Sunday, March 27, 2005

The Horror of Bureaucratic Indifference.
Someone I know is privy to the inner workings of a ministerial committee that grants and revokes licenses to those wishing to work in a certain profession. On occasion he has commented on the arbitrary fashion in which the committee members vote to revoke licenses, unaware or uninterested in the fact that they are taking away these people’s livelihoods, sometimes unfairly, sometimes just on a technicality, destroying small businesses that have been painstakingly built up over years.

It’s not that they are bad people sitting on this committee, my friend explains to me. They are good and well meaning. It’s just that they never take the time to think of the implications of revoking a license. They don’t really regard these hard working professionals, struggling to make a living, as real people.

For many years the committee had no representative of the professionals it was discussing, and ultimately judging, among its members. They saw no need for such a representative; they were not really interested in the point of view of the people they were dealing with. In recent months, as a result of much lobbying, a representative has finally been appointed to the committee, revolutionizing its work purely by forcing its members to see the consequences of their bureaucratic indifference.

On Friday evening Youngest (at the ripe old age of nearly ten) observed that she didn’t like this country. She said she liked the way the country looked and this was home and she didn’t see herself living anywhere else, but she didn’t like the way the people behaved. I was unhappy about this observation, until Bish commented to me quietly that Youngest had been very upset by the item we had just been watching on the news about how the state had decided not to grant citizenship to a limited group of children of foreign workers, who had been born here, who had grown up here, and who were now between the ages of ten and eighteen. I must admit it had upset me as well. Maybe I too am not proud to live in a country that behaves in such an inhumane way.

Bish pointed out that the decision didn’t stem from racism or from wickedness. He said it was just indifference to the fact that these are real people, real children. Not numbers, not statistics.

It was apparently the Ministry of Finance (dear big hearted Bibi Netanyahu) that was opposed, fearing it would be costly, and the Ministry of Industry and Trade, who feared it would complicate things for them in some way. God help us.

Well, I don’t care why the decision to treat these children like human beings was turned down or by whom. I say it’s time to stop this and just do what's right. These kids have grown up Israeli and now they're our responsibility.

There are only a few hundred of them for goodness sake, a few thousand at the outside. And it's not as if they're only out to use the state. They will do their military service, they will work and pay income tax. They will raise families to love this country. They want to be here, not to ruin us or use us, but to be a part of it. They get dressed up in fancy dress in Purim, for goodness sake, even though they're not Jewish. So what if they don't qualify according to some law. They're just as Israeli as everyone else they grew up with.

Update: As always, Alisa has interesting observations:
Imshin, the two issues are not the same. Although there is very likely a considerable degree of bureaucratic indifference involved in the handling of the issue of foreign workers' children, we should not forget that the question whether to let them stay is a question of policy. I tend to agree with you (albeit very reluctantly) that they should be allowed to stay, but that is really for the politicians, not for the bureaucrats to decide.