Palestinian workers in Israel: between scylla and charybdis

category mashriq / arabia / iraq | workplace struggles | feature author Wednesday June 01, 2016 18:59author by Ilan S. (ed.) - AAtW,, Ahdut (Unity)

This is an article X wrote upon an interview with Palestinian workers at Bethlehem checkpoint

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Palestinian workers are one of the most forgotten and abandoned social categories whether in the political. economical or social contexts, Almost all Palestinian workers suffer from Various sides: the Palestinian Authority, the Zionist state, and Israeli and Palestinian bosses, its noticeable that the worker’s rights. stability and future are roughly mentioned in the policies of the two conflicted Entities. since neither one of them gave any importance to reflect on the issue of Palestinian workers. besides. this point was not Discussed as it should in the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations. note that according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics ; the number of Palestinian workers in Israel is estimated of 105 thousand workers which constitutes 2.2% of the labor force in Israel and about 11.7% of the size of the labor force in the West Bank .

Who is the Palestinian worker?

The Palestinian factor is the worker in the areas inside the Green Line (Israel) and holds a Palestinian identity card and live within the Palestinian Authority zones in the West Bank, or those who live in Gaza Strip, Israeli Arabs and Arabs living in Jerusalem (holders of Israeli ID) are Considered Israeli laborers .

Work permits:

After the outbreak of the first Palestinian intifada, specifically in 1991. Israeli decision was issued limiting the freedom of movement between the West Bank, Gaza Strip and areas within the Green Line, thus. having a permit to enter Israel became obligatory for any Palestinian who wants to move legally in Israel.

Palestinian workers divided in terms of Legality and thus the possibility of obtaining their rights into two parts: the Palestinians legal workers with permits and make up 64% of the number of workers inside Israel. the Israeli labor laws are applicable on this category of workers upon the decision of the Israeli government in 1970 and the terms of Paris Convention 29 \ 04 \ 1994, which addressed the issue of Palestinian employment inside the green line. Secondly: Palestinian illegal workers (smuggled to Israel) and make up about 36% of the total number of Palestinian workers inside Israel, Netanya Magistrate's Court acknowledged the rights of this category of workers, but their rights are often neglected and ignored.

Rules and conditions for obtaining a work permit changed to become increasingly complex each year, prompting a lot Palestinian workers whom don’t fit the conditions (unmarried, younger workers, married with no children ... etc) to enter Israel illegally -according to laws of the state- with the rise in unemployment in the occupied territories. the number of illegal workers in Israel peaked and that was accompanied with the exploitation of many workers by smugglers.

Same tyranny. Different tyrants :

The Palestinian worker is being Prosecuted by several parties seeking to increase profits on the worker’s account, in the other hand, the oscillating and constantly changing laws and policies of the State of Israel and the continuous occupation of the territories occupied in 1967 constitutes the largest pressure on the lives of the Palestinian worker threatening its stability and constancy . prevents sometimes workers from access to their places of work and practice their work freely. Workers are prevented sometimes from accessing the place of work and doing their business freely when the Israeli army impose closure on the occupied territories, However, the state has worked to reduce the number of Palestinian workers after the Gulf War and replace them with foreign employment, Palestinian workers nowadays usually work in hard labor. such as construction work and servicing .

As stated previously, the Israeli government has recognized the rights of Palestinian workers and claimed to give them equal rights with their Israeli counterparts, and that any discrimination based on color, race or religion deemed against the laws of the state, Multiple items in various fields were placed to protect workers from exploitation, but, How valid are these allegations? Are Palestinian workers actually equal to Israelis? how much are these Laws applicable on the ground?

With a close look to the Israeli labor law you can easily find certain gaps through which to view distinction between the Palestinian and Israeli workers, since labor law gave the Israeli Boss the right to recall work permits and whenever he wished. which means depriving the worker from claiming future rights When denied entry to Israel, it means that he could not file a lawsuit against the Israeli Boss or head to the authorities involved in protection workers, which Forces the Palestinian workers to Hire an Israeli lawyer to represent them.many workers become a victim of a scam and Fraud by the lawyers. The Palestinian worker (O.A) said “"There was a dispute between me and my employer, and I was surprised the next day when I was on my way to Israel heading to the relevant authorities that the permit had been cancelled, then I had to appoint an Israeli lawyer and after long months of waiting and Signing on several legal papers in Hebrew which I do not speak, I found out that the lawyer had made a deal with the employer and got paid money on my account ". Israeli law also gives the Israeli employer the right to contract workers on prior agreements often have the form of "waiver your rights, and get the job" it contain workers commitment not to prosecute the operator in case the employer infringed the labor law such as exceeding disciplinary discounts limit . Minimum Wage law provides that “ Any employee of 18 years of age or over employed in a full-time position is entitled to receive a wage which is not less than a minimum per month, day or hour “ This law becomes effective if and only if the worker completed the so-called minimum number of weekly working hours, which amounts to (186) hours, and here can be observed another gap in the labor law, as the form of wage voucher for Palestinian workers. a document that shows the Duration and density. differs from wage voucher for Israelis. as it Contain a column for the number for weekly working days and hours for the Israelis and only weekly working days for Palestinians and herein comes the role of the Palestinians and the Israelis operators in counterfeiting, forgery and theft of workers in broad daylight

The Israeli work accidents law distinguishes clearly between the Israeli and Palestinian counterpart. Since the risks faced by Palestinians in the way of going to work and returning from it goes beyond the limits of what's bearable as the accidents caused by the Violations of the Israeli army are often ignored and lawsuits against it are dropped usually, besides the law defines the worker roundtrip path. and If it was changed even for an Emergency. or if the worker had to stop in the path for a specific need like going to the bank or getting food and had an accident. it will not be considered as a work accident .

As stated previously, the labor law creates the right conditions for the employers to usurp the rights of workers, moreover, the employers don’t care about labor law in the case of Palestinian workers since if they cancelled the worker’s permit it’s halfway to waste and ignore their rights. anyhow.the lack of awareness of rights and lack of proficiency in the Hebrew is considered one of the most important factors to reinforce digesting their rights since sometimes they sign a labor contract obliging themselves to receive daily wage. That means releasing the employer from commitment to the maximum daily working hours (8 hours) to exceed the duration of the work to 10 hours and thus the worker does not get paid for overtime. The salary voucher is the first defense line of the worker and therefore the first goal to be attacked by the Israeli employer, where some falsify salary voucher by reducing The number of weekly working days to get discounts from income tax, the Department of payments, national insurance at the expense of the worker, as well as taking advantage of Palestinians voucher’s form to reduce the number of weekly hours worked below the minimum of (186) and therefore the employer does not have to commit to the minimum wage, Furthermore, The Palestinian employer (for example : the contractor in construction works) becomes a partner in crime since profits earned by the Israeli employer are often shared with the Palestinian counterpart as a far for pressuring them and forcing them to sign the pre agreements and stay silent in case of violations of the labor law under the coverage of the tribal law which is utilized in some parts of the west bank and hence. the worker is Obliged to stay silent and show acquiescence if he’s not a member of a powerful Hamula .

As for non-legal Palestinian workers Despite the recognition of their rights, the absence of labor contracts and vouchers wages lead to their inability to claim their rights and consequently the workers cannot to even mention the issues of minimum wage. health and social Insurance. or Work accidents which leads to giving this category of workers very low wages and very bad work conditions .

Violations by the IOF :

A Picture of Palestinian workers on Bethlehem densely crowded checkpoint has spread recently on Social media. many activists compared the conditions of Palestinians at checkpoints to the Situations in the Ghettos in Nazi Germany. after a direct look at the circumstances at Bethlehem checkpoint and the treatment of Palestinians by the Israeli soldiers Including Physical torture. Daily flouts. racist Comments and discrimination we can say it’s a fair comparison. workers have to leave their homes to work at very early time in order to get to the checkpoint before congestion time. Palestinian worker (M.M) said "I finish my work in Kfar Saba at four o'clock pm and get to my house in Hebron at about seven o'clock pm. the next day I’m forced to leave the house at four o’clock in the morning to avoid the congestion, so it leaves me only two hours of a free time ". some consider the Intentionally failure of the soldiers to do their Job properly the main cause behind checkpoint’s overcrowding. where some soldiers deliberately

disable the movement at the checkpoint to do provocative activity such as chatting with another soldier and pretending to be engaged in another Job. Some soldiers confess “We received orders to tighten the procedures and disturb the movement", Others considered that the checkpoints are designed in a way does not fit thousands of Palestinians move through it daily, whether structural design or distribution of inspection soldiers in an unregulated manner. where it is rare to find all the soldiers in the filling all inspection booths ; one or two soldiers often are in charge of duty. not to mention that Soldiers sometimes pick Palestinians randomly for Scrutiny ; where they detain "Suspects " in a closed room for a duration of 30-40 minutes and force them to take off all their clothes and get double checked .

As for the soldiers themselves you can notice cases of obvious daily violations. some soldiers comments are racist and insulting. others scream in the face of Palestinians and it might reach physical assault. besides. a lot of workers get their permits Confiscated upon their appearance. The Palestinian worker “M.H” in Jabal Abu Ghniem settlement (Har Huma) said “ I witnessed a lot of mockery by the soldiers on Checkpoints. some called me Osama. Others accused me with being an ISIS member. On another day, when I was doing my job, I was attacked by a force of the Israeli border guards and they handcuffed me and threw me on the ground and pulled out their guns at me. an hour later they said that it was just a training and that they were sorry for the inconvenience ". However. the dilemma is worse in case of Illegal workers. there is recorded cases of broken bones. torture and Bullet Injury almost everytime Border Guards beaten catch Illegal Palestinian workers .

Settlements and industrial zones workers:

Settlement workers suffer from the lack of recognition of their rights and thus their inability to Demand the rights from all sides that might be relevant, the Palestinian Authority considers the settlements illegal and therefore it dismissed the legitimacy of Settlements workers. Sarcastically. The Jordanian labor law is still applied on them despite the decision made by the Israeli High Court of Justice (2007) to apply the Israeli labor on this division thence are the law of the minimum wage, maximum hours of daily work, health and social insurance, etc.... are not applied in this case, You can imagine the quantity of abuse exercised on them for this reason.

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