“You’re not loyal to Israel.”
These are some of the words that hundreds of Palestinian workers — Israeli citizens — heard from their employers after the historic day of May 18, with the general strike started by Arab civil society inside Israel, which soon spread to Jerusalem and the West Bank.
It was a historic initiative, as it was the first in 85 years: the last great general strike dates back to 1936 and marked the beginning of the Great Revolt against the violence of the Zionist paramilitaries and their support from the British Mandate at the time.
In 1936, the port of Jaffa was the first to go on strike, which became known as “the oranges strike.” The strike of three days ago was given the name of “the dignity strike.” But, just as director Kamal Aljafari said he feared in an article published on Wednesday in this newspaper, the retribution has arrived.
The firings were denounced by Palestinian organizations and law firms, which are now collecting complaints coming in from workers—numbering in the hundreds so far, although the final number is still unknown. In some cases, workers have been fired for social media posts supporting the strike.
The workers were often fired via WhatsApp, Mohammad Zeidan, former director of the Organization for Human Rights, told Middle East Eye on Wednesday: “Some Israeli employers just replied with ‘you’re fired’ messages, while others engaged in a political debate with Palestinian workers, telling them that they’re not loyal to Israel.”
The general strike has certainly had an impact, if we take into account that 50% of the workers in transport, construction and the pharmacy sector are Palestinian, as well as 23% of nurses and 21% of doctors. Construction sites, quarries and transportation ground to a halt, stores were closed, and doctors and teachers did not show up for work.
The centers of the Palestinian cities and the Arab neighborhoods of the mixed cities fell silent, while tens of thousands gathered in the squares for car processions, marches and rallies, waving flags and chanting slogans in support of Gaza and Sheikh Jarrah.
The same happened in the Occupied Territories, and everywhere there were a number of arrests. At least 58 Palestinian Israeli citizens have been arrested, a number that brings the total number of those detained to over 1,000. 200 of them have been charged with crimes, while 150 Israeli Jews have been arrested and none of them has been charged.