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Thursday, 4 February 2010

Histadrut Thieves Stole Over £1 billion from Palestinian Workers

As readers of the blog will know, Histadrut, the racist settler union that created the Israeli state, began its life campaigning for Jewish Labour (Kibbush Ha'avodah i.e. the Boycott of Arab labour), Jewish land (to be redeemed from the Arabs) and Jewish produce (a Boycott of Arab produce).

Histadrut was established in 1920 and until 1959 refused to admit Arab members and then took another 7 years to change its name from the 'General Confederation of Hebrew Labour'.

Histadrut, which built the early settlements via its (now sold off) building company, Solel Boneh, has never opposed the occupation of the West Bank or Gaza. It is a complete misnomer to see Histadrut as any part of even the most timid of the Israeli peace movement. On the contrary it has consisted of the most hawkish and war-like parts of the Israeli Labour Party.
It was no accident that Amir Peretz, the Labour Defence Minister who launched the attack on Gaza in 2006, was the former General-Secretary of Histadrut. The most war-like member of the Cabinet which oversaw the attack on Gaza last year was another former General Secretary of Histadrut, Haim Ramon. And Ofer Eini, Histadrut's current General-Secretary, was one of those pushing hardest for Ehud Barak to join the coalition government of Netanyahu and Lieberman.

It is therefore no shock to learn that research from the Alternative Information Centre in Jerusalem has established that something like £1.3 was stolen from Palestinian workers who worked in Israel during the occupation despite the fact that they could not join Histadrut. Histadrut has always set its face against joint Jewish-Arab solidarity against the employer or state. On the contrary it was established over the destruction of the mixed Arab-Jewish Railworkers trade union in Palestine. National solidarity, not class solidarity, was its buzz word.

Although Palestinians couldn't join Histadrut and received no protection from it, they reached a sweetheart deal with the Israeli government (which was also deducting money from Palestinian workers' wages for 'benefits' that they never saw) that allowed them to deduct 2% of workers' wages, in what is a disgusting mixture of corruption, theft and racism.
To its ever lasting disgrace the quisling head of the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions, Shaher Sae’d, negotiated a deal in 2008, which involved payment of about £4-5m by way of recompense. This blood money was used by Histadrut as a means of undermining the Boycott. At the Trade Union Friends of Israel fringe meeting I attended in 2008 this was a key reason for opposing Boycott. Likewise the TUFI fringe meeting at UNISON Conference last year likewise made heavy use of this agreement. Even worse PGFTU seem to have accepted the principle that Histadrut can continue to make such deductions in exchange for 'representing' Palestinian workers, rather than demand the right to organise on behalf of workers itself in Israel.

As TUFI's own site says, '
Initial collaboration between the two federations started in 1993 after the signing of the Oslo Accords.' [Historic Agreement for Israeli and Palestinian Trade Union Co-operation] Collaboration being the operative word!

makes it clear in the above article, in a section referring to the Boycott, entitled 'Used as a justification for boycotts', what the purpose of reaching any agreement was with PGFTU:

'A number of critics of Israel within the trade union movement, especially in the UK and Ireland, emphasised the disagreement; repeatedly using it as a justification for promoting trade union boycotts, disinvestment and sanctions against Israel. However, throughout even the most difficult times, the two organisations continued to have dialogue and the Histadrut continued to help Palestinian workers attain permits.'

Repeatedly Histadrut has claimed that PGFTU doesn't support a Boycott of Israeli produce. It does but Shaher Saeed and his collaborator friends have consistently tried to undermine the Boycott. A little flattery by Histadrut is more than enough for Saeed (& Abbas on a larger scale) to sell out Palestinian workers.

See also the position of the PFLP on Histadrut 'PLAF calls upon PGFTU to expose Histadrut and campaign actively for international labor boycott' and Palestinian Labor Leader Calls for Boycott and Divestment

Tony Greenstein

Israel Owes Over NIS 8.3 Billion to Palestinian Workers from the Occupied Palestinian Territories

The State of Israel owes more than NIS 8.3 billion (including interest) to Palestinian workers from the Occupied Palestinian Territories who worked in Israel. This money was deducted from the Palestinian workers’ salaries for social benefits they did not receive. This is the conclusion of detailed research conducted by the Alternative Information Center (AIC) and Kav LaOved.

“This is theft, pure and simple,” notes Shir Hever, Economic Researcher with the Alternative Information Center and co-author of the research. “92.4% of the deductions taken from workers for National Insurance related social rights, for example, were transferred instead to the coffers of the Israeli Ministry of Finance. Palestinian workers from the OPT did not—and do not—receive the vast majority of social rights for which they are legally mandated to pay.”

Palestinian workers are forced to pay for rights they do not in actuality receive, including for income support, full severance compensation, seniority payments, vacation pay, continuing education, provident fund and holiday payments.

Palestinian workers in the construction sector have further been forced to pay 2% of their salaries to a fund “for the promotion of the construction sector in Israel.” This fund, managed by a non-profit association established specifically for this purpose, is meant to promote the hiring and training of Israeli workers in the construction sector. Palestinian workers are in essence forced to finance the training of workers meant to replace them. In practice, however, the fund—which contains NIS 34 million to dateis used to pay for public relations of the Contractors’ Association, grants to the families of Israeli workers and training for Israeli union activists. The height of cynicism in using this Palestinian-financed fund was in its purchase of portable stoves for Israeli soldiers to use during the December 2008-January 2009 Israeli military attacks on the Gaza Strip.

While most of the “excessive deductions” taken from the Palestinian workers were done so via the Department of Payments of the Ministry of Interior, the Israeli trade union Histradut also took money from Palestinian workers whilst denying them even the possibility of membership in the Histradut and representation in a host of labour-related areas. Although the Histradut claims in a response to the AIC and Kav LaOved that a 2008 agreement it signed with the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU) closes all outstanding claims in this areas, in practice the Histradut agreed to transfer less than 20% of the “organizing fees” it has collected from Palestinian workers over the years to the PGFTU.

The AIC and Kav LaOved call on Israel to return the money stolen from Palestinian workers from the OPT to the workers themselves or to their legal beneficiaries. This money should be returned with interest.

The full research, which will be available in late February 2010 in hard copies and on the website of the Alternative Information Center Arabic, English and Hebrew, includes precise sums deducted by the Israeli government for which Palestinian workers received no rights, in addition to a detailed research methodology and calculations for estimating the amounts that must be returned to the Palestinian workers.


joe90 kane said...

What's wrong with stealing Palestinian money, the good old-fashioned way, by sticking up their banks?

IDF takes $1.5M in Palestinian bank heists
From Occupied Palestine
20 Sept 2006

sue goldstein said...

The story about the Histadrut stealing money is a hoax. The source of the rumour are the Abbas quislings whom you have steadily denounced. Why on earth do you purvey their tosh?

Tony Greenstein said...

Why do I pursue tosh spread by Abbas and his quislings? Possibly because I don't.

The article referred to is on the Alternative Information Centre web site, which is certainly no supporter of Abbas. It is quite clear that Histadrut have been and continue to steal the meagre wages of Palestinian workers.

Abbas is, if anything, in league with these creatures and it is his proteges that oppose boycotting them.

The link which wasn't working but should be now is