Working in the Settlements – A Young Palestinian’s Account
The West Bank’s unemployment rate has reached 28% of the total population of 2.5 million. The percentage of unemployed rises to 60% for university graduates.
M, a young Palestinian qualified laboratory technician, tells how it is economic necessity for him to work in a settlement. Unable to find a paying job for which he is qualified, he volunteers for the PMRS Mobile Clinic (Palestine Medical Relief Society) and also works in the Barqan plastic factory which employs Palestinians only as operatives.
M described the working conditions as unsafe, with no protection from the toxic fumes provided by the company. During an 8-hour day, the workers are allowed to only have 30 min break. Although he has a contract for one year, previously he was fired before the expiry date. If a worker is injured on the job they are, more often then not, fired and receive no compensation. The pay is 18 shekels an hour whilst the minimum rate for Israelis’ would be 35 shekels.
Work for the 30 Palestinian women in the Ariel factory making cakes, he said, was much worse; the shifts are 16-hours-long with only a 15 minute break.
“Companies establish factories in the occupied territories mainly in order to enjoy the economic benefits provided by the Israeli government, as well as to have access to cheap Palestinian labour and the indirect benefits of operating in the industrial zones with low safety and environmental standards and a very lax monitoring enforcement.” B’tselem, by Hook and by Crook: Israeli Settlement Policy in the West Bank, 2010.
Not only is it humiliating for Palestinians to work in an Israeli company, it is also humiliating to be working in a factory that is built on land confiscated from their families or friends.