Petition alleges that Jewish employers are using the police to intimidate Arab workers trying to unionize.
The Judea and Samaria District Police is sometimes enlisted by Jewish employers in the West Bank to break attempts by Palestinian workers to organize or better their employment conditions, according to a petition submitted to the High Court of Justice Monday.
The petition was filed by Hatem Abu Ziadeh, 44, a resident of Bir Zeit, with the help of the Workers Advice Center-Maan. Abu Ziadeh has worked for years at the Tzarfati Garage, a large auto-service center in the Mishor Adumim industrial zone outside Jerusalem.
Like many employers of Palestinian workers, the garage didn’t provide its workers with social benefits, and for the past 15 months Abu Ziadeh has headed a workers committee that was set up, with Maan’s help, to try to negotiate better terms.
When the garage owners tried to fire Abu Ziadeh, Maan filed a petition with the Jerusalem Labor Court, which a month and a half ago ordered the garage to cancel Abu Ziadeh’s dismissal and continue negotiating with the workers.
The next day, the garage owner filed a complaint against Abu Ziadeh with the Judea and Samaria police, claiming that Abu Ziadeh had threatened other workers and was a security risk because he had damaged an Israel Defense Forces vehicle the garage was working on.
Abu Ziadeh was summoned for questioning to the Ma’aleh Adumim police station and released on a 1,000 shekel ($276) bond. His permit to enter the industrial zone was suspended, making it impossible for him to work.
“The suspension of the petitioner’s work permit is part of a reign of terror that hangs over the heads of Palestinian workers employed in Israel and the settlements,” states the petition, which was filed by attorney Smadar Ben-Natan.
In response to Abu Ziadeh’s dismissal, the workers declared a work dispute and later went on strike.
Detained by police
Management tried to hire other workers to break the strike and, according to the petition, sent representatives of the industrial zone’s employers’ organization to yell at and threaten the striking workers.
When Maan complained to the police, the police detained the Maan representative for questioning.
Maan says that enlisting the police in such intimidation is common.
“For years we have been complaining about the use of permits as a club against every worker who needs such a permit,” said Maan director Assaf Adiv.
“Employers have a ready solution: Instead of responding to a worker, or arguing with him, they simply go to the police, report him, and from that moment it will take him a year or two to remove the stain that sullied him, for no reason, and without him having any ability to respond or explain.”
Garage manager Morris Tzarfati refused to respond. “Write whatever you want,” he told Haaretz.
The Judea and Samaria police said, “The suspect was questioned on suspicion of threatening others and causing damage to IDF property.
“After the investigation, the case was referred to the military prosecution,” they continued. “The state’s response to the petition submitted to the High Court of Justice will be delivered to the court by the State Prosecutor’s Office.”