The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories reports that hundreds of Palestinians have had their permits to work revoked in the last year. And while the Civil Administration’s actions aren’t always praised, you’ll find that there is actually a “good reason” for these permits being revoked.
Workers in key areas, including Beit Surik and the Hebron District, among many others, rely on their work permits to support their families. Permits are granted for every career, from electricians to painting contractors.
Workers in areas where terrorism is prevalent are impacted the most. Many workers have had their permits revoked, with no end in sight, because of their family names. Workers are left in limbo with the option of securing lower-paying work in the West Bank or waiting for the possibility that their work permit is reinstated and they can continue their higher-paying work.
When an attack occurred in Har Adar, the response from the Prime Minister was quick and decisive. Yes, two guards and a police officer were killed, and the punishment was severe: the terrorist’s house was demolished, and a closure on Beit Surik occurred. But what followed was a shock to many: his extended family’s work permits were revoked.
I get it: terrorism is bad, and the attacks need to stop, but are we creating more hatred from family members that have not been a part of the attacks? Israel has the right to revoke all work permits and doing so should only be an option of a last resort and the revocations should be temporary.
Workers have had to suffer with revoked work permits that may never be reinstated for acts that they didn’t commit. Many of the workers in the report claim that they work with several family members, and all of them have had their work visas revoked.
These families have had to cut back on their expenses, use their savings to survive, and fear that their livelihoods will be riddled with debt. Collective punishment is what’s causing these families despair, and I do understand.
Attacks are not acceptable, yet it’s difficult to place the blame on family members that have not done anything wrong. I understand if they are complicit. But not sure that this can work as a deterrent.
Palestine and Israel may continue their conflicts well past my lifetime, and the issues dividing the two are simply too vast for me to foresee a resolution in the near future. There is just simply too much hate coming from the Palestinians.
So, what can be done for these families that have lost their work visas?
I’m not sure. Critical action needs to be taken, and this may mean changes to how work permits are granted and possible surveillance of those granted permits. Yes, if a person is a known attacker, I don’t believe they deserve to work in Israel. Extended family members that have been working in Israel for years (or over a decade in some cases) with no incidents generally should not be permanently punished for the crimes of others unless they are complicit.
It’s a harsh punishment and may be necessary, but it also may be one that is going to cause the divide between Israel and Palestine to widen even further – if that’s possible.