Opinion | Columnists

Palestinian workers: Abandoned and stranded

Establishing an independent Palestinian state will never be possible without establishing a viable economy that provides alternative jobs to Palestinian workers

  • By As’ad Abdul Rahman | Special to Gulf News
  • Published: 00:00 November 24, 2012
  • Gulf News

  • Image Credit: Hugo A. Sanchez/©Gulf News

The budget deficit of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) is $400 million (Dh1.47 billion), even if all contributing countries honour their pledges, concludes a financial report recently prepared by the World Bank which absolutely asserts that “Israel is stifling Palestinian economic growth in the ‘J’ Area, which is completely under Israeli control”.

According to the same report, “The financial state of the Palestinian National Authority is to be worse by the end of 2012”. The report notes: “The existence of colonies [settlements] in the West Bank has resulted in small and isolated pockets of Palestinian territories choking their growth and ability to positively connect socially and economically with each other”. This de facto situation has produced two major results: Firstly, the utter failure of the PNA to induce a decrease in the number of Palestinian labourers working in the colonies. Secondly, it negates the possibility of establishing a viable Palestinian independent State (in the Palestinian land occupied in 1967) with occupied East Jerusalem as its capital.

Economic hardships, accompanied by lack of outside help, especially from Arab states, aggravates the situation with no alternatives available for these Palestinian workers faced with the dilemma of starving with their families or going back to work in the Israeli colonies erected on their occupied lands, thus aiding the agenda of the Zionist occupation whose ultimate aim is the Judaisation of Historic Palestine that extends from “the river to the sea”. “Economic hardships increased the number of Palestinian workers in the Israeli colonies [settlements]”, conceded the Palestinian Labour Minister. Their numbers, according to the Palestinian Central Census Bureau, increased in the second quarter of 2012, from 13,000 to 15,000. A Palestinian worker in the colonies receives a higher pay than what is available in the Palestinian market. The Bureau’s report also revealed that the total number of these workers rose in 2012 from 77,000 to 80,000 of whom only 41,000 hold “work permits” and the rest are “illegal” workers. Moreover, it is no secret that the number of these workers far exceeds the official records, especially during the harvest season in the Palestinian farms occupied by the colonists. All of this runs in violation of the Palestinian Law No 4 of 2010 which categorically prohibits all Palestinians from working in these colonies. These alarming figures led the Palestinian labour union to call on the Palestinian Authority — during a recent seminar — to encourage investments in the Palestinian land in order to provide alternative jobs as well as establish a social security system to aid the unemployed. Such a call represents a top strategic priority totally integral to the liberation of Palestinians from the Israeli colonial occupation.

The bitter fact — we have to admit — is that we, Palestinians, are aiding and enforcing the colonies by providing them with a cheap labour force, let alone allowing the colonisers to flood our Palestinian markets with their products, thus increasing their profits and consequently providing the Israeli occupiers with additional reason to stay forever in our occupied Palestinian lands. Much worse is the security provided by the PNA to these colonies through the ongoing “security cooperation” with the Israeli occupier. This makes of us, Palestinians, an additional cause of prolonging the Israeli colonial occupation geared towards the complete Judaisation of historical Palestine. It is to be remembered that these poor Palestinian workers seeking employment in the colonies (their only alternative to avoid starvation) are also being humiliated on a daily basis (more than any other Palestinians) by the Israeli military checkpoints which have turned the entire West Bank into a big prison. The responsibility in this afflicted misery lies first on the Israeli occupation and secondly on the PNA, which needs to make their well-being its top priority before turning to the Arab and Islamic worlds for help. Only then, can we ask the international community to help us on this issue. Seeking support from the international community to boycott products manufactured in these colonies with the help of Palestinian labour is a very shameful act, to say the least, while investments in billions of dollars are being made by Arab funds all over the world, except in Palestine whose heart is occupied Jerusalem!

Struggling against the Zionist/colonial occupation to liberate the Palestinian land starts by relieving Palestinian workers from the heavy burden of aiding the colonies. The Arab Spring has shifted the focus from Palestine, the usual number one Arab issue, to other marginal issues in which “the gender of angels” is being debated by some ascending Islamic forces while the Judaisation of occupied Jerusalem and the entire Historic Palestine is being forged forward steadily. We shall never ever be able to establish an independent Palestinian state without establishing a viable economy that provides alternative job opportunities to Palestinian workers, enslaved by work under harsh conditions in the enemy colonies. Unless Palestinian factions take a united stand to free and liberate these Palestinian workers, all our Palestinian aspirations towards national independence are bound to be null and void. We can never ask the Arab and Islamic worlds to unite behind us and provide investments and support without the Palestinians themselves uniting on a single purpose to liberate our Palestinian workers, which is an issue that no two Palestinians can disagree upon, regardless of their affiliations.

Professor As’ad Abdul Rahman is the chairman of the Palestinian Encyclopaedia.

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