The Palestinian Authority has set a 2011 deadline for tens of thousands of its Arab residents to quit working at construction sites and factories in 'Israeli settlements' – as it refers to Jewish communities in the areas that were occupied by Jordan between 1948 and 1967.
"There are currently 25,000 Palestinians who make their living by working in Israeli settlements," the PA's Minister of National Economy Hassan Abu Libda told the Bethlehem-based Maan news agency on Thursday. PA law prohibits its residents from working at the communities, he said.
"They should stop as they are not any different from 200,000 other unemployed workers," he said. He also claimed that many workers “had left their jobs” in order to work “at the illegal construction sites.” The boycott on goods manufactured in the Jewish communities was a different matter, he said, and PA law forbids buying these products.
"So long as Israel continues to discourage the Palestinian national economy, the only alternative is to get the citizens to consume national products," he explained. He did not mention the Israeli efforts to boost the PA economy, including its assistance to the Bethlehem Economic Conference for Investors in May 2008, and its cooperation with the establishment of industrial zones in Jericho, Hevron (Tarkumiyah) and Mukibla and Jericho.
Meanwhile, PA Labor Minister Ahmad Majdalani contradicted Abu Libda and said that PA law did not prohibit people from working in Jewish communities. However, he urged workers to quit their jobs there of their own volition, “out of moral and political considerations.”
Israeli Arabs join boycott
Arab groups within Israel, including the Northern Wing of the Islamic Movement, announced Thursday that they would also be boycotting goods from Judea and Samaria.
According to Haaretz, the Arab groups would not say that they were joining the PA boycott, but rather that the action was a “natural continuation” of the worldwide calls to boycott merchandise from Judea and Samaria.
MK Nachman Shai (Kadima), who is considered left of center, was incensed by the announcement. “This is a grave act that disrupts the fabric of life between Jews and Arabs,” he complained. “If they do this, Israel's Arab residents will be weakening their own connection to the State of Israel and creating a barrier between them and the Jewish residents of Israel.” Shai demanded an urgent debate on the matter in the Knesset.
Meanwhile, the National Union and other bodies announced they were in the process of establishing a headquarters for fighting against the Arab boycott of goods from Judea and Samaria. Among the planned actions:
- Contacts with local authorities and municipalities to make sure that they prefer Israeli-Jewish goods over Palestinian Authority goods.
- Work with Zionist youth movements to encourage Jewish labor and purchase of Israeli (“blue and white”) products.
- Encouragement of Israeli businesses to sell their products to markets “other than the Palestinian one,” whether through ideological persuasion or financial incentives.
- Compilation of a database list of available Jewish workers who will replace any Arab who stops working at an Israeli factory. This could be complemented by incentives to the employers and employees.
- Legislation that would deduct the damages caused by the boycott from money that is paid to the PA, and end the charging of VAT intended for the PA on merchandise that reaches the PA.
MK Uri Ariel (NU) said that encouraging Jewish labor and the purchase of Jewish-Israeli products was a “legitimate reaction” to the PA's acts of boycott against Israeli products. The Arabs in the PA and in Israel “will discover very soon that their actions have boomeranged against them,” he said.