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Total War – The Economic Backbone of the Occupation

Gazans being held by Israeli police. Photo from one of the workers.

15 October, 2023 | International Solidarity Movement | al-Khalil


Hundreds of Gazan workers are being given refuge in Palestine, after having been dumped in the West Bank by Israel.

45 of them are in al-Khalil and the ISM spoke to many of them this evening.

These labourers were working in Israeli settlements. When Hamas broke out of Gaza they were rounded up, detained, and at least one of them was beaten and hospitalised. They spent four hours in prison, their phones confiscated and without contact with the outside world. One man says 6500NIS was stolen from him by the police.

Apartments have been provided by charitable individuals and groups are giving them food and bringing them brand-new clothing to replace the belongings they were not allowed to bring from Israel.


After 16 years of blockade, Gaza’s economy has collapsed. Gazans buy Israeli work permits so as to get jobs as labourers in construction or hospitality. These permits, valid for one month, are purchased from specialised companies and cost 3,000 NIS. Gazan workers earn 6000 NIS monthly for 45 hour weeks. Israelis would be paid around 20,000 shekels for doing an equivalent job. These migrant workers have no health insurance or job security. They have to be married, too.

Women migrant workers find jobs in factories or in agriculture. Manual labour is the only option available to people from Gaza. One of the workers we spoke to has a degree in engineering, one qualified as a social worker and another was a teacher.

Visits to their wives and families are possible at weekends, and they try to return at least twice a month. Travel through the Eretz crossing involves a long wait of up to 12 hours, the crossing opens at 4am on a Sunday morning to let them through. Everything is checked, and they can’t take clothes through, so clothing has to be bought (at high expense) in Israel.

The guards at the border can deny entry at will to anyone, whether or not they have a permit. Israeli intelligence often interrogates and threatens the workers, hoping to add them to the network of informers in Gaza.


We were told that around 1,500  migrant workers are still detained or missing in Israel. Their families in Gaza were asking for information about them.

We heard that, when Israel declared war, one of the employers of Gazan workers informed the police that the people working for him were terrorists. We saw a video of corpses after the police intervention. The people shot were colleagues of one of the men we spoke to. Here are their names:

Hashim Barawi (killed)

Suliman Al Atar (killed)

Hary Al Masry (location unknown)

Sahel AL Masry

Nabil Al Barrawi (injured)

Talal Warshasha (injured)

The workers intend to use every legal means possible to obtain justice.


The situation these men are in is difficult, but they are distraught about the situation in Gaza and worried about their families. “My son works with the emergency services, Israel bombed his ambulance, the driver was killed and my son is injured.” “My building was bombed, and my wife and kids are now living in a tent.” “I keep phoning my wife, but there is no answer.”

They denounce the lies and hypocrisy of the international community in its support for Israel. Western countries talk about law and democracy, but they respect neither. How can they support this massacre, this lack of humanity?

One of the men sums it up: This is not war, it is extermination.

Despite the atrocious, immoral position of the countries whose passports we hold, only one man didn’t greet us warmly. Hearing we were from European countries, he said he didn’t want to be in the same room as us.

I was totally sincere when I replied that I understood his feelings, that we are in Palestine because of our countries’ responsibility in the destruction of Palestine, because we don’t agree with Europe’s policies and that we would like to do what we can to tell people  about what is happening here. If you’ve read this far, please help us in getting the word out and stopping this genocide.