Raise your voice with workers for a better life
Date: 16 July 2002
For over two months, Palestinian workers have organized almost daily activities, including rallies in town streets and refugee camps and tent sit-ins throughout the Gaza Strip to attract attention to their suffering and tragic situation over the past 22 months. The workers have been denied access to their work places because of the wanton Israeli closure policies imposed on the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), leveling of Palestinian agricultural land, destruction of factories and civilian facilities, and the obstruction of internal and external trade.
The Israeli government’s occupation policies of collective punishment and war crimes against Palestinian civilians and their property have resulted in an unprecedented increase of unemployment and poverty among Palestinians. The level of unemployment has exceeded 67% of the labor force in the Gaza Strip and 48% in the West Bank, according to statistics from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. In recent weeks, the level of unemployment in the West Bank has increased to 78% due to the Israeli full-scale offensive on the West Bank, which has included seizing complete control over towns, villages and refugee camps, and imposing curfews. Consequently, workers have not been able to reach their work places and thus been unable to obtain their salaries. At the same time, Israel has waged a destructive war against Palestinian National Authority (PNA) institutions and has blocked tax and customs revenues to the PNA, which has undermined the PNA’s capacity to provide services for Palestinians. The PNA can now barely cover the expenditures of employees in the public sector, who receive their salaries delayed and from external financial aid the PNA receives.
Although the PNA decided to deduct a portion of the salaries of public sector employees for a labor fund, and unemployed workers received 500 NIS (approximately US$110) as emergency assistance, such assistance does not meet the minimum needs of workers and does not follow an organized mechanism. Some workers obtained such assistance once, while others received it at least twice. Consequently, living conditions of Palestinian workers have deteriorated and thousands have joined the large number of Palestinian families who depend on food aid and emergency assistance.
In the light of their tragic situation, thousands of workers publicly protested and set up sit-in tents to attract attention to their suffering. In this context, PCHR asserts that all workers have the right to have job opportunities that can provide them with sufficient living conditions. In order to achieve this goal, providing emergency assistance for unemployed workers should continue, since workers have the right to obtain unemployment assistance, based on the minimum level of wages and the economic and social conditions of the family, in order for them to meet the basic needs of their families. In this context, the international community and Israel are responsible for the unprecedented deterioration in the economic situation and the living conditions of Palestinians.
PCHR calls upon the international community to immediately contribute to alleviating the problems of unemployment and poverty Palestinian workers are facing. The situation requires more than ever before that the international community exert serious and effective pressure on the Israeli government to end the policies of collective punishment, including closure, leveling of agricultural land, and destruction of property, all of which are prohibited by international law. These policies have led to large-scale violations of the economic, social, and cultural rights of Palestinian civilians.
PCHR also calls upon the PNA to assist workers and their families who suffer from poverty and deprivation, by granting them financial aid deducted from the salaries of employees in the public sector, and ensuring that emergency aid is distributed in an organized manner. The PNA should also make efforts to find national alternatives to the Israeli labour market, adopt economic policies that can meet the needs of the current situation in the OPT, and support and encourage national production.