Jewish Labor Committee protests Israeli labor rule discriminating vs. Palestinian workers

NEW YORK (PAI) – The Jewish Labor Committee is protesting a new Israeli rule, promulgated by the right wing Netanyahu administration there that would particularly discriminate against Palestinian workers.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, the only secular parliamentarian from her religious party, Jewish Home-part of Netanyahu’s coalition-recently unveiled the rule. Shaked, a former office director for Netanyahu, is also known for her anti-African immigrant stands.

The ministry’s rule undermines the rights of West Bank Palestinian residents to sue their employers for labor law-breaking, says Stuart Appelbaum, the JLC’s president. He also is president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, a sector of UFCW.

The rule not only “further entrenches two unequal sets of laws for Israelis and Palestinians,” but, by further embittering Palestinians, sets back chances for peace, too, he adds.

“The Jewish Labor Committee opposes this new regulation, explicitly designed” by Shaked and another right wing member of the Israeli parliament, to prevent Palestinian employees of Israeli businesses from benefiting from Israel’s progressive labor laws,” he said.

“We call on the Knesset (parliament) and Israel’s Supreme Court to act forthrightly to defend these workers’ just rights to fair labor practices, and nullify the new regulation.”

Appelbaum said the new rule forces “non-citizens” who work for Israeli enterprises “to make a monetary deposit” before suing Israeli employers for labor law-breaking. The only exception would be if “they can immediately present evidence proving their claim.

“If they cannot do so, the deposit will be forfeited. Such a measure would primarily affect Palestinians living in the West Bank – most notably those who work on Israeli-owned farms in the Jordan Valley, who will greatly suffer the consequences – by placing a heavy financial burden on those who seek to sue their Israeli employers for labor-law violations.”

The rule also tilts in favor of Israeli farmers in the valley, most of which is in the West Bank. Palestinian workers have sued the farmers, part of the ultra-right settlers bloc, for past labor law violations. Those violations include failure to pay minimum wages, no pay slips, no vacation time, no sick days and a lack of labor contracts, letting employers fire workers at will.

“As an organization that cares about Israel’s future as a democratic and progressive society, this matters to us, and should matter to others as well,” Appelbaum said.

“In 2007, Israel’s Supreme Court ruled in the interest of 30,000 West Bank Palestinians who work for Israeli businesses in the West Bank. Most Palestinians employed by Israelis in settlements became entitled to the protection of Israeli labor law. But this protection is threatened by the new regulation being promulgated by Minister Shaked.

“We strongly oppose this special new regulation. Forcing Palestinian employees of Israeli businesses to jump through hoops to benefit from Israel’s generally progressive labor laws is contrary to these workers’ basic rights.

“It will only embitter their lives, providing yet another obstacle to rapprochement between Palestinians and Israelis, and the possibility of serious negotiations toward a viable two-state solution to the conflict,” Appelbaum pointed out.

“The Jewish Labor Committee, an independent secular 501(c)3 organization, is the voice of the Jewish community in the labor movement and the voice of the labor movement in the Jewish community. Whether through its national office in New York or local offices and lay-led groups across the United States, the JLC enables the Jewish community and the trade union movement to work together on important issues of shared interest and concern, in pursuit of our shared commitment to economic and social justice.”

Photo: Palestinians working at a grove of date palms in the Jordan Valley, JLC. Michal Fattal



Press Associates Union News Service provides national coverage of news affecting workers, including activism, politics, economics, legislation in Congress and actions by the White House, federal agencies and the courts that affect working people. Mark Gruenberg is Editor in chief and owner of Press Associates Union News Service, Washington, D.C.