This article explores the experiences of Palestinian citizens in Israel’s construction industry in the twenty-five years following the Palestinian Nakba and the establishment of Israel. The article relies primarily on the narratives of thirteen Palestinian individuals who were construction workers, foremen, contractors, organizers, and activists, as well as their family members, interviewed by the author in October 2018. The article utilizes these narratives alongside archival and secondary sources to examine four primary issues: 1) the conditions and considerations that drove Palestinian citizens to effectively become migrant workers in the Israeli job market, specifically in the construction industry; 2) workers’ attempts and experiences of creating spaces of safety and intimacy away from home with their peers and, at times, with their employers; 3) the pressures workers felt to conceal themselves in Jewish spaces because of their racialized hyper-visibility, alongside their experiences of the social invisibility which made their exploitation possible; and 4) how workers and their communities made use of the knowledge, skills, and resources they gained in an industry into which many of them were driven through necessity, to rebuild and reimagine their own communities in the wake of catastrophe and to resist the state’s stranglehold on their development.
“We Built This Country”: Palestinian Citizens in Israel’s Construction Industry, 1948–73
gender and sexuality