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The decades-old war on Palestinian workers

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Over the past month, the Lebanese authorities have unleashed a brutal crackdown on Palestinian workers. In June, Lebanese Minister of Labour Kamil Abu Sleiman decreed that Palestinian refugees in Lebanon must obtain work permits like other foreign workers.

This move added to the already precarious situation of many Palestinian workers who are not only barred from employment in 72 professions in Lebanon, but over the past few years have also been forced to compete with Syrian refugees, equally desperate to find jobs.

In response, Palestinian refugees protested en masse in Beirut and throughout the refugee camps, not only against what they rightly saw as an unfair decision, but also against Lebanon's decades-old official policies which have contributed to Palestinian economic and political alienation.

It is important to see these developments not only in the context of the current political climate in Lebanon, but also within the broader context of the Palestinian workers' historic struggle against colonialism, capitalist exploitation, and domestic feudalism. The battles Palestinian workers have fought across multiple frontlines - from Israel to the Occupied Territories, Lebanon and elsewhere - have always been at the heart of the Palestinian struggle for basic human rights.

In an essay - The 1936-39 Revolt in Palestine - published shortly before his assassination, Palestinian novelist Ghassan Kanafani argued that three enemies pose the "principal threat" to the Palestinian national movement: "the local, reactionary leadership; the regimes in the Arab states surrounding Palestine; and the imperialist-Zionist enemy".

Class conflict within Palestine, as well as within the larger Arab region, is rarely considered a pressing issue in the misleadingly termed "Arab-Israeli conflict". Little focus is placed on Palestinian working classes, whether in Palestine or the Middle East, even though this is required to develop a coherent analysis of the Palestinian struggle, one that is able to link its historical roots to its present manifestations. However, Kanafani, who was killed by Mossad in 1972, was aware of the importance of such dynamics, which remain in place until this day.

"The change from a semi-feudal society to a capitalist society was accompanied by an increased concentration of economic power in the hands of the Zionist machine and, consequently, within the Jewish society in Palestine," Kanafani wrote.

That accumulation and the parallel oppression of Palestinian workers started in the early 20th century. In the 1920s, Jewish settlers created the Histadrut, branded as a........

© Al Jazeera