JERUSALEM (Aug. 21)
A boycott intended to keep thousands of Arab day laborers away from their jobs in Israel for a week was almost fully observed Monday in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Whether or not it continues will be a test of strength between the Israeli authorities and the local leadership of the Palestinian uprising.
The strike was called by the command of the intifada to protest the strict controls instituted by Israel last Friday.
They require every Palestinian from the Gaza Strip to show a special magnetized identification card to be admitted to Israel. The purpose is to screen out persons with criminal or security offense records.
Palestinian activists are furious and hope to strike a blow at the Israeli economy by depriving it of Arab labor, which is widely employed in the service and construction industries.
The Islamic fundamentalist Hamas movement joined the intifada command in backing the boycott call.
But Monday’s shutdown was not a proper test of its effectiveness, because Palestinians throughout the territories were observing a general strike to mark the 19th anniversary of an arson attack on Al-Aksa mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
The attack was the work of a demented Australian, who was arrested and repatriated.
WEST BANKERS NEED THEIR PAY
All business was suspended Monday in the West Bank, but schools, only recently reopened by the civil administration after a prolonged shutdown, held classes as usual.
A handful of businessmen from the Gaza Strip entered Israel on Monday, with the permission of the intifada command. But pro-boycott sentiment ran high.
“We will break that system of magnetic cards and other restrictions which are loathed by the population,” said one influential Palestinian in Gaza.
“We shall see if the Israeli employers do not demonstrate when their workers don’t show up,” he added.
While most laborers from Gaza are expected to continue to boycott their jobs, West Bank Palestinians have made clear they cannot afford to lose a week’s work.
In any event, the ID card requirements do not apply to the West Bank for the time being.
Israelis and Palestinians, meanwhile, are keeping a close watch on how the situation unfolds. A collapse of the job boycott would be a significant tactical victory for Israel. Observers say that for the moment, the two sides are tied.