Human rights impact of business enterprises in the occupied Palestinian territory

Written by Aurelia Bejenari, Francisca Orrego Galarce, Leyang Fu and Maria Popova

This report is a Submission to United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967.

Education Under Threat: An EU-funded Palestinian school at risk of destruction. Photo by EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid on Flickr.

How do business enterprises affect critical aspects of life, including economic, social and cultural rights in the oPt, particularly that of Palestinians under occupation?

Business enterprises significantly impact socio-cultural rights in Palestine, namely, children’s access to education. Education in Palestine is mandatory between grades 1 and 10; hence, all children between 6 and 15 years old are supposed to be enrolled in school.1

The current unemployment rate in Palestine has a drastic impact on children’s rights to education. Parents’ job loss and the erosion of resilience capacities often result in child school dropout, especially among low-income households, affecting primarily male children and children with low academic performance. Child labour is often used as a mechanism to alleviate families’ poverty.2 In 2018, approximately 4840 children out of 372600 worked full-time in Gaza.3 Thus, the deteriorating socioeconomic situation in Palestine hurts children’s rights and access to education.

Also, businesses operating in Palestinian territory display low compliance with Corporate Social Responsibility, which refers to the moral conduct that a company must follow.4 Following Corporate Social Responsibility is essential, as businesses have a crucial impact on societal well-being, including children’s access to education. Lack of compliance can have negative consequences as companies attempt to increase their profits by violating international law (e.g., the use of child labour). Businesses have played an essential part in reinforcing Israel’s agenda of annexation, control and exploitation.5 This is visible, for example, in children’s participation in Israeli settlement farms.

Palestinian children often work in Israeli settlement farms in the occupied West Bank, constituting a significant abuse of their rights.6 Children as young as 11 years old drop out of school to work under precarious and often dangerous conditions, being exposed to pesticides, dangerous equipment, and extreme heat (40 degrees and even 50 degrees Celsius).7 Children also do not receive medical insurance, having to pay for their medical bills in case of an accident at work. These children work 8 hours daily, six or seven days a week.8 During harvesting season, children work up to 12 hours per day and are heavily pressured by their employers, who do not allow breaks. This constitutes a grave violation of international as well as Israeli and Palestinian law, which states 15 years as the minimum age of employment, and children receive less than the established Israeli minimum wage.9 Children work in the agricultural sector due to the lack of employment opportunities and the need to support their families financially.10 The dire financial situation of many Palestinian families is a consequence of Israel’s occupation, which restricts access to land, water, and other essential means for agriculture. Moreover, the lack of career opportunities in Palestine also affects children’s access to education. Children often drop out of school prematurely as they assume they will inevitably work for Israeli settlements despite their qualifications.11

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1 Di Maio, M. and Nistico, R. The effect of parental job loss on child school dropout: Evidence from the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Journal of Development Economics, 141, p.102375.

2 OCHA. “Child labour increasing in Gaza”, 2019.

3 Ibid.

4 Alhih, M., Tambi, A.M.B.A. and Abueid, A.I.S. Corporate Social Responsibility in Palestinian Public Schools. American Based Research Journal, 7(2018).

5 Farah, M. and Abdallah, M. “Security, business and human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory”. Business and Human Rights Journal, 4(2019), pp.7-31.

6 Human Rights Watch. “Ripe for Abuse: Palestinian Child Labor in Israeli Agricultural Settlements in the West Bank”, 2015.,dangerous%20equipment%2C%20and%20extreme%20heat

7 Ibid.

8 Ibid.

9 Ibid.

10 Ibid.

11 Ibid.