“There’s no work anywhere,” agrees Issa Muhammed Mahmoud, a young man who spends most days sitting here, chatting and drinking tea for lack of something else to do. “I used to be able to go into Israel to work on sites there, but now they don’t give permits for that, and they’re bringing laborers from China to do it.”
The fact that so many Palestinians work on building sites in the occupied West Bank is a sensitive matter, though most construction workers here will talk freely about it.
On the one hand, settlements are roundly considered by Palestinians to be an impediment to the establishment of a Palestinian state, and clearly stand in the way of Palestinian territorial contiguity in the West Bank. The 120 settlements that Israel has built in the West Bank since 1967 are considered illegal under international law, and Israel never annexed the territory.
But on the other hand, most Palestinians consider working in settlements to be a form of realpolitik applied to home economics. Palestinians who are skilled in masonry, construction, and other relevant trades have built the vast majority of homes in Israel’s controversial settlements to meet their daily needs.
“While the politicians dawdle away the months, we have families to feed,” says Fawzi Aqraba, a Palestinian from the Nablus area interviewed while finishing off a home in the Israeli settlement of Kiryat Netafim. “Everyone at home in my village knows what I do, and I don’t think anyone judges it. We have to survive.”