Bad pay, hard labor, nasty skin rashes, and poor sleep in constructions sites are just the tip of work conditions found in Israeli agricultural settlements, said Human Rights Watch (HRW) in a report released Monday. The 74-page “Israel: Settlement Agriculture Harms Palestinian Children” is a devastating look into underage Palestinian laborers farming for Israeli companies. Minors as young as 11 are interviewed about their work as farm hands in the Jordan Valley, a bread basket in the West Bank—rather a “date basket” as dates are the top export from the region, and Israel is the highest supplier of dates in the international market.
Children working on these farms are exposed to toxins that cause serious illness. “They handle pesticides that cause nausea, dizziness and skin rashes, and over the long-term, are associated with cancer, neurological problems, and infertility,” said the report. While no Israeli child would be given a backpack full of neurotoxins in order to spray a damp layer over produce, Palestinian children are. HRW noted Israel ruled back in 1992 these chemicals are illegal for minors to handle.
A 15-year old named Saleh who left school to work on an agricultural farm described the job:
My shoulders are numb from carrying the backpack that I spray the pesticides with – it’s a 15-liter tank. I spray for half an hour each time, then I refill the tank. I need to do this 15 times before I’m done, on the days I’m spraying. I don’t do it every day – the older guys spray every day.