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Israel this week is taking with it hundreds of foreign workers who will be evacuated from the Gaza Strip along with the few Jewish residents still remaining, while leaving behind thousands of Palestinian employees, several of whom told WorldNetDaily yesterday their lives are now in danger.
Israel’s Foreign Workers Enforcement Unit has decided hundreds of foreign agricultural workers who had been employed by residents of Gaza’s Gush Katif slate of Jewish communities will be absorbed this week into Israel, where they will continue working. The foreign workers are being evacuated on buses starting tomorrow along with dozens of Jewish residents remaining in Katif.
Yossi Edelstein, head of the Foreign Workers Enforcement Unit, said foreign workers who were employed in greenhouses in Gaza will be assigned new positions within Israel “as long as their stay here did not exceed the maximum of five years allotted by law.”
There are currently some 800 foreign workers in Gush Katif, about 150 are present illegally. Most workers tended to Katif’s famous greenhouses, which supplied Israel with nearly 70 percent of its produce and featured some of the most advanced agricultural technology in the world.
Many foreign workers are from Thailand and came on five-year programs in which they received advanced agricultural training and worked in Katif’s greenhouses in exchange for minimum wage, room and board.
Meanwhile, close to 2,000 Palestinians who also worked in Katif will not be permitted to continue working in Israel.
The Palestinians workers, who had traveled every day from Gaza City and Khan Yunis into Gush Katif and had become friendly with their Jewish employers, told WND their lives may now be in danger by area militants who had long considered them “collaborators.”
“When Israel finishes the pull out, I will not feel safe,” said Saed, a 42-year-old greenhouse worker who had commuted to Katif every day from Khan Yunis. “People know I worked in Gush Katif and they see I was friends with my employers. I’m not worried about the average Palestinian neighbor, but there are certain people I am worried about. I am seen to them as a Zionist collaborator.”
Mahmoud, another greenhouse worker, told WND, “I think I’m at risk. In Khan Yunis, some people don’t like it when you work for Jews. I would feel much better if I could live inside Israel and continue working for my same employers.”
Mahmoud said his employment in Gush Katif was tolerated until now.
“The workers and myself, we got in and out and we could work for Jews because we paid a price. When we came to the Palestinian side of the crossing to get into Khan Yunis, we had to give the security guards some of our money and produce. Sometimes 50 percent.”
Said Saed, “I’m going to lay low now because I don’t want any trouble.”
Most of the Palestinians who worked in Gush Katif served in greenhouses overseeing the planting, harvesting, watering and treatment of produce. Some Palestinians served as supervisors for other workers. The salary for an average Katif greenhouse worker was approximately $5 an hour. In the Palestinian territories, laborers would make about 40 cents an hour for the same amount of work.
Many of Katif’s Palestinian employees said they grew attached to their Jewish employers.
Fhaud, 63, a greenhouse supervisor, previously told WND, “I’ve known my boss since he was a kid and I worked for his father. Some workers here have known three generations of Jewish families. I was invited to all the bar mitzvahs and weddings.”
Anita Tucker, one of the pioneer farmers of Gush Katif, said, “Like usual, the Palestinians are losing out when Israel leaves. … We’ve all grown quite close. Before the intifada and all the closures, I used to go to their homes on the Palestinian side. We’ve shared a lot of family celebrations.”
The workers say they fear the general domestic consequences of Israel’s Gaza withdrawal.
“We know once Israel leaves, Hamas is in power. A lot of the Palestinians in Gaza are really upset about this because life won’t be good for us,” Mahmoud said.
With Hamas swiftly gaining ground in Gaza, recently winning local legislative elections, analysts have pointed to worrying signs the terror group will attempt to impose an Islamist regime on Palestinians in the area.
Hamas recently banned an open-air music and dance festival, saying it was against the tenets of Islam. Israeli sources say Hamas has established its own hard-line Islamic court system in Gaza that is being used in the place of the Palestinian Authority’s official judicial system.
There have also been reports of a Hamas Anti-Corruption Unit, described by intelligence sources as a kind of “morality police,” enforcing hard-line Islamic rules on local residents. The unit recently carried out a high-profile “honor killing” of a woman it suspected of committing adultery.
Said Mahmoud: “For me, it would be easier if Israel just stayed in Gaza.”