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Settlement factory’s Palestinian workers print Israel’s election ballots

They can’t vote, but Palphot employees play key election role; factory owner says staff unmoved by political undertones; worker says doesn’t have luxury to pick and choose jobs

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent based in New York

Palestinian workers at the Palphot printing press factory in the northern West Bank settlement of Karnei Shomron organize ballots in preparation for Israel's upcoming election, March 9, 2021. (Flash90)
Palestinian workers at the Palphot printing press factory in the northern West Bank settlement of Karnei Shomron organize ballots in preparation for Israel's upcoming election, March 9, 2021. (Flash90)

While they cannot vote in the Knesset election, dozens of Palestinian workers at a West Bank settlement factory are responsible for printing the over 500 million party slips Israelis will use to cast their ballots on Tuesday.

Nearly two-thirds of Palphot’s printing factory workers in Karnei Shomron are Palestinian and many of them were photographed organizing stacks of ballot slips earlier this month. This is the fifth consecutive election in which Palphot has been given the critical role.

The factory’s owner, Moshe Huja, told The Times of Israel that he doesn’t see the irony in employing Palestinians to contribute to the logistics of Israel’s election. Rather, he views the arrangement with pride.

“Politics doesn’t speak to these people,” Huja said. “They’re here to make a living… It’s very encouraging to see.”

Sheets of newly printed ballots seen at the Palphot printing house in Karnei Shomron, in preparation for Israel’s upcoming general elections, March 9, 2021. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

One worker, who asked to remain anonymous, concurred with his boss regarding the lack of interest in the content of what he was printing, but wasn’t as upbeat about working in a settlement. “This is the reality,” he said. “We need jobs and we’re fortunate to be able to find some here.”

Huja said that with more polling stations required for this round of voting due to the thousands of quarantined voters, he was able to employ additional Palestinian workers for last week’s printing operation.

A worker at the Palphot printing press factory in the northern West Bank settlement of Karnei Shomron organize ballots in preparation for Israel’s upcoming election, March 9, 2021. (Flash90)

He noted that there was particular interest in employment as it came with the opportunity to get vaccinated. Over 100,000 Palestinian workers in Israel and the settlements have received the first dose of the inoculation as part of a joint effort led by the Health Ministry and the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT).

Some Palestinians lament their inability to participate in an Israeli election process that ultimately has considerable influence over their lives. However, the Palestinians are set to hold national legislative elections on May 22 and a presidential vote on July 31.

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