50 years of occupation, 50 years of labor struggle

A Palestinian worker on a construction site in the city of Bethlehem, in the southern occupied West Bank, Sep 27, 2017. (photo: Chloé Benoist / Equal Times)

The land isn’t the only thing that is occupied in Palestinian — so is the economy.

By Chloé Benoist | Equal Times | Nov 17, 2017

The hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who found themselves under Israeli military control in 1967 quickly became a source of blue-collar labor for the Israeli economy, performing jobs that few Israelis were willing to do, for far less money and with far fewer legal protections.

Despite having spent 30 years of his life working as a carpenter in Israel, and the past 17 years as a farmer in the southern part of occupied West Bank, Mohammad Issa Salah, 70, still finds himself struggling to make ends meet.

“Here, the cost of living is like Europe, but the wages are like Africa,” the elderly Palestinian from the village of al-Khader tells Equal Times, in what little English he remembers from school.

The old man’s situation is hardly an exception. With a quarter of Palestinians living under the poverty line, and a similar unemployment rate, Palestinians have struggled for decades to make a living and assert their rights in the workplace.

During the past 50 years, the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip has unequivocally affected working conditions for Palestinians. At the same time, unions have struggled to rise above political divides to make concrete strides to protect Palestinian workers’ rights.

“The land isn’t the only thing that is occupied — so is the Palestinian economy,” says Matthew Vickery, the author of Employing the Enemy: The Story of Palestinian Labourers on Israeli Settlements.

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