Palestinian Construction Workers in Israel Caught Between Indispensable and Disposable

Author: Lucy Garbett, MERIP, Published on: 19 May 2020

"Palestinian Workers in Israel Caught Between Indispensable and Disposable", 12 May 2020

...Construction and infrastructure projects in Israel, and in Israeli settlements within the West Bank, are hugely dependent upon Palestinian labor. Under a lockdown in a pandemic this means that Palestinian workers are exposed to serious health risks while helping Israel cement its control over Palestinian land and people.

The number of Palestinian workers in Israel and Israeli settlements was an estimated 130,000 in 2019, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)—but is likely to be higher due to the number who cross into Israel without permits. Most Palestinians work in Israel’s construction sector, where it is estimated that they make up 65-70 percent of the workforce.

The disregard for Palestinian workers’ health and working conditions is not unique to this current crisis. The Israeli construction sector has one of the highest death rates of construction workers among member countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Palestinian laborers, if they hold an official permit, are entitled to medical care coverageIn fact, monthly deductions are made by the Israeli trade union the Histadrut and the Israeli Ministry of Interior from Palestinian workers’ salaries for social benefits. Palestinian workers, however, do not receive the benefits to which they are entitled. A statement by a group of Palestinian trade unions called for a boycott of the Histadrut due to its complicity with the Israeli state in the long term shunning of responsibility for the health and safety of Palestinian workers.

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