Tayasir, Wed 27.4.11, Morning
At 3.20 A.M. we passed the Hamra checkpoint. It was open and manned and we saw a car and 2 persons passing through. We proceeded to Tayasir.
3.50-5.00 Tayasir checkpoint.
The soldiers let us approach the checkpoint. It is open and manned 24 hours. The soldiers' night shift is between 22.00 and 7 A.M. They said the main pressure is between 04.30 and 05.30-06.00. Later teachers and schoolchildren pass.
Around 04.00 the first car arrived and passed the checkpoint. The passengers passed on foot. After 04.20 cars arrived more frequently. Some of them are dilapidated private cars carrying workers, one of them the driver. Other bigger cars carry 13-14 passengers. Passage was rapid both for cars and pedestrians. All ID cards are examined.
We were told that the greater delay occurs when they return, at which time the the guard changes, around 14.00. At that time they usually have to wait for at least half an hour. The Palestinians claimed that the passage through the Hamra checkpoint is faster, due to a different search procedure.
Most laborers were aged from 17 to 30, some possibly younger. They are paid about 80 shekels a day, some even less. Round trip transportation costs each person 20 shekels. The drivers, including those driving larger vehicles, also work at farming. We gathered that the drivers receive a lump sum from the Palestinian contractors, and that payment is deducted from the workers' salary. We further learned that the workers are paid by the contractor, and not by the Israeli employers. Thus the employers are not directly responsible for the laborers, for example as regards work accidents.
Current workplaces include Beit Haarava, Almog, Bekaot, and around the Giftlik, picking tomatoes, peppers, grapes, and in packing facilities. This is the end of the date season.
5.20-6.40 Hamra checkpoint
This checkpoint is much busier. We entered the fenced area where people go following an examination of their papers and a search of body and packages, still holding their belts. We saw a gate (locked) to a shed, probably meant as a shelter from bad weather. For a while this served for parking a water container, but now it is empty and locked.
While we were there we were ordered to retreat to the sign for the checkpoint, because being so close was dangerous.
We saw a group of 14 women, mostly elderly, who arrived together. Most of those passing the checkpoint were young, and they gathered around the cars which had already passed and were waiting for passengers. Most of them spoke only Arabic – in contrast to the older generation who had worked in Israel and spoke Hebrew.
One youth went behind the fence of the above-mentioned area, probably in order to urinate. The soldiers immediately arrested him, while his comrades had to leave. After half an hour we asked the soldiers what happened to him. They then sent him back on foot to where he came from, while hardly any cars were going in that direction.
The main destinations to which they traveled were Bekaot, ROI, Fazael, and Beit Haarava. The kinds of work and the pay were similar to those described above.
In order to clarify working conditions from the settlers' side we went to Bekaot,a settlement in the Jordan valley, founded in the early seventies. They specialize in growing grapes and dates.
This is what we learned: they employ Palestinians either through the settlement's management or privately. In either case there is no direct responsibility of the employers for the workers. An essential link is the Palestinian contractor. He engages workers according to seasonal needs, and occasionally employs subcontractors. He is paid a lump sum for a task, or for a determined period, and distributes it arbitrarily to the workers. We had hints that funds are often apportioned preferentially to family members or favorites.
The settlement employs only workers aged 18 or above, and takes responsibility for medical care and expenses if a worker is injured while working for them. It is not clear whether this applies to Palestinians employed privately.
Workers who had been employed for long periods (e.g. 10 years) and have been discharged because a certain field has been closed, or due to mechanization replacing manual labor, have not received due compensation and had to claim it. The settlement has now engaged lawyers (probably to avoid payments).
The conclusion from the above is that Israelis employing Palestinians through a contractor can avoid their obligations as employers, in contrast to Israeli law which has been applied in the Jordan Valley since 2007. We also gained the impression that members of the settlement prefer not to stay alone with a group of Palestinian workers, and usually pass supervision of the work to the Palestinian contractor.