The basic right that Palestinian workers do not have

Thousands of Palestinians, mostly young men and women, went out in late June and early July to demonstrate in West Bank cities against the Palestinian Authority (PA) and its president, […]

Thousands of Palestinians, mostly young men and women, went out in late June and early July to demonstrate in West Bank cities against the Palestinian Authority (PA) and its president, Mahmoud Abbas. The protests were unprecedented in size and intensity. The slogans focused on the assassination of opposition activist Nizar Banat by Palestinian security forces on June 24. But the protests did not stop at demanding punishment for those responsible. They also highlighted the call that is identified with the Arab Spring “The people demand an end to the regime” and “Irhal” (“Go away!”). These demands were directed at President Abbas, who was last elected to office in 2005 and has recently canceled elections that were scheduled for July. 

The protesters probably represent most of the Palestinian public, who are fed up with the corrupt, repressive PA and its cooperation with the Israeli Occupation. Demonstrators have been brutally repressed by PA security forces and Fatah members, neither of whom have any scruples about harming journalists. Apart from arrests, defamatory attacks in social media specifically target female activists.

The trampling of basic human rights under Israeli occupation did not change much after the Oslo Accords of 1994. The establishment of the PA served as a cover. The oppression is especially clear when we consider Palestinians employed in Israel and the settlements. Based on the Oslo deal, permits to enter Israel fall under the exclusive control of Israeli security. Every Palestinian who needs to enter for medical treatment, work, worship or a family visit encounters the well-oiled permit-regime.

The permits form a central part of the infamous “security coordination” which, in Israel’s eyes, is the PA’s raison d’être. That coordination, including the permit-regime, is a cornerstone of the Accords. It entails acceptance by the PA that Israel will continue to control the movement of Palestinians, especially workers.

Palestinians undergo daily ordeals at the checkpoints for entry into Israel or settlement industrial areas, aggravated by unnecessary delays, humiliations, and above all the constant dread of exclusion on security grounds. The worker has no advance warning that he or she might be banned. There is no procedure for learning why or launching an appeal.

The 150,000 Palestinians employed by Israelis are no short-term phenomenon. That is a very large group by West Bank standards. They play a major role in both the Israeli and the Palestinian economies. Their families’ contribution to the Palestinian economy is estimated at $ 3 billion annually, almost a fifth of the total (about $ 16 billion). This contribution supports thousands of shops and services from which they and their families purchase.

MAAN Workers Association, representing Palestinians in Israel and the settlements for more than a decade, calls for an end to the permit-regime, which has no justification, security or otherwise. Security is certainly not the real motive: some 40,000 Palestinians enter Israel illegally on a daily or weekly basis, commuting through holes in the separation fence that Israel doesn’t bother to close. The “security lie” is also revealed by the fact that some 20,000 Palestinians are employed through permit speculators, who are not their actual employers. These workers pass through the official checkpoints using valid permits written in the name of fictitious employers; they then stand at intersections and wait for luck, hoping an Israeli will pick them up for a short-term job with a decent salary. Although they have permits, there is no employer’s report on their job location, and no one supervises them.

We at MAAN argue that the permit-regime is not an Israeli security need, but a tool for controlling, weakening and silencing Palestinians, so that they will forever function as a reserve labor force on the margins of Israel’s economy, while financial insecurity will keep them from dreaming of democracy.

In a recent statement on social media in Arabic, MAAN called on the protest movement in the West Bank to adopt the demand for abolition of the permit-regime. If we want to protect Palestinian rights, we must stop this procedure, which dominates the life of every Palestinian.  

MAAN Workers Association supports Palestinian activists who seek to dethrone Oslo’s monster child, the PA, as part of the struggle against the Israeli Occupation. It is all one struggle: against the PA, against the settlements, and against the Occupation. It is fitting that the struggle should inscribe on its banner the demand to end the oppression of Palestinian workers. There will be no freedom for the Palestinian people unless there is freedom to work in dignity. 

אודות Wac-Maan