A May Day statement issued by Workers in Palestine on behalf of local trade unions has highlighted the dire economic situation of Palestinian workers who are the most affected by the Covid-19 lockdown under Israeli occupation.
The statement pays particular attention to the plight of Palestinian labourers inside the pre-1967 borders and the role of the Histadrut, Israel’s trade union federation, in their exploitation.
The conditions of the pandemic under “colonial discrimination” and the 13 year siege placed on Gaza was mentioned in addition to years of “systemic economic de-development policies” that have left Palestinians with inadequate health infrastructure, a stagnating economy and unprecedented levels of unemployment. More than 34 per cent were unemployed in the West Bank and Gaza before the spread of Covid-19, and that figure has now risen to more than 60 per cent.
The lockdown has not led to any easing of Israel’s oppressive military occupation. Vital clinics have been closed in occupied-Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley, and there has been a surge in illegal settler violence. Arbitrary arrests and house demolitions are said to be continuing.
Up to 133,000 Palestinians from the occupied West Bank work in Israel within the so-called Green Line and many were given the option of losing their jobs or staying inside the occupation state. Due to a lack of healthcare provisions and accommodation, many had to return to the West Bank. The majority of the recorded Covid-19 cases in the West Bank, up to 74 per cent, are believed to be such workers.
Despite this, the Histadrut receives dues from Palestinian workers, deducted from their salaries, intended for social benefits and trade union protections. However the Palestinian workers’ basic right to safe working conditions has not been met, nor have any health benefits been received.
The Workers in Palestine statement ended by urging international trade unions and solidarity organisations to bring attention to the plight of Palestinian workers and work towards ending trade union complicity with Israel’s colonial and military structures, including the Histadrut.