The John Deere
Eid’s construction of the John Deere tractor embodies the falsehoods, complexities, and oppressive interdependencies between Israeli economic growth and Palestinian displacement, identity, and oppression. The tractor also represents the exploitation of major corporations and their willingness to reap the benefits of colonization. While the John Deere brand doesn’t conjure up the same images of violence as Caterpillars bulldozing over Palestinian homes, it has nonetheless been an key US export product in transforming the natural connection that Palestinian farmers have had to their land and forcing them into filling cheap labor roles inside of Israeli society, both within the 1948 borders and in the illegal Israel settlements across the West Bank.
“I once saw a film about the John Deere tractors, and how they helped to advance the world. I also used to work in Ofakim, Israel, on a potato picker, pulled by a John Deere tractor,” Eid explained. “I worked there day and night until I was caught by policemen for working without a proper Israeli work permit and was sent home.”
Eid, like many others, has had his turn on the Israeli-permit merry-go-round.
“I built this tractor in the nearby village of Susiya. People came to watch me as I worked. Everybody came–men, women, and children. I enjoyed their support and curiosity very much.” He explains that, like many of his pieces, it came from scraps that his community tries to salvage. “This piece is built from a piece of iron that was thrown next to the house as garbage. I took it and cut it and added green plastic, the body of the tractor, which somebody brought me from Tel Aviv. The wheels are built from a plastic tube, and I used plastic beverage bottles for the windows. All the pieces are attached by iron wires. It was really a process and it gave me something to do after I lost the job in Israel.”