The Scandalous Increase of Palestinians Working in Israeli Colonies

Despite a decision by the Palestinian National Authority
(PNA) to boycott products manufactured in Israeli colonies/
‘settlements’ and ban their sale in Palestinian markets, along
with a campaign launched to discourage Palestinians from
working in these ‘settlements’, yet, latest figures came as a
surprise. Although the ban had its impact on some Israeli
businesses, the Palestinian Census Bureau revealed in its ‘2010
first quarter report’ that the number of Palestinian laborers in
the colonies went up from 75 to 79 thousand workers with
the number of those working in the construction activities
increasing by 50.2%. These figures cast a heavy shadow on
an international campaign being waged by the PNA to halt
the building or expansion of Israeli ‘settlements’-illegal under
international law- in the occupied Palestinian territories, posing
a threat to its credibility.
The only solution to this outrageous increase in the number of
Palestinian laborers, who work under harsh and restrictive
measures, is to find them alternative jobs to help them reject
work in the colonies built on confiscated Palestinian lands.
Indeed, there has been a consensus among all Palestinian
factions and political parties (indeed, the Palestinian people at
large) on the need to stop Palestinian workers from turning to
construction jobs in Israeli ‘settlements’, but the quest to achieve
such a goal has apparently failed. The Palestinian Government
has declared that such a ‘scandalous’ situation would be solved
in early 2011, but so far, nothing positive has materialized. In
fact, and as the numbers mentioned above have revealed, the
abhorring situation exacerbated! Without a detailed study and
plan, where all sectors of the Palestinian civil society should be
engaged to confront and resolve this issue, the situation will
remain (at best) at a standstill, and will possibly eradicate the
credibility of the PNA campaign to bring a halt to ‘settlement’
building or expansion of existing ones eating up Palestinian

lands. We firmly believe that any decision regarding
Palestinians working in Israeli expansionist colonies should
gain support of the Palestinian population before being
enforced. Such a decision must be laid out with a specific
schedule and clear objectives defining ways to find alternative
jobs, while avoiding a sudden burst of unemployment. We also
believe in and assert the need for decisions pertaining to the
destiny of the Palestinian people to be taken in the framework
of a detailed plan that is both practical and executable without
creating any new burdens (let alone upheavals) affecting the
daily life of Palestinians. It seems that such a course of action
does not fully conform to the mentality of the Palestinian
Government that rely on ’emotional’ decisions-which may not
be fulfilled- to decrease pressures and tensions under which the
Palestinians are living. Also, we need a way out of the current
grave situation involving the employment of Palestinian
workers in Israeli settlements’ building or expansion. Loud and
empty slogans are not acceptable. The PNA should move to
declare explicitly a boycott of jobs in these colonies that will
also help to strangle their economy, and seek earnest measures
to open up new job markets for Palestinian workers. Up till
now, the Palestinian Government has only asked these workers
to register their names with a promise to find them alternative
In a different situation, a solution was made possible when
Palestinian farmers who used to work in the Israeli ‘settlements’
began, instead, to grow flowers and strawberry trees in the
Palestinian village of Abi Dirgham in a project launched by
a Dutch government $10,000, grant, that has not cost the
Palestinian Government a sole cent. They were definitely
feeling satisfaction and relieved for no longer being part of the
Israeli ‘settlement building’ activity, though unintentionally
and under the pressure of a dire need for money. Two practical
steps are suggested to declare a boycott of jobs in the Israeli
colonies which may increase trust among Palestinian workers in
the seriousness of efforts to find an applicable solution to their
difficult situation:

First: Preparing a detailed study of the skills of Palestinians
working in the ‘settlements’, and job alternatives where such
skills can be used.
Second: Providing training programs where these workers
can acquire new skills needed in the ‘supply and demand’ market
away from the colonies’ activity.

In a bid to get out of such a scandalous situation, the PNA
announced in March 2009 the launch of a $50 million ‘Dignity
Fund’ to help Palestinians quit work in the Israeli ‘settlements’,
and create between 60- 80 thousand jobs. The money was
to be raised from the private Palestinian sector, and the fund
was supposed to offer small loans with a minimum interest
rate to help Palestinians establish small businesses. In this
regard, we heard a lot of noise, but no serious continuous action
whatsoever. Moreover, encouraging production of Palestinian
products is not enough because they are being confiscated by
Israeli soldiers on military checkpoints. To conclude: should the
PNA decide to act to resolve this embarrassing situation, then
she has to move now with the proper action without any delay,
by launching the fund to provide such loans to Palestinians to
build their own projects or small enterprises, finance training
programs and create job opportunities.