Dilemma for Palestinian Settlement Builders

They work in the Jewish settlements to keep their lives.

Palestinian construction workers

Ask Khalil Muhammad Rabbaya how his feeling to build his enemy’s houses. “I feel like a slave. But I have no alternative,” says the 21 year-old young man yesterday when he waits in front of the entrance gate of Jewish settlement in Maali Adumim, East Jerusalem.

He works there as a builder that caused his emotional reaction. He takes the job to fund his study. He wants to be a journalist. “Everyone in my village works in the settlements,” he says.

Rabbaya is not the only one. There are many Palestinian men perforce to work for their enemy Israel. The live needs have to compromise with patriotism. Palestinians have dream to set East Jerusalem as capital city of their future state.

Like Jafar Khalil Kawazba, 34. He works for the Zionist state to support his ten brothers and sisters as his father is too ill to have a job. With the same feeling, Fahad Sayara, 40, is trying to fund treatment for his disabled child.

It is quiet difficult to describe what we are feeling to witness our land lost bit by bit,” says Hossam Hussein, 26, as he mixes mortar to put the finishing touches to a home with sweeping views from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea hills.

Israeli government permitted some 12,000 Palestinian construction workers to work each year. The difficult situation of West Bank economy has caused a third of around 660,000 residents in that area unemployed. Even the Jewish settlements in West Bank are contrast to international laws, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted that the settlement building will continue to fulfill the need of natural growth of 450,000 settlers.

The Palestinian Authority is powerless to face bitter reality. “As a human being, I can not tell them ‘Go hungry’ at a time when I am not able to provide them with jobs,” says Bassam Khoury, the Palestinian Authority’s Economy Minister.

Definitely, those Palestinian workers feel like a slave. They only paid less than the minimum wage of 150 shekel (US$ 40) per day. “They recently only receive 100 or 110 shekel a day,” says Meir Levi a property sales agent Even there are some workers get only US$ 26 or US$ 29 per day.

But all the workers said they wanted a settlement freeze. Except an older labourer, “And then what are you going to live on?”

BBC/Faisal Assegaf

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