Labour struggle in West Bank belies claims of harmony

“Dismissing the leader of the workers with fake accusations was meant to serve as a lesson to all workers in the factory: ‘don’t demand too much because you will be...

“Dismissing the leader of the workers with fake accusations was meant to serve as a lesson to all workers in the factory: ‘don’t demand too much because you will be just dismissed like this,’ Adiv said. The employer can do what they want.”

In light of this, the decision to dismiss the case against Abu Ziadeh means it “would not be easy” for future employers to successfully “falsify accusations” against their workers, he said.

A ruling by the Israeli High Court of Justice in October 2007 stated that Palestinian workers employed by Israelis in Israeli settlements were entitled to all the employment benefits – such as the minimum wage – that their Jewish counterparts receive, a decision upheld by later labour court rulings. This landmark decision prompted a spate of organising by Palestinians workers in the West Bank, particularly in the Mishor Adumim industrial zone, a move described by Adiv as “something exceptional and something new.”

As an Israeli union, WAC-MAAN can organise in the Israeli settlements where Palestinian unions are prohibited. Israel’s largest trade union federation, Histadrut, does not allow Palestinians in the occupied territories to become members, even though it allows Jewish settlers to join. Its unwillingness has allowed smaller, independent organisations like WAC-MAAN to fill the vacuum.

For Adiv, political support for the Palestinians has been a defining factor in his organisation.

“We have a position that is that is very positive towards the Palestinian struggle and opposed to the Israeli occupation and racism,” he said. “We see it as a contribution to the struggle, not just for the rights of the Palestinians, but as a net contribution to maintaining or developing an active, vibrant civil society in Palestine.”

“These workers become people who know how to organise, how to help each other, know how to help the weak person in your group.

Abu Ziadeh also lauded the union’s achievements, originally turning to them after being rebuffed by Palestinian unions both unwilling and unable to operate in his workplace.

“Only WAC-MAAN took a strong stance by our side,” he said. “They helped me – they gave me about 5,000 shekels to support me while I couldn’t work. That money came directly from the union. They launched a media campaign for me.”

“The union does not differentiate between Palestinians and Israelis,” he added. “It struggles for workers’ rights, those of Palestinians and of Israelis.”

But in spite of WAC-MAAN’s successes, recent violence in the West Bank and East Jerusalem has precipitated the revocation of many other Palestinian workers’ permits.

“Israel, citing security reasons, has refused to renew more than 600 permits for Palestinian workers since tension flared three months ago,” a source with the Palestinian Ministry of Civil Affairs, who requested anonymity, told the Anadolu Agency on Tuesday.

The source said that Israel had claimed, in an attempt to defuse tensions in the occupied territories following the bombardment of Gaza in the summer, that it would grant more work permits to Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza.

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