Strategies put forward to confront the spread of COVID-19 put a huge strain on the global economy. Worldwide, exploited workers at the lower scale of the labour market are especially affected, masses of workers have been made redundant or forced to continue to work in unsafe environments to sustain themselves and their families.
In Israel, the government took swift measures and imposed additional restrictions on Palestinian freedom of movement on both sides of the Green Line and minimized economic activity in sectors deemed unessential. These measures have a particular impact on over 141,000 Palestinian workers dependent on jobs in the Israeli market (in both the settlements and in Israel), due to the systematic de-development of the Palestinian economy.
Dependency on these jobs renders workers uniquely vulnerable to exploitation and precarious working conditions, amplified and exacerbated by COVID-19. Large numbers of Palestinian workers have been made redundant. However, the dependence of key sectors in the Israeli economy on Palestinian labour, as well as Israel’s interest in curbing the total collapse of the Palestinian economy, has led the Israeli government to take exceptional measures; some 55,000 workers retention and future renewal of work permits have been conditioned on them not returning to their families in the West Bank and East Jerusalem for at least a month, a time frame subject to extension according to Israeli economic needs, with no guarantees of adequate accommodations or access to health care.