Fighting for peace and cooperation between Palestinian and Israeli workers in times of war

Following is a talk by Yoav Gal Tamir that was given to the Global Labour Institute School under the headline “Young Union Leaders Imagining International Trade Unionism”....

For over a decade, MAAN Workers Association – an independent union in Israel –  has been working to organize Palestinian workers employed in Israeli companies. Until October 6, some 200,000 Palestinian workers were employed in Israel and in Area C. This is a very large group of workers whose income is a crucial component of the Palestinian economy. During the past decade MAAN became an important force in the struggle of these workers.

War between Hamas and Israel changed reality

All this is now changed. On October 7th, On that dark day, our region experienced an earthquake. Hamas’s attack on Israeli civilians, indiscriminately targeting infants, children, women, and the elderly, was a heinous act of terror and a crime against humanity. Around 1,200 people were killed in one day, and about 240 were kidnapped to Gaza. Some of the murdered were raped before, and some died or were murdered in captivity.

Israel responded to this attack with a retaliation war against Hamas. Since then, both Israelis and Palestinians have been living hell. The war that Israel is conducting in Gaza has resulted in destruction, casualties, and the deaths of over 10,000 people, including children and women. The city of Gaza and its surroundings have been completely destroyed, uninhabitable again. At the time of preparing for this talk there is a temporary cease fire but nobody can guarantee war would not continue.

MAAN mobilizes to help Palestinian workers in time of Emergency

Today, we are pressuring the security and political people in charge to reopen the checkpoints and allow workers to return to work. We oppose attempts by some Israeli politicians to bring in foreign workers to replace Palestinian workers and call to allow these workers to go back to their work places.

Simultaneously, MAAN opened an assistance center for workers during the state of emergency in East Jerusalem. We are helping thousands of Palestinian inhabitants of Jerusalem to cope with layoffs, unemployment, and difficulties with the authorities and employers. We also joined a civic logistics center for distributing food and assistance, providing support and food vouchers to families of workers from East Jerusalem who were either fired or unable to work due to the war.

Even during the war, we continue to represent Palestinian workers organizing in their workplaces. Currently, we are in the midst of a labor struggle at a geriatric hospital in Mishor Adumim, the largest and oldest settlement, where workers, after organizing with MAAN, demand improvements in their working conditions.

Looking at the current dire situation in Gaza we share the vision of US Senator Bernie Sanders, who wrote (New York Times, Nov.22) : “For the sake of regional peace and a brighter future for the Palestinian people, Gaza must have a chance to be free of Hamas, and there can be no long-term Israeli occupation.”

MAAN as example for how Palestinians and Israelis can work together

MAAN is a Jewish-Arab workers’ organization that has been operating in Israel for over 25 years. As a general workers’ organization, MAAN brings together workers from various industries, mostly educational and social associations. MAAN unites workers in Israel without distinction of national, religious, or gender affiliation.

In the Labor scene in Israel, MAAN is the only organization that organizes Palestinian workers from the West Bank working in Israel. Previously employers violated Palestinian workers rights with absolute impunity. Without salary slips, without social conditions or promotion. Our entry into the scene filled a necessary vacuum, especially since Palestinian trade unions have no authority to operate in Area C and within Israel.

Following is one example: as a result of MAAN petition in 2020, Israeli authorities  stopped deducting service fees from the wages of Palestinian workers, which previously went directly to the Histadrut (Israel’s national union). This practice went on since 1970, without these workers receiving any service from the Histadrut.

In our effort to organize Palestinian workers employed in Israeli companies MAAN  has become a representative union and signed pioneering collective agreements. In Zarfati Garage in Mishor Edumim the organizing drive took us 4 years before signing the first ever collective agreement for Palestinian workers. In the process the leader of the workers Hatem Abu Ziadeh was dismissed and charged for sabotaging a military  car in the Garage and it took us a difficult legal case to prove that these were all false accusations and win him the job back.

The Permit Regime:

Palestinian workers who were employed in Israel and in Area C contributed through their wages a crucial component of the Palestinian economy. Estimates suggest that about $3 billion per year enters the Palestinian economy as a result of the salaries of Palestinian workers in Israel. This constitutes about 20% of the national income of the Palestinian Authority.

However these workers were subject to an arbitrary permit regime that has created a black market for the buying and selling of permits. Tens of thousands of workers who cannot obtain work permits used to buy them in a flourishing black market and pay about $670 per month for the right to work. The money trickles into the pockets of corrupt Israelis and Palestinians, all under the watchful eyes of the authorities in Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

In 2022, MAAN began promoting an agenda for changing the situation by calling for the implementation of A “Green Card for Palestinian Workers.” This agenda received widespread recognition. Our justification was that the “security” principle has inherently failed, and that Israel should recognize the right of Palestinians to work, respecting  human and civil rights.

MAAN joined the Protest Movement in Israel

During the first 9 months of 2023 MAAN joined the mass movement that emerged in Israel to remove the right-wing from power. This right-wing Government headed by Netanyahu, threatened the institutions of the democratic regime in order to transform Israel into a country without a functioning legal system, which could potentially annex the West Bank or parts of it in the future. By the way, weakening the institutions of the judiciary was also intended to harm the Labor Court in Israel, which is quite strong and often protects MAAN in various cases. MAAN joined the protest and saw in it the potential for internal political change that could come to terms with the anomaly of the situation where there is democracy for Jews and apartheid for Palestinians.

For a future of peace and equal rights for all in Palestine and Israel 

In summary, as an organization working for the rights of Palestinian and Israeli workers and advocating for peace and brotherhood between the peoples, we continue to fight today for dignity and equality for all. The soul-searching about our future needs to be done by everyone – Israelis and Palestinians alike. It could be achieved through a political settlement of the conflict and the establishment of two states or a federation or one democratic state for all. But the principle should be clear – we are human beings and everybody – Israeli or Palestinian – should have the same rights.


The East Jerusalem Project

Significant Achievements of MAAN – Workers Association in Protecting Workers’ Rights

Since the outbreak of the war, MAAN – Workers Association has secured the labor rights, social security benefits, unemployment benefits, and support for work accidents for over 300 residents of East Jerusalem. This includes opening checkpoints and distributing food vouchers, translating to over 3 million NIS in benefits. Notably, over 40% of those who received assistance are women.

Palestinian Workers

The government’s decision to massively import overseas workers is social lawlessness, a disaster for both the economy and security. It must be revoked and Palestinians must be allowed to return to their jobs in Israel

Wednesday, May 15, the Israeli government approved a structural reform on employment of migrant workers where it allowed a ceiling of 330,000 overseas workers in the Israeli job market. MAAN sees this decision as a step that defies all economic logic, contradicts labor market planning, and opens the way to a dangerous expansion of human trafficking for labor purposes in Israel. In addition, the decision reflects complete disregard for the consequences of the continued halt in employment of Palestinians.

The East Jerusalem Project

Severe employment crisis in East Jerusalem ahead of Ramadan

On the eve of Ramadan, Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem are facing an economic and social crisis exacerbated by a 7.6 per cent increase in unemployment since the outbreak of the war. Despite the crisis, the government is severely undermining its own five-year plan for East Jerusalem. MAAN Workers Association (hence MAAN) calls on the mayor and the incoming city council to secure budgets to reduce socio-economic gaps in the city.

Palestinian Workers

MAAN and Kav Laoved write to Immigration and Population Authority and demand to reserve a place in the quota for Palestinian workers with a permit who resigned/fired during the “Iron Swords” war

The two workers’ rights groups wrote on Feb. 13 to Mr. Moshe Nakash the head of the Immigration and Population Authority and demanded that special measures will be taken to alleviate the suffering of Palestinian workers and also to enable Israeli employers to overcome the crisis and keep their experienced workers.


אנא כתבו את שמכם המלא, טלפון ותיאור קצר של נושא הפנייה, ונציג\ה של מען יחזרו אליכם בהקדם האפשרי.

رجاءً اكتبوا اسمكم الكامل، الهاتف، ووصف قصير حول موضوع توجهكم، ومندوب عن نقابة معًا سيعاود الاتصال بكم لاحقًا

As an organization committed to the rights of workers without distinction of religion, race, nationality, gender, or profession - democracy is our essence. We strongly oppose the authoritarian laws that the extreme government of Netanyahu, Lapid, Bennett, and Smotrich is attempting to impose.

Without democracy, there are no workers' rights, just as a workers' organization cannot exist under dictatorship.

only a victory of the democratic camp will enable a discussion on the Palestinian issue and lead to an alternative solution to occupation and apartheid while ensuring human rights and citizenship for all, Israelis and Palestinians alike. As long as the apartheid regime persists, the democratic camp will not succeed in defeating Israeli extremists. Therefore, we work to involve the Arab and Palestinian society in the protest.

We invite you:

To march with us in protests and to build an alternative, democratic, Jewish-Arab professional union in Israel. Join our quiet WhatsApp group today, "Marching with us in protest."

To join MAAN and unite workers in your workplace. Read here how to join the organization.

To follow MAAN's work on social networks.

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