Palestinians - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Until the creation of Israel and the dispersal of the Palestinians, 60 percent of the population was engaged in agricultural activities and food processing. Village crafts included the rich and ancient tradition of embroidery. Mother-of-pearl and olive-wood artifacts were common in the cities. After 1948, Palestinians who became refugees subsisted on daily rations supplied by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). Skilled and educated refugees became professional and white-collar workers in the Persian Gulf oil countries.

Industrial Arts. Along with food processing and tourist-related arts and crafts, Palestinians were engaged in oil refining, a British-run industry, in Haifa. After 1948, Palestinians lost access to this industry and turned to phosphate mining in the Dead Sea area. There was also a thriving glass industry in Hebron.

Trade. Before 1948, Palestinians exported citrus fruits to Egypt and other parts of the Middle East. Fruits, vegetables, hand soap, and olive oil were the mainstay of trade with Arab markets after the West Bank was taken over by Jordan. Since 1967, this area has become a captive market for Israeli goods.

Division of Labor. Palestinian village women and Bedouin women always participated in agricultural work. In towns and cities, women have been increasingly integrated in gender-specific occupations such as teaching, nursing, and clerical positions. Palestinian women are also employed as teachers in the Persian Gulf area. Since 1967, many West Bank women have been proletarianized and work as migratory laborers within Israel proper, employed in food processing and the garment industry. Women have also become heads of households as a result of the imprisonment or exiling of Palestinian men.

Land Tenure. Until the British period, there were three types of landholding: public lands ( miri ), privately owned land ( mulk ), and state and private lands cultivated by peasants as communal lands ( musha ). The cultivation of land by the peasants of an entire village was abolished by the British in the 1940s in order to facilitate the purchase and sale of land held by individuals. Jewish efforts to buy land were facilitated by the existence of absentee landlords in the Galilee region, such as the Lebanese Sursuq family. After 1967, public lands previously considered the property of the Ottoman, British, and Jordanian governments were transferred to Israeli settlers.

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