Amidst the ongoing turmoil of the October 2023 war, our hearts are heavy with concern for the plight of Palestinian workers who, since the inception of this conflict, have been barred from entering Israel for work. Internally, we at Kav LaOved have deeply reflected on the evolving situation and the impact it has on these workers and their families. Our organization, dedicated to defending the rights of workers, has maintained steadfast support for Palestinian workers for over three decades. Even amidst the current challenges, we remain in close, daily contact with them.

In response to recent events, we have recognized the imperative need to take a decisive stance on the matter. Following extensive deliberation, we are unveiling our perspective, which addresses the multifaceted challenges confronting Palestinian workers during this troubled period. This document aims to illuminate their experiences, advocate for their rights, and address questions that require answers in order  find solutions to mitigate the suffering induced by their deprivation from livelihoods in Israel.

Our perspective analysis delves into the employment dynamics of Palestinian workers in Israel, aiming to stimulate a discourse that is free from solely security-oriented considerations. We believe it is crucial to promote substantive discussion on the issue of employment in Israel without recourse to security considerations. Broadening the understanding of the measures implemented by the Israeli government concerning the Palestinian working population is vital, in our view. This approach ensures that any discourse is grounded in factual information and data. Furthermore, it empowers us to demand answers from the Israeli government regarding critical inquiries and to hold the government accountable for the distress experienced by hundreds of thousands of Palestinian families, stemming from a series of collective punishments that extend beyond wartime measures.

The profile of Palestinian workers from the West Bank reveals a significant presence of individuals from the Palestinian middle class. This group comprises skilled workers who bridge the wage disparities between Israel and the West Bank, often supporting not only their immediate families but also their extended relatives, including parents, unmarried siblings, and grandchildren. In times of crisis, such as during the current war, the uncertainty about future livelihoods weighs heavily on these workers and their families. One might wonder: How does the economic reliance of Palestinian workers in Israel on supporting not only their immediate families but also their extended relatives impact their financial stability and social dynamics within their communities back home in the West Bank?

Kav LaOved’s records and observations reveal that constant threat of job instability and potential loss carries profound implications beyond mere financial stability. It significantly affects their overall sense of dignity and self-worth, as they grapple with the uncertainty of being able to provide for their families and fulfill their roles as providers and caregivers. This uncertainty can lead to heightened stress, anxiety, and feelings of inadequacy, impacting their mental health and well-being.

Moreover, within the social fabric of their communities back home in the West Bank, the economic reliance on these workers shapes broader social dynamics. The traditional gender roles may be challenged or reinforced depending on the economic contributions of male and female family members. Women may find themselves taking on additional responsibilities or roles typically assigned to men if male family members are unable to secure stable employment.

Additionally, the social standing of Palestinian workers within their communities may fluctuate based on their ability to secure employment and provide financial support. Those who face frequent job losses may experience a decline in social status, potentially leading to feelings of isolation or exclusion within their communities.

However, the enduring suffering of Palestinian workers extends beyond periods of unemployment and persists even when they are employed. This ongoing struggle is marked by systemic injustices that Kav LaOved continues to address and to seek answers of Israel’s government:


  1. Practices of exploitation and rights violations: Despite Israel’s progressive labor laws, which ostensibly extend to all workers, Palestinians have been disproportionately affected by a lack of enforcement regarding their rights. In our recent reports, we have detailed the challenges encountered by workers in Israel, having to leave for work in the early hours of morning, dependence on permit profiteers and employers reliance on permit intermediaries and employers, payment of brokerage fees for the “privilege” of working in Israel, black money payments, norms of non-realization of sick pay, vacation and holidays, unlawful dismissals, a dysfunctional pension fund (until recently), and collective punishment as a matter of routine by closing the crossings during wartime – with no compensation.

    What are the government’s plans in addressing the stark disparity between the progressive labor laws in Israel and the significant challenges faced by Palestinian workers, including reliance on permit profiteers, unlawful dismissals, and routine collective punishment during wartime without compensation?

  2. Chronic issues in relevant industries: Approximately 100,000 Palestinians are employed primarily in Israel’s construction and agriculture sectors, with a minority in industry. Due to significant transportation challenges, many workers endure harsh conditions overnight in Israel, facing exposure to the elements and unsanitary environments. On the job, their health and safety are compromised, resulting in alarmingly high rates of work-related accidents. A recent safety report revealed that in 2023, the number of work accidents was 2.5 times higher than the EU average, attributed to inadequate enforcement, supervision, deterrence, and sanctions against employers, compounded by contractors’ indifference to workers’ well-being.Palestinians constitute about one-third of the construction industry workforce, with 48 fatalities and 299 moderate to severe injuries reported, despite site closures during the war. We discern a direct connection between the racial identity of the victims and the meager enforcement, given that the rest of the workers are mainly Arab Israelis and migrant workers – who are also vulnerable worker populations.

    Who is responsible for the systemic issues in enforcement and supervision that have resulted in disproportionately high rates of work-related accidents among Palestinian workers, especially considering the significant representation of this population in Israel’s construction industry?

  3. Lack of a social safety net: Unlike Israeli workers, who receive unemployment benefits when their work is halted due to security concerns, Palestinians lack access to compensation during periods of income loss due to the prolonged absence of a Palestinian Social Security Institution. The recent appeal by Netanyahu to the president of the UAE for compensation highlights the severity of the crisis and the shortage of support mechanisms. It is not for nothing that the UAE’s Sheikh sent him to Zelensky to try and collect the money instead, irritated by his audacity.We have learnt recently that dozens of Palestinian workers who held permits to work in Israel, began applying to cancel them. Desperate for income and prohibited to enter during the war, their work contracts became redundant. Therefore, unable to find another workplace in the West Bank, or unable to rely on any savings they might have, these workers chose to cancel their permits in order to be eligible to withdraw their pension funds. They were forced to waive the already thin safety net for their retirement, in exchange for immediate relief.

    How disgraceful is it for a government to seek assistance from another state to safeguard workers’ rights, highlighting its own inability to provide adequate protections?

  1. The Israeli government’s hypocrisy in employing Palestinians in essential work and settlements: While Palestinians are barred from returning to their jobs, causing substantial losses for their employers and the general economy in Israel, some of their colleagues can work without hindrance in settlements and factories deemed by the government as “essential”. This discrepancy underscores a political agenda driven by senior ministers within government ministries, aimed at advancing controversial agendas and settlement expansion. Such decisions expose the pretext of security concerns used to prevent tens of thousands of Palestinians from resuming work.Many of the Palestinian workers who applied recently to cancel their work permit in Israel have expressed their desire to apply to work in the settlements, as the only job alternative they have at the moment. Therefore, by closing the gates to Palestinian workers, Israel has driven many of them to work in settlements in service of the occupation and increasing their vulnerability. These workplaces are not only notorious in their disregard for the Israeli labour and OSH laws, but Israel does not have proper enforcement policy to guarantee their workers’ rights, safety and health.

    Is there a governmental justification   to the disparity in treatment between Palestinian workers barred from returning to their jobs and those allowed to work in settlements? especially considering Israel’s economic losses incurred statewide.

  2. The historical replacement of Palestinian workers with migrant workers: Ongoing debates in the Israeli parliament center on the practical aspects of substituting Palestinian workers with migrant labor, is a trend that began back in the 1990s. Government ministers openly discuss a unilateral and discriminatory strategy to permanently end Palestinian employment in Israel, disregarding the foreseeable repercussions. Concurrently, amidst the current state of emergency in Israel, the Population Authority has been tasked with sourcing numerous migrant workers to supplant Palestinians, ostensibly to prevent the collapse of the agricultural and construction sectors. Despite the efforts thus far, the success of this initiative remains limited, with little evidence of positive outcomes or consistent protection of workers’ rights. Nonetheless, the potential for an irreversible shift in the employment landscape persists.

    What are Israel’s plans to ensure the protection of labor rights, especially considering the heightened level of despair within various labor sectors and the prevalence of discriminatory practices? Furthermore, given the limited success of the government in safeguarding workers’ rights in Israel, what steps are being taken to address these challenges and uphold fair employment practices for all newly arriving workers?

  1. The instability of employment and the plight of Palestinian workers from Gaza: Palestinian workers in Israel often find themselves at the mercy of decisions made far above their level, leaving them defenseless and uncertain about the continuity of their employment and rights. This is starkly evident in the case of several thousand workers from Gaza, who abruptly became undocumented illegal aliens in the throes of war (causing them to flee for their lives to the West Bank or to be arrested and detained in Israeli jails in intolerable conditions that even led to the deaths of two of workers). Every year or two, workers with permits are abruptly sent back home due to military operations or security administrative decisions, left in limbo regarding their return to work and devoid of mechanisms to uphold their rights. Amidst the current conflict, we receive distressing calls from workers who have yet to receive their September salaries, facing bleak prospects of remuneration.

    Are there other instances globally where workers with valid work permits are arbitrarily detained by military forces without reason, similar to the situation experienced by Palestinian workers during times of conflict in Israel?

Kav LaOved’s  analysis of the reality Palestinian workers face at the outset of 2024 reveals that the prevailing current discourse fails to address the most critical and pressing issues. These individuals are human beings, many of whom are skilled professionals and essential workers, unable to find adequate employment within the Palestinian Authority, where monthly income is significantly lower and job opportunities are scarce.

This situation did not arise by mere happenstance: since the 1970s, Israel has thrived on the backs of an accessible and low-cost Palestinian labor force, sustaining industries that Israelis have shied away from and perpetuating an economy of mutual dependence between the two entities. Now, amidst escalating security tensions, Israel is attempting to change this balance to its benefit without taking any responsibility for its actions or weighing the profound repercussions they have inflicted. Tragically, those who have been unable to dedicate themselves to building their own nation or nurturing their own economy—because they were too busy sustaining Israel’s economy—remain overlooked and disregarded in the tumult of geopolitical maneuvering.