JERUSALEM – The Al-Hura Arab language TV network ran a segment on unemployment in the Palestinian Authority. As part of the piece the reporter focused on Palestinians employed by Israeli owned factories in Judea and Samaria, factories which are constantly under the threat of divestment and sanctions, especially by countries from the European Union.
A Palestinian employee at the Barkan industrial park in Samaria told the reporter of his life: “I have five children, and have no other alternative. I need to feed my children. If I had the option I would work elsewhere, but there is no other employment in the area.”
Another employee said: “Living is expensive and the financial state is very difficult. There are places of employment that do not pay you in the end. Here I work and get paid every month with no problems.”
The reporter added that the financial state in the Palestinian Authority is dire, and that these workers, by working in Israeli factories help alleviate unemployment in the PA. “According to our data there is a 23% unemployment rate in the PA and 33% live under the poverty line as defined in the PA,” said Dr. Muhamad Aashatiya, Abu Mazen’s senior advisor and an economist. “It’s not enough to tell people not to work in Israeli factories. You need to provide an alternative,” he said.
According to data presented by the Palestinian Bureau of Statistics, Palestinian employees in Israeli factories earn two to three times more than the average pay earned by the general Palestinian population.
Deputy Head of the Samaria Regional Council Yossi Dagan, who was interviewed, explained: “There are ten large industrial centers in Judea and Samaria, in which some 15,000 Palestinians work side by side with Israeli employees. At Barkan alone 3,000 Palestinians are employed together with 3,000 Israeli employees. They work together, earning the same wages, enjoying the same social benefits, vacation days and pension as prescribed by Israeli law. They go on trips together. Coexistence between the two peoples happens here, and all are awarded with a good and respectable livelihood,” said Dagan.
Yehuda Cohen, director of the Lipsky plastic factory in the Barkan industrial center further added: “I say to all that the political struggle over the land should be left to Netanyahu and Abu Mazen. You must not harm the industrial parks. They serve as a bridge for peace and coexistence. We need to enlarge the industrial zones and give hope to more people”, Cohen stated. Relating to a possible boycott of Lipsky’s products he said: “If the boycott is successful it will bring suffering to people. Coexistence and livelihood can come only through mutual effort,” Cohen concluded.
If these factories are shut down as a result of boycotts, most Israeli workers will find another source of employment, as opposed to the Palestinians who will remain with no source of income.