Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Anthropology (PhD)

Degree Level





Ted Swedenburg

Committee Member

Kirstin Erickson

Second Committee Member

Ram Natarajan

Third Committee Member

Steve Striffler


Israel, Labor, Law, Palestine, Settlements


Since the late 1970s, Palestinians have worked in West Bank settlements, with approximately 30,000 to 40,000 Palestinians currently employed in construction, factories in industrial zones, and plantations. My analysis of Palestinian labor on the settlements begins with the historical, political, legal, and economic context of Palestinian labor in three jurisdictions: in Israel, on the settlements in the West Bank, and in PA-controlled Area A. Fundamental to the analysis is to go beyond the restrictions of nationalist discourse to recognize both intranational tensions and that labor exploitation occurs in all jurisdictions. My fieldwork and analysis were conducted over three years (2013-2016) in the West Bank and are based on interviews (with Palestinian workers, lawyers, PA officials, and union and labor advocates), Israeli government documents, Knesset meeting transcripts, attending Israeli labor court hearings, and working with Palestinians in Jordan Valley settlement plantations.

The Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority ignore labor rights demands of Palestinian workers and are not serious about upholding labor laws. As noncitizens under Israeli occupation, Palestinians have turned to Israeli labor courts and unionization efforts to demand their labor rights according to Israeli labor laws. Although both working on the settlements and turning to Israel to demand labor rights undermine the goal of an independent Palestinian state, for Palestinian workers in the West Bank, the primary concerns are pragmatic ones - the economic details associated with just getting by rather than with political or national ambitions.

With increasing calls for boycotts against the settlements, Palestinian labor has become a critical issue in the debate over whether the settlements are beneficial or detrimental for Palestinians. Settlement advocates argue that they are benevolent employers of Palestinians even though there is irrefutable evidence that the settlements and the Israeli occupation are fundamental barriers to the Palestinian economy and that, furthermore, the experience of the Palestinian workers is exploitative. Yet, increasing disillusionment with the Palestinian Authority, no prospects for an end to the occupation, and the growth of Israeli right-wing political parties that support settlements are key indicators that Palestinian labor on the settlements will continue and increase in the coming years.