January 2013 | Position Paper | Who Profits
Palestinian Workers in Settlements
Israeli and international companies that face criticism owing to their activities in the occupied West Bank often attempt to legitimize their businesses in settlements by claiming that they provide labor to Palestinian workers. These claims are blatant attempts to distract public attention from the Israeli occupation. Who Profits uncovers facts that undermine these claims.
In order to work in settlements, Palestinians must obtain work permits from the Israeli Civil Administration, which also entails the approval of the Israeli internal security service (the Shin Bet). This permit can be annulled at any time, especially when workers demand their rights or try to unionize, or if they (or one of their family members) engage in any kind of political activity. This situation exposes Palestinian workers to extortion by the Israeli internal security service. Other gross violations of labor rights in the West Bank are also possible because the Israeli labor regulations, which apply to these businesses, are rarely enforced in the Occupied Territories, and the workers cannot demand these rights for fear of losing their permits. Furthermore, Israeli employers frequently hire workers through Palestinian labor contractors, which render the workers more vulnerable to rights violations. …
Israeli employers of Palestinians in settlements have a clear economic interest in maintaining the occupation of Palestinian land and the exploitation of resources. Companies establish factories in the occupied West Bank mainly in order to enjoy the economic benefits provided by the Israeli government, as well as to have access to cheap Palestinian labor and the indirect benefits of operating in industrial zones with low safety and environmental standards and with very lax monitoring and enforcement. …
Settlement companies are responsible for their conduct and should be held accountable. These employers cannot claim to represent the interests and the position of Palestinian workers in any way. In fact, all of the Palestinian trade unions and labor unions and almost all Palestinian civil society organizations, including political parties, support the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) as articulated by the BDS National Committee (BNC).
The political reality of the occupation does not allow Palestinian workers to make a free and informed choice regarding their livelihoods. Most Palestinians are compelled to work in settlements, since their economy is in ruins after 45 years of Israeli military occupation.