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Israeli Settlement Agriculture Harms Palestinian
Children Out of School, Doing Risky Work for Low Pay
a Human Rights Watch Statement
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, April 20 2015
Israeli settlement farms in the West Bank are using Palestinian child
labor to grow, harvest, and pack agricultural produce, much of it for
export, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The farms pay
the children low wages and subject them to dangerous working conditions in
violation of international standards.
The 74-page report, “Ripe
for Abuse: Palestinian Child Labor in Israeli Agricultural Settlements in
the West Bank,” documents that children as young as 11 work on some
settlement farms, often in high temperatures. The children carry heavy
loads, are exposed to hazardous pesticides, and in some cases have to pay
themselves for medical treatment for work-related injuries or illness.
“Israel’s settlements are profiting from rights abuses against
Palestinian children,” said
Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human
Rights Watch. “Children from communities impoverished by Israel’s
discrimination and settlement policies are dropping out of school and taking
on dangerous work because they feel they have no alternatives, while Israel
turns a blind eye.”
Human Rights Watch interviewed 38 children and 12 adults who work on
seven settlement farms in the Jordan Valley area, which covers about 30
percent of the West Bank and where most large agricultural settlements are
Discriminatory Israeli restrictions on Palestinian access to
farmland and water in the West Bank, particularly in the Jordan Valley, a
traditional center of Palestinian agriculture, cost the Palestinian economy
more than US$700 million each year, according to World Bank estimates.
Palestinian poverty rates in the Jordan Valley are up to 33.5 percent, among
the highest anywhere in the West Bank. Some Palestinians lease agricultural
lands from Israeli settlers, to whom Israel allocated the lands after
unlawfully appropriating them from Palestinians.
that support the transfer of civilians into occupied territory and Israel’s
appropriation of land and resources there for settlements violate Israel’s
obligations as the occupying power under the Fourth Geneva Convention. These
violations are compounded by rights abuses against Palestinians working in
the settlements, including children, Human Rights Watch said. Israel should
dismantle the settlements and, in the meantime, prohibit settlers from
employing children in accordance with Israel’s obligations under
international treaties on children’s rights and labor rights.
Virtually all the Palestinian children Human Rights Watch interviewed said
they felt they had no alternative but to find work on settlement farms to
help support their families.
Israel has allocated 86 percent of the
land in the Jordan Valley to settlements, and provides vastly greater access
to water from the aquifer beneath the valley to the settlement agricultural
industry than to the Palestinians living in the valley. Israeli agricultural
settlements export a substantial amount of their produce abroad, including
to Europe and the United States.
Official statistics are not
available, but Israeli and Palestinian development and labor rights groups
estimate that hundreds of children work in Israeli agricultural settlements
year-round, and that their numbers increase during peak harvesting times.
The children whom Human Rights Watch interviewed said they had suffered
nausea and dizziness. Some said they had passed out while working in summer
temperatures that frequently exceed 40 degrees Celsius outdoors, and are
even higher inside the greenhouses in which many children work. Other
children said they had experienced vomiting, breathing difficulties, sore
eyes, and skin rashes after spraying or being exposed to pesticides,
including inside enclosed spaces. Some complained of back pain after
carrying heavy boxes filled with produce or “backpack” containers of
Israeli labor laws prohibit youth from carrying heavy
loads, working in high temperatures, and working with hazardous pesticides,
but Israel has not applied these laws to protect Palestinian children
working in its settlements. Israeli authorities rarely inspect working
conditions for Palestinians on Israeli settlement farms. The Israeli
Defense, Economy, and Labor Ministries all say that they are studying how to
apply more labor protections for Palestinians working in settlements, but
that in the meantime no authority has a clear mandate to enforce
Of the children interviewed for the report, 33 had
dropped out of school and were working full-time on Israeli settlements. Of
these, 21 had dropped out before completing the 10 years of basic education
that are compulsory under Palestinian as well as Israeli laws.
what if you get an education, you’ll wind up working for the settlements,”
one child said.
Teachers and principals at Palestinian schools in the
Jordan Valley said that children who worked part-time on settlements during
weekends and after school were often exhausted in class.
military authorities state that they do not issue work permits for
Palestinians under 18 to work in settlements. However, Palestinians do not
need Israeli work permits to reach the settlement farms, which are outside
the gated areas of settlements that Palestinians need permits to enter.
All of the children and adults working for the settlement farms whom
Human Rights Watch interviewed said they were hired by Palestinian middlemen
working for Israeli settlers, were paid in cash, and did not receive
pay-slips or have work contracts. Israel denies Palestinian authorities
jurisdiction in the settlements as well as much of the Jordan Valley, but
they should do more to enforce laws against child labor by prosecuting
middlemen, Human Rights Watch said.
According to news reports and
settlement and company websites, Europe is a significant export market for
settlement agricultural products, and some products are exported to the US.
The EU has moved to exclude Israeli settlement products from the
preferential tariff treatment it provides to Israeli goods, and EU member
states have issued advice to businesses that they needed to consider the
legal, financial, and reputational risks of involvement with settlement
trade, but have not instructed businesses to end such trade. The US in
practice continues to grant preferential treatment to Israeli settlement
products under the US-Israel Free Trade Agreement. The US should revise the
agreement to exclude settlement products. The US Department of Labor
maintains and publishes a list of more than 350 products from foreign
countries that are produced with the use of forced labor or child labor in
other countries, but has not included Israeli settlement products on the
Other countries and businesses should uphold their own
responsibilities not to benefit from or contribute to the human rights
abuses against the Palestinians in the West Bank by ending business
relationships with settlements, including imports of settlement agricultural
produce, Human Rights Watch said.
“The settlements are the source of
daily abuses, including against children,” Whitson said. “Other countries
and businesses should not benefit from or support them.”
Abuse: Palestinian Child Labor in Israeli Agricultural Settlements in the
West Bank” is available at:
For more Human Rights Watch reporting
on Israel/Palestine, please visit:
information, please contact:
In Jerusalem, Bill Van Esveld (English):
+972-54-920-4062; or +972-59-507-5886 (mobile); or
In Tel Aviv, Uri
Zaki (English, Hebrew): +972-52-369-0631 (mobile); or
In Beirut, Nadim Houry
(Arabic, French, English): +961-3-639-244 (mobile); or
firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @nadimhoury
In New York, Sarah Leah Whitson (English): +1-718-362-0172 (mobile); or
email@example.com. Twitter: @sarahleah1
In Brussels, Lotte Leicht (English, French, German, Danish, Swedish):
+32-02-737-1482; or firstname.lastname@example.org.
In London, David Mepham (English):
+44-75-72-603-995; or email@example.com
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