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August 18, 1989 - Image 52

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-08-18

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Absence Of Palestinian Workers
Proves Very Costly To Israel


Special to The Jewish News

he 19th Palestinian
uprising has cost the
Israel national
economy $900 million in lost
sales and-additional military
expenditures, 2.5 percent of
the gross national product,
according to the Israel
Ministry of Finance.
Some economists suggest,
the intifada's greatest in-
fluence has been on the role
of Palestinian laborers in
Israel. Because of the fre-
quent strikes and work stop-
pages called by the Palesti-
nian leadership in the West
Bank and Gaza, Israel is
learning to live without a
cheap source of labor — the
Palestinian work force.
Forty percent of the work-
ing population of the West
Bank and Gaza Strip are
employed in Israel, 7 percent
of the Jewish state's
workforce. Only 45,000 have
valid work permits.
In early June, the Israeli
government decided to pre-
vent Gaza workers without
permits from working in
Israel. Security offenders and
those with criminal records
will be denied permits. In the
fall, similar measures will be
applied to the West Bank. If
they lose their jobs in Israel
permanently, they stand to
lose 40 percent of their $2
billion GNP.
During the Knesset debates
on the subject, Transportation
Minister Moshe Katsav
claimed that through their
jobs in Israel, Arab workers
from the territories are
"sabotaging the economy."
He cited the case of
employees at the Tal Hotel in
Aviv who were caught
placing broken glass in foods
and other workers who con-
taminated the food with spit
and urine.
The Health Ministry
reports cases of arson and
sabotage of essential medical
equipment in hospitals. Kat-
sav also presented evidence to
the Knesset of Arab construc-
tion workers not putting the
prescribed amounts of steel
and cement into mortar on
building sites.
The first signs of rejection of
Palestinian labor began after
Israeli soldier Avi Sasportas
was reported missing in late
February. It was assumed he
was kidnapped by PLO ter-
rorists. When his body was
found a few months later, his
home town of Ashdod

retaliated by temporarily"

replacing 100 Arab street
cleaners and gardeners from
the Gaza Strip with high
school students. The town has
since purchased additional
cleaning machines and im-
proved wages and work condi-
tions to entice Jews to fill the
In the days that followed,
the city of Ashkelon to the
south of Ashdod held \an
emergency meeting and
decided that for the next two
months Arab traders would
not be able to participate in
the twice weekly outdoor
market and bazaar.
"It's time the Arabs paid for
the intifada with their
livelihoods," said Yitzhak
Levy, an Ashdod fruit seller.
"They can't expect to go on
throwing their deadly stones
and molotov cocktails with
one hand and collect- their
paychecks with the other."
The phenomenon soon
spread to the Tel Aviv cafe
district. Moti Landau,
manager of the prominent
Habima Cafe in the heart of
Tel Aviv, says he stopped hir-
ing Arabs from the territories
because he no longer wants to
"finance the intifada."
"For every Arab that works
in Israel, 10 others can stay
home and throw stones at
Jews," he says.
Other cafe owners say they
simply get by with fewer
workers, or bring in students
to tend to the dishes and
Machiah solved his man-
power problems by mobilizing
a group of high school
students and members of his
own family to replace Arab
workers from the Gaza Strip.
His wife now shares the cook-
ing with two teen-age helpers.

"In the past I had a very
good relationship with my
Arab workers," said Machiah.
"When the intifada started,
relations began to sour and
eventually the atmosphere
between the Jewish and Arab
workers was poisoned. After I
found it too difficult to find
them places to sleep in the
area I had to dismiss them.
They became very angry and
threatened me, physically."
Some cafe owners stressed
that Palestinians from the
territories make good money
(more than three times as
much as they could earn in
their villages), from $1,000 a
month for a top cook to $600
for kitchen staff. The average
Iraeli wage is $750 per

Yossi Arbel, the head of a
consortium of Israel construc-
tion companies, says his in-
dustry cannot function
without workers from the ter-
ritories and has demanded
that the government_ allow
them to import thousands of
foreign workers from
Hungary, Poland, Portugal,
and even Southern Lebanon.
There are 1,700 Lebanese
citizens employed legally in
Yet despite Arbel's corn-
plaints, productivity in the
construction industry rose 8
percent last year. Labor
Minister Moshe Feldman said
that the prolonged absences
led Israeli companies on an
efficiency drive which
resulted in more output per
worker. The intifada also en-
couraged building companies
to invest in new equipment
and to hire more skilled labor.
Eight thousand Jewish
workers now work in the in-
dustry, thirty percent more
than did two years ago. ❑

Soviets, Israelis Seek
Million Dollar Trade Deal

Tel Aviv (JTA) — In what
appears to be the beginning of
a trade market between the
Soviet Union and Israel, a
high-level Soviet trade
delegation recently arrived in
Israel to purchase hundreds
of millions of dollars' worth of
food, including fresh
vegetables, meat, cheese and
canned goods.
According to a recent report
in Al Hamishmar, the Soviets
are prepared to sign long-
term contracts. Sources say

that if Israel suppliers fulfill
the contracts, it will be possi-
ble to increase agricultural
exports, which would benefit
the Israeli food industry.
Under the agriculture
deals, the Soviets would ex-
change oil, diamonds, gold
and chemicals for food. The
talks are being handled by
the Agriculture Ministry.
Israel already has sold the
Soviet Union "several million
dollars" of goods this year, the
Jerusalem Post reported Mon-

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