Israel’s State Comptroller slams West Bank industrial zones

Last month, Ha’aretz correspondent Akiva Eldar wrote an article on the boycott of settlement products in which he referred to a recently released State Comptroller report. The findings, according to Eldar, provide further reasons for boycotting products made in West Bank industrial zones.

In Israel, the role of State Comptroller – accountable to the Knesset – is to monitor and audit public institutions for efficiency, legality, and ethical conduct. According to Eldar, the new report’s “section on industrial zones…did not get enough exposure” – but now the State Comptroller’s damning findings have been translated into English (by Connie Hackbarth, Alternative Information Center) and is available in its entirety below.

Some noteworthy points and extracts are highlighted here:

Between April 2006 and June 2010, the Ministry of Industry “conducted an audit in only four industrial zones out of twenty”. This lack of oversight and enforcement means that “as seen in documents of the Civil Administration, harm was caused to the salary of the Palestinian workers and their rights”.

The State Comptroller’s Office noted a “continued failure for years of the lack of substantial supervision and enforcement in the field of safety and hygiene in Israeli factories in Judea and Samaria, which has to point to ongoing disregard for human life”, all of which “places in real danger the well-being, health and lives of the workers in the industrial zones”.

“According to the document of the Civil Administration from January 2011, factory owners in the [Mesila] industrial zone took over some 25 dunams of privately owned Palestinian land and some 25 dunams of state lands.”

In “Mesila” industrial zone “buildings were constructed without building permits” and “there are serious environmental hazards in the industrial zone”.

“The “Alei Zahav” industrial zone is functioning without an approved urban planning plan, and all the factories in it are functioning without building permits and without employment permits. Despite this, the Civil Administration granted these factories permits to employ Palestinian workers; the industrial zone functions without development infrastructures and sewage infrastructure, all the while harming the environment.”

“In the audit, weighty findings were raised related to a harming of the rights of workers employed in the industrial zones under Israeli administration. This is expressed in the absence of care in conducting ongoing audits of the Civil Administration and the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Employment of the Israeli employers on the subject of paying minimum wage, which resulted in the phenomenon of harming the wages of Palestinian workers; in the lack of substantial supervision and enforcement in the topic of workplace safety and hygiene, which can lead to real danger to the health and lives of the workers in the industrial zones; and in not arranging the insurance of workers for workplace injuries. The lack of care in these subjects harms the image of the state of Israel and its position in international public opinion as a state which enforces the law and protects the worker rights of Palestinians employed by Israelis in Judea and Samaria.”

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