Thousands of Palestinian laborers refused to pass through a West Bank checkpoint in protest of overcrowding and bad treatment from Israeli guards. A day later, their demands were met at the privatized checkpoint, but many believe the improvements won’t last long.
The Palestinian laborers passing through the “Sha’ar Ephraim” checkpoint in the early morning are a strange sight by any standard. Those passing through before dawn mostly look stressed, busy, tired and retreated into themselves. “The hour or two spent inside the checkpoint are more difficult than an entire work day,” one of the workers told me Monday morning. But that wasn’t the case on Monday.
Following a strike that took place a day earlier, in which thousands of workers from the Tulkarm, Nablus and Jenin areas decided not to cross into Israel in protest of their treatment at the checkpoint, they walked around with smiles and a sense of victory showing on their faces. They said it was as if a magic wand had been waved; their treatment inside the checkpoint suddenly improved. Inspection points were suddenly operating efficiently, and the guards were treating the elderly and women with respect — exactly as they demanded in their strike the day before.
The workers crowded outside the checkpoint — who were waiting for their employers to pick them up or for vans to take them to Tel Aviv and central Israel — were calm and appeared satisfied. “This is all because of the strike,” said one man with whom I spoke. But nobody was rushing to celebrate: “Two weeks, a month, two months — everything will go back to the way it was. Until the next strike,” said A., a resident of Jenin. Others we spoke to expressed similar sentiments.
The Palestinian laborers probably know what they’re talking about. Four or five years ago they struck for a day and refused to return. Thousands of workers lost a day’s worth of low wages in central Israel because they refused to accept the daily humiliation they were forced to endure at the checkpoint. When I spoke with them at the time they thought the improvements would be more permanent. A few years later, the laborers feel that without a strike every once in a while the situation will deteriorate all over again. To the best of my knowledge, it is the only checkpoint at which laborers organized such a strike —...Read More