U.N. Labor Organization Issues a Mixed Report on Arab Workers

The International Labor Organization issued a mixed report on the condition of Arab workers in the Israeli-administered territories at its annual conference here last week.

While the U.N. agency claimed that workers’ freedoms of choice, association, movement and expression are severely limited, it blamed economic conditions as well as the Israeli occupation.

Its report, in fact, approved of efforts by the Israeli authorities and civil administration to relieve the territories’ economic overdependence on Israel and urged more initiatives in that direction.

It noted “other positive signs,” such as the reopening of universities and the improvement of vocational training facilities and labor exchanges.

Michel Hansenne, secretary-general of the ILO, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in an interview that his organization was ready to help promote a dialogue between Israelis and Palestinian workers in the territories to solve the social and labor problems referred to in the report.

The report was based on a fact-finding mission to Israel and the territories by representatives of the secretary-general in March and April.

It asserted that “the continuing state of military occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights renders impossible a situation in which the ILO’s standards and principles can be fully respected.”

The report expressed “the gravest concern” over the consequences which the establishment or expansion of Jewish settlements are having on the livelihood of the population of the territories.

It urged the Israeli authorities to put no obstacles in the way of more technical training programs for the workers in the territories. It said the ILO would develop further programs to accelerate economic development and promote employer and worker institutions that could contribute to social peace and economic betterment.

The ILO urged the Israeli authorities to encourage trade unions in the territories. “The trade unions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have demonstrated that they are authentic organizations determined to pursue the economic and social interests of the many workers they represent,” the report said.

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