"When my husband passed away in 2006, we were left with no income, so I started working to support my children. In 2014 I found a steady cleaning job at a woodworking shop in the Shahak industrial zone which is part of the Shaked settlement. For the four years I worked there my employers provided me with a permit that they renewed every six months. I was on good terms with the people in charge and with the other workers."
This is how Amal Qabaha, 52, a widowed mother of eight children, described her place of work. She was forced to give it up on 4 February 2018. That day, as usual, she arrived at the Barta’a Checkpoint on her way to work, but was surprised to learn that her permit to work in settlements, which was still valid, had been revoked.
The village of Tura al-Gharbiya lies north of the town of Ya’bad in Jenin District. It is home to some 1,110 people, about 800 of them members of the extended Qabaha family. In 2003, a section of the Separation Barrier was built near the village, cutting it off from some of its lands which were annexed de facto to Israel. The barrier created an enclave of about 3.2 hectares that contains seven Palestinian villages and three settlements. Within the enclave, on Ya’bad land, Israel erected Shahak Industrial Park, about two kilometers from Tura al-Gharbiya.
Palestinians who wish to work in the industrial zone must apply to the Israeli Civil Administration for special permits. Permits are issued only sparingly, after to a process whose rules are unknown to the Palestinian applicants and whose outcome is arbitrary decisions with no explanation provided.
In order to get to their jobs in the industrial zone, villagers from the surrounding area must go through one of two checkpoints the military placed along the route of the Separation Barrier: Dhaher al-Malih Checkpoint, which is staffed by soldiers, or Barta’a Checkpoint, which is staffed by soldiers and by a private security company that hired by Israel’s Ministry of Defense. Dhaher al-Malih Checkpoint is closer to both the industrial zone and to the village, but can be accessed only via dirt paths and therefore is used mostly by farmers. Other workers usually favor the Barta’a Checkpoint, which is located four kilometers from Tura al-Gharbiya.
In January 2018, forty Tura al-Gharbiya residents had permits. Nearly three months ago, on 4 February 2018, soldiers and private security guards at the checkpoints told twenty of them that their permits had been revoked, giving no explanation or prior notice. Some permit-holders had the permits physically taken away from them, while others were allowed to keep the documents that had become useless.
Of the twenty people whose permits were revoked, at least two also had permits to enter Israel under the family unification process, and at least five also had agricultural permits to work their land on the other side of the barrier. Members of the Qabaha family told B’Tselem they had repeatedly tried to get through both checkpoints using one of the other permits, but to no avail.
For almost three months now, Israel has been denying these workers and their families their livelihood, without providing them or their employers with any explanation for the sudden revocation of their permits.
Palestinians in the West Bank depend entirely upon the Civil Administration for leading a reasonable life: to work, tend their land, visit relatives and so on. Revoking the permits of these twenty members of the Qabaha has left them and their dependents with no source of income, and it was done without any warning or justification. This is but one more example that illustrates the injurious impact of Israel’s policies in the Occupied Territories, the military’s arbitrary and indiscriminate use of power, and the blanket denial of Palestinians’ rights in the West Bank.
Members of the extended Qabaha family spoke about the implications that the permit revocation has had on their lives. They gave their testimonies to B’Tselem field researcher Abdulkarim Sadi on 28 February 2018:
Ahmad Qabaha, 54, a married father of five:
I have had an agricultural permit ever since they built the Separation Barrier on our land. I have also had a work permit since 19 August 2014, because I work in a factory that recycles rubber tires in the Shahak industrial zone near the settlement of Shaked. I’ve worked there regularly for years, without any problems. I’m on excellent terms with my bosses. I usually go there every day with other workers from the village via the Daher al-Malih Checkpoint, and sometimes through the Barta’a Checkpoint.
On Sunday, 4 February 2018, I set out for work early in the morning. When I got to the Barta’a Checkpoint, I showed the private security guard my entry permit and ID card, but he told me I wasn’t allowed to go through.
He didn’t give me any explanation, although my permit to enter settlements for work was supposed to be valid until 16 July 2018. I had to turn around and go home, without knowing why they wouldn’t let me get to work and carry on with life as usual. I couldn’t believe this was happening and couldn’t understand why my permit was being revoked and I wasn’t being allowed to get to work.
I was so upset, and just couldn’t calm down. That day, I also tried to get in via the Daher al-Malih Checkpoint with my agricultural permit, which is supposed to be valid from 11 January to 9 July 2018, but they wouldn’t let me through there either. The soldiers told me I wasn’t allowed in for security reasons.
It’s not just me. It turned out that about twenty members of our family have been denied entry, although we all have entry permits that are supposed to be valid. Not allowing us in means our families are left with no income and that we cannot put food on the table for our families.
‘Ali Qabaha, 32, a married father of two:
I work at a factory in the Shahak industrial zone. I have three entry permits: one for commerce, one for work in a settlement and one for spouses, because I’ve been married for ten years to an Israeli citizen from the village of ‘Eilut. The agricultural permit was revoked on 4 February 2018 at the Daher al-Malih checkpoint, and the married couples’ permit was confiscated four days later, when I tried to cross the Jalameh checkpoint north of Jenin with it.
Ever since I began working at the factory on 1 January 2014, the management has helped me get a permit to work in a settlement and gets it renewed every six months. Because the permit was just getting renewed at the time, I used my other permits to get to work. That’s what I usually do when the work permit is up for renewal. I don’t know why they revoked our permits. I didn’t hear that anyone in the family had committed any offense or crime.
Our family relies on work in Israel, and especially in the Shakah industrial zone, which is only four kilometers from the village. The whole family is being punished for no reason.
Raafat Qabaha, 30, a married father of one:
My wife is an Israeli citizen and lives with me in the village. After we got married, I had two permits – a spousal permit that is valid for a year and allows me to stay in Israel for up to 24 hours, and a work permit that my employer renews every six months.
In 2015 I began working in the Shahak industrial zone at a large woodworking workshop that employs about seventy people. On 4 February 2018, I went to work as usual via the Daher al-Malih Checkpoint and gave the soldier my spousal permit, which was supposed to be valid. The soldier said the permit had been cancelled by the authorities. I tried to come back with the work permit, which was supposed to be valid until 12 May 2018, but the soldiers said the authorities had given an order not to let me in.
We contacted our bosses at the workshop to help us solve the problem. Our supervisor at the factory checked called the authorities and told us that an administrative order denying entry had been issued against the Qabaha family for six months. They didn’t tell him why. Denying us entry has taken away our income.
Muhammad Qabaha, 34, a married father of two:
I’ve been working at a tire-recycling factory in the Shahak industrial zone since 2015. My employers get my work permit renewed every six months. I’ve never had any trouble with them or with the Israeli authorities. My current work permit is supposed to be valid until 7 May 2018.
On 4 February 2018, I went to the Barta’a Checkpoint to get to work. I gave my papers and permit to the private security guard, and he told me the authorities had issued an order that I wasn’t to be allowed in. I wasn’t given any explanation why I couldn’t keep working. I’m now out of work. They took away my family’s income with no explanation.