer, the Moshav Movement (MM). The Israeli Moshav (Pl. Moshavim) is a semi-cooperative agricultural community composed of individual family farms. When the migration to Israel of migrant workers began, the MM had an active and crucial role in the arrival and employment of migrant agricultural workers, laying the foundations that established the country’s agricultural migration industry. In this paper, I will argue that although the recruitment and handling of migrant workers have been portrayed as a great service for needy farmers by a non-profit organization, in actuality, the profit gained in importing migrant workers provided the MM with an economic lifeline during a time of financial crisis. I will also detail the changing power relations among the three players involved in labor migration import: The State, the MM, and the private manpower and recruitment companies. This paper is based on in-depth interviews with various persons involved in the historical process and on the content analysis of documents, minutes from Israeli Parliament meetings, court writings, and the popular press.
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