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article imagePalestinians building Israeli settlements despite opposing them

By Gar Swaffar     Jun 26, 2009 in World
Ideology can easily take a back seat when the need to work and feed a family is a greater concern than what the work entails. Palestinians laborers are building Israeli settlements, earning three times more than what they'd receive working other jobs.
The building of Israeli settlements is a sticking point in the negotiations for any long lasting peace agreement in the West Bank area. But not for the Palestinian laborers who work on the construction projects, those Palestinians lucky enough to have a job in the settlements is glad to work there.
The Palestinian laborers earn nearly three times as much working in the settlements building homes for the Israelis than they could earn working for Palestinian construction companies, and that income is a big step toward living what might be considered a normal life for many of the workers.
"The Palestinian employers pay us NIS 100 to NIS 150 a day," Uwaisat said. "The Israeli companies, by contrast, pay NIS 350 to NIS 450 a day. That's why many of us prefer to work for Israeli companies, even if the construction is in the settlements."
He added that even Palestinians known as supporters of Hamas and Islamic Jihad are employed as construction workers in settlements.
"I know some people from Hamas who work as construction laborers in Ariel," he said. "When people want to feed their children, they don't think twice."
While it might be thought that many of their fellow Palestinian neighbors would complain about where they work, most of the settlement laborers don't have difficulty with those who disapprove of the settlements.
"We're not doing anything wrong," explained Ibrahim Abu Tair, a 42-year-old father of eight from the village of Um Tuba, southwest of Jerusalem. "We're not collaborators and we're not terrorists. We just want to work."
Even during the first uprising or Intifida in 1987, the workers were allowed to go to work mostly unhindered by the Palestinian leadership understood the need to not punish those who only wanted to support their families.
And it continues today with the Palestinian Authority being unwilling to stop the flow of labor to the settlements. As many as 12,000 Palestinians work for both Israeli and Arab contractors in the settlements.
"We can't tell the workers to stay at home without providing them with solutions," admitted a Palestinian official in Ramallah. "We're talking about thousands of families in the West Bank that rely on this work as their sole source of income."
So for now, the settlements may be a barrier to a two state agreement, but they are also a lifeline of hope to many Palestinians who want only to support their families.
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