In 1948 three quarters of a million Palestinians disappeared from Israel. They ended up in various refugee camps across the Middle East. In 1967 Israel's victory reconnected the disappeared with the land they disappeared from - at least for the West Bank and Gaza. Soon there was no construction site in Israel which didn't have Palestinian workers. For Palestinians, the wages were far above what they could earn elsewhere. For Israelis, this new source of labour was incredibly cheap. A generation of Palestinians learned Hebrew. Over the years the number of Palestinian workers in Israel fluctuated according to the political situation, dropping from over 130,000 in the 1990s to around 18,000 at present. Now Israel's parliament

plans to banish these Arabs from Israel's construction sites. In the 1930s Zionists debated the merits of dignified Jewish labour vs working with the indigenous Arab population. In the 1950s Palestinians crossed borders into Israel to work on their former fields. After 1967 those borders were erased. Now with the separation barrier, also known as the apartheid wall, those borders exist again - if you have the wrong ID papers. While the older generation can get security clearance to work in Israel (for now), the younger generation are retreading forgotten paths that were once used during the 1950s by their fathers and grandfathers.

Israel / Palestine September 2008


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