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Who notices when a Palestinian construction worker falls to his death?

Abed al-Harush is the 22nd construction worker killed in a work accident this year. That’s a number you won’t hear in the mainstream Israeli press.

By Ruti Feuchtwanger

Palestinian construction workers work at a site in Jerusalem's Ramat Shlomo neighborhood. (Tali Mayer/Activestills.org)

Palestinian construction workers work at a site in Jerusalem’s Ramat Shlomo neighborhood. (Tali Mayer/Activestills.org)

Have you heard of Abed al-Harush from the West Bank city of Yatta?

Probably not. And that’s not your fault. Most of us haven’t heard about him or his death, since it received very little attention in the press. No top headline, despite the fact that he deserved one, considering the way he died.

Al-Harush is the 22nd construction worker who has died in a work accident in 2016. He was killed on Wednesday, July 27 on 1 Popel Street in the city of Rishon LeZion. Warnings about the project’s lack of safety had been previously sounded to the team’s head of safety. For Abed al-Harush it ended with death. He fell from the seventh story after stepping on an improvised surface that collapsed. He didn’t stand a chance.

His death passed without much noise, just like that of 21 other workers who were killed before him this year, and Turkish laborer Younis Uzdamir who was killed this week and another construction worker who was killed this morning. There have been approximately 300 cases of construction worker deaths in the past decade — not including those in the occupied territories, which the head of occupational safety does not include in official reports.

Construction in Israel is a chronicle of a death foretold. Not because the issue of construction does not interest us. On the contrary: we are constantly discussing the housing crisis, the price of housing, and shady real estate deals. But of the enormous cost of human life we do not speak. At least not enough.

It is sad to say it, but it’s easy to just move on from the issue, since most construction workers who are injured or die are not Jewish Israelis — they are usually Arab citizens of Israel, Palestinians from the occupied territories, or foreign workers. They have no voice. No one counts them.

These aren’t localized incidents — this is policy. A policy of ignoring general safety rules, ignoring warnings, enforcement that hardly exists, a failure to take legal steps. When these accidents happen they are not reported, while neither the contractors nor the developers are punished. No fines, no arrests, not even an automatic stop-work order.

The Ministry of Economy’s occupational health and safety administration has 17 supervisors with seven vehicles for a total of 13,000 constructions sites. It can take days before a supervisor arrives at a site where an accident has taken place. What kind of evidence can be gathered so long after the incident?

Over the past eight months, however, we have witnessed a change in awareness on the issue. The dire situation began reaching the public following the thorough, consistent, and determined work of the Coalition Against Construction Accidents. The goal of the coalition is to work to ensure the safety of construction workers through raising awareness and changing the public discourse. The coalition’s Facebook page reports in real time on work accidents through information provided by Magen David Adom, Israel’s national emergency medical, disaster, and ambulance service.

Furthermore the coalition’s work led the Knesset to pass an amendment to a law on Wednesday that would force construction sites to shut down after serious accidents.

After Abed al-Harush’s deal, the residents of the neighborhood in Rishon LeZion, who saw him fall to his death, decided they could no longer be silent. Alongside a group of activists, they organized a protest vigil on Wednesday night — a week after the accident. The event included members of Knesset from across the political spectrum and social activists who are working to change the current reality.

Dr. Ruti Feuchtwanger is an activist focusing on religious-feminism. This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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    COMMENTS

    1. Carmen

      “After Abed al-Harush’s deal, the residents of the neighborhood in Rishon LeZion, who saw him fall to his death, decided they could no longer be silent. Alongside a group of activists, they organized a protest vigil on Wednesday night — a week after the accident. The event included members of Knesset from across the political spectrum and social activists who are working to change the current reality.”

      How many people had they seen die before they decided ‘they could no longer be silent’? I can’t get over the casual attitude toward the deaths of ‘others’. This was a young man working on a construction site of an apartment building(?) that he wouldn’t be allowed to live in, only to die in the process of it’s construction. When the lives of non-Jews are held in the same esteem as the lives of Jews, there will be change. Until then…

      Reply to Comment
    2. i_like_ike52

      Tell me, how much concern has been shown among Palestinians for their brother Arabs who are slaughtering each other in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, Libya, etc? Have you seen any Arab “peace movement” demanding an end to end the killing, opposed to simply cheering one side on or the other, or just outright apathy? Is hundreds of thousands of dead and millions of refugees enough to stir Arab concern for brother Arabs? No? Why not? Do you care? What are you doing about it?

      Reply to Comment
      • Oriol

        And why do YOU complain about Palestinian terrorism, if civilians in Syria, Iraq and Lybia are being attacked in a much harsher way? Why are YOU not grateful to Palestinians for not using the barbaric tactics of Daesh? (Just a question.)

        Reply to Comment
        • i_like_ike52

          Oriol-
          Perhaps you haven’t been following the media the last couple of decades, but the Palestinians, both FATAH and HAMAS have used the same horrific violence and terrorism against Jews that ISIS is using against everyone else. Just recall the suicide bombers with bombs filled with shrapnel coated in rat poison who entered civilian buses and synagogue courtyards killing or wounding thousands of israeli, including not a few Arabs, and which set off mass street celebrations in the Palestinian areas. The perpetrators are, to this day, honored by the official FATAH Palestinian Authorities.
          Then there was the call by HAMAS leaders to kill every Jew that they can get their hands on, with a guide how to stab effectively and even cut off the head, ISIS_style of every Jew they can encounter (It has been available on the internet).
          Maybe all of this is what has brought the Right to power in Israel?

          Reply to Comment
    3. Mark

      Sadly, Muslims killing each other doesn’t merit much comment from the Islamic community here in the UK since all the problems are deemed the fault of the West. No blame and no responsibility for chaos when it rules.

      Having said that, Health and Safety is of course an issue on all construction sites. Not knowing Israeli society am I to assume “the team’s head of safety” was to senior a position to be entrusted to an Arab, and fully trained in H&S legislation?

      Reply to Comment
    4. Carmen

      Oh right, what about ________? You’ll need to try a little harder than whataboutery “I_LIKE_IKE52”. That’s not the topic. Run along.

      Reply to Comment

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