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Half of Arab Jerusalem Population Works for Jews

Half of Arab Jerusalem Population Works for Jews

Saturday, 25 November, 2017 - 12:15
An Aerial view of the Old City of Jerusalem. Reuters

A new study published in Jerusalem on Friday showed that 50 percent of the workforce in Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem works for Jewish businessmen, saying Jews prefer them because "they work for lower wages and for longer hours than their Israeli counterparts."

The study, by Israeli and Arab researchers Marik Shtern and Ahmed Asmar, was published by the Jerusalem Institute for Policy Research under the title "Behind the Glass Ceiling", in which working relations between Israelis and Palestinians are documented.

The researchers said that although the Arabs of East Jerusalem have not given up their Palestinian nationalism, their integration into Israeli society is increasing.

There are more high school graduates according to the Israeli curriculum, more are choosing to study at Israeli universities, more marriages are taking place between couples from East Jerusalem and Arab Israelis (Palestinians of 1948) and more are adopting western lifestyles.

Above all, the workers of East Jerusalem form a large part of the labor market in the the western side of the city, revealing racial discrimination against the Arabs.

Through a series of interviews, questionnaires and focus groups, Shtern and Asmar draw a complex picture of formal and informal ties between Jews and Arabs in Jerusalem workplaces, both in periods of quiet and during waves of terrorist attacks.

Often, the picture contains contradictions. For example, the study found that Jews are comfortable interacting with Arab employees whereas the Arab workers often feel exploited.

It turns out that in many workplaces Arab employees are banned from speaking Arabic. In most joint workplaces it is also forbidden for Jews or Arabs to "talk about politics."

Shtern and Asmar call it "the mechanism of survival and preservation of the common place of work from the implication of infiltration of political conflict into it."

The alternative for many of the workers is getting to know each other better through Facebook and WhatsApp.

The research shows that tension prevails at the time of religious-nationalist confrontations and operations, and then Jews and Arabs fear the use of public transportation.

The research has interesting data, showing that about 49 percent of the Arab workforce in east Jerusalem, some 35,000 people, are employed in the Jewish job market.

Most Arab employees in Jerusalem come from a society in which 82 percent of families live below the poverty line and which features one of the highest school drop-out rates in the country (36%). City infrastructure in Arab neighborhoods – sewage, water, roads – is also for the most part substandard.

For east Jerusalem Arabs, the Jewish job market in the city is a lifeline. While Jewish employers pay Arabs less money for longer hours than Jewish employees, the Arabs are still taking home more pay than if they would be working in the east of the city or in Palestinian-controlled territories.

The figures show that Arabs comprise 71 percent of workers in the construction sector and 57 percent of workers in public transportation. Arabs also make up 40 percent of workers in the hotel and restaurant industries, 20 percent of workers in municipal healthcare and welfare and 46 percent of employees in water, sewer, and cleaning services.

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