Stone Men – the Palestinians who built Israel

Reviewed by Ben Ehrenreich, The Guardian,  (Verso, 2019, £16.99)

A secret no one likes to talk about: how the West Bank settlements are built by Palestinians forced off the land

“Not far from the monstrous checkpoint at Qalandia – the main gateway through which the Israeli military controls the passage of human beings between Ramallah and Jerusalem – is a small, outdoor, stonecutters’ workshop, one of hundreds scattered throughout the West Bank. Whatever may be happening at the checkpoint, at least one worker can usually be seen standing in the stone-cutters’ yard, his face, hair and clothes caked with the same white dust that covers the high concrete wall and the watchtower, where it mixes with the black smoke and char from burning tyres and the molotov cocktails that local youths, on particularly bad days, hurl at the checkpoint and barrier that confine them.”

“Stone Men can be dry, lithic even, but it consistently provides insights into the troubled and troubling relationships between Israelis and Palestinians that are hard to come by elsewhere. Above all, it is a history of labour. Palestine sits on reserves of high-quality limestone valued at $20bn, and the business of quarrying, cutting and dressing it provides more private sector jobs than any other industry in the West Bank. Given that Palestinians and Israelis alike attribute mythic import to the land, focusing on the stone that is quarried from it – and the power relations at stake in turning it into homes on both sides of the Green Line – allows Ross to demystify the conflict while exposing the profoundly unequal ground on which Israel has been built. It’s a secret no one likes to talk about that most of that country, the West Bank settlements and even the security barrier itself, have been built by Palestinians, and with materials pulled from the very bones of the land they have lost.” (more…)

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