BARKAN, West Bank – An Israeli-run factory in the West Bank is asking its Jewish workers on military reserves not to come by in uniform so that the Palestinian workers do not feel occupied, according to an Israeli manager.
In the Barkan Industrial Park, one of the Israeli-managed commercial zones near Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, which Israel and its supporters have long defended as a model of coexistence, factory owners pay Israeli and Palestinian workers alike. They avoid visible security or weapons. And they organize company barbecues to try to tackle the tensions.
But those efforts suffered a blow last weekend when a 23-year-old Palestinian electrician, identified by the Israeli authorities as Ashraf Naalwa, walked to the second floor of the factory where he had worked. Armed with a submachine gun, he tied the hands of a secretary, Kim Levengrond Yehezkel, a 28-year-old mother of a baby, before he shot her fatally, the authorities said.
He then murdered the 35-year-old Ziv Hagbi, an accountant and father of three. He also shot and injured a 54-year-old employee, Sarah Vettori, before he fled.
The other factories in Barkan, deep in the central West Bank, were normal a few days later, if they were restless due to the fact that the suspect was big. But the attack underscored what many people have been trying to ignore for a long time: these islands of cooperation are vulnerable points of friction on the territory that the Palestinians claim for a future state and that is part of a Jewish settlement project. Most of the world considers a violation of international law.
"There is currently a lot of pressure on us from different angles," says Eran Bodankin, the logistics manager. "They say it's best to get back to work right away, avoid post-trauma and show the enemy troops that they have not defeated us." But he said the company was still focused on mourning and supporting the families of the dead.
"We will return when we feel that we are emotionally ready," he said, "and can provide our employees with the security needed to ensure that they come home safely."
In the room next door, a number of employees, including some Palestinian managers, met psychologists. During a break in the garden, an Israeli said he had worked with some of the Palestinians for years, but he did not believe they really regretted what had happened, despite what they said. Another said that the point was to go back to how things used to be.
Mrs. Vettori told reporters from her hospital bed how a Palestinian employee, Basel, was walking alongside her, consoling her, and piling up blood from her wound with a paper roll until help arrived.
"One murder and the other saves life," she said.
The roads outside the bubble of Barkan, where pairs of armed soldiers guard Israeli bus stops, are strained. On Thursday, a Palestinian stabbed a spare soldier and wounded near a headquarters of an army brigade. On Saturday, the Israeli police said they were investigating the death of a Palestinian woman who had been beaten in the head by a stone thrown by Jewish settlers while she was driving a car with her husband in the area, according to Palestinian reports.
But the Israeli controlled industrial and commercial zones of the West Bank are often held up by Israeli supporters as proof that military rule over the West Bank may benefit the Palestinians. Jewish settler leaders bring international groups to Barkan.
By condemning the attack, Jason D. Greenblatt, President Trump's special representative for international negotiations and the main negotiator in the Middle East, described Barkan as "a beacon for coexistence and a model for the future."
The industrial zones of the Westbank offer industrialists a cheaper rent than in central Israel, in addition to other incentives. And for the approximately 3300 Palestinians working in Barkan, the profession is clear. They are treated equally in the workplace and earn the same salaries and benefits as their Israeli counterparts under Israeli law.
The Israeli minimum wage – equivalent to about $ 1500 a month – is almost three times that which unskilled workers can earn in West Bank-controlled areas of the West Bank. Most Palestinians working at Barkan work more overtime and some become floor or shift managers.
One factory sends all its employees to annual group holidays: the Palestinian workers have recently been given the choice for Amman or Istanbul, while a Jewish group will soon go to Naples.
The Palestinian Authority disapproves Palestinians working in the settlements, but has not tried to stop them. It has banned the Palestinians from selling settlement products, although they consider the industrial zones as a symbol of normalizing the occupation and anchoring it.
"Someone seizes your country, steals your land, steals your water, steals your resources and then says:" I will make a good deal for you if you work for me. I will create jobs for you. We are not occupiers. We are employers & # 39 ;, #,; says Nabil Shaath, a senior Palestinian official. "This is ridiculous, colonial settlements are illegal in every sense of the word."
If the more than sixty percent of the West Bank remaining under full Israeli control is in Palestinian hands, with international support, Mr. Shaath said, "we could have created a paradise."
At the same time, he said, he can not tell his people not to work in the settlements and to deprive them of an income.
In 2010, Salam Fayyad, the premocrant of technocrats who gained the confidence of the West, helped throw products made in the settlements into a bonfire during a protest in the Palestinian city of Salfit, not far from Barkan.
Palestinians working in the Barkan factories said they were angry with the Alon Group attacker because of the spoiling of things. Most of the time they complained about much stricter security checks at the entrance to Barkan since the attack, so they can stand in line for more than an hour.
"He has ruined things, of course," said Basel Abu Hijleh, a Palestinian who worked at the Lipski factory for fourteen years, producing plastic, sanitary and sanitary products. "Now we have to be here around 5 o'clock."
Within the zone on a recent weekday, there were no soldiers or any visible security. Ofer Alter, the manager of Lipski, says that he & # 39; a family atmosphere & # 39; tries to create.
"The owner believes that peace comes from below," he said. "That if we work shoulder to shoulder, peace will come."
Many of the Palestinian workers greet him warmly while they sign up for the afternoon shift. In addition to sending its employees on annual holidays abroad, the company also offers loans.
"Here, inside, I feel that we have an ideal life," said Alter. "But who knows what can happen in an hour? As soon as they are out of the green gate, I have no control over anyone. & # 39;
Israeli and Palestinian colleagues rarely meet outside of work. Israel prohibits its citizens from entering cities controlled by the Palestinian Authority, expressing security concerns, and Palestinians generally require special permits to enter Israel. Mr. Alter once went to Salfit with a group to make a condolence request when the father of an employee died, and admits he was terrified.
Some companies such as the Barkan winery and SodaStream, which tried to protect their company abroad, have left the West Bank under pressure from an international boycott movement in support of Palestinian rights.
At Ofertex, a textile factory, Danny Mayerfeld, the vice president for sales to the United States, said that there were distributors who would no longer work with the company in Europe. "This is occupied territory for them," he said. "They do not take into account the income of the Palestinians."
Mayerfeld, born in New York, said that he owned a personal weapon but that he left it at home in accordance with company policy.
Udai Mustafa, 28, from Salfit, worked for 10 years at Ofertex. His father and a brother also work there. Mustafa has no preference for the Israeli settlements, but he has a family to take care of.
"I go home from work to work," he said. "I have a wife and three children, if you have work, you take it, wherever it is."