Israel(fest) Industry

Just taking a picture of a normal day at Queens College...with a camel! At Israelfest, one of main attractions was the camel. Israel is a desert, but has managed to overcome this major obstacle and now thrives.

Just taking a picture of a normal day at Queens College…with a camel! At Israelfest, one of main attractions was the camel. Israel is a desert, but has managed to overcome what could be a major obstacle in development and growth.

This week, Queens College resembled a normal college campus for the first time this entire semester. There was not just one, but two exciting events that took place. With perfect weather as an added bonus, the Quad was finally filled with happy students. The first event, on Monday, was Springfest. While it was not bacchanalian in nature like those of other colleges, Queens College’s Springfest was filled with innocent revelry. My eyes lit up when I saw that we could even get a Mr. Softee ice cream cone for free! Clearly, some students thought that the benefits of getting ice cream on that cloudless day outweighed the cost of waiting on a line that rivaled one outside Best Buy at 5 AM on Black Friday. I must admit that I shamelessly cut the line. I was expecting some form of condemnation, knowing how conspicuous I am, but no one said anything! #Yousnoozeyoulose

 

It's true: Bar Rafaeli, a famous supermodel hails from Israel. What's not true: the rumors I spread that Bar Rafaeli actually came to Queens College today. Sorry, boys.

What’s true: Bar Rafaeli, a famous supermodel, hails from Israel. What’s not true: the rumors I spread that Bar Rafaeli actually came to Queens College today. Sorry, boys.

The second event, and probably the last major event of the semester, was Israelfest. A celebration of Israeli culture, there was Israeli food, pottery making, a cutout of Israeli model Bar Rafaeli, and let’s not forget that camel that is more photogenic than I will ever be. Since this is my last blog of the semester, I thought that it would be appropriate to connect this post to this last event. Though still a fledgling country at 66 years old, Israeli is a key player in the American economy.

The United States has a certain portion of its yearly fiscal budget allocated to foreign aid. Israel is the second largest recipient of such aid, receiving $3 billion. An argument that often arises during times of a sluggish economy is that America would be better off if it cut foreign aid. The rationale is that with the extra money, America could spend more locally; in short, it should put itself first, before helping others.  While such logic make sense intuitively, it does not reflect the nature of aid or the actual flow of foreign aid funds. In fact, Israel spends 75% of aid in America. The size of the state of New Jersey, Israel does not have the capability to build many things it needs for its military, such as airplanes. The aid is instead used to pay American workers to construct them. As a result, America benefits from the increased employment and the steady stream of money.

The Arab Spring has thrown the Middle East for a loop. It has not only had an impact on the safety of the countries involved, but on their economies as well, making them rather tenuous and acutely sensitive to any nearby developments.

The Arab Spring has thrown the Middle East for a loop. It has not only had an impact on the safety of the countries involved, but on their economies as well, making them highly unpredictable and acutely sensitive to any nearby chnages. 

Not only does this allow for a stronger business rapport between the two countries, but also it helps maintain and reinforce their political alliance. Israel is the only stable democracy in the Middle East. Indeed, there is much political quarrelling there-but is that not a sign of any normal, healthy government? Considering the unpredictable state in Egypt, the civil war in Syria, and the recent surge in suicide bombings in Iraq, it is in America’s best interest to align itself with Israel.

As you can see, any point on the graph, called a Production Possibilities Frontier (PPF) depicts how much of a product a country can produce. Any point beyond the graph is considered more efficient, and can be achieved through trade.

As you can see, any point on the graph, called a Production Possibilities Frontier (PPF) depicts how much of a product a country can produce. Any point beyond the graph is considered more efficient, and can be achieved through trade.

An important way to align with another country is by conducting trade, which allows for efficiency. In economics, there are two important terms used in the context of trade. Absolute advantage is a party’s ability to produce more of a good using the same amount of resources; comparative advantage is a party’s ability to produce goods or services at a lower opportunity cost. Simply put, absolute advantage results in producing more stuff, and comparative advantage results in producing more stuff by having to give up less (for example, time). An important point to note is that a party can have an absolute advantage for multiple goods, but only have a comparative advantage for one good. When countries only produce goods for which they have a comparative advantage, and then trade with one another, both parties are better off, as they end up with more goods. In the case with Israel and America, the latter clearly has the absolute advantage when it comes to production because it is larger and has more resources. Yet, it does not always have a comparative advantage, and as a result, it benefits by trading with Israel.

Waze is a lifesaver when it comes to getting accurate directions. Did you know that it also informs you when police cars are nearby?

Waze is a lifesaver when it comes to getting accurate directions. Did you know that it also informs you when police cars are nearby?

Israel has been producing and inventing many products that benefit America both economically and in everyday life. Specifically, its strong suit is in the field of technology and biotechnology. Recently, an oral pill was created, which could be used in lieu of daily injections for people with diabetes. Imagine how much easier life will be for people who no longer have to suffer by pricking themselves on a daily basis! Israel has also made waves in the business world through its innovation. Google acquired Waze, a GPS app, for $1.15 billion. The company is still run in Israel, but the fact that a behemoth such as Google was willing to fork over such a hefty sum for a company with only 100 employees speaks volumes about the incredible potential of Israeli startups.

While this graph depicts an economy that is growing, America is still reeling from the financial crash in 2007. Completely distancing itself from one of its closest allies would have immediate, severe ramifications for the American economy.

This graph depicts an economy that is slowly growing, but America is still reeling from the financial crash in 2007. Completely distancing itself from one of its closest allies would have immediate, severe ramifications for the American economy.

Despite the plethora of positive consequences from conducting business with Israel, there is still a great deal of controversy. While I will not get into the politics here, a major threat to the future of Israel’s economy is the BDS movement. Proponents of BDS, which stands for boycott, divest, and sanctions, want to cripple the Israeli economy for a variety of political reasons. A major shortcoming of this movement, though, is that breaking ties with Israel, while indeed harming the targeted country, would also damage America’s economy. Economists largely agree that sanctions against countries cause major economic inefficiencies, as they prevent the benefits of trade from being realized. Indeed, the United States uses many basic things that originate from Israel; if the BDS movement were to be implemented in its totality, the American economy would plunge, and its citizens would not have access to many items that they utilize on a daily basis.

Sodastream is a ubiquitous feature in many homes, and it is an environmentally friendly replacement to accumulating plastic soda bottles. Despite receiving a great deal of pressure, Scarlett Johansson stood by the company.

Sodastream is a ubiquitous feature in many homes, and it is an environmentally friendly replacement to accumulating plastic soda bottles. Despite receiving a great deal of pressure, Scarlett Johansson stood by the company. (When was the last time I included so many celebrities in one blog?)

Most recently, a company that has been in the limelight as a result of the BDS movement was Sodastream. Sodastream has seen tremendous growth over the past few years; its products fly off the shelves in Walmart, and its spokesperson is Scarlett Johansson. Since its headquarters are in Maaleh Adumim, a city in the West Bank that is a source of contention between Israelis and Palestinians, proponents of the BDS movement have specifically targeted this company. It is important to note that both Palestinians and Israelis work side by side in the plant, both receiving equal pay and fair treatment. Perhaps BDS advocates in America should stop and think before pointing fingers, when so many American companies are guilty of outsourcing to countries where workers are paid a pittance and are forced to work in cramped, decrepit conditions…

Israel is a dynamic country that is making tremendous advances. Their business and technology sector, situated in Tel Aviv, is thriving and has a great deal of interactions with many American companies. With its unique culture and unparalleled drive, Israel is a force to be reckoned with in the business world.

Published in: on May 8, 2014 at 2:21 am Comments (1)

The $40 Freakout

Recently, SFC won the student government election, most likely in large part due to its recent achievement of establishing free printing in the library. (Thanks again!) This election was more significant than those of prior years because the ballot also included a referendum. The referendum was for funding a shuttle bus that would go to Main Street Flushing, the LIRR, and Queens Hall. To my utter shock, the referendum passed.

When I go to the city and use Public Transportation, I take the Q64 and then get a free transfer to the E. I can travel as much as I want on the subway for $2.50! (It used to be $2.25 before Superstorm Sandy, but the natural disaster generated tremendous losses for the MTA) Why would I choose to go on a more expensive option, such as the new shuttle?

When I go to the city and use Public Transportation, I take the Q64 and then get a free transfer to the E. I can travel as much as I want on the subway for $2.50! (It used to be $2.25 before Superstorm Sandy, but the natural disaster generated tremendous losses for the MTA) Why would I choose to go on a more expensive option, such as the new shuttle?

I was opposed to the shuttle bus for a variety of reasons. To be sure, I addressed my concerns and issues with the SFC candidates, who backed this proposition. Firstly, I was concerned by the limited amount of places where the bus would drive. Indeed, many students go to Flushing and the LIRR when traveling home, but a significant amount also go by the subway station in Forest Hills. How come the bus wouldn’t stop there? Also, after going on this bus, would one get a free transfer to the subway, as is possible with the MTA buses and subways? If the shuttle service was not carried out in conjunction with the MTA, riders, by paying both the shuttle fees and the MTA fare, would end up paying significantly more, all because of some mere convenience factor. A third problem I thought of was that the shuttle bus might impact traffic patterns around Queens College. How often would these buses come, and what would the travel route be? As for drivers, I wanted to know who would be hired, and what their credentials would be. Furthermore, since they are serving Queens College-a city school-would they be considered as employees of the city (and thus be eligible for certain perks or union membership)? There were many gaps in this plan, and many questions that remained unanswered.

If your class is half empty, it is either because it is the day before vacation, or there is bumper to bumper traffic on the Long Island Expressway. Despite their incessant gripes about the LIE, many students depend on the pathway as their only option to drive directly to Queens College.

If your class is half empty, it is either because it is the day before vacation, or there is bumper to bumper traffic on the Long Island Expressway. Despite their incessant gripes about the LIE, many students depend on the pathway as their only option to drive directly to Queens College.

Commuters also pointed out a major issue that had not crossed my mind. While the shuttle was intended to facilitate the commute for students who live at home, it would not be beneficial to all such students. Many live too far a distance from Queens College to take public transportation; in order to logistically get to class in a reasonable amount of time, they have no option but to drive. Because of the dearth of available street parking around Queens College, and because of the cutthroat nature of claiming a suddenly empty spot, many buy a parking spot located on campus for $250. These drivers will not be taking advantage of the shuttle, but will be forced to pay the $40 fee each semester regardless. That means that in a one year, students who commute will have to shell out over $300 exclusively for transportation purposes to Queens College-and that does not even include personal expenses for gas and tolls. From this perspective, it is clear why commuters staunchly believe that the shuttle bus is a colossal waste of money.

Juliet said "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." Roses are pricy flowers, as will be our student fees next semester when an extra $40 is tacked on.

Juliet said “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Roses are pricy flowers, as will be our student fees next semester when an extra $40 is tacked on.

Labeling the $40 fee as an addition to Student Fees was an ingenious psychological move to sway voters. Associating the increase in payment with student fees sounds far more innocuous than saying it is a tuition hike. In reality, the name does not matter; students are still being forced to part with their precious dollars. I remember last semester when I noticed that my student fees had significantly increased. The woman at the Bursar’s Office attempted to reassure me by saying “At least it’s not an increase in your tuition!,” to which I gave her a look that read “Are you kidding me?” (raised right eyebrow, face tilted slightly to the right, emanating just the right of chutzpah to express my outrage without her feeling threatened enough to call security). You know what Shakespeare says about a name-except this time, we are not talking about something sweet.

I had come to resign to the fact that I would be paying more next semester, until I noticed, out of the corner of my eye, something curious in the library. Someone was distributing a petition to cancel the shuttle bus referendum. I was intrigued and read the entire sheet carefully. Indeed, it expressed my exact concerns and sentiments regarding the feasibility (read: impracticality) of the shuttle bus, but with a caveat: there was a small part that also mentioned negating the results of the elections, claiming that many votes were fraudulently cast because students were tricked into handing over their emails. I thought this latter part was absurd; everyone knows that it is election week, and it is their fault for not taking their vote seriously. (Most students who cast a vote put no thought as to whom they were voting for. That truly grinds my gears.) I signed on the line to override the referendum, but refused to sign the second line.

Legend has it that King George was able to read John Hancock's signature without his glasses it was so large. John Hancock clearly knew what he was agreeing to, when he penned this famous signature. If only people nowadays would heed what they signed...

Legend has it that King George was able to read John Hancock’s signature without his glasses it was so large. John Hancock clearly knew what he was agreeing to, when he penned this famous signature. If only people nowadays would heed what they signed…

As I spoke to more people about the petition, I was appalled by what I heard. They supported the petition, so they signed the sheet. Read: the ENTIRE sheet. Not bothering to read what they were about to stamp with their indelible John Hancock, people absentmindedly agreed to the clause that stated that the party election results should be overturned. When I informed my peers as to what they had agreed to, they were shocked. Many of those individuals proudly supported SFC. Ironically, the people who had claimed that votes had been fraudulently acquired were now exploiting unsuspecting individuals in the exact same fashion.

Businesses and companies frequently employ this exact tactic to ensnare customers. That there are people who still fall for the traps despite hearing horror stories serves to propel them to continue doing these unethical practices. I beseech of you  all to read contracts that you sign in their entirely, lest you agree to a lifetime of indentured servitude!

As students with a voice, we do not have to be enslaved to the status quo in Queens College. I do not know the fate of the shuttle bus, and have asked people if, on the chance that this operation is a bust, it could be canceled after one semester. I was “reassured” by a confident Maybe. Time will tell, but for now, I am off to catch the next bus to Forest Hills, provided exclusively by the MTA.

Published in: on May 7, 2014 at 2:54 am Comments (0)

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