An Old, but very Interesting, Report on the Trafficking of Women–from Ukraine to Israel

The latest news from Ukraine today is that seven children were injured when the new president of the country unleashed his military forces on a residential neighborhood in the city of Slavyansk.

A few days ago, I put up a post entitled “Ukrainian Jews Celebrate Poroshenko Win,” in which I discussed Petro Poroshenko’s support amongst Ukrainian Jews and which also included a repost of an article by Gregory Kolyada. That article deals with the shady business practices of the new Ukrainian president, whose exploits have included, says Kolyada,  involvement in drugs, prostitution, and illegal arms. “The Poroshenko family had plans to expand the activities beyond Ukraine,” says Kolyada, and in the closing paragraph of the piece, the author refers to the billionaire oligarch as “one of the most odious figures in Ukrainian politics.”

After I posted that article, a friend sent me a link to a document entitled “Trafficking in Women from Ukraine” that was submitted to the US State Department in 2003, but which for some reason was never published. Of course in 2003, US efforts to bring “democracy” to Ukraine had already been under way for some ten years, according to Victoria Nuland, so maybe that was a factor in the decision not to publish it at the time.

In any case, the report, authored by Donna M. Hughes of the University of Rhode Island, and Tatyana Denisova, of Zaporizhia State University, discusses at length the recruitment of Ukrainian women into prostitution rings, transnational crime networks through which they are ferried to other countries for purposes of sexual exploitation. And one of the countries of destination discussed in the report is Israel. You can access the full report here, in PDF format, but below are some excerpts:

Ukraine, now the second largest country in Europe, is one of the largest suppliers of women for prostitution…

Transnational crime networks take advantage of patterns of migration to traffic women. An example is the increased migration and trafficking of women from the former Soviet Union to Israel. After 1989, Soviet Jews started immigrating to Israel, resulting in 800,000 dew immigrants to Israel. Russian and Ukrainian traffickers used this cover to bring 10,000women into Israel for the sex industry. The sex industry in Israel has since grown into a US$450million a year industry, which is dependent on trafficked women from Eastern Europe. Professor Menachem Amir of Hebrew University, an expert on organized crime in Israel, estimates that 70 percent of the women in prostitution in Tel Aviv are from the former Soviet republics.28Moreover, according to Israel’s report to CEDAW (Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women) Report, more than 95 percent of the women deported from Israel for illegal prostitution are repatriated to the former Soviet Union.29From 1995-1997, Israel deported 1500 Russian and Ukrainian women.30

In Israel, a Russian or Ukrainian woman earns the pimp who controls her between US$50,000 and $100,000 per year. The women are enslaved and get to keep little, if any, of the money. Often, their only way out of the sex industry is a police raid, which results in deportation.3 1 Women are held in debt bondage in which they must repay their purchase price, travel expenses and all other expenses charged to them, which can be considerable, before they are allowed to leave.

A woman may be sold from one pimp to another at which time her debt to be repaid starts all over again. There are indications that pimps, working in collaboration with officials, tip-off police on the whereabouts of women just about the time the women have earned enough money to leave, resulting in the women being arrested and deported and the pimps keeping all the money.32 …

In Israel, for instance, organized crime groups from the former Soviet Union, collectively referred to as “Russian” organized crime groups, have invested profits from trafficking in women, along with other activities, into legitimate businesses. Israel is considered a “safe haven” for illegal profits because money laundering there is fairly easy. In 1995, it was reported that between 2.5 and 4 billion dollars had been invested in banks and 600 million in real estate.70

Moreover, trafficking in women has been found to be part of broader transnational criminal schemes. In August 1999, a money-laundering scheme was uncovered in the Bank of New York, USA. From early 1998 until mid-1999, US$10 billion dollars had been laundered through the bank. The account belonged to known Ukrainian-born crime boss Semion Mogilevich, who the FBI and Israeli intelligence reported was involved in prostitution, weapons and drug trafficking and investment scams. According to one source, Mogilevich headed a large prostitution ring that operated in the Black and White Nightclubs in Prague, Czech Republic and Budapest, H u n g a ~ y . ~ ’ Mogilevich’s crime network, called the Red Mafia, operated in Ukraine, Hungary, the Czech Republic and the United States. 72’

Cases such as these demonstrate that most of the money made from illegal operations, such as trafficking in women, does not make its way back to the community. The money goes to the top where crime bosses make enormous profits. The “dirty money” is laundered into clean money after which it can be used to buy legitimate businesses and properties.

Just today, RT published a report headlined “‘The Disgraced Oligarch’: Wikileaks Cables Reveal Changing US Views on Poroshenko.” It seems Poroshenko’s criminal activities were also known by officials within the US State Department:

The US was among the first states to congratulate Ukraine’s president-elect Petro Poroshenko. Yet real US opinions of the new president are more complicated, as revealed by WikiLeaks cables which refer to the billionaire as a “disgraced oligarch.”

For years, the US was keeping an eye on the Ukrainian billionaire and former foreign minister. Between 2006 and 2011, Poroshenko’s name was a direct or indirect subject of hundreds of cables released by WikiLeaks.

A simple search for ”Poroshenko” on WikiLeaks’ website gives at least 350 documents mentioning his name. But some of the descriptions provided by US diplomats are far from complimentary.

You can go here to read the rest of the story.

So to capsulize, the US overthrew Ukraine’s democratically elected president, and has managed to replace him now with a politician it fully knew to be corrupt–this while calling it “democracy.” Meanwhile, the entire country is seemingly about to be engulfed in a civil war.

In addition to the report by Hughes and Denisova, I also came across the following article, published in 2007, which seems to substantiate, or at any rate parallel, much of the subject matter they discuss:


Israel’s Dirty Little Secret


Zehava Galon is a member of the opposition Yahad Party in Israel. In 2005 she headed a Committee Against Trade in Women that undertook a four year investigation into the problem of sexual exploitation. In the words of Galon the inquiry revealed how women are smuggled into Israel and “along the way, raped, beaten and then sold in public auctions.”

Currently there are estimated to be 10,000 sex slaves (most from Eastern European countries) being held in Israeli brothels. This statistic comes from Israeli YNet news. The total number of women trafficked since the start of the trade is much higher. These women, many of them teens, are held as virtual prisoners and viciously exploited in a country that has as it’s centerpiece a memorial to Holocaust survivors.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has named Israel as one of the worst offenders in the world when it comes to the crime of human trafficking for purposes of sexual exploitation and forced labor.

This trade in the weakest and most vulnerable has been routinely covered up and soft peddled by Israeli authorities. Fortunately there are also Israeli activists who are confronting the problem head on. The human rights organization Isha L’Isha based in Haifa is one such group. However despite the work done by these groups, until the government gets serious about this problem the trade will continue to flourish.

The captive women are often teenagers, some as young as thirteen, who have been lured with false promises and fake contracts. They are smuggled into Israel via Egypt in most cases. En-route they are subjected to rape and abuse before being auctioned off to the highest bidder. Depending on the girl and her “attributes” she can be sold to an Israeli pimp for as much as $10,000. These girls are then held in private clubs or private establishments and forced to service clients day and night.

Here is a description of one such auction cited via Something Jewish:

There, Yosef took Anna to a hotel, and ordered her to strip in front of a roomful of men. The ordeal is known as an “auction.” Like traders in a cattle market, the traffickers inspect the “goods” and bid for the women they want to buy. The woman is made to stand naked in the middle of a room. The traffickers touch her breast, her ass. They check her tongue, her teeth, to see if she’s healthy. They touch her private parts. They tell her, ‘walk forward, backwards, strike poses like a model, wiggle it honey, bend over. Lower. Let’s see what you’re worth.’ Traffickers are not necessarily picky about the venue of an auction. In one case a woman was stripped, inspected, and sold for $6,000 in the men’s room of a McDonald’s.

Ex-Soviet satellite countries  have been dealing with tough economic situations. There is a large underclass that is trapped in poverty. The traffickers target the young and the impressionable – teens who are already facing many hardships. They betray the trust of these women – luring them with false promises and subjecting them to criminal assault and intimidation.

The sentences handed out to the few perpetrators who are actually convicted in Israeli courts is a joke. Some of the traffickers get community service and the clubs they run are often only temporarily closed. Some mysteriously re-open and carry on with business-as-usual. It is estimated there are close to 300 brothels in Tel Aviv alone, many of them holding women in conditions that could be likened to slavery.

In a Jerusalem Post article the writer, Isaac Herzog, documented the conditions these women face in transit  Herzog says the police have surveillance recordings of this “herding” of women across the desert, and he claims people simply would not believe what actually goes on. Hundreds of captive women have been route marched across the Egyptian desert into Israel. Any who break down on the way, or who become exhausted are simply abandoned – in Herzog’s words like “a dying freight animal.”

The article Israel Sex Slavery Thrives from the Israel News Agency contains the following statement from a victim named “Anna” :

As early as Egypt I found out that I was going to engage in prostitution in Eilat … I tried to run away but a Bedouin got hold of me and beat me. In the evening, four Bedouin raped me, one after the other….I was bleeding and I couldn’t walk, it hurt me so much between my legs….I wanted to die.

A number of Jewish writers and commentators in the US and Canada have written of the impunity of Israeli pimps and gangsters and the unwillingness of the Israeli government to crack down on the trafficking. Here in Canada the respected investigative journalist, Victor Malarek, exposed the underside of the trade in his book “Natashas”.

There is a strong racist element to the trade in Israel. Leah Gruenpeter-Gold, a co-director of the Awareness Center in Tel Aviv, claims that young Eastern European women are being sacrificed to the sexual needs of males in a culture that protects the virtue of the Jewish female.

Gruenpeter-Gold and her associate spoke of their disgust at the manner in which some Orthodox Jews take advantage of these captive women. The haredim crowd into Tel Aviv brothels on Friday mornings and afternoons for pre-Shabbat whoring. In the area of the Stock Exchange and Diamond Exchange this activity is particularly in evidence. Since the Orthodox cannot masturbate according to religious law, they must have sex with a woman. Their law prohibits them from using condoms, so they pay the pimps more for ‘the privilege.’

Grunpeter-Gold claims the victims are being sacrificed …”because these women are not human beings … they are foreign women. The religious prefer it to be with foreign women because then they don’t wrong Jewish women.”

Amnesty International contends the Israeli government and the police have largely turned a blind eye to the sex trade going on under their nose. Exactly how a nation that arose on the back of a history of victimization can be so slow to root out the systemic exploitation and abuse of smuggled females within their own society is a mystery that is difficult to fathom.


I suspect the author of the above is probably unfamiliar with the Talmud, otherwise the matter would perhaps not be quite as “difficult to fathom.” By the way, as to the reference to “Nastashas” in the above article–a similar reference is also found in Hughes’s and Denisova’s report. In fact, as they explain in footnote 1, the original title of the study was, “The ‘Natasha’ Trade.”