“They demolish our houses while we build theirs.”
The Palestinians Who Built Israel
By Andrew Ross
Palestinian “stone men,” utilizing some of the best quality dolomitic limestone deposits in the world and drawing on generations of artisanal knowledge, have built almost every state in the Middle East except their own. Today the business of quarrying, cutting, fabrication, and dressing is Palestine’s largest employer and generator of revenue, supplying the construction industry in Israel, along with other Middle East countries and even more overseas.
Drawing on hundreds of interviews in Palestine and Israel, Andrew Ross’ engrossing, surprising, and gracefully written story of this fascinating, ancient trade shows how the stones of Palestine, and Palestinian labor, have been used to build out the state of Israel—in the process, constructing “facts on the ground”—even while the industry is central to Palestinians’ own efforts to erect bulwarks against the Occupation. For decades, the hands that built Israel’s houses, schools, offices, bridges, and even its separation barriers have been Palestinian. Looking at the Palestine-Israel conflict in a new light, this book asks how this record of achievement and labor can be recognized.
“Meet ‘Michelangelo of Beit Fajjar’ and the other Palestinian stone-masons whose superb craft has fashioned Israel’s famous ‘white cities.’ Their hidden labor is the starting point for Ross’ brilliantly original exploration of how dispossession and exploitation continue to define the relationship of Israeli and Palestinian societies. This is radical journalism at its best – and I mean Pulitzer-Prize-quality best.”—Mike Davis, co-author of No One Is Illegal
“Andrew Ross sheds a brilliant light on what he calls the ‘sweat equity’ of Palestinian laborers who were deprived by Israel’s system of occupation and apartheid of their land and livelihood and pushed as a result to build Israeli housing and infrastructure to survive and to resist ethnic cleansing. Ross enriches us not just with a meticulously-researched dose of history and a logical argument for a post-colonial reality of ethical co-existence in historic Palestine. He takes us on a perspicacious journey of human stories, ethical arguments and socioeconomic realities, consciously refraining from speaking on behalf of Palestinians or depicting us as pitiful victims, as many well-meaning white academics still do, and thus contributing to understanding what justice in this land truly means and entails.”—Omar Barghouti, author of Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions
“Poignant, poetic, and illuminating, this book exposes a chief paradox of Israeli settler colonialism: that skilled Palestinian laborers built modern Israel—its homes, offices, shopping malls, prisons, border walls—while their own homes were demolished or seized. This is history, sensitive and somber, written in stone.”—Robin D.G. Kelley, author of Hammer and Hoe
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