As part of the Open Wave programme, “A Unified Society amidst the Coronavirus Pandemic Crisis,” REFORM, in cooperation with the Palestinian Ministry of Labor and the Civil Coalition for the Promotion of Civil Peace and the Rule of Law, gathered experts in this field to discuss and raise awareness on human rights and the government’s economic plans in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.
This radio episode was aired on Wednesday, 15.04.2020, and broadcasted on Al-Rabaa Radio Network in Hebron, Raya FM in Ramallah, Hawa Nablus in Nablus, and Radio Al-Shaab in the Gaza Strip.
The Palestinian Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammad Shalaldeh:
- There are applicable Palestinian laws and legislations in support of declaring a state of emergency, such as the Civil Defense Law and the Health Law, but the situation is exceptional for the existence of emergency committees, depending on the extent of the spread of Coronavirus.
- Shalaldeh pointed out that the Israeli occupying forces is an occupying power that should bear legal responsibility for the protection of the civilian population, especially those who live in the city of occupied Jerusalem, as well as the prisoners and detainees in Israeli prisons. The Palestinian government should hold the Israeli occupying authorities accountable for all these shortcomings.
- There is no violation of human rights and public freedoms under this state of emergency, in accordance with the Basic Law. Mr. Shalaldeh does not want there to be any violations of the basic rights of Palestinian citizens to take place.
- A guide for judges, the public prosecutor and the Bar Association has been issued, in cooperation with the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, to ensure the respect of human rights in the event of an emergency.
Assistant Undersecretary at the Palestinian Ministry of Labor, Mr. Abdul Kareem Daraghmeh:
- The Palestinian Ministry of Labor, in cooperation with the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions, to establish a program that provides aid for workers from the most affected groups, such as daily workers. Both will work to provide 30,000 workers with financial compensation. There will be further cooperation that best serves everyone’s interests.
Communication and Media Officer at UNICEF, Ms. Mira Nasser:
- The situation of women, especially those work inside and outside their homes, as well as those who are in the front lines, need double the care. She indicated that through UNICEF, they are working to spread awareness by sending messages to help both our hard working Palestinian women and mothers who desperately need help in this crisis.
Official Speaker of UNRWA, Mr. Sami Musha’sha’:
- The Palestinian refugees, inside Palestine and abroad, are still suffering especially those half-million Palestinian refugees who are still witnessing the Syrian war.
- As of 15.04.2020, 4:30 p.m., there are 9 Covid-19 cases in the Gaza Strip, one case in Lebanon refugee camps, and 34 cases in the refugee camps in the West Bank. Fortunately, there are no cases in any Jordanian or Syrian refugee camps. These numbers are a result of the people’s awareness and the emergency plan followed by UNRWA.
- Despite UNRWA’s financial hardship, it has worked to re-allocate public finances to take all precautions of sterilization, distribution of food supplies, delivery of medicine to all parts of Palestinian camps, and promotion of awareness campaigns.
- There is no doubt that the Covid-19 pandemic has affected our ability to fund primary services for all refugees.
- In the year 2020, we need 1 billion and 400 million dollars to manage all our emergency and regular services in the refugee camps in Syria and the Gaza Strip. However, we only received a quarter of this amount.
Director General of Qalqilia Governorate, Mr. Zahi Sawalmeh:
- The Israeli occupying forces have temporarily closed the borders, through which they use to smuggle Palestinian workers.
Lawyer, Member of the Palestinian Bar Association, Mr. Amjad Shilleh:
- The Palestinian Labor Law, specifically Article No. 38, did not address in any of its clauses or texts the conditions of employment in light of this emergency.
- Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, should issue an interim law that takes into account both sides (the worker and the employer), provided that it is bound by the judicially from all parties in order to limit arbitrary dismissal.
- The internal charter of the Palestine Liberation Organization deals with the Labor Union as the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions.
- The Ministry of Labor is required to follow up with the implementation of the agreement amongst the Ministry of Labor, Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions and the private sector and force punitive measures against those who fail to comply.
- What we fear is that there will be dozens or even hundreds of labor cases filed in courts by workers who will be laid off from their jobs.
Lawyer- Addameer Association for Human Rights in the Gaza Strip, Mr. Mohammed Al Bardaweel:
- We document all human rights violations and ensure that local authorities comply with international law standards.
- The economic conditions in the Gaza Strip are at their worst levels in light of the Covid-19 crisis and of the previously imposed blockade.
Director General of Bethlehem Governorate, Mr. Ayman Odeh:
- Bethlehem is recovering on its 43rd day of quarantine from the Coronavirus.
- There are many initiatives to support workers, both inside the Green Line and in the governorate itself. Bethlehem is surrounded by 20 illegal Israeli settlements. In turn, this increases the challenges on the Ministry of Labor and security services.
Lawyer, Legal Consultant at ACT, Mr. Mohammed Abu Sneneh:
- There is an obvious discrimination against Palestinian workers even though the Israeli government deducts taxes from them as they do with Israeli workers. However, Palestinian workers do not receive any benefits in return.
- Since Palestinian workers pay monthly payments to Israel, they can obtain these benefits such as, social security, in the event that there is legal follow-up.
Director General of Nablus Governorate, Mr. Mohammed Al Araj:
- 6,500 workers from Nablus governorate who are working inside the Green Line have valid working permits, of which nearly 4,000 workers returned. We communicate with the rest and distributed their names to all emergency committees in order to follow up with them and spread awareness amongst them on the necessary precautionary measures they need to take in order to prevent further complications.