New Labor Forum Highlights: November 20th, 2018

The New Labor Forum has a bi-weekly newsletter on current topics in labor, curated by the some of the most insightful scholars and activists in the labor world today. Check out some highlights from the latest edition below.

With this installment of New Labor Forum Highlights, we offer two important articles from the current issue of the journal, as well as two poems you won’t want to miss.

We’ve all heard Donald Trump denounce the “deep state”, yet seen him people his administration with generals, CIA mandarins, and hedge fund operators. An article here by Jacob Silverman probes the origins of the “deep state” in the National Security Act of 1947, chronicles its imperial mission abroad, and maps the division of labor between its foreign and domestic policy apparatchiks. Silverman’s tracking of these mainly unelected centers of power should put to rest the tendency to see in these deep state institutions, long thebete noire of the left, a guarantor of civil liberties.

And first among countries able to count on the support of the “deep state” is, of course, Israel, despite that nation’s sustained human rights violations against the people who once inhabited the land it controls. An article by Andrew Ross tallies the immense labor contribution of Palestinians, particularly through their ongoing construction work to erect and expand the superstructure of Israel. Given not only the role of Palestinian labor in building the Israeli state, but also the fact that it’s been a compulsory and hyper-exploited labor force, Ross finds a strong case for labor-based reparations to Palestinians. Ross proposes that Palestinian labor contributions ought to provide a rationale for full citizenship rights, and perhaps other claims as well, should a multi-cultural integrated Israeli state ultimately emerge.

And we conclude with the work of Palestinian poet, Mahmoud Darwish (1942-2008), and of American Jewish poet, Elana Bell. Darwish’s Identity Card became a protest anthem in the 1960s, triggering the Israeli government to place him under house arrest.  And Elana Bell, granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, comes to grips with a land that is both a Zionist dream and an occupied state. Her poem, “There are things this poem would rather not say” bears witness to the labor debt Israelis owe the Palestinian people. 

Who Built Zion? Palestinian Labor and the Case for Political Rights
By Andrew Ross/ New Labor Forum

Who built Israel? The pioneers, of course. Men and women unaccustomed to skilled manual labor, who staffed the cement mixers, with shovels in hand or bricks balanced awkwardly on their shoulders, and who made “New Jews” of themselves through their nation-making toil. At least this was the dogma of much-lionized Labor Zionists (Ber Borochov, A. D. Gordon, Yosef Brenner, David Ben-Gurion, Golda Meir, and Berl Katznelson) who promoted this hard graft as a rite of passage and a requirement for redeeming another people’s land as their own…

Read the full article here.

Identity Card
By Mahmoud Darwish

Write down!
I am an Arab
And my identity card number is fifty thousand
I have eight children
And the ninth will come after a summer
Will you be angry?

Write down!
I am an Arab
Employed with fellow workers at a quarry
I have eight children
I get them bread
Garments and books
from the rocks..
I do not supplicate charity at your doors
Nor do I belittle myself at the footsteps of your chamber
So will you be angry?…

Read the full poem here.

There are things this poem would rather not say
By Elana Bell/ New Labor ForumWe ate labneh and bread in your tents

When we had no water

we drew it from your well

Your camels carried the sand to build our houses

you built them–your hands–

Fig-tree     prickly-pear     human-flood

You were the wasteland we made bloom.

Read other poems by Elana Bell here.

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Photo by Daniel Edwins via flickr (CC-BY-SA)

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