Topic(s): Palestine / Israel | Comments Off on Nettime — OFFSHORE ZIONISM

New Left Review 40, July-August 2006
How a militarized alliance of state-subsidized software firms, real-estate developers and captive Orthodox labour is forging the path of the Separation Wall in the Occupied Territories. Call for a cyber community boycott to support Palestinian farmers and Israeli oppositionists in their fight against it.
Faced with competition from low-paid computer programmers in India and elsewhere, many Western software companies have opted to ‘offshore’ their testing and development operations to the Subcontinent or East Asia. In Israel, however, the largest it company, Matrix, has come up with a novel solution: introducing, as the Matrix website describes it, ‘the first Zionist local offshore outsourcing’, using low-paid ultra-orthodox women workers in state-subsidized settlements in the Occupied Territories. Matrix has opened a new development centre, named Talpiot—after the idf’s elite combat unit—in the West Bank settlement of Modi‘in Illit. As Matrix ceo Mordechai Gutman explains, outsourcing to East Asia is not all perfect:
Long distances, cultural and language differences, different time zones, as well as rising wages and high turnaround rates, all combine to reduce the attractiveness of development in these countries. To tackle the problem, Matrix has set up a development centre in Israel, employing a highly qualified workforce at competitive rates . . . [At Talpiot], religious women gain employment in development centres close to their home, in a homogeneous environment that provides for their specific needs . . . Because the religious population competing for the jobs faces relatively low living costs, Matrix is able to provide its local offshore outsourcing services to customers at prices similar to those in Far East countries, but with the advantages of . . . geographic and cultural proximity. [1]
Glossed over in this ‘proximity’ is the fact that Matrix’s ‘offshore outsourcing’ operation in Modi‘in Illit takes place in the Occupied Territories, and that the ‘low cost of living’ is due to the substantial subsidies advanced by the state for the development of Israel’s colonial frontier.
Three miles east of the Green Line, Modi‘in Illit was founded in 1996. It is situated some 20 miles east of Tel Aviv and 8 miles west of Ramallah, on what were then the orchards, fields and pastures of five Palestinian villages: Ni‘lin, Kharbata, Saffa, Bil‘in and Dir Qadis. Modi‘in Illit is among the fastest-growing settlements in the West Bank today, soon to be granted the status of a city, and with a population of over 30,000; the Housing Ministry projects 150,000 residents by the year 2020. Along with the huge ring of Israeli-only housing around Greater Jerusalem, the eastward sprawling conurbation of Ma’ale Adumim, and other rapidly expanding settler towns such as Ariel, Karnei Shomron, Betar Illit and others in the cluster of settlements at Gush Etzion, it is part of a rash of new building that has transformed the West Bank landscape over the past ten years.
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