When thinking of Palestine most people probably form images of air-raids, razed-to-the-ground buildings, stone-throwing children, Israeli tanks rolling down emptied streets, frightened people behind barred windows, and angry Palestinian working class kids planning suicide bombing missions against Israelis.
If we spoke of the priorities of Palestinian workers we might guess that their main priority is statehood, a Palestinian Nation and the protection of their leader, Arafat. We might believe from the mainstream media that they only demonstrate against and do battle with Israel soldiers; that they have no anger against their own ruling class, nor have no other issues to fight for. The truth is that the priorities of the majority of Palestinian workers are not killing Jews, nationhood and protecting the status of Arafat, but jobs and food.
Palestine has a 78% unemployment rate. At least 120,000 workers lost their jobs due to Israel-Palestine border closures and the bombing of Palestinian factories and facilities by the Zionist war machine. Over the past month thousands of Palestinian workers have held sit-ins and demonstrations over their country’s economic destruction, chronic unemployment and lack of food.
In early July, 5,000 workers clashed with riot police in Gaza during a “Starvation March”. It was seen clearly by some as a class issue as some protestors accused PLO leaders of sending their children to Europe, while their children die of starvation.
On July 15 approximately 2,000 workers in Gaza demonstrated in front of the Palestinian Parliament for jobs, reform and an end to corruption within the Palestine National Authority. Some held up their work tools and signs that read “workers are victims of occupation and victims of neglect” while others banged on empty food containers and held up dried out pita bread on sticks. Meanwhile, hundreds more marched out front of the Gaza city U.N. Headquarters and six hundred unemployed demonstrated in front of the Labor Ministry building in Khan Younis in the Gaza strip.
With no parliamentary buildings still fully standing, with no state nor international support, and no military machine to back the Palestinian Authority, many believe that there isn’t much a power-castrated Arafat can do. Some Palestinians see it differently, accusing Arafat and the PA of robbing them and sending millions of dollars out of the country and straight into their own accounts.
The struggle of workers in Palestine is the same struggle that all workers of the world share; the battle against a global neo-liberal agenda that creates war, destroys jobs, and lets the corporate bums and ruling class get richer.
Gloria Bergen lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.