Men in the Sun: The Land Won't Rest Until the Colonizer is Gone

We shall reduce the Arab population to a community of woodcutters and waiters

- Uri Lubrani, PM Ben-Gurion's special adviser on Arab Affairs, 1960. From “The Arabs in Israel” by Sabri Jiryas.

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September 25th marks the end of the Jewish year. This year in particular is a shmita year (a Sabbath year), which occur in seven-year cycles. A shmita year is a "Sabbath of the Land" during which Jewish law forbids any agricultural activity or consumption of produce from "Jewish-owned lands".

This year, the zionist entity gave $30 million to settler farmers to help them bear through the shmita. The last two shmita years were 2007-2008 and 2014-2015, which coincidentally coincided with zionist assaults on Gaza. Through the lens of settler colonialism, the phenomenon of the shmita year exemplifies the principal contradiction of the zionist settler colony and the intersection of capitalism, colonialism, zionism, and labor.

On its face, the goal of the shmita year is to leave the land—stolen land in this case—untended. However, this principle of Jewish law calling for potentially productive land to be left idle is anathema to the fundamental logic of imperialist capitalism which insists that exploitation of land and resources must ceaselessly expand. How is this contradiction manifested by the settlers of the temporary zionist entity on occupied Palestinian land?

First, we must present the principal contradiction of all settler colonies: a need for a labor force by the settlers who refuse to do the labor while the colony simultaneously seeks to exterminate the native population. Interestingly, when zooming out to observe how the native Palestinian work force is treated during these shmita years, a pattern emerges: they are typically accompanied by a significant increase in work permits issues to Palestinians working in the occupied lands.

This increase is often framed as a "good" thing by the colonizer, but it should not escape notice that an insidious and illegal (illegal under an illegitimate legal system, of course) business is built out of this exploitation: in many cases, Palestinians are forced to pay for these work permits to a middleman, often as high as 25-50% of their monthly salaries ($1000/month). That Palestinians have to pay as much as they pay for rent for the mere ability to work for the colonizer is exemplary of the exploitation of the settler state writ large.

Shmita

The principal contradiction and a strategic vulnerability of settler colonies is that they simultaneously seek to “eliminate of the native” in order to promote the desired “demographic character” (in this case a majority-Jewish one) while populating their colonies with settlers who, on the whole, are not willing to do the requisite work to sustain the settler project.

Labor in the zionist entity:

Before the contract between the capitalist and the wage-laborer (whether he is a miner or a university professor), the former says to the latter: “If you want to live, you must give me extra work. Extra work for which I do not pay you, and this will be the recompense you will pay me in return for making you survive by what I pay you from this wage.”

This formula does not appear in any employment contract; But all work contracts are based on this formula!

Copied from the writings of Professor Mohamed Adel

قبل التَّعاقد بين الرَّأسماليّ والعامل المأجور (سواء أكان عامل المنجم أم أستاذ الجامعة)، يقول الأول للأخير:"إذا أردت أن تعيش، عليك أن تقدم لي عملًا زائدًا. نعم سأعطيك ما يسدّ رَمَقك، لكني لست مُجبرًا على ذلك إلا إذا قدَّمتَ لي أنت بالمقابل عَملًا زائدًا لا أدفع لك نظيره أجرًا، ويكون هذا هو المقابل الَّذي تؤديه لي نظير أني أجعلك باقيًا على قيد الحياة بما أدفعه لك أنا من هذا الأجر".

هذه الصيغة لا تظهر في أي عقد عمل؛ ولكن جميع عقود العمل تؤسس على هذه الصيغة! منقول من كتابات الأستاذ محمد عادل

The zionist entity issues work permits to Palestinian workers who seek to make a living by working in the occupied lands. These Palestinian workers are often forced into this position by virtue of the stifling of organic Palestinian economic activities by the zionist entity and its imperial partners who have an interest in seeing such activities subdued.

The colonizer uses work permits as a bargaining chip, increasing their number (sometimes drastically, as in a shmita year), when labor (and coincident exploitation) is required and revoking them when Palestinians engage in what the colonizer deems "bad behavior", i.e. completely justified and righteous anti-colonial resistance against the occupier. As zionists expand work permits in an effort to fill the labor gap created by the shmita year, labor violations, child labor, and exploitation under terrible conditions increase in tandem.

The number of work permits granted by the zionist entity increases and decrease depending on the intensity of resistance operations and the political climate. Are elections coming up? Is there another settlement or western-funded project that needs to be built? Does agricultural land need tending to? These are the factors that the zionist entity considers when determining how many work permits to issue.

Palestinians wake up as early as 3AM in order to cross colonial checkpoints so that they can get to work and be paid measly salaries, which in many cases are handed over directly to the settler middleman that forces them to pay for the work permits. Since Oslo and since the suffocating blockade on Gaza, the Palestinian economy has been strangled, forcing Palestinians to turn to the colonizer for work due to increased poverty. Due to these conditions, the life expectancy for Palestinians is 10 years lower than that of the average settler.

Infant deaths are at a rate that is five times higher than for children of settlers, and pregnancy deaths are four times higher for Palestinian mothers. Palestinian laborers who demand more just and dignified working conditions often go on strike for equal pay and benefits that they never receive. Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority makes no effort to ensure that Palestinian workers get the benefits they are promised by the zionist entity. The grim reality is that Palestinians are reliant on such permits to make a living.

In the context of the zionist entity's intentional destruction of organic Palestinian economies, Palestinians face the choice between working for the occupier and in doing so helping prop up the settler state, or demanding dignified working conditions and in doing so risk their basic livelihoods. There is no economic justice for Palestinian workers toiling under the zionist regime.

In 2019, work permits for Gaza specifically increased from 3,000 to 5,000, and since then an additional 20,000 have been issued specifically during the Shmita year, which the zionist entity presents as a positive thing for Palestinian workers of whom it employs nearly 100,000 to work in the occupied lands (because of its own labor shortage).

After President Joe Biden's July 2022 visit to occupied lands to meet with the colonial government and comprador PA, the resistance fired rockets towards the occupied lands; the zionist entity revoked 1,500 Gaza work permits as collective punishment towards the Palestinian people. Settlers are unwilling to do the work to maintain the settler colony, but on the other hand, their dependence on the labor of the native Palestinian that it seeks to eliminate is the crux of this contradiction.

The zionist entity sees a need to punish Palestinians by taking away their livelihoods to prevent resistance. These multi-fold oscillations in the issuing of work permits by the zionist entity reveals the entity's discomfort; they increase when the zionist entity requires labor, and they decrase when Palestinians rightfully resist. All the while, the zionist entity sustains itself with, and is dependent on, Palestinian labor. This contradiction gives rise to yet another strategic vulnerability of the fragile zionist entity that organized Palestinian workers can exploit to their advantage in their indefatigable progression towards liberation.

The exploitation of Palestinian labor is an integral part of the zionist supremacist settler project. Zionist trade unions play a role in this colonization; the Histadrut zionist trade union deducts salaries of Palestinian workers for benefits that are never granted to them. Female workers are subjected to long hours, reduced pay, and harassment at checkpoints while receiving none of the benefits of the labor laws of the zionist entity. Meanwhile, the Palestinian Generation Federation of Trade Unions, which works with Histadrut and is aligned with the comprador Palestinian Authority, unfortunately does not currently do much to ensure dignified conditions for Palestinian workers.

Hundreds of Palestinian children currently work on zionist settlement farms in the West Bank and Jordan Valley without contracts. The number of child laborers increases in the shmita year. These children, as young as 10, earn just $19 a day on average for sometimes 12 hours a day without breaks in high temperatures (sometimes fainting), leaving school to work in dangerous environments for the colonizer that refuses to do so.

$19 a day for a 12-hour day is four times less than the zionist entity's minimum wage. These children are exposed to toxic hazards on such farms that make them ill and have been injured by the heavy machinery. It doesn't have to be said that none of these children receive any insurance, benefits, or paid time off. Many work on settlements literally built on top of the villages that from which they were ethnically cleansed. They are forced into this labor because of dire economic conditions created by the zionist occupation: for some children, with or without school, their fate is to work in the settlements of the colonizer.

Major disparities arise in schooling owing to a 9:1 difference in funding for settler schools compared to Palestinian ones; this means that Palestinian children in schools in which the colonizers curriculum is enforced are made to learn a curriculum that erases their history and whitewashes the history of the colonizer. For months at a time, these laboring children live in warehouses on these settlements, just so that they can save money and time instead of travelling from their impoverished homes. Such are the conditions that the exploitative settler colonial entity creates.

40 years ago in 1982, Nadir Nezleh noted that Palestinian agriculture was "caught between the jaws of expropriation and the capitalist market" in an analysis of a lost cucumber harvest in 1980. He noted that zionist mechanisms were at work to diminish the historical role of Palestinian farmers in their own economy. Prices were slashed in half and the capitalist interests of zionist companies won out, interests that depend on a good relationship with the colonizer.

Another fundamental reason for the scarce crop that year was the difficulty of obtaining water for irrigation; this is a process that in 1980 required going through a zionist irrigation and water company that exhibited preferential treatment to settlers. Deprived of land and bread, the settler project aimed, and still aims, to uphold Jewish agriculture while undercutting Palestinian work, an extension of the aims of zionist settler colonialism which depends on mechanisms of capitalism and imperialism.

40 years and the situation has not changed. Palestinians are still deprived of the right to cultivate their own lands, to cultivate their own economic environment to support their children such that they do not have to work on settlement farms and can receive an education.  

Prisoners and Resistance

Stories of resistance and imprisonment of workers exemplify the contradiction of the settler state: the zionist entity murders the workers that it relies on to keep its fragile self running.

The zionist entity abducts and imprisons scores of Palestinian workers, depriving mostly men of providing for their families. 40% of Palestinian men have been held captive in the colonial prisons since 1967.

As such, Palestinian women must assume a greater responsibility, raising the next generation of resistance and becoming the bedrock of the community in the absence of imprisoned men. Countless stories of captive, exploited Palestinian workers dot the history of resistance; earlier this month, Musa Abu Mahamid of Bethlehem rose as a martyr at age 40 as a consequence of medical negligence by the colonial prison authority.

Musa was initially arrested on baseless charges: the occupation had an issue with him seeking work in his own land, AlQuds, the eternal capital of Palestine, without a work permit. His health deteriorated significantly in the colonial prisons, and he was transferred to the Asaf Harofeh hospital where he ascended as a martyr due to slow and deliberate assassination by the zionist prison system. The Prisoner Club noted that the targeting of Palestinian workers has escalated since the beginning of this year, not only through arrests, but also through shooting at them.

Despite the stolen benefits, the increased pay that comes with working in the occupied lands pushes Palestinians away from Palestinian agricultural land towards working in settlement factories and settler-owned construction and agricultural sites. For example, we can take the case of the martyr Ashraf Naawla, who was hunted by occupation forces for 65 days in the Fall of 2018 after he led an anti-colonial resistance operation in the settlement that he was working in at Barkan Industrial Park.

The colonial forces still hold Ashraf's body to this day. We may also look to the story of the martyr Abdullah Abu Sorour, exemplary of the crimes that the occupation army continues to commit against Palestinian workers. Inside the occupied lands, our martyred workers were betrayed by the occupation bullets once again: Abdullah Abu Sorour, was executed by the occupation forces after they claimed that he refused to show his identity and work permit. He was 40 years old and from AlKhalil.

Abdullah had worked in Jordan in the auto spare parts trade, and four years ago he moved to work as an electrician in the occupied interior. On April 12, 2022, he was working in occupied Asqalan when the occupation police broke into his home and asked him for his identity and papers. A policeman left, and then came back and shot Abdullah. The occupation, too, still holds Abdullah's martyred body.

In 1990, a Canadian settler named Ami Popper, in an act of wanton violence, murdered in cold blood seven Palestinian workers who were toiling for the colonizer. He deliberately targeted the workers, who were from the Gaza Strip and were waiting at a bus stop in the early hours of the morning, ready to head to their jobs in the occupied interior.

11 more Palestinians were wounded by the actions of this settler, and as for Popper, his sentence was commuted to 40 years while Meir Kahane and zionist extremists celebrated his genocidal act. Meanwhile, Popper's family still receives money from zionist NGOs and donations from zionists in the United States.

On the one hand, the zionist entity needs Palestinian workers to do the labor its settlers will not do—a need that becomes particularly acute in the shmita years. On the other hand, the zionist entity needs to murder and cage Palestinian workers who resist it in order to exact heavy enough consequences to discourage Palestinian workers' materially-rooted and historically-demonstrated ability to force the gears of the zionist economy to grind to a halt of the zionist economy grinding to a halt through acts of resistance. This contradiction constitutes a vulnerability of the zionist entity.

The Role of the Comprador

Yes, I support exclusion. Whoever gives up 78% of Palestine must be excluded. Whoever has relations with the enemy must be excluded. Whoever professes an apologetic philosophy about the struggles of our people and demeans them must be excluded.

- Martyr Basil AlAraj

On the skulls & bones of our martyrs, we build the bridge of freedom. I swear by the oranges of Yaffa and the memories of the refugees, we will hold the sellers of our land and the buyers accountable. Shame on my hand if I shake the hand that swept the necks of my people.

- Al Hakim, Dr. George Habash

Palestinian farmers have their generational farmland expropriated by the normalizing Palestinian Authority in order to turn the land into so-called industrial zones. This leads to increased dependence by the Palestinian farmers on the colonial entity and towards USAID-funded agricultural projects. What this serves to do is diminish the revolutionary potential of the Palestinian economy and expand the zionist entity's dominance over lands that it has not yet "officially" claimed.

As a result of this policy, Palestinian dependence on the colonizer increases, and small scale (fellah) farming operations are disrupted, interrupting a legacy that has sustained the Palestinian population for generations. The neoliberal policies of the comprador, policies which ostensibly boost production, serve only in this case to normalize the economic influence of the zionist entity on Palestinian land. Palestinian farmers are dispossessed not only by the zionist entity, but also by the government that claims to represent them, in order for these industrial zones to be built.

In many cases, it is the dispossessed farmers themselves that build such zones, and it is the farmers themselves that labor in the sweatshops inside these zones. Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority makes deals with the usurping entity to forgo Palestinian agricultural projects in favor of cheaper, imported israeli products under the protection of the occupying army, as was the case with watermelons in 2014. And, the PA slashes the salaries and denies employment to thousands of struggling Gazans, further entrenching the divide between the comprador and the strugglers of Gaza.

Because of the religious prohibition of produce consumption from "Jewish-owned land" during the shmita year, Jordan signed a deal with the zionist entity at the beginning of the most recent Shmita year to increase agricultural imports, a deal which is part of a pattern of wider normalization of the zionist regime with Arab regimes.

In a September 2022 poll, 90% of Palestinians do not believe that the Palestinian Authority will fulfill its duty to ensure people get their salary in Palestinian banks for laborers who work in the occupied interior, highlighting the dissatisfaction and distrust that Palestinians have with the Authority that quite literally sold their land.

[T]he Palestinian revolutionary movement suffered a severe setback at the hands of three separate enemies that were to constitute together the principal threat to the nationalist movement in Palestine in all subsequent stages of its struggle: the local reactionary leadership [the comprador Palestinian Authority]; the regimes in the Arab states surrounding Palestine [Jordan, Egypt, and the like]; and the imperialist-Zionist enemy.

- Ghassan Kanafani, The 1936-39 Revolt in Palestine

Contradiction and Strategic Vulnerability

The zionist entity, like settler projects before it, is fundamentally committed to the logic of the “elimination of the native” in order to promote the desired “demographic character”—more settlers and less/no natives—of the settler state that they seek to build.

Simultaneously, settler colonies populate themselves with settlers who, on the whole, are not always willing to do hard work to sustain the settler projects economically. This is a feature of the zionist entity, as it was a feature of the racist white republics before it such as the Orange Free State, Transvaal, Rhodesia, and apartheid South Africa.

The British empire and subsequent settler states in Southern Africa faced a contradiction in that the white settlers that they needed to bring in often did not want to work; for those white settlers, moving from Europe to Southern Africa was a risk to be rewarded by a more prosperous life free of hard labor, and settlers did not want to toil in the mines. They expected the natives to do this work. These settler colonies in Southern Africa were however, conscious that people who labor the land can in many cases exert decisive power on how or if the broader settler economy can function at all, just as Palestinian workers yield legitimate power in numbers in the zionist settler project.

In these historical examples, white settler leaders had a deep fear that if Black natives were the ones laboring the land and in the gold or diamond mines (and, importantly, having the ability to shut them down with organized coordination), they would lose their control of the settler project. However, white settler leaders also knew full well that in order to attract sufficient white settlement of the land, a necessity for the settler projects, they had no choice but to utilize Black labor in this way because of the settlers' reluctance to work in Southern Africa's mines and other industries.

In historic and modern Palestine, the zionist settler project presents the ideal of "Jewish labor"; that is, the ideal of Jewish settlers doing the hard work on the land themselves “to make the desert bloom." This ideal of Jewish labor was a central discursive underpinning of early zionist discourse which came from an awareness zionist leaders had that the people who labor the land can exert decisive control over the economy, and those who sit idle on it do not.

Thus, the contradiction in regard to the zionist project presents itself: the zionist entity needs to use some Palestinian labor because there aren't enough settlers willing to consistently work the land hard. That zionist settlers want to be able to follow their practices of not working during shmita year is emblematic of this contradiction.

However, when the zionist project depends on Palestinians to fill these gaps, it becomes dependent upon the very (indigenous) people it considers a fundamental threat to the zionist entity's existence and the settler project’s mandate of eliminating the native. Hence, we see the muscles of imperialism flexing in the region by way of the zionist entity trying now more than before to bring in migrant laborers that are not Palestinian, particular from north African and south/southeast Asian countries to do the labor previously relegated to the indigenous Palestinian population in an attempt to reduce their reliance on Palestinian labor to fill these gaps that the shmita year creates and to mitigate the tensions of the aforementioned principal contradiction.

The Strategic Vulnerability of the Zionist Entity Engendered by this Major Contradiction

One does not have to be a visionary to predict that the effort required of the settler colony to suppress the Palestinians will eventually weaken the structures of the zionist entity, and lead to their transformation. 

- Rosemary Sayigh, Palestinians from Peasants to Revolutionaries 1979

These vulnerabilities are a direct result of the determination of the Palestinian masses to carry on their struggle until liberation and return. It is precisely their sumud (steadfastness) that has forced these vulnerabilities onto the usurping zionist entity, the significance of which goes beyond any "diplomatic victory" and any concessions made by the settler colony.

Thus, we can note that what was true for the French in Algeria, the unionists in Northern Ireland and the settlers in South Africa, is proving to be just at true for the zionist settlers in Palestine. That is, the perpetuity of the historical contradictions of settler colonial society eventually lead to a continuously less flexible entity, both for the colonizer and even more so on the colonized on whom those contradictions are played out.

This vulnerability can be exploited as a tool to liberate land, and as a strategy that makes it impossible for the zionist entity to function in its intended colonial ways. As in the racist white republics, the zionist entity is very conscious of this contradiction and the ways in which it weakens the settler project.

How does it plan to navigate this contradiction? As we have seen, the issuance of work permits for Palestinians by the entity depends on the whims of the colonizer: collective punishment is enacted in the form of stripping away the livelihoods of Palestinians after they engage in rightful resistance to their oppressor. Yet, the zionist entity is dependent on the labor of Palestinians.

The zionist entity is in a bind: once they have exhausted options to resolve this contradiction, such as removing work permits and bringing an underclass of migrants from Asia and Africa to alleviate the dependence on Palestinian workers that it seeks to exterminate, then what is left? Thus, we witness the settler society hardening its defensive psyche and institutional structures. The more it appropriates under the guise of security and development, the more evident its militarization becomes, and the more it takes from the rights of the colonized. These are all signs of the settler colony's growing weakness, imposed by the strengthening of Palestinian unity and resistance in the face of the zionist usurper.

For the settler project to maintain its so-called "thriving economy", work must be done, and if it can't get around this contradiction through Palestinian or migrant labor, then the zionist entity will be forced to use newly incoming settlers to do this work. Settlers come to occupied Palestine expecting a supremacist state where they are not required to do hard labor, but as these contradictions sharpen, the zionist entity will be forced to restructure its economy and forced to exploit the very Jewish people that they hope to maintain in the colony as settlers.

If the zionist entity can't resolve these issues by using migrant labor or attenuating the number of work permits for Palestinians, it has to compromise the supremacist "experience" of living in "israel" (the so-called "zionist dream") by forcing settlers to work. The zionist settler project seeks to bring new settlers onto the land and also to keep existing settlers from leaving, and it is required to deliver a certain type of experience to prevent that from happening. Hard labor will not deliver that. So, it will be forced to resort to exploiting the very people that they try to sell this "zionist dream" to, i.e., Jewish supremacist settlers, forcing them to undermine the "zionist dream" that hasbara sells to recruit settlers onto the stolen land so that they can maintain the settler project.

Because of this contradiction, the zionist entity cannot exploit Palestinian labor and cannot get around its need to exploit Palestinian labor (by bringing in migrant labor). The colonizer is pigeonholed to make the people it depends on as settlers, settlers that uphold the settler state, do the hard work, raising the question of whether they will want to maintain their status as settlers at this point.

As we have seen in the intifadas and innumerable labor strikes of Palestinian workers, Palestinians have the capacity to shut down the entire zionist enterprise, forcing settlers to leave and zionist businesses to shut down due to coordinated (or spontaneous) organization. After the anti-colonial resistance of the second intifada, the number of incoming settlers plummeted and the zionist settler economy took a massive hit. Wealth inequality between settlers skyrocketed and tourism took a nosedive.

These displays of power by organized working Palestinians show that the power lies in their hands. The zionist entity must contend with the question: is it going to force the people it tries to sell the "zionist dream" to do the labor, and if it does that, will those new settlers leave? And when the zionist entity starts to lose its settlers, will it retract? Will it get weaker? The answer is certainly yes, and the zionist entity is building its own demise.

Summary

In summary, the zionist project requires people to do the labor its settlers are not willing to do. The zionist entity to exploits Palestinian laborers to fill these gaps. To obtain access to this Palestinian labor, the zionist entity (with support from the Palestinian Authority) disrupts Palestinians' material relations with land, to create sufficient precarity to incentivize Palestinians to labor for the zionist entity under horrific conditions. However, the zionist entity's constant martyring, imprisonment, immiseration, and hyper-exploitation of Palestinians inevitably incentivizes Palestinians to rise up en masse and disrupt the zionist economy. Thus, the zionist entity's dependence on Palestinian labor, in Shmita years in particular, constitutes a strategic vulnerability for the sustainability of the zionist project.