Thursday, Nov 03, 2016

Ramallah: Israel has been revoking the commercial permits Palestinians use to work in Israel, leaving thousands unemployed.

“We are trying to find a way out and a means to protect those whose commercial permits to work in Israel have been seized,” Hussain Al Fuqaha’a, the undersecretary of the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions and Labourers, told Gulf News. “Those who have obtained commercial permits should legally be granted work permits.”

A fundamental requirement for any Israeli permit is a security clearance from the occupation’s security services, and once that clearance is obtained, Israelis usually grant official work permits to married Palestinians with children who have obtained work with Israeli employers. The Israelis are honouring these permits.

However, Palestinian workers who do not meet the criteria for these work permits usually apply for temporary three-to-six-month commercial permits at the Palestinian chambers of commerce, which the Israelis issue for Palestinian traders and businessmen, but which Palestinian workers use as commercial permits to work inside Israel.

“Commercial permits have caused many problems for Palestinian workers, since they are not covered by Israeli labour laws and have been exploited by Israeli employers,” said Al Fuqaha’a. “We are not able to defend them either, as they are illegal workers from the Israeli perspective.”

At present, more than 40,000 Palestinian holders of commercial permits, in addition to over 100,000 official work permit holders, enter Israel to work through 14 Israeli crossings that service the West Bank Palestinians, including eight for pedestrians, two for commercial goods and four for both.

“We do not understand the Israeli mentality. We generally just have to try to guess what their actions might stand for,” said Ebrahim Nazzal, who heads the Qalqilia Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “The Israeli actions are almost always confusing. The truth is, we have no idea why they have been revoking Palestinian commercial permits.”

Nazzal speculated that revoking the commercial permits might be a way for the Israelis to enforce the implementation of their labour laws on Palestinians wishing to work inside Israel. He added that the Israeli authorities are fully aware of the scope of problems and labour disputes that arise daily between the Palestinian commercial permit holders and their Israeli employers.

Al Fuqaha’a too stressed that the Palestinians were not made aware of the Israeli decision to revoke the commercial permits, and that the Israelis never consulted or coordinated with the Palestinians in this matter at all.

“We are collaborating with the Palestinian General Authority of Civil Affairs, the Israeli Democratic Front for Peace and Equality and Israel’s organisation of trade unions (Histadrut) to address the issue,” he said.

Workers whose commercial permits were seized by the occupation forces are advised to approach the federation’s branches in their respective cities to register their names as soon as possible.

The withdrawal of commercial permits adds insult to injury for Palestinians who already suffer a fierce 30 per cent unemployment rate, critics say.

By Nasouh Nazzal Correspondent

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