Shemot 5784 — Modern slavery and workers rights

Jeffrey Levine
6 min readJan 4, 2024

Here we are again at Parsha Shemot and we have the subject of slavery.

When you look at slavery today, modern slavery, mistreatment of workers and the people and wars, I thought it would be useful to define some of the terms that we have today and some of the terms that Israel is accused of. Israel is accused of colonialism, genocide, war crimes, occupation and so forth and this is probably also related to overarching slavery.

We see in today’s war which was launched by Hamas that these definitions have been made redundant and in need of an update. You could say that when Hamas attack civilians in barbaric ways, they embed themselves in civilians in a non-conventional way, it’s easy to blur the lines and we can see that by looking at these definitions we disprove each of them.

Let’s look at Occupation — the occupation blood libel has been debunked, it’s not an occupation. How can one occupy their own land? Apartheid, if anything it is reverse apartheid, this has been debunked.

We can look at the world’s reaction to our self-defence situation and our security and we saw massive protests.

I found this on Facebook.

Seven claims I repeatedly hear that are easily refuted.

“Israel is a colonial state.” No. It is actually a country that was founded in 1948 recognized by 163 of the 193 sovereign nations in the UN Nations. Even the Non-UN member State of Palestine recognized Israel as a nation in 1993. Israel existing is actually the greatest form of decolonialization in history of the world.

“Israel is an apartheid state.” It is defined as a policy or system of segregation or discrimination on grounds of race. Nope. I have walked down the boardwalk in Tel Aviv and seen people of every color, nationality, race, and religion speaking a multitude of languages as they all enjoy full citizenship under a democratic system.

“Israel is committing genocide.” No. The population of Gaza has doubled in the past 20 years. About 40% of Gaza’s population is 14 years old or younger and the territory’s median age was just 18 in 2020.

“Israel are terrorists.” Nope. Israel is fighting terrorism. Hamas is internationally recognized as a terrorist organization that was unfortunately voted in to govern Gaza and has systematically let down their own citizens in every aspect of governance.

“Free Palestine from the occupation.” No. What is being occupied? Because historically the land called Palestine covers parts of Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, and Jordan. So, are we freeing it from them as well?

“Palestine should have a state.” Great, I agree. They have had five opportunities to make one and instead they invest all their efforts to try and destroy Israel. (and Jordan is Palestine)

“Ceasefire Now.” Yes. I also want peace and a ceasefire. However, Hamas has shown that it will do anything to destroy Israel and have blatantly said their goal is the genocide of Jews worldwide. This is not a claim that should be taken lightly and Israel is responding in a way that will eliminate Hamas as an existential threat.

hashtag#bringthemhomenow hashtag#amisraelchai

The Parsha then relates how we become Slaves. We are all enslaved in some way. Every Person has to get out of their personal Slavery. Slavery comes in many forms.

The Children of Israel were enslaved. Slavery occurred in civilizations of old, and we all know a bit of the history of the African Slave. Even today there Is Slavery

There are an estimated 21 million to 45 million people trapped in some form of slavery today. It’s sometimes called “Modern-Day Slavery” and sometimes “Human Trafficking.” At all times it is slavery at its core.

Poverty, limited opportunities at home, lack of education, unstable social and political conditions, economic imbalances and war are some of the key drivers that contribute to someone’s vulnerability in becoming a victim of modern slavery.

Time to protest

I’m going to ask this, where is the protest for the 50 million people in slavery today? the 500 million people still living in poverty today? the poor conditions in the supply chains of the products we buy whether it’s coffee, chocolate, gold, clothes etc?

Where is the outcry against Islamic colonialism and it is ironic when Israel is accused of being colonists?

There is only one example that came up on the internet search and that is Iran is a modern colonist, it’s not for money but for religious reasons and look at genocide, there are many genocides and civil wars going on in many countries.

And the world turns a blind eye to these.

So, these are some of the things that we should be reflecting as we enter in the book of Shemot, the book deals with slavery and where the Jewish people’s story of exodus became an inspiration around the world for centuries and for treating people better.

It is interesting to note that there is a sort of a movement in the world for companies, by recent EU Legislation for due diligence and reporting for labour practices in the supply chain which hopefully will make consumers more conscious of when we buy products. We all hear about climate change. Climate change is a wrong world. I don’t know what the word should be, but we must have a system change in the way that our goods are supplied and fair treatment of people around the world,

Time now to bring about a systems change. Protesting is one way. Activision is another. Conferences are another, but we need real change. Pledges are not enough.

Call me activist, call me naive, but I believe we can bring about real systems change. Calling for companies to contribute more in terms of their corporate social responsibility and not just by lip service, but by real impactful actions.

Sources / additional information:

An estimated 50 million people were living in modern slavery on any given day in 2021. This is nearly one in every 150 people in the world. Modern slavery is hidden in plain sight and is deeply intertwined with life in every corner of the world.

Some 160 million children worldwide are still being put to work, according to the International Labour Organization. It estimates that in sub-Saharan Africa alone, 72 million children are affected.

Examples of high-risk sectors with modern slavery include: industrial cleaning, meat works, hospitality, construction, manufacturing, agriculture and fishing. WHY SHOULD BUSINESS ACT?

The latest Global Slavery Index, produced by human rights group Walk Free, reveals the 10 countries with the highest prevalence of modern slavery are North Korea, Eritrea, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Türkiye, Tajikistan, United Arab Emirates, Russia, Afghanistan, and Kuwait.,people%20were%20in%20forced%20labor.

Modern colonialism in our age

Islamic Republic of Iran. The Iranian government has been called an example of Neo-colonialism. The motivation for Iran is not economic, but religious. After its establishment in 1979, Iran sought to export Shia Islam globally and position itself as a force in world political structures.

There are a total of 61 territories in the world. The eight powers or countries maintain and control their 61 colonies. Those countries that still have colonies are Australia, Denmark, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, France, the United States, and the United Kingdom.

Modern era genocides

The United Nations Genocide Convention defines genocide as “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; [and] forcibly transferring children of the group to another group”

Genocide is the deliberate and often systematic destruction of an ethnic, religious, or racial group. As in warfare, one side often dehumanizes the other side, but unlike warfare, genocide is often waged by one group against another and not the other way around.

War, following Clausewitz, is the destruction by one armed actor of an armed enemy, its power and its will to resist. Genocide is the destruction by an armed actor of an unarmed social group, its power and its will to resist.



Jeffrey Levine

Jeffrey Levine provides CFO, Director, ESG Advisory Services through and is a promoter of ideas and trends where Innovation meets ESG