Toward a History of Dangerous Work and Racialized Inequalities in Twentieth-Century Palestine/Israel
race and racism
the body

In recent years, a high number of fatal work accidents in the construction industry in Palestine/Israel has led several Israeli civil society organizations to begin documenting and publicizing the details of work accidents and identities of the victims. This novel documentation work has laid bare the unequal racialized distribution of dangerous work and bodily harm in the land. Palestinian construction workers from across the Green Line consistently constitute the overwhelming majority of victims of construction accidents, followed by migrant workers. Considering the long history of racial divisions of labor in Israel/Palestine over the last century, and building on the insights of scholarship on disability and political economy, this essay argues for the historical study of dangerous work as a crucial field of inquiry for scholars seeking to understand inequality, exploitation, the production of difference, settler colonialism, and communities’ experiences of these phenomena and processes in Palestine/Israel since the early twentieth century.

Author biography: 
Nimrod Ben Zeev is a fellow at the Polonsky Academy for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute and a postdoctoral fellow in the department of history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His research examines the twentieth-century history of Palestine/Israel through the lenses of labor, race, political economy, material culture, and the body. Ben Zeev is also coeditor of the Hebrew-language Social History Workshop blog, which aims to make cutting edge scholarship on the Middle East and beyond that is accessible to a non-academic audience.