Opponents of the law charge that it was unfairly passed by presidential fiat in an unstable, ‘occupied’ context
Palestinians that work in Israel gathered at the Qalandia military checkpoint near the West Bank city of Ramallah to call upon the Histadrut – Israel’s labor federation – not to send their benefits to the Palestinian Authority (PA) following the latter’s newly unveiled Social Security Law.
The law, passed by presidential decree, established the Palestinian Social Security Corporation, an entity that administers social security benefits on behalf of Palestinians in the West Bank. Ever since it came into effect early last month, opponents of the law have held angry protests in different cities demanding its cancellation.
Many argue the law was unfairly passed outside the proper legislative process in an unstable, Israeli “occupied” environment.
“We don’t need or trust their so-called Social Security Fund, while we [Palestinians] are under occupation,” Hussien al-Qassem, a 42-year-old Palestinian laborer who participated in the protests, told The Media Line.
Al-Qassem added that he prefers his money to remain in Israel, rather than be transferred to the PA. “I have been working in Israel for the past 25 years and I demand that the Histadrut not transfer any of my allowances to them. It is time for the labor federation to prove that it works within the law to protect the rights of its workers.
“Today we are here, and in the coming days there will be escalating steps on the ground that might succeed in closing the checkpoint. That would put pressure on employers in Israel to help us,” al-Qassem concluded.
Mohammed Taha, 44, another worker present at the protests, told The Media Line that the recently approved social security law does not serve workers’ interest at all.
“The PA clearly wants to steal our money,” he contended, noting that he needs compensation after he left a job as well as other benefits in order to start a business.
“When I’m 60, the pension provided by the PA will not be enough to support myself and my whole family. We don’t know where our money will be invested and we don’t know who is managing the investments.”
Zuhair Fuad, 40, another Palestinian worker who participated in the demonstrations added, “the Palestinian labor union in the West Bank no longer represents us. We demand that the Histadrut will not transfer any of our benefits until a new union is formed to represent us.”
Majdi Hamayel, a member of al-Quds University’s Labor Union, told The Media Line that the workers’ initiative to approach the Israeli government rather their own is simply “unacceptable.”
“The new social security structure needs substantial adjustments but that doesn’t mean we go ask help from the enemy. In this way, we will confirm their illegal existence on our land,” Hamayel said.
According to the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the Israeli military body which administers the West Bank, some 100,000 Palestinians currently work in Israeli settlements or in Israel proper, and the number is increasing by approximately 10 percent each year.
COGAT estimates that the total amount of the taxes collected from these Palestinians accounts for about 12% (about $1.5 million) of the PA’s yearly revenue.
Assia Landizhinskaya, the spokesperson of Kav LaOved, a non-profit organization that advocates for workers’ rights in Israel, conveyed to The Media Line that the Palestinian workers’ demands are “new” and need to be studied further.
“As this particular matter is internal to Palestinian society, we as an Israel-based organization wish not to voice an opinion, other than the hope that all workers will be able to fully realize their rights.”
Many Palestinian labor activists stressed to The Media Line that workers lack trust in the PA and increasingly view its decisions with skepticism.