Tuesday, September 06, 2011
Growing numbers of Israelis are seeking to emigrate from Israel in search of a better life abroad, writes Saleh Al-Naami
Israelis have been surprised recently by advertisements in the newspapers aiming to recruit young Israeli university graduates in high-tech fields to work in the military intelligence agency Aman.
Although the advertisements do not specify what these specialists in advanced technologies will be doing, they do state that those recruited would join Unit 8200, an electronic espionage division responsible for intelligence gathering using advanced technologies in audio and video surveillance.
Israeli military sources have said that Aman took the unprecedented step of advertising for new recruits after a large number of high-tech specialists left the agency in order to work for companies outside Israel.
According to the sources, many of them had decided that their incomes at foreign companies would be many times what the Israeli army was paying. Some of those who had left had set up their own private companies outside Israel, and their success has convinced others to follow in their footsteps.
The exodus of a large number of high-tech specialists from Aman is a further sign of the growing trend to emigrate from Israel, with Israelis leaving the country in search of a new life abroad.
This trend has been especially alarming to the country's government as recent Israeli research has revealed that the number of Israelis who have left Israel recently has now reached one million, or 16 per cent of the population.
Even more upsetting for the decision-makers in Tel Aviv has been the fact that this sudden trend to emigrate from Israel has come amid otherwise promising economic conditions. The average annual income of an Israeli citizen is about $20,000, or 17 times more than someone living in the West Bank or Gaza Strip.
Israel is also one of the few states worldwide that survived the recent world financial crisis more or less intact, and at the same time security conditions in Israel have improved over the second half of the last decade.
Perceptions of personal security in Israel have improved since military operations by resistance groups inside Israel have almost completely halted.
Nonetheless, large sectors of Israeli society are apparently ignoring these developments and are choosing to leave the country, often to seek a new life in the West.
Israelis who are emigrating are also no longer ashamed to be seen to be doing so: conferences promoting emigration have been organised, with a recent one in Moscow being attended by hundreds of Russian Jewish young people who had lived in Israel for several years.
The recommendations of the conference were nevertheless clear, stating that Jewish young people could aspire to make their futures outside Israel and even calling on Russian Jewish youth to leave the country.
Remarkably, the conference was attended by certain prominent Israeli figures, including former Knesset member Dalia Rabin, daughter of the late prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, and former Knesset member Yael Dayan, daughter of former defence minister Moshe Dayan.
Meanwhile, the results of polls of Israelis have also been eye-opening, one such poll quoting a recent emigrant as asking "not why we have left, but why we stayed so long before leaving."
Another poll focusing on Israeli young people revealed that half of those questioned would prefer to live abroad if they had the opportunity, the primary reason for wanting to emigrate being because conditions in Israel are still not good despite the recent improvements.
A large majority of emigrating Israelis aim to live in Germany, despite the fact that Zionism has long used the persecution and murder of the European Jews by the Nazi regime in Germany during World War II to justify the appropriation of Palestine.
Today, the exodus from Israel continues, with one million Jews having already left the country and others seeking foreign passports. According to one study, 60 percent of Israelis have made contact with, or intend to contact, a foreign embassy in order to seek foreign citizenship.
Germany is again at the top of the list of countries targeted by young Israelis in their search for foreign passports. Some 100,000 Israelis today have German passports, with more applying on the grounds that they come from families that had originally migrated from Germany.
A large number of Israelis also have dual citizenship: 500,000 Israelis are also US citizens, and the US immigration agency is processing some 250,000 applications for US green cards from Israelis, which if awarded would also make them eligible for US citizenship.
Despite the healthy economy in Israel, most of those who want to leave say they are seeking better living conditions abroad.
According to official figures from the Jewish Agency, which is in charge of organising Jewish immigration into Israel, a large number of Jews who come to Israel from countries suffering economic problems go back to their countries of origin when the economy there improves, as has happened among Jews originally from the former Soviet Union and Argentina.
Israeli immigration researchers also assert that 40 per cent of Israelis were born abroad, and as a result they do not feel that emigration is unusual. A large number of Israelis exiting Israel believe that the security environment in the country has made it difficult for them to remain in the country.
While some feel that security conditions have improved, they often believe that the stability will be short-lived, and they are therefore seeking a more stable destination.
The Israeli government has tried to avoid public discussion of the issue in order not to highlight the phenomenon and encourage other sectors in society to emigrate. However, official circles are well aware of the dangers of the trend, and they have tried, so far fruitlessly, to put an end to it.
Israeli officials have spoken bitterly about it, and in an article published in the Maariv newspaper, Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin criticised the desire among Israel citizens to apply for foreign passports, describing it as a matter for deep concern.
Israel's Zionist leadership realises that the Zionist project was established on two foundations: the appropriation of Palestinian land and the settling on it of a large number of Jews. Should the present exodus continue, and the number of new immigrants continue to fall, then Israel will lose in the demographic battle for Palestine.
The exodus will also result in significant economic losses, because a large number of those emigrating are highly qualified, especially in advanced technology, and they were expected to play a major role in advancing Israel's economy.
The high-tech industry is currently one of the main generators of national revenue in Israel, bringing in some $7 billion annually.
Other negative repercussions of Israel's brain drain are not only economic, but will also undermine the country's military and security agencies.
Israel's present security and intelligence advantages heavily rely on its technological supremacy, the country being the world's second-largest manufacturer of unmanned planes owing to its advanced technological capabilities.
At the same time, its high-tech industries have enabled Israel to develop responses to the strategic and even existential challenges that it faces. Technological advances enabled Israel to develop the Stuxnet computer worm, for example, which, according to leaks in the media, was used to sabotage computers operating centrifuges in Iran's nuclear programme.
The present Israeli brain drain is also certain to have further psychological and societal impacts, because it will encourage other Israelis to leave or to seek ways of departing.
The pertinent question now is: while Zionist myths have always claimed that there are religious, historical and moral reasons justifying the creation of Israel, why is there then a Zionist exodus from Palestine, even as living conditions for Israelis are on average 10 times better than those of Palestinians?
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