Mon 25 Sep 2023 3:07 pm - Jerusalem Time
Gaza workers hoping to keep their cause separate from political wrangling
Amid a state of fear and anxiety, Palestinian worker Mahmoud Abu Rizq awaits news regarding the date of reopening the Erez crossing in the northern Gaza Strip to workers to allow them to reach their workplaces in Israeli towns after a ban that lasted for more than eight consecutive days.
Since September 16, the Israeli authorities have imposed a ban on the entry of Palestinian workers from the Gaza Strip through the Erez crossing in the northern Gaza Strip, which is the only crossing for individuals between Gaza and Israel, following renewed violent popular protests on the border fence of the Gaza Strip.
On several occasions, the Coordinator of Israeli Government Activities in the Palestinian Territories, Ghassan Olayan, announced in separate statements that the Erez Crossing would remain closed and be opened according to assessments of the situation, in reference to the cessation of protests.
Abu Rizq (43 years old), a father of eight children, told Xinhua News Agency, “Every time the closure of the crossing in the faces of Palestinian workers is extended, I feel that I am approaching the abyss, and I am terrified of the idea of losing my job forever and returning to the abyss of poverty, which I soon reached.” Say goodbye to her.”
Abu Rizq, whose hair has turned gray, adds, “With difficulty, I was able to obtain a permit to work in Israel in order to provide a living for my family, which has experienced the scourge of poverty and need. I do not know why our issue is being thrown into the political wrangling between Israel and the Palestinian factions.”
He continues, “We seek to live in safety and peace to provide a decent life for our families. We have never and will never think about getting involved in any violent activities in the Gaza Strip,” noting that the Israeli government is making a mistake in preventing us from reaching our workplaces, which are our only source of livelihood.
In an attempt to avoid losing his job permanently, Abu Rizq is keen to constantly communicate with his employer (his Israeli employer) to keep him updated on developments in Gaza, amid his fear that the crossing will not be opened in the near future and that he will return to a life of poverty again.
The situation is not much different for worker Younis Abu Ismail (38 years old), who returned to the Gaza Strip like thousands of workers during the Jewish holidays eight days ago and who were unable to return to their work again due to the closure of the crossing.
Abu Ismail, who obtained a work permit inside Israel after years of waiting, says that closing the crossing for a longer period increases the worker’s daily financial loss, as well as the doubt and concern that the situation is likely to develop further.
He added that during the lean years of poverty that we lived in the Gaza Strip, we were not able to earn 10 US dollars a day, while we were now earning approximately 100 dollars at least, and this is enough to change my family’s life for the better.
Both Abu Rizq and Abu Ismail hope that the issue of Palestinian workers will be neutralized from any political disputes and that the workers will be able to return to their work in Israel again to earn more money to build their children’s future as they were doing before the closure crisis.
The number of Palestinian workers working inside Israel from the Gaza Strip, which is inhabited by more than two million people and controlled by the Hamas movement, is approximately 18 thousand workers, of whom 9 thousand leave daily through the Beit Hanoun/Erez crossing.
Two weeks ago, youth groups calling themselves "Rebel Youth" began organizing protests every afternoon, including burning vehicle tires, detonating homemade explosive devices, and throwing stones at Israeli forces stationed behind the fence.
The groups say in statements that the demonstrations come in response to the settlers’ storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque and what the Palestinian prisoners are exposed to. On the other hand, the Israeli army confronted the demonstrators with gunfire, which led to the death of a young man and the wounding of others with varying injuries over the past days.
The Israeli army also bombed observation points belonging to the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) on the outskirts of Gaza, followed by closing the Beit Hanoun/Erez crossing, located in the northern Gaza Strip, to Palestinian workers.
The decision to close the crossing to workers was met with rejection and condemnation by the General Federation of Palestinian Trade Unions in the Gaza Strip, considering the move an extension of the policy of collective punishment against thousands of worker families.
President of the General Federation of Palestinian Trade Unions, Sami Al-Amsi, said that the continued closure of the crossing doubles the suffering of workers who are in dire need of every day of work, after long years of closure and deprivation of their daily livelihood.
Al-Amsi affirmed his rejection of the Israeli policy of linking the file of workers’ permits to the security and political situations, calling on all international and Arab parties to put pressure on the Israeli side to separate the file of workers from current developments and events.
According to Palestinian officials in Gaza, Egypt and Qatar, the main mediators in previous rounds of fighting between Palestinian factions, most notably Hamas and Israel, are holding talks with both sides in an attempt to avoid sliding into a new wave of armed confrontation.
The step to close the Beit Hanoun/Erez crossing to workers increases the pressure on the sector's economy, which is already suffering as a result of the strict siege imposed by Israel since mid-summer 2007 following Hamas' control of the situation there.
In this regard, economic expert Hamid Gad believes that closing the crossing to the category of workers caused a huge loss on all sides, since this group enters the sector about two million dollars monthly.
Gad says that work in Israel is an important source of income for families, and the current closure leads to a direct impact on purchasing activity and markets in Gaza, which have become almost halted due to the inability of workers to go out to work and receive their daily wages.