Riya Al’Sanah and Rafeef Ziadah in Jacobin:
After the initial discovery in early March of seven COVID-19 cases in the occupied Palestinian territories, Israel swiftly imposed a security lockdown on the West Bank. In parallel, the Palestinian Authority (PA) declared a state of emergency, which has now been extended until June 2020.
The pandemic has compounded the problems of an already deteriorating economy, characterized by high levels of unemployment and the loss of wages for working families due to the lockdown measures.
Those who work in Israel’s construction industry are one of the worst affected parts of Palestinian society. For decades, Israel’s systematic de-development of the occupied Palestinian territories has pushed hundreds of thousands into this sector.
These workers don’t just come from the West Bank (and Gaza before the siege). They also include many Palestinian citizens of Israel, and constitute a cheap, captive, and ultimately disposable labor force for Israeli contractors and construction firms. Their experience of the pandemic encapsulates many of the key aspects of Palestinian life in the shadow of Israeli domination.