Exploited and Essential

Palestinian Labour under Covid-19

Israeli policies vis-à-vis Palestinian labour in the context of the Covid-19 crisis expose how pre-existing structures of population control and economic strangulation interlock to secure profits for the occupying power at the expense of an occupied population. At once essential to the profits of the Israeli construction sector and dependent on the low-paying, exploitative jobs it provides, Palestinian workers in the Israeli economy have been uniquely impacted by the Covid-19 crisis.

As businesses take measures to abate their financial losses and big tech and military corporations set out to profit massively from the Covid-19 crisis, reports indicate that marginalized, repressed and impoverished social groups have been impacted the most – in terms of both negative health outcomes and adverse economic consequences. The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that the current crisis will lead to the loss of over 195 million jobs globally and that 1.6 billion workers in the informal sector have “suffered massive damages to their ability to earn a living” and thus, to sustain a life.

In the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), the impact of Covid-19 on an economy already in a state of deep crisis has been swift and keenly felt. By April 2020, over 453,000 Palestinian workers had lost their jobs and over 115,000 families were pushed into poverty.

In this flash report, Who Profits examines the unique impact of Covid-19 and associated Israeli policies on Palestinian workers employed within the Green Line and the illegal settlements. The report outlines how these policies relied upon and were enabled by pre-existing structures of population control and economic strangulation. Specifically, it shows how surveillance and exploitation interlock to secure the profits of the occupying economy and entrench the subjugation of the occupied population. Furthermore, this report highlights how the integration of Palestinian workers into the Israeli economy deepens the oPt’s economic dependency on it and bounds the two economies.