Arab workers enter Israel
Arab workers enter Israel Yaakov Naumi/Flash90

The world is constantly regaled by stories of Israel's mistreatment of Palestinians, usually accompanied with the claim that if the Palestinians had their own state and were left to their own devices, delivered from the oppression of Israeli "occupation", all will be well for them.

A report from Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) however, shows that many voices within Palestinian society itself claim that - at least as it comes to worker's rights - this is simply not so. Apparently prevailing working conditions cause Palestinian workers to clamor to find employment with Israelis, rather than work under the auspices of the Palestinian Authority (PA).

Conditions for Palestinians working in Israel and the settlements are much better than in the Palestinian Authority, according to an Israeli Arab labor lawyer and a Palestinian laborer, speaking in two interviews on the PA TV program Workers' Affairs, as reported by PMW. The laborer explained that conditions are so much better that many Palestinian workers prefer or are "forced" to choose to work for Israeli employers.

Israeli Arab labor lawyer Khaled Dukhi, who works with the Israeli NGO Workers' Hotline which - according to the organization's website - "aims to protect the rights of the most disadvantaged workers in Israel", stated on the PA TV program that Israeli labor law is "very good" because it does not differentiate between men and women or between Israelis and Palestinians. However, he explained that Palestinian workers who work in Israel or in the settlements still suffer because of abuse by Palestinian middlemen who "steal" part of their salary:

"The Palestinian female workers in the [Israeli] agricultural sector enjoy many rights, like any Israeli worker in the agricultural sector: The salary is higher than the minimum wage, 14 vacation days a year in the first four years, 2,000 shekels convalescence pay [yearly], payment for holidays, whether Islamic or Jewish. But in reality, Palestinian workers - and especially the female Palestinian workers - do not receive these things. Why? You [PA TV host] said: 'The Palestinian middleman deducts from her [pay].' No, he does not deduct, he shares her salary. In practice, he takes 50%, 60%, and even 70% of her salary. If her daily salary is 180 shekels, in the end she receives 60 shekels. The middleman steals two thirds of her salary. Excuse the word "steals", but that is the exact word."

On a different episode of Workers' Affairs, Qassem Abu Hadwan, a laborer from Hebron, stated that Palestinian workers are "forced" to work in Israel because Palestinian employers exploit them and pay less than half:

"The lack of monitoring of [Palestinian] owners of companies and factories and their exploitation of workers is what has forced people to Israel. If only [the salary in the PA] was at least half of the salary [in Israel], no one would work in Israel. However, workers have to go to Israel, because no one [in the PA] gives them what they deserve for their work."

Abu Hadwan stated that although Israeli employers "exploit" Palestinian workers too, "they give them what they are entitled to." He explained that Palestinians would not work in Israel if the conditions in the PA were better, but since "a month's work here [in the PA] equals a week's work there [in Israel]," people are driven to seek employment in Israel or in the settlements.

The program's host concluded that exploitation and low salaries are the reason for Palestinian workers preferring to work in Israel and the settlements, and she suggested how the PA should change that:

"We need investments and for workers' rights to be honored. What motivates the workers, as we said, to go [to work in] the interior (i.e., Israel) or to the settlements is the exploitation that takes place [in the PA] and the low income."

PMW has documented similar statements by Palestinians testifying to the fact that Palestinian workers' conditions are far better in Israel than in the PA.

Director of Democracy and Workers' Rights Center Hassan Al-Barghouti stated on PA TV in May 2016 that "120,000 [Palestinians] work in Israel and the settlements."

The PA's Central Bureau of Statistics has stated that "the number of workers from the West Bank [that work] in Israel and the settlements reached 112,300 in 2015... and the number of workers in Israeli settlements reached 22,400."

Palestinian Media Watch contributed to this report