President Reuven Rivlin (L) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R).
(photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO/REUTERS)
In the midst of Israel’s political crises there is a ray of light.
Both President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday night individually took pride in the fact that Israel is one of the world’s leading countries in the prevention and reduction of human trafficking.
Each of them made this point in their addresses at the third annual awards ceremony honoring individuals and organizations that have made outstanding contributions toward legislation against trafficking, and the treatment, legal representation, and retraining of victims.
The honorees were Rachel Gershoni the Justice Ministry’s National Coordinator Against Trafficking; Dr. Michael Dor, who through his work at the Health Ministry was for years responsible for the medical treatment of victims, and who initiated the establishment of a special clinic for the treatment of aliens who have no legal status in Israel; and Tamar Alon and attorney Yasmin Confino of Keshet, an NGO which supplies medical, and socio-psychological services, professional training, and rehabilitation facilities to victims.
Human trafficking and slavery have left an ugly black mark on society, said Rivlin.
For thousands of years human trafficking was inexplicably accepted as a legitimate social norm, and it was not until the 19th century that it was officially acknowledged as slavery.
It was only in the 20th century that it was recognized as a violation of human rights and that strenuous efforts were made to eradicate it. The exploitation of human beings by taking advantage of their impoverished state and turning them into sex objects harms their fundamental human rights and is totally unacceptable, said Rivlin.
Netanyahu noted that centuries before Abraham Lincoln sought to abolish slavery, Moses handed down anti-slavery laws to the children of Israel.
With the start of the Arab Spring four years ago, said Netanyahu, there was hope this would lead to an end to bloodshed and slavery in the region, but unfortunately it got worse. In Syria, he said, young girls fell victim to the cruelest debasement. Netanyahu cited other places in the region such as Yemen, Iran, and Nigeria, where humiliation, rape, violence, and terrorism are rife.
The enlightened world does little more than shed a tear, he said, and is more intent on criticizing Israel, which is the only country in the region in which human traffic has been curtailed.
Netanyahu called on the public to be alert to any infringement of human rights and said all those engaged in fighting the trafficking of human beings are doing holy work.
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said the shocking phenomenon of human trafficking continues to take place all over the world, including Israel, with untold thousands of women being forced into prostitution.
“The struggle in Israel has brought results beyond our expectations,” she said, but emphasized it could not have happened without the involvement of the Justice Ministry and the dedicated people in its various departments who continue to fight this problem.
Netanyahu did not stay to hear Livni’s address.