Palestinian workers: In spite of impoverishment and exploitation we dare claim our rights

<p> In a unique assembly organized by WAC-MAAN in East Jerusalem, the independent union stressed its commitment to build a union of workers who are not indifferent to the suffering of others, who fight to topple the walls of prejudice.</p>

קהל פנל יםIn a unique assembly organized by WAC-MAAN in East Jerusalem, the independent union stressed its commitment to build a union of workers who are not indifferent to the suffering of others, who fight to topple the walls of prejudice.

 

Hatem Abu Ziade,chairman of the workers' committee, the Zarfati Garage

Hatem Abu Ziade,chairman of the workers’ committee, the Zarfati Garage

At an assembly held by the independent trade union Center WAC-MAAN in Jerusalem, on June 1st, 2015, impressive testimonies were given by employed and unemployed Palestinians from Jerusalem and the settlement industrial zones, describing an unbearably reality, alongside the ongoing struggle for change and achievement of their rights.

Rania Saleh, the Jerusalem WAC team

Rania Saleh, the Jerusalem WAC team

Over 120 women and men attended the panel “Employed and unemployed Palestinian workers and jobless battling for survival in East Jerusalem and Area C”, organized by WAC at Notre Dame Hotel, on the ‘seam-line’ in Jerusalem. In the audience, dozens of Palestinian workers from East Jerusalem, workers from the PA areas employed at the Mishor Adumim settlement industrial zone, including workers from the Zarfati Garage, a group of workers of the Israel Antiquities Authority in East

Abed Al-Karim Sharif, the Israel Antiquity Authority

Abed Al-Karim Sharif, the Israel Antiquity Authority

Jerusalem, workers from the industrial zones of Nitzanei Shalom, Tul Karm, Arab female agricultural workers, and activists and friends of WAC MAAN – were all present. This was an impressive show of force which, more than anything, proved that Palestinian workers in Jerusalem and the settlements are not willing to accept their exploitation and are determined to struggle for their rights and human dignity.

Assaf Adiv, WAC National Director

Assaf Adiv, WAC National Director

The assembly was held a few days after Israel marked the 48th anniversary of “Unified Jerusalem”. However, in the words of the event’s moderator and director of WAC’s office in East Jerusalem, Erez Wagner, “this ‘unification’ has wrought only suffering and impoverishment upon over 300,000 Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, living under an occupying regime. The high rate of poverty, and the very small number of Palestinian families who actually receive welfare, indicate the intentional policy of pushing Palestinians out of Jerusalem by placing obstacles and exacerbating their dire poverty”. Wagner remarked that residents of the PA employed in the settlements are brutally exploited and oppressed – a condition which WAC has taken upon itself to confront.

קהל1 פנל יםField activists and worker leaders stood out at this event. One of the powerful speakers was Rania Salah Abu Diab, an East Jerusalem resident who until recently served as a one-woman task force volunteering to help people approach the Employment Bureau and National Insurance Institute, withstand the long waiting lines, the out-of-order machinery, standing in sun and rain and crowding at the doors. Abu Diab, who recently joined WAC’s staff in East Jerusalem, described all that the union has already achieved for welfare-seekers.

Chairperson of the Zarfati Garage workers’ committee – Hatem Abu Ziadeh – was applauded by the audience, including several dozens of his colleagues who arrived there after a tedious work day in Mishor Adumim. Abu Ziadeh, who has led the organizing attempt at Zarfati Garage and paid a heavy price with the loss of his job, said: “The situation of my family and myself is no different than that of any other Palestinian family”. He told us about the difficult working conditions and the illegally low salary, how, in the name of his colleagues, he had turned to no less than 15 lawyers and to the Histadrut (Israel’s large workers’ union) and how no one helped them, until he finally discovered WAC MAAN through a friend. He described the organizing process, how, after nearly reaching a collective agreement, the Zarfati bosses decided to fire him and get rid of the union’s intervention, and about his own determination to carry on the struggle for rights of the Palestinian workers at the Garage and all of Mishor Adumim industrial zone. He concluded by calling upon all Mishor Adumim workers, and all workers at large, to join WAC MAAN.

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