Human trafficking is a modern form of slavery, President Shimon Peres and Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said in separate addresses on Sunday night at the
annual awards ceremony recognizing people in the forefront of the battle to
eradicate human trafficking.
Speaking at his official residence to an
audience that largely consisted of human rights activists, Peres said that
although slavery was made illegal in the 19th century, it has not been
successfully abolished, but appears in a different guise.
No country in
the world allows the legal buying and selling of human beings, yet there are
informal criminal organizations that rule over and exploit the weak, said Peres.
The victims usually come from backgrounds of economic or psychological hardship,
he continued, and they are lured or coerced into prostitution, forced labor or
extraction of organs from their bodies.
Modern slavery does not relate to
people as human beings but as robots, said Peres, making them work long hours
without respite or decent wages. The victims live under threat and are
humiliated, subjected to violence and denied the basic right of freedom, he
Two female lawyers and a representative of Mesila, the organization
founded by Tel Aviv mayor Ron Huldai to deal with the day-to-day problems of
immigrant workers, were recipients of this year’s awards. Shoshana Strauss, who
is formerly from Los Angeles and heads the legal department of a government
ministry, has been active in many issues related to foreign workers and
initiated the publication of a brochure informing them of their rights. The
brochure has been published in several languages.
Nomi Levenkron, another
lawyer who directs a hotline for foreign workers and who has learned to identify
and track down victims of human trafficking, was the second recipient, while the
third was Tamar Schwartz on behalf of Mesila, who said that Huldai’s philosophy
is that regardless of whether foreigners in his city were there legally or
illegally, first and foremost they had to be treated as human beings and there
had to be a 24/7 address that could help them deal with their
According to statistics published by the United Nations, said
Peres, each year 2.5 million people become victims in the crime of human
trafficking, and more than half are minors below the age of 18.
percent are sexually exploited and abused.
It is important to remember
that all human beings are created in the image of God, said the president, and
that human dignity is one of the basic tenets of Israeli law.
proud of the fact that Israel is a signatory to the United Nations Protocol to
Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and
He was even prouder of the fact that in a report recently
published in the United States, Israel was ranked number one among the countries
that are successfully combating this heinous crime.
Just saying the words
“human trafficking” is a shocking form of expression, said Netanyahu, who like
Peres, noted that it is a modern form of slavery that is often accompanied by
It is not enough to find human traffic morally repugnant,
declared Netanyahu. “It is something that requires aggressive action and
There has been some change over the last five years, he
acknowledged, stating that Israel has managed to keep out perpetrators as well
as victims from abroad.
In the past year, not a single victim entered
Israel, he asserted.
Human beings are not chattels, he
“We cannot accept the concept that half the population is the
property of the other.”
Illegal immigrants, he added, have been amongst
the most severely humiliated victims, and they have also been amongst the
The difference between slavery and freedom, he said, is
sometimes the same as the difference between life and death.
Minister Yaakov Neeman pointed to the many Biblical references that negate
slavery, and said the Bible gives the highest priority to freedom of the
“We thought that the phenomenon of slavery had disappeared,
but it is prevalent worldwide including in Israel,” he said.
suppression of human trafficking is high on the agenda of all the entities
involved in the criminal justice system, said Neeman, who was pleased to report
that many judges hand down the most severe sentences to defendants who have been
found guilty of abusing, exploiting and humiliating other human
Murder and rape are generally perceived as the worst crimes, he
said, but the humiliation of human beings to the extent that they are deprived
of any shred of dignity is far worse.
Neeman called for a united global
effort to stamp out the crime of human trafficking.