Subhi Firas Zimmari, 18, told Aljazeera.net he had just past the village of Kufl Haris when a border police jeep pulled over.

"Four soldiers and two masked collaborators disembarked and beat me savagely, using hard objects, until I lost consciousness."

The Israeli Shin Beth - Israel’s domestic intelligence Agency - then took Zimmari to the Russian compound lockup in Jerusalem for interrogation. He was cleared of any wrongdoing and declared “innocent”.

Daily affair
 
His story is not unique. According to Rafiq Natshe, a former Labour minister and now Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, brutalisation of Palestinian labourers by Israeli police and soldiers is a “routine and daily affair”.

"We know the Israelis commit daily crimes against our workers. Some of these crimes find their way to the media, but thousands of other cases are unreported.”

Natshe accused Israel and its justice system of “playing deaf and dumb” towards the plight of Palestinian labourers in Israel.

"When it comes to dealing with crimes committed against Palestinian workers by soldiers, border policemen and Israeli citizens, Israel simply looks the other way because they think that we are less than humans."

Well documented

“Israel... is responsible for the welfare and well-being of the people under her occupation. How can they control every aspect of our life, and then claim they are not responsible for providing employment for our workers"

Dr Hanna Isa,
the PA legal adviser

On 13 January, the Israeli army radio, Gali Tsahal, reported an incident in which scores of Israelis from Moshav Porat near Kfar Sava ganged up on a Palestinian worker from the village of Azzun in the northern West Bank.

"They attacked him and alternatively beat him with stones and hard objects. We found him in the morning in the cold, unconscious and with several broken limbs,” a police officer told the radio station.

Even the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reported on its English website on 13 January that the residents of the Moshav (Hebrew for a farming community) “dragged, tied and beat” the Palestinian worker.

Eventually, a passerby found the worker and alerted the police who took him to the prison for interrogation.

An Israeli police spokesman at the Kfar Sava police station refused to return Aljazeera.net calls, enquiring about the incident.

Run around

Most Palestinian workers in Israel start their daily nightmare one or two hours before dawn by heading to the so-called “laffah” or “back-roads” through which they slip into Israel proper.

The journey itself, says Majid Ibrawish, a 30-year-old Palestinian worker from Dura, resembles an adventure film.

“Once we succeed in crossing the border, we embrace ourselves to the task of evading the border policemen. If we spot them coming from a far distant, we hide somewhere, usually behind a tree or in a water tunnel. If they catch us, we get ‘a nice beating’ - otherwise we proceed to work.”

Palestinian workers push as they
lay blocks of Israel's barrier

Many Palestinians actually sleep at their work places in terribly squalid conditions. “Some of us sleep at the construction sites, usually in a relatively warm corner; others sleep in open fields, some under bridges and in water-disposal tunnels.”

“Entering Israel is quite an adventure these days. So, workers prefer to stay there and work and sleep at the construction site for up to an entire month. This way they can make some money and remain out of the police’s sight.”

Brink of starvation

The tight Israeli blockade of West Bank towns and villages has effectively pushed many Palestinians to the brink of starvation.

This desperate situation is forcing many Palestinian breadwinners to venture into Israel by “hook or by crook,” to find work, often risking arrest, imprisonment and even death.

Indeed, several Palestinian workers were killed, trying to enter Israel by passing onerous army roadblocks, encircling Palestinian population centres.

A few years ago, Israeli soldiers shot and killed three Palestinian workers from Dura near the Tarqumya junctions.

The soldiers then claimed the driver of the car, carrying the workers, tried to run them over. Witnesses dismissed the claim as a lie.

In 1990, an Israeli soldier massacred seven Palestinian workers from Gaza Strip in Tel Aviv. The murderer, Israeli sources told Aljazeera.net, was expected to receive a presidential pardon in the near future.

Responsibility

A spokeswoman for the Israeli army said Israel was not responsible for “catering or providing employment for the Palestinians. The welfare of Palestinian workers is the Palestinian Authority’s, not Israel’s responsibility.”

To this, Dr Hanna Isa, the PA legal adviser, says, “Israel is still the occupying power in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and as such, it is responsible for the welfare and well-being of the people under her occupation.”

“How can they control every aspect of our life, and then claim they are not responsible for providing employment for our workers. This argument is infinitely feeble and illogical.”