Barkan Industrial Park
||This article may be unbalanced towards certain viewpoints. (February 2015)|
|Barkan Industrial Park
איזור התעשיה ברקן
|District||Judea and Samaria Area|
The Barkan Industrial Park (Hebrew: איזור התעשיה ברקן, lit. Barkan Industrial Area) is located about 25 kilometres east of Tel Aviv in the West Bank. Its offices are located at the northern entrance. The industrial park is located adjacent to the Israeli settlement Barkan and near the settlement and city of Ariel.
Founded in 1982, in order to strengthen the Jewish presence in the West Bank, the industrial park currently includes about 120 businesses and factories manufacturing plastics, metal-work, food, textile, and more, with a workforce of 20,000, half of whom are Palestinians.
At Barkan Industrial Park thousands of Israelis and Palestinians work together in many of the factories. According to the settlers own council: the good relationships are evident from the fact in all the years since the beginning of the First Intifada, Barkan operated completely undisturbed. Former Samaria Regional Council head Gershon Mesika said -
"It's amazing how the radical Left fails to understand that the main victims are the Palestinians themselves... Fortunately, so far these boycotts have been nothing but PR maneuvers, and we are sure that Jews and Arabs will continue to work together and strengthen our prosperous industry and live in coexistence"
Israel's Barkan entrepreneurs hail the arrangement as contributing to the Palestinian economy, while numerous reports from Israeli and Palestinian NGOS and trade unions cite workers' testimonies claiming that labour rights abuse and exploitive practices exist.
Palestinian workers are said to start on a minimum wage but can rise to earn more than three times the average salary in areas governed by the Palestinian Authority. Though factories generally comply with the 2007 Israeli Supreme Court ruling that required employers to provide the same salaries, benefits and conditions to all employees, Palestinians as well as Israelis. At smaller factories, abuses have been reported. According to testimonies gathered by Kaz LaOved, an Israeli workers' right organization, Palestinian workers in the Barkan Industrial zone (2009) receive salaries that are less than a third of that established as Israel’s minimum wage, and they do not receive pay slips, vacations, sick pay, overtime and convalescence payments.
An article published on Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, the Palestinian Authority's official daily, praises Israeli treatment of Palestinian workers. With having added benefits such as transportation, medical and pensions, Palestinians are quick to leave their Palestinian employees and work for Israelis, whenever they have the opportunity to do so. Safety rules are enforced strictly by Israeli Workers' Union and physical examinations are done by doctors. Samaritans from Nablus were drawn to work in places like Barkan because they can obtain Israeli citizenship and earn standard Israeli wages.
Harming Palestinian Economy
It is one of 15 industrial zones set up in the West Bank, providing jobs to Palestinians, and money to their economy, while occupying vast amounts of land that the Palestinians see as part of their future state. A 2007 Israeli Supreme Court judgement obliges Palestinians hired by such plants to receive the same salaries, benefits and conditions as Israelis. According to Diana Buttu, while industrial zones like Barkan supply important jobs to Palestinian workers, their existence challenges Palestinian aspirations for an independent state. Mohammed Mustafa, the Palestinian deputy prime minister for economic affairs, has labeled such industrial parks a form of "business colonization". By 1998, it extended over 150 dunams (37 acres) and since has expanded to cover over 1,300 dunams (about 325 acres) (2013).
Up to 80% of the Barkan plants’ products are exported, and increasingly subject to threats in Europe of bans on products produced by Israeli industries in the West Bank. Factory owners there say that calls to boycott some factories endanger employment for many Palestinians. According to Mohammad Chaichian, the practice of industrial zones like Barkan in the West Bank gives Palestinians, for whom work permits in Israel are restricted, no option but to accept work in what he calls "Economic prison zones".
By 2008 the Park's industries were affected by rising pressure in Europe, from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, for companies to withdraw their involvement in the park. The partly Dutch owned Barkan Wine Cellars drew up stakes there and moved its facilities to kibbutz Hulda.  In October 2008, follow the Dutch lead, the Swedish company Assa Abloy, responding in turn to appeals from the Church of Sweden and other groups, announced that it would move its production plant belonging to their Israeli subsidiary Mul-T-Lock from Barkan, and relocate inside Israel.
It is reported that many highly polluting factories from Israel moved into settlement industrial zones like Barkan to profit from the relative lack of environmental regulations there.
In 1998 Barkan factories generated each year an estimated 810,000 cubic meters of industrial wastewater, which flowed untreated from the 3 storage tanks, after a design defect, made them nonoperational when overloaded, into a nearby wadi into the agricultural lands of the Palestinian villages of Sarta, Kafr ad-Dik and Bruqin, and reportedly polluting the groundwater with heavy metals. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health roughly 70% of cancers among Palestinians in the contiguous Salfit Governorate occur among people living near the industrial park and exposed to the waste overflow.
- Jodi Rudoren, 'In West Bank Settlements, Israeli Jobs Are Double-Edged Sword ,' New York Times 10 February 2014.
- Asher Schechter, 'EU settlement ban casts shadow over Palestinian industry in the West Bank,' Haaretz 11 August 2013
- Elior Levy,'Palestinians will lose jobs if boycott persists', Ynet 20 May 2012.
- The Situation of Workers of the Occupied Arab Territories, International Labour Organization, Geneva 2010 p.20-21
- Mohammad A. Chaichian, Empires and Walls: Globalization, Migration, and Colonial Domination, BRILL 2013 p.312.
- "Official PA daily lauds Israel's treatment of Palestinian workers". Palestinian Media Watch. 23 September 2014.
- "Palestinian workers treated better in Israel". i24news. 24 September 2014.
- Monika Schreiber,The Comfort of Kin: Samaritan Community, Kinship, and Marriage, BRILL 2014 p.172.
- Violet Qumsieh, 'The Environmental Impact of Jewish Settlements in the West Bank,' Palestine-Israel Journal, Vol.5 No.1 1998.
- Omar Barghouti,BDS: Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions : the Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights, Haymarket Books, 2011 pp.183-184.
- Giulio Meotti, 'Is BDS campaign working?,' Ynet 31 August 2011.
- ‘Assa Abloy confirms decision to relocate Mul-T-Lock factory from West Bank due to criticism factory was located on "occupied" land.’ Business & Human Rights Resource Centre
- Eric Reidy, 'Palestinians thirst for water treatment plant,' Al Jazeera 21 December 2013.
- Charmaine Seitz,'Palestinian women face political and social frustrations,' Unicef 23 September 2011.
- Kenneth Ring, Ghassan Abdullah, Letters from Palestine: Palestinians Speak Out about Their Lives, Their Country, and the Power of Nonviolence, Wheatmark, Inc., 2010 pp.67-8.
- Portal on Shomron R.C. website (Hebrew)