Short Takes on Labor Day

Short Takes on Labor Day

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

When Labor Day was first established in 1894 the labor movement was a growing social, economic, and political force in the country. Today like Memorial Day at the beginning of the summer, Labor Day is an excuse for a three day weekend at the end of the summer. It is a beach, barbecue, and family day before school begins as Americans mark the official end to the summer. The labor movement is no longer the force in American society that it once was and few Americans will devote even a minute to consider the status of the America’s workers; except for perhaps to discuss the migrant worker debate which is afoot in the country. 

As the American economy has changed, so too has the status of the worker in industries across the land. The immigrants who made this land great, who came and worked the land, the soil, the industries, the transportation systems, etc., have all been forgotten or relegated to history books. Production is largely not being done in this country and the service industries are so fluid that it is hard to recognize who or where is the presence of the labor movement. Americans, hopefully, still remember the value systems that built the labor movement; but there remain places and circles in America where workers are truly exploited.



The world has been stymied as what to do with the millions of refugees pouring out of the Middle East. As was and still is the case with Africans vis-à-vis African refugees, so too in the Muslim world, there is a frightening lack of concern or interest in dealing with their own suffering people. As was also the case with the Arabs and Palestinians who were placed in camps—financed largely by the West–and never absorbed by their brethren in Arab lands, so too the four million Syrians, plus Iraqis, Libyans, Kurds and others have been virtually ignored and/or abandoned by their Muslim brothers and sisters. 

The humanitarian effort being developed in Europe and throughout the West will challenge even the most creative administrative minds to absorb and settle these millions before the advent of the European winter. While there are reasons why countries taking in thousands of refugees are extremely challenged–the fear of a spies or terrorists to be detected–the general population seeking asylum in the West needs to be settled. There is no reasonable justification why the world community must see more photographs of young children being washed ashore after being lost at sea.


Yeshiva Students in Hebron

Sadly very little has been made of the extraordinary heroism of an Arab resident of Hebron who last week saved a group of lost Jewish Yeshiva students from virtual certain death. Fayez Abu Hamdiyeh made the extraordinary decision to take the lost students into his home to avoid their being lynched by angry young Palestinians. He then contacted authorities who successfully extricated them from his home to safety. It may be difficult to comprehend, but now Hamdiyeh, who has been interviewed saying he did the only humanitarian thing to do, has been attacked as a collaborator. He and his family now face serious death threats for saving these students.

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