A new report from Human Rights Watch reveals that Palestinian children as young as 11 years old are being used in child labor camps at Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
Hundreds of child labourers are working in farms and agricultural businesses in the strategically sensitive Jordan Valley for just £13 a day, according to a new report from Human Rights Watch, which documented cases of young people suffering work-related ill health and injuries.
The 74-page report, Ripe For Abuse: Palestinian Child Labour in Israeli Agricultural Settlements in the West Bank, says economic hardship is forcing some children to drop out of school to work in the farms to support their families.
It records instances of children working outdoors in 100F (38C) temperatures while enduring even hotter conditions inside greenhouses.
“Israel’s settlements are profiting from rights abuses against Palestinian children,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa director.
“Children from communities impoverished by Israel’s discrimination and settlement policies are dropping out of school and taking on dangerous work because they feel they have no alternatives, while Israel turns a blind eye.”
Some 38 children and 12 adults working on seven settlement farms were interviewed for the report, which states that children and young people are employed to pick, clean, and pack a range of crops including asparagus, tomatoes, aubergines, sweet peppers, onions, and dates.
Much of the produce is exported to EU countries and the United States, the report said.
All of those interviewed said they were recruited by Palestinian middlemen and described working days starting as early as 5.30am and lasting up to 12 hours during peak harvesting periods. They were often pressured by supervisors not to take breaks.
Among the ill-effects reported were vomiting, dizziness and skin rashes from spraying pesticides without adequate protection and pains from carrying pesticide containers on their backs.
“Many suffered cuts from using sharp blades to cut onions, sweet peppers, and other crops,” the report said.
“Heavy machinery also causes injuries. One child said he saw another child who was pinned under a tractor that rolled over. Another boy said he caught his finger in a date-sorting machine.”
The report was denounced as a “horrific lie” by David Elhayani, head of the Jordan Valley regional council, who said there were no children among the 6,000 Palestinians employed by the authority, which administers the area’s 21 settlements.
“There is no justification for employing children, not just morally and legally but financially as well,” he told Israel Radio.
Around 4,500 Jewish settlers and 60,000 Palestinians live in the Jordan Valley region, a 75-mile long strip of land abutting the River Jordan.
The area became a major stumbling block in peace talks which collapsed last year after Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, insisted that Israeli troops should remain there indefinitely after any agreement to guard against invasion – a positon rejected by Palestinian negotiators.