Hebrew Labor without Hebrew Workers: The Histadrut, Palestinian Workers, and the Israeli Construction Industry
construction industry
construction and woodworkers union
zionist labor movement
hebrew labor
palestinian workers
migrant workers

The Histadrut was founded in 1920 to organize the so-called Zionist conquest of labor, which aimed to exclude Palestinian workers from the economy. While this ideology was central to the Yishuv, labor shortages and settler-colonial expansion following the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 led to the integration of Palestinian workers in the workforce. Focusing on the construction industry, this article explores the ways in which the Histadrut’s contemporary membership structure, collective agreements, and relationship to the Israeli state serve to further institutionalize a highly racialized and segregated sector. Palestinian and migrant construction workers toil in dangerous circumstances for low pay, without union protection, and under the supervision of unionized Jewish managers and engineers.

Author biography: 

Sai Englert is a lecturer in the political economy of the Middle East at Leiden University. His research interests include settler colonialism, Zionism, labor movements, and anti-Semitism. He is the author of Settler Colonialism: An Introduction (London: Pluto Press, 2022) and sits on the editorial boards of Notes from Below and Historical Materialism.