Unless it involves sanitation workers or BART train operators, most of us barely bat an eye when employees go on strike, even more so when the strikers make up the diplomatic corps of a foreign country. But with this week’s worldwide strike of Israel’s Foreign Ministry employees, those of us who care about Israel must feel alarmed.
As our story on page 3 details, employees at Israel’s 103 embassies, consulates and diplomatic missions around the world have walked out. All diplomatic and consular work has ground to a halt, including business at the S.F.-based Israeli Consulate, which serves Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Northern California.
The inconvenience factor is obvious. No issuance of visas or replacement of passports, no meetings between Israeli diplomats and their counterparts, no planning of cultural events.
But any such inconveniences pale compared to the devastating impact on Israel’s efforts to strengthen its ties to the world. It’s tough enough for Israel, which so often confronts BDS campaigns (boycott, divestment and sanctions) and other impediments to normal diplomatic relations.
Now day-to-day work has ceased. What fills the vacuum only time will tell, but it cannot be good.
Why is this happening? Why would those who elect to work in the “glamorous” world of international diplomacy go on strike? The fact is, this is not glamorous work, but among the most demanding careers one could choose.
It can also be dangerous. Attacks, even assassination attempts on Israeli diplomats, are sad facts of life in some corners. These dedicated men and women do so much to foster political, economic and cultural ties, as well as good will, they deserve our collective thanks.
And they deserve more. Considering the risks and sacrifices the families make, and the 24/7 aspect of the work, members of Israel’s diplomatic corps are grossly underpaid.
Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, wrote of Israel’s Foreign Ministry workers, “They are a remarkably talented and articulate team that would make any country proud. They devote themselves wholeheartedly to their tasks … and often go far beyond the call of duty. Yet far too many people, in both the government and the media, show a shocking lack of personal compassion for the striking diplomats or concern for the damage that their strike is causing to the perception of Israel as a whole.”
Israel’s diplomats deserve both thanks and proper compensation. We hope the Israeli government settles the strike quickly and fairly. We need our consulate up and running.