Zionists set up industrial estates along the Separation Wall

In FRFI 170, we reviewed an article by Adam Hanieh in Monthly Review (Vol 54 No 5) on class and political economy in Israel and Palestine. One theme was the way historically Zionist capital had exploited Palestinian workers in order to establish a viable capitalist economy and state. Palestinian labour was treated as a reserve army, to be employed and then expelled from the labour force as Zionist capital and political conditions required. Following the 1993 Oslo accords, Zionist capitalists used undocumented workers from Europe and Asia to replace Palestinian labour within Israel so that ‘by 1996, the number of Occupied Territory Palestinians employed in Israel had fallen from 120,000 to fewer than 30,000, whilst the number of ‘illegals’ had risen to about 300,000’ (FRFI 170). With the start of the present Intifada, the number of Occupied Territory Palestinians employed in Israel has fallen to zero.

Now, however, the construction of the Separation Wall in the West Bank has created conditions where Palestinian workers can return to the labour force under conditions of high security and discipline. Le Monde Diplomatique (July 2004) reports that proposals for industrial estates that were part of the 1993 Oslo accords are being revised so that they will be constructed along and astride the wall. Palestinian capitalists, like Abdel-Malek Jaber, head of the Palestinian Estate Development Company aim to work with Israeli industrialists to build factories to employ up to 100,000 workers. Driven off their farming land, the Palestinians will be forced into cheap labour with no alternative to unemployment running at 45% on the West Bank.

Although only 200 km of the proposed 700 km of the wall has been completed, it is viewed as an ideal security zone with few, if any, Palestinians crossing into Israel for work in the future. Additional attractions for Israeli business are that the industrial zones will not be subject to Israeli environmental laws on pollution, nor to Israeli labour laws, wages and conditions so overall production costs will be 70% less that they would be in Israel. At a time when Israeli enterprises are displacing ‘illegals’ and relocating to the Far East because of the high cost of Israeli wages, the capitalists cannot resist the logic of exploiting the nearby plentiful and cheap labour. With 60% of Palestinians currently living below the poverty line it is calculated that they will be prepared to accept low wages – around 1,500 shekels ($332) per month compared to the Israeli minimum wage of 4,500 shekels ($995).

Expressing the standpoint of the treacherous Palestinian comprador bourgeoisie which the Palestinian Authority represents, Jaber says, ‘Israel is a developed country and part of the globalised economy. We cannot afford not to make use of that’. The ‘we’ is not the mass of the Palestinian people who through their actions in Gaza are rejecting such naked collaboration.
Susan Rose

FRFI 180 August /September 2004


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