The poor environmental and labor conditions at the Barkan Industrial Park

The local Salfit government and Al Quds Open University organized on March 6 a conference on the impact of environmental hazards created by settlements on the governorate.

Speaking at the conference, the head of Salfit’s ministry of health office, Jamil Daraghma, said the situation had become “intolerable” for communities affected by settlements sewage. He also claimed that several cases of cholera were reported in region.

Governor Isam Abu Bakr of Salfit added that waste from factories located in the Barkan industrial park, an industrial settlement near Ariel, is threatening the regions agriculture. He also warned that the dumping of waste in 11 sites surrounding Salfit had become a major cause of cancer in the area.

Polluted water and industrial by-products released by factories in Salfit governorate are considered to be a source of threat for human residents, wild animals and the environment due to their highly toxic content.

A study made by Friends of The Earth Middle East (FOEME), claims that the first trace of pollution from the Barkan industrial area is expected to reach groundwater within 15 years. According to this study, within 30 years traces of pollution are expected to reach wells in the Yarkon area.

The Barkan Industrial Park is in an Israeli settlement located in the northern West Bank, about 25 km east of Tel Aviv and 8 km west of Salfit. It is part of the Ariel settlement bloc. Founded in 1982, the park is the largest industrial park in the West Bank and the second largest in Israel. It currently includes about 120 businesses and factories manufacturing plastics, metal-work, food, textile, and more. About 6,000 workers are employed in the park, about 40% of them are Palestinians, and the rest Israelis employed mainly in managerial and administrative work.

International companies, most of them from the European Union, but also some from the United States, have investments in this industrial park. Companies are attracted to invest in this region due to the lack of environmental and labor regulations in West bank areas ruled by Israel (Area C).

The State of Israel encourages both national and foreign investment in the Occupied Territories by offering a wide range of incentives and benefits to investors. The industrial park is designated as a development zone and the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor gives generous grants in accordance to the ‘Encouragement of Capital Investments Law’. In addition, the cost of Palestinian labor is quite cheap in comparison with Israeli labor.

Kav LaOved (Worker’s Hotline) an organization committed to protecting the rights of disadvantaged workers employed in Israel and by Israelis in the Occupied Territories claims that according to the High Court of Justice ruling Israeli labor laws should be applied to Palestinian workers in Israeli settlements. However, according to a survey the organization carried out in 26 factories at the Barkan Industrial Park, only 27% of the factories observe minimum wage, provide pay slips and pay on time.

Kav LaOved also claim that 34% of factories pay less than minimum wage, and only a small minority of them meets basic health and safety regulations. Working conditions in most places are harmful and damaging to the workers, placing them in greater risk of injuries and work related illnesses.

* This article was published by the Alternative Information Center (AIC)

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