A Daily Struggle: Palestinians Working Inside the Green Line
Akram Mahmoud Al Huroub, 22, was just one of over 30,000 Palestinians who do not hold a permit to enter Israel to work. On March 26th, as the young man tried to negotiate Israel’s separation barrier, arriving from Deir Samet of Hebron in the Al Ram area near Ramallah, he fell from the top, sustaining critical injuries. After several days in Jerusalem hospital and a number of surgeries, he was martyred like so many before him through one of the ugly faces of the brutal and ongoing occupation- traversing into the green line for work to escape the Israeli created economic crisis in the Palestinian territories.
For Palestinians who do not meet the criteria for permit to pass through one of the seven crossings across the West Bank- Israeli permit conditions stipulate a minimum age of 35 years, married and with children- working inside of Israel is a dangerous prospect. “A large number of these Palestinians have died after either being killed by Israeli soldiers chasing them or by their Israeli employers as a way to avoid paying the workers. During 2014, a total of 19 Palestinian workers died in mysterious circumstances which Israeli law enforcement authorities chose to not investigate. Since the beginning of this year, a total of 13 Palestinian workers have died on the job.
Because the workers are technically illegal, Palestinian authorities cannot issue probes into their deaths.” http://gulfnews.com/news/mena/palestine/palestinian-labourer-dies-after-falling-from-separation-wall-1.1479725
In Qaqiliya, a city in the occupied West Bank, surrounded by metal barriers, steel fencing and barbed wire, is the Eyal checkpoint. Palestinian workers with Israeli permits, costing between 1,000 and 2,000 NIS monthly, line up in the pre-dawn hours to begin the day- most workers must arrive several hours before their work day begins to ensure they will arrive on time. It is an agonizing process of waiting and searches that plays out day after day in a city that has only one entrance and is surrounded by both separation wall and illegal colonies. “Qaqiliya is the largest prison next to Gaza,” a member of a local organization in the struggling city informs a room full of fellow organizational members as well as international volunteers with IWPS.
He goes on, “Impoverished and vulnerable Palestinians who cross Eyal each day have reported being contacted by the Mossad to offer the easement of working with the Israeli government as collaborators.” With the Palestinian economy as a whole in severe turmoil, the city of Qaqiliya echoes the main issue of staggeringly high unemployment rates. As their work permits are passed through the hands of various Israeli military personnel at Eyal checkpoint daily, their information is then used as a method of contact for coercion in collaboration. “The Israeli government does not allow manufacturing businesses within Qaqiliya, we have no method for betterment through the building of factories.”
At Eyal checkpoint at the finish of the work day, Palestinians surface from behind a long cage-like hall to clear the turnstiles leading back into Qaqiliya where they continue their journeys home. The stories are similar. Originating from points in Khalil, Nablus, Jericho and numerous points across the region, Palestinians hand over a portion of their pay, which is, across the board- disproportionate to what their Israeli co-workers make, for transportation and for the misery of the daily struggle to cross through Eyal to work inside the green line.
“I have a three hour commute round trip to work as a hospital janitor each day.” A Palestinian woman passing through Eyal expresses with exhaustion, “And this is from Qalqiliya. I make 140 shekels a day and my permit costs 1300 monthly, in addition to 30 shekels a day for travel to my job.” With a family of four living off of her income only, life is a daily struggle, “It’s a difficult life. No one is happy.”
Exacerbating the commonality of inequalities in pay for doing the same work, is the issue of no benefits for most Palestinian workers, along with unequal treatment on the job which includes less breaks (or no breaks) compared to their Israeli co-workers. A young Palestinian construction worker, originally from Khalil, now lives with 12 others in a small apartment in Qaqiliya so to improve the issues of travel and transportation to Eyal to ensure his timely arrival for an employer who provides no benefits and lower pay than Israelis.
Issues of labor, economy and ‘security’ are a trigger point of antagonism for the Israelis. Systemic is the issue of making life and livelihood next to impossible for Palestinians in occupied Palestinian territories. What follows is the hard choice of either paying the Israeli permit and trudging through the miseries at checkpoints like Eyal, or the passage of Akram Mahmoud Al Huroub and tens of thousands of others Palestinians who cross into Israel without permit and risk their lives each day to provide for their families.