New Delhi | 07 November 2023
Even as Israel escalates its genocidal war on Palestine with incessant bombing and ground invasion of Gaza, killing almost 10,000 Palestinians including more than 4000 children and levelling major parts of Gaza, reports are afloat that the Israeli and Indian governments are in talks for “export” of Indian workers to replace Palestinians whose work permits have been revoked and have been expelled from Israel.
The Modi government’s unethical and duplicitous stand on this genocidal war on Gaza is exposed by the quick expression of solidarity with Israel in the wake of the Hamas offensive, but a loud silence on the killings of thousands of innocents and children. Protests from lakhs of people across the country compelled Modi to break his silence on this war and send humanitarian assistance for the Palestinian people. India’s long-standing principled position on the Israel-Palestine issue is being systematically compromised and reversed, while merely paying lip service to the stand of supporting Palestine.
It is in this context that reports are now emerging of an impending “export” of Indian workers, particularly construction workers to Israel. Previously, in May, 2023 during the visit of the Israeli foreign minister Eli Cohen to New Delhi, both countries signed an agreement for 42,000 Indian workers in Israel, out of which 34,000 were to be brought into the construction industry.
The settler-colonial occupation of Palestine has decimated its economy, causing high levels of poverty and unemployment, and has resulted in Palestinians being dependent on Israel for employment. Though numbers have fluctuated over time, an average of 1.3 lakh Palestinians were employed in Israel, with the construction sector accounting for the largest share of Palestinian workers, with Palestinian worker making almost 65-70% of the total workforce.
Palestinians on Israeli jobs has rendered them acutely vulnerable to severe exploitation, confirmed by the International Labour Organisation and human rights organisations. This includes low wages, lack of legal protection, job insecurity, poor occupational health and safety, high levels of “accidents”, gaps in social protection and lack of legal recourses to violations.
Israel has opened another war front against the Palestinians, by denying them any employment in Israel and replacing them. In the past few days, Israel has cracked down on workers from Gaza and sent thousands back to the besieged Gaza. Palestinians are crucial in the construction sector in Israel, without whom it comes to a standstill.
Nothing could be more immoral and disastrous for India than the said “export” of workers to Israel. That India is even considering “exporting” works shows the manner in which it has dehumanized and commodified Indian workers. Such step will amount to complicity on India's part with Israel's ongoing genocidal war against Palestinians and will naturally have adverse implications for Indian workers in the entire region.
India's trade union movement must rise in solidarity with Palestinian workers and reject this disastrous idea lock, stock and barrel.
AICCTU warns the Modi government not to invest in the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the genocidal war it is waging on the Palestinians.
AICCTU calls upon the construction workers of India to refuse to work for Israel.
Let's resolve that we will not work to replace Palestinian workers in Israel!
India and Indian workers should boycott Israeli products!
Indian workers, as their counterparts in some western countries, should refuse to handle the Israeli cargo!
End this war; end this occupation; uphold the Palestinian right to a sovereign homeland – this is the only possible route to peace.