News / Middle East

Palestinian Ban on Working in Settlements Creates Dilemma for Laborers

Palestinian workers arrive at dawn at the Nilin Israeli checkpoint, between the West Bank and the Jewish settlement of Modiin Illit. (File)
Palestinian workers arrive at dawn at the Nilin Israeli checkpoint, between the West Bank and the Jewish settlement of Modiin Illit. (File)



Palestinian leaders recently announced a ban prohibiting Palestinian laborers from working on Jewish settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. The ban has triggered anger and uncertainty among tens of thousands of West Bank Palestinians who depend on high-paying and more plentiful jobs in the settlements.

Listen to Ramirez report:

Also listen to Cecily Hilleary's interview with Arab American columnist George Hishmeh:

It is six in the morning and the sun is starting to rise at a checkpoint in the West Bank next to the Israeli settlement of Modi'in Illit.  Lining up at a fence surrounding the settlement are hundreds of Palestinian men, including 40-year-old Younis Salah from the West Bank town of El-Khader, near Bethlehem.  

Salah lines up here every morning, waiting to cross into the settlement to work his shift as a construction foreman.  His reason for working on the settlement is simple.

He says he works on a settlement because he needs to feed his children.

Salah is one of an estimated 21,000 Palestinian workers whose hands are building new homes in places like Modi'in Illit - Jewish settlements that Palestinian leaders claim are encroaching on West Bank lands, impeding the creation of a Palestinian state, and creating a major sticking point in the Middle East peace process.

The Palestinian leadership has banned working on settlements, saying that any Palestinian who participates in the building of settlements is helping the enemy.    

"It's a process. We're moving very fast toward separation from Israel," said Abdel Hafiz Nofel, deputy economy minister of the Palestinian Authority. "We believe that with the settlers and the settlements, there is no way to live together."

Salah, the construction worker, says that morning after morning, he lives a paradox.

He says this is his ironic fate.  He says the Israelis - in his words - took the land of Palestinians like himself, and he is working on their settlements.  He says that even if he wanted to look for work in Arab countries, Israeli travel restrictions would prevent him from going there.  He says he has no choice but to work on a settlement.

It is the larger earnings and steady work - which are hard to find in the West Bank - that drive Palestinians like Salah to work on the settlements.

Salah estimates his earnings are double what they would be in the West Bank, if he even found a job there.  

His earnings at the settlement enable him to provide his family with a comfortable life. Their home in El-Khader is spacious, clean, and well-furnished.  

The family has just welcomed their latest addition, a newborn daughter.  

They also have a five-year-old daughter who is disabled and gets no benefits from the Palestinian Authority.  Salah is able to pay the full cost of expensive therapy for her.

Salah's wife, Ahlam, says she dreams of a Palestinian state free of Israeli occupation.  But she says she must also face reality.

She says her husband is working on a settlement because there is no alternative.  It is, she says, how he brings food to the table. Ahlam says the family wants to be comfortable, and she wants her children to live with dignity and not be humiliated.

Palestinian leaders say they hope to provide options for workers, but have so far come up with no concrete alternatives for those who will be unemployed as a result of the ban.

Putting tens of thousands of people out of work suddenly is cause for concern for the Palestinian Authority, and officials have said they will delay implementation of the ban for several months.

Younis Salah says it will take more than a command from Palestinian leaders to stop him from going to work at a settlement.

He says he will respect the authority, and he knows the leaders can enforce the ban if they want to.  However, he says the only way they will be able to stop him is by force.

Until then, and in the absence of good job opportunities in the West Bank, the morning ritual of lining up to work on the other side of the fence will continue for Salah and thousands of others.

You May Like

Syrian Rebels Poised for Anti-Russia Collaboration

Forty-one insurgent groups issue joint statement vowing retaliation for Russian air offensives More

Political Maneuver Revives Export-Import Bank's Chances

Parliamentary tactic gets bill out of committee, but it faces opposition in the Senate More

Beijing Warns US on S. China Sea Patrols

Warning follows news reports Thursday that US military is planning to sail warships close to artificial islands Beijing has been aggressively building More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs