Covid-19 and the Necroeconomy of Palestinian Labor in Israel

Sobhi Samour
Content Type
Journal Article
Journal of Palestine Studies
Issue Number
Publication Date
Summer 2020
Institute for Palestine Studies
The situation of West Bank Palestinians working in Israel has highlighted a number of parallels with the conditions of global labor employed in essential sectors during the Covid-19 pandemic. Under capitalism, the compulsion to work, ostensibly to cultivate life, comes at the risk of being exposed to death, but is preferred over immiseration caused by unemployment. The pandemic has merely amplified existing structural features of such employment. For Palestinian workers, with the risk of infection in Israel being significantly higher, the perilous conditions experienced by Palestinian labor have turned the preservation of life enabled by such employment more firmly into the production of death. The Palestinian Authority (PA), too, faces a conundrum: to balance the economic benefits it derives from Palestinian disposability in the Israeli labor market with public health considerations limiting such employment. This essay argues that the Covid-19 pandemic lays fully bare the necroeconomy produced by the intersection of settler colonialism and capitalism, which also forms the bedrock of the necropolitical order in the West Bank.
Labor Issues, Public Health, Pandemic, COVID-19
Political Geography
Middle East, Israel, Palestine