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Comrades and Enemies: Arab and Jewish Workers in Palestine, 1906-1948 / Edition 1

Comrades and Enemies: Arab and Jewish Workers in Palestine, 1906-1948 / Edition 1

by Zachary Lockman


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In Comrades and Enemies Zachary Lockman explores the mutually formative interactions between the Arab and Jewish working classes, labor movements, and worker-oriented political parties in Palestine just before and during the period of British colonial rule. Unlike most of the historical and sociological literature on Palestine in this period, Comrades and Enemies avoids treating the Arab and Jewish communities as if they developed independently of each other. Instead of focusing on politics, diplomacy, or military history, Lockman draws on detailed archival research in both Arabic and Hebrew, and on interviews with activists, to delve into the country's social, economic, and cultural history, showing how Arab and Jewish societies in Palestine helped to shape each other in significant ways.

Comrades and Enemies presents a narrative of Arab-Jewish relations in Palestine that extends and complicates the conventional story of primordial identities, total separation, and unremitting conflict while going beyond both Zionist and Palestinian nationalist mythologies and paradigms of interpretation.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780520204195
Publisher: University of California Press
Publication date: 07/10/1996
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 443
Product dimensions: 6.03(w) x 8.96(h) x 1.15(d)

About the Author

Zachary Lockman is Associate Professor in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Literatures at New York University.

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Comrades and Enemies

Arab and Jewish Workers in Palestine, 1906-1948
By Zachary Lockman

University of California Press

Copyright © 1996 Zachary Lockman
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780520204195


The modern history of Palestine, and especially the fateful encounter between Arabs and Jews in that land from the late nineteenth century onward, has been the subject of numerous studies by scholars and nonscholars alike. Yet despite its size, the literature on Palestine is very uneven in both coverage and quality. In this book I seek to redress some of the shortcomings of that literature and offer new perspectives on the history of Palestine in the twentieth century, and particularly the period of British rule that stretched from the end of the First World War until 1948, when the new State of Israel was established in most of that territory, with the remainder falling under the control of two neighboring states, Transjordan (later renamed Jordan) and Egypt. I do so by exploring certain aspects of Palestine's history in a way that, in terms both of subject matter and of approach, tries to break with the framework within which that history has conventionally been interpreted.

To put it most broadly, this book, drawing mainly on sources in Arabic or Hebrew, explores the interactions among Arab and Jewish workers, trade unions, labor movements, andlabor-oriented political parties in Palestine during the British mandate period. That exploration proceeds along several distinct but overlapping and often intertwined paths. Some of these paths venture into territory that has hitherto received little or no scholarly attention; others cover somewhat more familiar ground, though from a different angle and in a way which I hope will enhance our understanding of this historical period.

To begin with, this book explores the thought and practice of the left wing of the Zionist movement, and particularly how it conceived of, and related to, Palestine's indigenous Arab population, especially Arab workers. It seeks to situate this particular variant of Zionism, in all its diversity and specificity, in relation to other strains within Zionism as they emerged in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, to contemporary socialism and to contemporary European conceptions of the world and its peoples. At the same time, I argue that any interpretation of Zionism which restricts itself to the European arena is inadequate, for it is one of the central premises of this book that the Zionist movement and the Jewish society it helped create in Palestine were shaped in crucial ways by their interactions with the Arab society they encountered “on the ground” in Palestine itself. As a result, though Chapter 1 takes us as far back as the 1880s and the bulk of the book deals with the mandate years, its subtitle specifies 1906 as the beginning of the period it covers, because it was around then that Jewish socialists newly arrived in Palestine (as opposed to socialist-Zionist theoreticians in Europe) first began to address the issue of relations with Arab workers. This dimension of the book can perhaps best be characterized as a contribution to the social, political, and cultural history of modern Palestine, and especially to the study of Zionist ideology and culture, broadly defined to include Zionists' perceptions of themselves, their project, and the Arabs of Palestine as well as the practices in which those perceptions were manifested.

The complex interactions between Palestine's Arab working class and labor Zionism—by which I mean all the organizations, institutions, parties, and ideologies which were part of, connected with, or oriented toward the Jewish working class and labor movement in Palestine while also seeing themselves as very much part of the broader Zionist project—provide particularly interesting and important terrain for scholarly investigation and will receive considerable attention in this book. Under that rubric I reconstruct the long and complex history of the labor-Zionist movement's efforts to organize Arab workers under its tutelage, the debates which accompanied that project and the contradictions it often entailed, as well as the largely unknown record of its relations with Arab workers and the Arab labor movement. I also discuss the involvement in this arena of the anti-Zionist communist movement in Palestine, at first exclusively Jewish and later comprising both Jews and Arabs. This aspect of the book involves a blend of political, intellectual, institutional, and social history, as well as some biography.

Throughout this book I have tried to ensure that the voices and actions of Arab workers and labor activists, often neglected, are taken into account and incorporated into the narrative I am presenting here. For the historical record as I have reconstructed it demonstrates quite clearly that Arab workers in Palestine were not passive objects of propaganda or organizing efforts by either Zionists or upper-class Arab nationalists, but historical actors in their own right. Moreover, in keeping with the paradigm of historical interpretation which informs this work and on which I will elaborate shortly, I insist that the complex relationship between Arab workers and labor Zionism must be seen as interactive and mutually formative, though perhaps not always in ways which are immediately obvious. I believe that this aspect of the book in particular breaks some new ground in the study of modern Palestine's social, political, and economic history.

A substantial portion of this book is devoted to an in-depth reconstruction of the history of one specific group of Arabs and Jews in Palestine: the workers who operated Palestine's railway system during the mandate period, whose interactions and relationships I explore in great detail. This book is thus also a study in Palestinian working-class history, a field which is still sadly underdeveloped. Other groups of Arab and Jewish workers in Palestine also figure in this book, if in less detail than the railway workers, who enjoy pride of place for reasons which I will explain.

To make clear how these seemingly disparate elements fit together in the framework of a single book, what it is I have tried to do here, and how I have gone about it, I must first discuss the paradigm of historical interpretation which has conventionally been applied to Palestine in the twentieth century and what I see as its defects.1

The “Dual Society” Paradigm

During the period of Ottoman rule over the Arab East, from 1516 until the end of the First World War, the term “Palestine” (in Arabic, Filastin) denoted a geographic region, part of what the Arabs called al-Sham (historic Syria), rather than a specific Ottoman province or administrative district. By contrast, from 1920 to 1948 Palestine existed as a distinct and unified political (and to a considerable extent economic) entity with well-defined boundaries. Ruled by Britain under a “mandate” obtained from the League of Nations—in essence, a new and somewhat disguised form of colonial rule—Palestine in that period encompassed an Arab majority and a Jewish minority.

By now a substantial historical and sociological literature on Palestine during the mandate period has accumulated. Broadly speaking, several features can be said to characterize this literature.2 For one, it gives greatly disproportionate attention to elites and to diplomatic, political, and military history, to the disadvantage of other social groups and of the social, economic, and cultural dimensions of the histories of the Arab and Jewish communities in Palestine. There is also, for a variety of reasons, a great quantitative (and to some extent qualitative) disparity between the published research on the policies and activities of the Zionist movement and its component parties and institutions in Palestine, and more broadly the development of the Yishuv, the pre-state Jewish community in Palestine, on the one hand, and the literature on the political, social, economic, and cultural history of Palestine's Arab community on the other. I would also argue that many, if not most, of the historians, sociologists, and others who have contributed to this literature have worked from within (and implicitly accepted the premises of) either Zionist or Arab/Palestinian nationalist historical narratives. As a result, much of the published research, while often valuable and important in its own right, nonetheless fails to adopt a sufficiently critical stance toward the categories of historical analysis which it deploys.

These characteristics are to varying degrees related to another historiographical issue, one which is central to the way in which the modern history of Palestine has been framed but which has only recently begun to be subjected to a serious critique. The paradigm of historical interpretation which informs much of the literature has been premised on the implicit or explicit representation of the Arab and Jewish communities in Palestine as primordial, self-contained, and largely monolithic entities. The Yishuv, and to a lesser extent the Palestinian Arab community, are thereby treated as coherent, cohesive, and internally unconflicted objects which developed along entirely separate paths in accordance with dynamics, and as the result of factors, which were largely unique and internal to each. The paradigm thus assumes that the Arab and Jewish communities in Palestine interacted only in very limited ways and only en bloc and certainly did not exert a formative influence on one another, as whole communities or through interrelations and dynamics that affected certain segments of each. By extension, this paradigm defines communal identities as natural and pregiven, rather than as constructed within a larger field of relations and forces that differentially affected (or even constituted) subgroups among both Arabs and Jews.

We may call this the “dual society” model, because it posits the existence in mandatory Palestine of two essentially separate societies with distinct and disconnected historical trajectories. This model manifests itself most clearly, perhaps, in the work of leading Israeli scholars, who start from the premise that the history of the Yishuv (and later of Israel) can be adequately understood in terms of the Yishuv's own internal social, political, economic, and cultural dynamics, interacting with the dynamics of world Jewish history. The influence of the largely Arab environment within which the Zionist project and the Yishuv developed, and of the matrix of Arab-Jewish relations and interactions in Palestine, is defined a priori not as constitutive but as marginal, and is therefore largely excluded from consideration. This paradigm's conception of the Yishuv as well as of Arab society in Palestine is also rooted in a rather crude version of modernization theory.

A classic example is S. N. Eisenstadt's widely cited 1967 study, Israeli Society, which at the outset promises to provide “a systematic analysis of the development of the Jewish community in Palestine from its beginnings in the late 1880s up to the present day.”3 As Talal Asad (among others) has pointed out, Palestinian Arabs play virtually no role whatsoever in Eisenstadt's analysis: the Yishuv appears to have developed in a vacuum, entirely disconnected from and uninfluenced by the Arab society in whose midst it was situated. Instead, for Eisenstadt and many other sociologists and historians, the contours and dynamics of Jewish society in Palestine, and of the future Israeli society, were decisively shaped early in the century by the generation of Zionist “pioneers” who brought with them from eastern Europe those values most conducive to successful institution-building and launched the Yishuv on its own distinct trajectory toward statehood.4 Eisenstadt's students Dan Horowitz and Moshe Lissak embrace the dual society model even more explicitly in their influential Origins of the Israeli Polity: Palestine under the Mandate, which has helped shape the way many historians and sociologists have conceptualized this period:

In Mandatory Palestine two separate and parallel economic and stratification systems of different levels of modernization emerged which maintained only limited mutual relations. Our contention is that this phenomenon arose due to the influence of ideological and political pressures exerted within each of the two national communities.5

As Michael Shalev has noted, the narrative of Yishuv and Israeli history which this paradigm yields is “profoundly conservative.”

It echoes the official version of history and the self-image of the founding fathers. It presents an evolutionary view of history that resonates well with the functionalist theoretical perspective of its proponents. It erects a firm dividing line between the “utopian” and “revolutionary” prehistory of Israeli society and the mundane and disappointing realities of more recent times. It places enormous weight on ideology and leadership as sources of social transformation, leaving little room for economic conflicts and constraints. It conceives of ethnic tensions as reflecting cultural divisions rather than distributive struggles and views the national conflict between Arabs and Jews as a challenge to Israeli society from beyond its walls, rather than as an endogenous dynamic deeply implicated in the very constitution of that society.6

The dual society model also informs most work on the mandate period by Palestinian and other Arab scholars, though it is usually not explicitly theorized. No Arab historian or sociologist could plausibly suggest that the Zionist project did not, in the long run, have a tremendous impact on Palestinian Arab society. But that society is usually represented as a preexisting, already-formed entity which was then threatened, encroached upon, and, in 1947–49, largely destroyed by an aggressively expanding Yishuv. Interaction between Arabs and Jews is largely limited to the sphere of political and military conflict, rather than seen as having had a significant impact on the development of Palestinian Arab society in other spheres as well.7 Many of the foreign scholars who have published research on the modern history of Palestine have also shared this exclusive focus on one or the other of the two communities and implicitly or explicitly depicted them as entirely separate, self-contained, and primordial entities.8

The dual society paradigm does allow for a single significant mode of interaction between Arabs and Jews in Palestine: conflict, violent or otherwise. This is one reason for the disproportionate attention in the literature to the political, diplomatic, and military dimensions of Arab-Jewish relations. However, even as regards conflict one can extend to many historians of modern Palestine the criticism which Avishai Ehrlich put forward with regard to Israeli sociologists. Arab-Jewish conflict, Ehrlich argued,

is not integrated analytically into the theoretical framework of the sociological discourse.…[It] is not perceived as a continuous formative process which shaped the institutional structure and the mentality of the Israeli social formation (as well as that of the Palestinian Arab society). At best, if at all, the Arabs and conflict are regarded as an external addendum, an appendix to an internally self-explanatory structure: an appendix which erupts from time to time in a temporary inflammation.9

Several factors may explain why the dual society paradigm has been dominant for so long and why its premises went largely unquestioned. Very few of the historians, sociologists, and other scholars who have worked on modern Palestine have had a knowledge of both Arabic and Hebrew, the most widely spoken languages in Palestine during the mandate period (and after). As a result most of the historical and sociological literature has been based on source materials in only one of these languages, usually Hebrew, supplemented by material in various European languages. This willingness to ignore sources written in the language of the “other side” certainly contributed to the prevalence and persistence of the dual society model, even as that model itself provided theoretical justification for this one-sided approach.

But at least as important, and probably more so, are the insularity, self-absorption, and reluctance to challenge the prevailing consensus and dominant nationalist historical narratives characteristic of (but of course not unique to) societies which perceive themselves as still engaged in a life-or-death struggle to realize their national(ist) project and secure their collective existence against grave threats. Without suggesting perfect symmetry between the two sides, it is nonetheless the case that the grip of mythologized national pasts on both Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs has until very recently been quite strong, making it difficult even for those historians who regarded themselves as fully committed to the norms of objective scholarship to transcend, or even perceive, the nationalist filters through which they understood the past. Moreover, on both sides perceptions of day-to-day experience, especially the threat or reality of hostility and violence by members of the other group, have served to constantly reconfirm and give new strength to the dominant nationalist narratives, adherence to which thereby becomes a matter of both common sense and survival.

However one explains it, the dominance of the dual society paradigm has manifested (and reproduced) itself in the way in which most scholars have implicitly or explicitly conceptualized their object of study. The result has been a historiography which has hardly questioned the representation of the two communities as self-evidently coherent entities largely or entirely uninfluenced by one another. This approach has rendered their mutually constitutive impact virtually invisible, tended to downplay both intracommunal divisions and intercommunal linkages, and focused attention on episodes of violent conflict, implicitly assumed to be the only normal, significant, or even possible form of interaction. It has also helped divert attention away from exploration of the processes whereby communal identities and nationalist discourses in Palestine were constructed (and contested), including the ways in which boundaries between (and within) communities were drawn and reproduced, and practices of separation, exclusion, and conflict articulated. The glaring lack of attention to the ways in which those identities, discourses, and practices have been thoroughly gendered can be seen as yet another effect of the dominance of the dual society paradigm.

The Emergence of A Relational Paradigm

In recent years the utility of this paradigm has been increasingly challenged by Israeli, Palestinian, and foreign scholars who have consciously sought to problematize and transcend, or at least to render more complex, both Zionist and Palestinian nationalist historical narratives and categories. This project of critique and reconceptualization has involved a move beyond the narrowly political to explore the social, economic, and cultural histories of each community. In theoretical terms, it has reflected a new commitment to what I will here term relational history, rooted in an understanding that the histories of Arabs and Jews in modern (and especially mandatory) Palestine can only be grasped by studying the ways in which both these communities were to a significant extent constituted and shaped within a complex matrix of economic, political, social, and cultural interactions.10 This project has also sought to explore how each was shaped by the larger processes by which both were affected, for example the specific form of capitalist development which Palestine underwent from the mid-nineteenth century onward, markets for labor and land, Ottoman patterns of law and administration, and British colonial social and economic policies.

Several factors contributed to this turn to relational history, but the most important was probably the new forms of interaction between Israeli and Palestinian societies that developed in the aftermath of Israel's 1967 conquest of the remainder of mandatory Palestine and the extension of its rule to encompass fully one half of the Palestinian people. The subsequent decades of occupation, conflict, and crisis have made it increasingly clear to all that at the core of the Arab-Israeli conflict lies the Zionist-Palestinian conflict. This has led Israeli Jewish intellectuals in particular to seek a new, demythologized understanding of their past as a way of making sense of the political, social, and cultural changes their own society has undergone as a result of this historic encounter. For their part, since 1967 Palestinian intellectuals and scholars in the occupied West Bank and Gaza and elsewhere have acquired a much deeper and more nuanced understanding of Israeli politics, society, and culture, which has opened the way to a better understanding of Zionist and Israeli history. Foreign scholars have also contributed innovative new work in recent years, influenced in part by developments in a variety of disciplines and fields which they have sought to apply to the study of modern Palestine.11

I envision this book as a contribution to the collective scholarly effort currently under way to critique and go beyond the conventional approach to the modern history of Palestine, and particularly relations between Arabs and Jews. This book therefore adopts a conceptual framework that does not focus exclusively on either the Arab or the Jewish community or treat them as if they were entirely self-contained and isolated entities. Instead, it explores their mutually formative interactions, how they shaped one another in complex ways and at many levels. On that basis, building on but also hoping to broaden and deepen the work of other scholars who have worked along similar lines, I have tried to fill in one of the many blank spots in our knowledge of modern Palestine's history, through painstaking empirical research aimed at retrieving the kinds of materials for which the conventional paradigm and the narrative it yielded had little or no use, and then by assembling those materials into a new and different narrative. In so doing my goal is not to altogether replace the old narrative, with its focus on elite politics and diplomacy; it is rather to complement, extend, and complicate it, and more broadly to raise new questions which may help open up fruitful new avenues of research.

Having argued for the utility of a relational approach, I must also acknowledge that adopting such an approach incurs certain risks which must be taken seriously. The most important of these is that by trying to focus not on one or the other of the two communities in Palestine but rather on their mutually formative interactions, the very real specificity of their histories may be lost sight of. It was this—or perhaps more precisely, a concern that the history of the Palestinians would continue to be largely subsumed within a Zionist historical narrative, thereby denying them an independent identity and agency—that Palestinian political scientist Ibrahim Abu-Lughod seems to have been warning against more than a decade ago when he rebuked historians of Palestine for assuming that it is impossible to “study the historical development of the Palestinian Arab community at any particular point in modern times without taking immediate cognizance of the presence—effective or fictitious—of the Jewish community as represented by the Zionist movement.” While admitting that it is “difficult to disentangle Palestinian history and culture from the endemic conflict between Palestinian and Zionist and Palestinian and British imperialist,” Abu-Lughod insisted that “the Palestine of 1948 was a very different Palestine from that of 1917 and the difference is not solely the result of the impact of either imperialist or Zionist.”12 The subsumption of Palestinian identity, agency, and history to which Abu-Lughod points is obviously related to the long-standing disparity of power and status between Israeli Jews and Palestinians: while the former are citizens of an established and strong nation-state, most of the latter live under alien (and often repressive) rule whether within or outside their historic homeland, and as a people are still denied national self-determination in any part of Palestine.

Abu-Lughod is certainly right to argue that the very disproportionate attention paid to Zionism and the Yishuv, and the not unrelated neglect (and implicit marginalization) of Palestine's Arab majority, have had a distorting effect on our overall understanding of the modern history of Palestine. His assertion that “the social and cultural evolution of the Palestinians in modern times is in desperate need of study” is also entirely justified. Without question, more (and better) research on the history of the Palestinian Arab community as a distinct (though of course not homogeneous or internally unconflicted) entity is urgently needed. There is no question, for example, that the Palestinian Arab national identity that emerged in the course of the mandate period had important (if not yet adequately understood) roots in older forms of identity, social relations, and practices prevalent among the country's indigenous Arab population. At the same time, however, it seems to me that historians cannot avoid seeking to grasp how the development of Palestine's Arab community (including even its distinctive national identity) was shaped by a complex set of economic, social, cultural, and political forces, including those generated by the Zionist project and British colonialism. The same principle applies, of course, to historians of Zionism and the Yishuv. We must certainly recognize, though, that there will inevitably be some tension between the effort to achieve a relational perspective and respect for the historical specificity of each community.

Discourse, Workers, and Narrative

The particular domain of interaction which I have chosen to delve into in this book encompasses Arab and Jewish workers, trade unions, labor movements, and labor-oriented political parties. This book thus explores a broad range of interactions between Arab and Jewish workers during the mandate period, including competition within overlapping labor markets, the experiences of and relations among Arab and Jewish workers employed in “mixed” workplaces, debates and dissension within Arab and Jewish unions and labor movements over the question of how to relate to fellow workers belonging to a different national group, and efforts by various segments of the Jewish labor movement to organize Arab workers. I also analyze the different (and always contested) discourses within which various elements within the Arab and Jewish working classes and labor movements in Palestine defined their own identities, aspirations, and policies, and formulated various representations of those with whom they interacted—in short, the systems of meaning within which they made sense of who they were (and were not) and what they were doing.

It is my hope that this book's attention to discourse, to structured systems of meaning embodied in language as well as in nonlinguistic signs and practices, will help enrich the relational paradigm of the history of modern Palestine. Some of the scholars who have adopted what I term a relational approach, especially in Israel, have given primary emphasis to the structural economic relationships between Arabs and Jews in Palestine, notably the markets for labor and land in which Jewish immigrants found themselves when they arrived in the country before the First World War and through the interwar period. This turn to political economy and historical sociology has been very salutary as a corrective to conventional Israeli historiography's functionalism, its inability to recognize, much less transcend, nationalist mythologies, and its failure to achieve critical distance by putting Zionism in comparative perspective. But this approach has perhaps also tended to marginalize questions of meaning and may conduce to an economistic reductionism, whereas I would argue that we should treat the realm of meaning (or more broadly put, of culture) and the realm of the economic as inextricably bound up with one another.

From this standpoint, it seems to me that neither the evolution nor the character of a distinctly Palestinian Arab culture, identity, and national movement can be adequately understood except in relation to the specific character of the Palestinians' confrontation not only with Zionist practices of exclusion but also with Zionist discourses about Arabs and the land of Palestine. Nor can one make full sense of what the labor-Zionist movement in Palestine was doing, and what it thought it was doing, without taking into account not only its labor market strategies but also the ways in which “the Arab worker” and the Arab working class in Palestine were represented, and the roles they were made to play, in left-Zionist discourse. As we will see, at a crucial stage it was to a significant extent in relation to a certain representation of Arab workers that the dominant current within labor Zionism articulated its own identity, its sense of mission, and its strategy to achieve hegemony within the Yishuv and realize its version of Zionism. In this sense, the modes of interaction between the Arab and Jewish communities in Palestine, and their mutually constitutive impact on one another, must be seen as simultaneously discursive and material. I have therefore paid attention both to structural economic relations, which certainly imposed constraints on what was feasible and imaginable, and to the representations and practices through which people understood, justified, and articulated their identities, beliefs, and actions.

Two full chapters of this book, and short segments of other chapters, are devoted to the railway workers of Palestine. Several factors make exploration of this group especially important, and especially relevant to a study which seeks to study Arabs and Jews relationally. Unlike nearly all Arab-owned enterprises and most Jewish-owned enterprises in Palestine, the Palestine Railways (an agency of the mandatory government of Palestine) employed both Arabs and Jews. It was therefore one of the few enterprises in which Arabs and Jews worked side by side, encountering similar conditions and being compelled to interact in the search for solutions to their problems. The Palestine Railways was also one of the country's largest employers, with a workforce that numbered about 2,400 in 1924 and reached a war-swollen peak of 7,800 in 1943. This workforce comprised numerous unskilled Arab peasants hired to build and maintain roadbed and track, but it also included substantial numbers of skilled personnel in the running and traffic departments and at stations across the country and (in 1943) some 1,200 Arab and Jewish workers employed at the Haifa repair and maintenance workshops. Indeed, until the establishment of an oil refinery in Haifa at the start of the Second World War and then the proliferation of British military bases during the war, the Haifa workshops constituted Palestine's largest concentration of industrial wage workers.

In addition, the railwaymen were among the first industrial workers in Palestine to organize themselves: an organization of Jewish railway workers was established as early as 1919, while Arab railway workers began to evince interest in trade unionism soon thereafter and would go on to play a key role in founding and leading the Palestinian Arab labor movement. It was, moreover, in large part the interaction of Jewish and Arab railway workers that first compelled the Zionist labor movement and the various left-Zionist political parties, as well as the largely Jewish but anti-Zionist communists, on the one hand, and various forces in the Arab community on the other, to confront, both theoretically and practically, the question of relations between the Jewish and Arab working classes. Last (but to a historian, not least), the sources available on the railway workers are relatively extensive and rich. Study of the ways in which the intersection of class, nationalist, and cultural politics shaped the interactions between the Jewish and Arab railway workers in this specific historical conjuncture may therefore make a particularly useful contribution to a rereading of the history of the Zionist-Palestinian conflict.

This book is not a study of either the Arab or the Jewish working classes or labor movements in Palestine. A number of such studies have been published, and though I have made use of them I believe that for the most part they share the flaws of the conventional historiography, in that they are deeply embedded in Arab or Jewish nationalist historical narratives. Though critical distance and objective scholarship are in short supply on all sides, the standard histories of the Jewish labor movement in the Yishuv and then Israel unfortunately take partisanship and tendentiousness to an extreme: they loyally reflect the perspectives of one or another of the left-Zionist parties and seem fixated on the task of “proving” that whichever party they favor was invariably correct. My goal here is to explore how these two working classes and labor movements interacted and helped shape one another, at a variety of levels and in a variety of ways. Nonetheless, much of the material I have unearthed along the way and present here may contribute to a better understanding of the Jewish and Arab working classes and labor movements in Palestine even considered separately.

I did not choose to focus on workers and labor movements in this book because I think that workers enjoy an ontological or epistemological status that is a priori superior to all other social groups. While I certainly believe that working-class history is important and have done quite a bit of it myself, I do not think that it is inherently more important than the study of social groups defined by some criterion other than class. Indeed, I think that just as the social relation we call class is deeply imbricated in, for example, race and gender relations, so gender and race and many other things are inextricably bound up with class, which cannot be usefully understood (or deployed as a concept) as if it were an entity unto itself. In a sense, the relational principle which underpins this study of Palestine applies to class as well: it is best understood not as a self-contained and objective category but rather as a relation which is itself constituted by many other social relations and practices. We must therefore try to develop an understanding of class that breaks with the essentialism and teleology found in certain readings of Marx and instead sees class as an effect of historically specific material and discursive practices.13 I believe that my analysis in this book of Jewish working-class formation in Palestine effectively illustrates this contention.

First and foremost, this book focuses on working classes and labor movements because in the particular case of Palestine there is a very concrete and historically specific reason to do so. As I will discuss in great detail, one of the features which distinguishes Zionism from other nationalist movements is that for a lengthy historical period—roughly from the early 1930s to the mid-1970s—the international Zionist movement, the Yishuv, and from 1948 the State of Israel were to a large extent dominated by parties and institutions which saw themselves as part of the left wing of the Zionist movement. Though internally divided and always contentious, the labor-Zionist camp broadly defined was in that period usually able to exercise effective control over most of the key levers of political and economic power in the Yishuv and later Israel, and to exert a dominant ideological-cultural influence as well, though it often had to work with other Zionist parties, secular-centrist or religious, as junior partners. For a crucial phase of its history, then, especially in Palestine itself, Zionism was a nationalist movement which, while in principle appealing to all Jews across class lines and upholding the nation as the central category of identity, was largely led by political forces which professed a commitment to socialism and saw themselves as guiding a working class and labor movement whose role it was to act as the vanguard of the broader Zionist movement.

Because Jews who defined themselves as socialists as well as Zionists played such a central role in the Yishuv and the Zionist movement, and also because (as we will see) they came to adopt a strategy which saw in a particular mode of Jewish working-class formation the key to the achievement of Zionism's goals, the issue of how the Jewish labor movement in Palestine should relate to Arab workers and the Arab labor movement surfaced early on. In fact, socialist-Zionist ideologists and activists in Europe and Palestine were compelled to grapple with the question of relations between Arab and Jewish workers and working classes well before the First World War. Later, some Jews in Palestine found themselves working alongside Arabs and this reality, along with the growth of an Arab working class and labor movement, raised difficult issues to which the contending left-wing Jewish parties offered different solutions. As time went on, Arab workers employed alongside Jews, and Arab unionists and labor leaders confronted with the reality of an increasingly powerful Jewish labor movement whose actions and strategies directly impinged on Arab workers, were also compelled to address the issue of relations between Arab and Jewish workers in Palestine. As a result this domain of Arab-Jewish interaction is a particularly fertile one for historical exploration. In it we can see in microcosm many of the issues which were central to the struggle over Palestine, but also many episodes and forms of Arab-Jewish interaction which have been left out of the conventional historical narratives.

This book is largely narrative and chronological in form, and these days that requires some explanation. I am quite sympathetic to recent poststructuralist critiques of narrative and of the premises and categories of positivist history, and I believe that those critiques must be taken seriously. I have no problem accepting that what we as historians are really up to is not so much the retrieval of some transcendentally objective truth about the past “as it actually was” as the inevitably selective use of materials from the past to construct stories whose form and content are influenced by present-day concerns and categories and which could also perhaps be told quite differently. At the same time, however, it is crucial that there be some agreed-upon criteria for evaluating the many different stories that could be told about the past and determining which is most plausible or reliable, most “true” in at least some consensual sense. We should also remember that human beings make sense of their lives and identities through the stories which they tell about themselves and which others tell about them.

As historians we must therefore attempt to do two rather contradictory things at the same time. In keeping with an antiessentialist epistemological stance, we need to make the categories of analysis we deploy and the historical narratives we produce complex, contingent, and provisional, and their underlying premises (and our own perspectives) as transparent as possible. At the same time, we have to act as if we can in fact produce reliable knowledge by adhering scrupulously to scholarly standards and procedures and using them to fashion relatively coherent and meaningful stories that people can understand, accept, and use. It is hard, perhaps impossible, to achieve these goals simultaneously, but I would like to think that the tension between them could be productive rather than debilitating.

In this book I have chosen to deal with this issue by offering, as a complement to the usual scholarly and nationalist narratives, what amounts to a long and very detailed counternarrative. I have taken this tack in part because I am unaware of any work on Palestine that does what I have attempted to do here and in part because I wanted to show what might be achieved by taking a different approach. I think that the history I present here adds to and improves on previous versions by taking into account more of the available evidence, by bringing into the picture aspects and dimensions of history that have hitherto been largely neglected, and by resting on premises, and deploying categories of analysis, that I believe are more useful and productive. Obviously, readers will have to judge the success or failure of this enterprise for themselves.

Sources, Terminology, and Politics

The catastrophic disruption of Palestinian Arab society in 1947–49 resulted in the loss or destruction of many of the archives, libraries, personal papers, and other source materials from which many aspects of Palestinian social, cultural, political, and economic history might have been reconstructed. In addition, the dispersions of 1948 and 1967 scattered many of the individuals whom historians might have interviewed as part of their research into the country's pre-1948 history. The research institutions under Palestinian control have generally had limited resources and had to confront heavy burdens of many kinds, which have impeded their ability to study their people's history. In contrast, the Yishuv, the Zionist movement, and the various institutions and organizations they comprised tended to maintain well-organized archives from an early date, and these have survived and remain accessible to researchers. The Jews in Palestine also had a much higher rate of literacy than the Arabs as well as a higher propensity to produce written material, much of which was actually published. Israel also possesses numerous (and relatively well-funded) research centers and institutions of higher education which have supported extensive research on the history of Zionism and the Yishuv. In addition, though the generations which played important roles in the affairs of the Yishuv and Zionist movement during the mandate period are now rapidly aging and many of their members have already died, those who survive with their mental faculties and memories reasonably intact are not too hard to locate and interview.

The upshot of all this is that the history of the Yishuv and Zionism in Palestine is much better documented than the history of the Palestinian Arab community, especially its poorer and less educated segments; we simply know much more about most aspects of Jewish life in Palestine than we do about the corresponding aspects of Arab life. This makes it very difficult for historians trying to bring both Arabs and Jews into the picture to avoid privileging the history and perspectives of the Yishuv. This is, alas, a difficulty which my own research presented here has not escaped. Despite my best efforts to locate Arabic-language source materials, the version of any particular interaction, relationship, or episode related by Jewish individuals or organizations is almost invariably much fuller and better documented (though not necessarily more reliable) than the Arab version. I can therefore analyze what went on on the Jewish side in much greater depth and relate it as a much more complex and nuanced story. As a result, this book devotes much more time and space to analysis and discussion of left-Zionist thought and practice than it does to the thought and practice of Arab labor activists and leftists.

Further research into Palestinian Arab history may alleviate this imbalance somewhat, but it is unlikely to rectify it completely. It is something that we will have to live with and try to compensate for. The relational approach I advocate and have tried to implement here may be of some help in this regard. For example, most of the archives and records of the Arab trade union movement in mandate-era Palestine appear to have been lost or destroyed during 1948, compelling most historians of that movement to rely on press accounts, other published material, some government records, and interviews with a handful of surviving veterans. Paradoxically, however, a great deal of material generated by or bearing on the Arab workers' movement in Palestine has survived in the archives of the Jewish labor movement, including original leaflets, other ephemeral publications, and correspondence. Those archives also contain numerous reports on the doings of the Arab unions by Jews who were in frequent contact with them. This makes it possible not only to reconstruct interactions between Arab and Jewish workers and labor organizations in considerable detail but also to learn much that was previously unknown about the structure, politics, and activities of Arab unions and labor movements in Palestine. This may be scant compensation for all that was lost in 1948, a loss which historians can never fully overcome, but it is very much better than nothing.

A few words about some of the terms I will be using in this book may be in order. As noted earlier, I use “labor Zionism” to refer very broadly to all worker-oriented but also Zionist organizations, institutions, parties, and ideologies in Palestine. I therefore include under this rubric not only parties like Po‘alei Tziyon, Ahdut Ha‘avoda, Hapo‘el Hatza‘ir and their successor MAPAI, but also Po‘alei Tziyon Smol and Hashomer Hatza‘ir. I realize that in the course of the mandate period the English term “labor Zionism” came to be associated mainly with the social-democratic MAPAI, rather than with its explicitly Marxist rivals on the left, which preferred stronger terms like “socialist Zionism” or “proletarian Zionism.” Yet for all their often bitter disagreements on many issues of principle, strategy, and tactics, these parties shared substantial ideological common ground and saw themselves as components of one and the same Jewish (and Zionist) labor movement in Palestine. I therefore feel justified in using “labor Zionism” as a general rubric in this broad sense, while of course also delineating and analyzing the very real and important differences among these parties and their distinct trajectories.

I generally use the terms “Palestinian Arab,” “the Arabs of Palestine,” or (where the meaning is clear) simply “Arab” to refer to the Arab community in Palestine during the mandate period. Adding the term “Arab” when referring to the people whom we would today simply call “the Palestinians” may seem redundant, but in fact it avoids an anachronism, for it was really only after 1948 that the Palestinian Arab people came to call themselves, and be called by others, simply Palestinians. During the mandate period most Palestinian organizations and institutions (in today's sense) officially called themselves “Arab,” sometimes with “Palestinian” as a modifier; hence the Arab Executive, the Arab Higher Committee, the Arab Workers' Congress, the Palestinian Arab Workers' Society, and so forth. Moreover, I want to be sure to distinguish between the Arab and Jewish communities in Palestine, and use of the term “Palestinian” with reference to a period in which Palestine was still undivided might cause confusion. However, this choice of usage has nothing in common with the bizarre claim advanced by some Zionists that there can today be no authentic Palestinian people or nationalism because in mandate-era Palestine, Jews as well as Arabs were officially designated as “Palestinians.” However they referred to themselves, a distinctly Palestinian Arab national identity began to emerge during the mandate period, in significant measure precisely because of the Palestinian Arab people's confrontation with Zionism, a challenge other Arab peoples were not compelled to face in the same very direct way.

Before 1948, in Hebrew but also in Yiddish, the language of the eastern European Jewish masses, Jews usually referred to Palestine by one of its ancient Hebrew names, Eretz Yisra’el (“the Land of Israel”). Because Hebrew was (along with English and Arabic) one of Palestine's official languages during the mandate period, the term by which the country would be officially denoted in that language became a political issue: Zionists demanded adoption of Eretz Yisra’el, in order to stress Jewish claims to the land, while the British authorities, anti-Zionist Jews (e.g., communists), and the Arabs preferred Palestina, a Hebraicized version of Palestine. When quoting from Hebrew-language sources in this book I will normally leave the Hebrew term Eretz Yisra’el untranslated. I do this because we know that to name something is in large measure to define it, to situate it within some larger system of meaning; and as I will show, Zionists' use of this particular name, rich with evocative associations from Jewish history and culture, was bound up with a certain conception of the land and its Arab inhabitants.

I feel it necessary to be so careful about explaining how and why I have used these terms in part because writing on the history of Palestine has been rife with polemic masquerading as historical analysis, and also because efforts at serious scholarship have frequently been attacked on essentially political grounds. This is perhaps not surprising, given the intensity of many people's emotional involvement with, and commitment to, Zionism or Palestinian nationalism, the longevity and bitterness of the conflict between them, and the perception that what is at stake is not just political power or territory but a people's survival. But the intrusion of emotionally charged political agendas has made life hard for scholars committed to studying Palestine just as they would any other part of the world, or to studying Zionism and Palestinian nationalism as they would similar movements elsewhere. Some of the analyses and arguments in this book may displease or even anger committed partisans of Zionism or Palestinian nationalism who do not want to hear (or see published) anything that may contradict their cherished beliefs or complicate the historical narratives which they regard as unchallengeably true. There is not much I can do to assuage them, except to say that while I certainly have my own opinions about the question of Palestine, opinions which I have expressed in the appropriate circumstances, my chief purpose in this book is not to judge but to understand.

It is for that reason that I repeatedly insist that however difficult it may be for those who have suffered the consequences of the attitudes, policies, or actions of one side or the other, it is essential to distinguish between subjective motives or intentions and historical outcomes. We must not altogether lose sight of the latter, for all of us are ultimately responsible for our actions and their consequences, and historians are no less entitled to discuss morality than anyone else. But if we truly want to understand why these or any other historical actors did what they did, we need first and foremost to understand what it was they believed they were doing, and why. Only then can we critically probe the belief systems which shaped their attitudes and actions, analyze their premises, contradictions, and consequences, and begin to talk about right and wrong, good and bad, what was and what might have been. Unfortunately, not all those who have written about modern Palestine, and particularly the Zionist-Palestinian conflict, have shared this attitude. As a result the literature includes a lot of rather crude Zionist-bashing and a lot of equally crude Arab-bashing. I must hope that those who read this book will approach it with an open mind and judge it on its merits, as they would a work of scholarship that focused on some less controversial and emotionally sensitive aspect of history.

Finally, though I will return to this issue in the Conclusion, I would like to make it clear at the outset that it is not my intention here to argue that things might have turned out differently, and better, if only there had been more cooperation between Arabs and Jews, or less ethnic and more class solidarity. That “if only” contains so many untenable assumptions and leaps of faith that it is of very little use for historical analysis. The outcome of the struggle between Zionism and Palestinian nationalism was not preordained, and it is certainly important to remember the alternative visions of the future for which people and parties fought, to maintain a sense of history as always contingent and open-ended—indeed, that is one of the purposes of this book. And it is not a sin to consider what our understanding of the past may tell us about the present and even the future. That is not the same, however, as arguing that all would have been well “if only” certain people and groups had thought and acted differently. Perhaps, but they did not, so we must resist the temptation to deploy our perfectly sharp moral hindsight and instead try to understand why the people we are concerned with saw themselves and the world they lived in as they did and behaved as they did. As I suggested earlier, we may ultimately come to believe that what they did was right or wrong, farsighted or misguided, unavoidable or disastrous for themselves and for others, but first of all we need to understand. That is what I have tried to do here.


Earlier versions of some of the material in this book, especially elements of the Introduction, the Conclusion, and Chapters 2, 3, and 4, originally appeared in my article “Railway Workers and Relational History: Arabs and Jews in British-Ruled Palestine,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 35, no. 3 (July 1993): 601–27, and in my “Exclusion and Solidarity: Labor Zionism and Arab Workers in Palestine, 1897–1929,” in Gyan Prakash, ed., After Colonialism: Imperial Histories and Postcolonial Displacements (Princeton, N.J., 1995), 211–40.

Much of what follows also applies to the literature on Palestine in the late Ottoman period, and to Israel and the Palestinians inside and outside what had been Palestine after 1948 as well. But it is especially relevant to the three decades during which Palestine existed as an administratively unified entity, before partition, war, Palestinian displacement, and massive Jewish immigration radically altered the terms of interaction between Arabs and Jews in Palestine. For surveys of the field, see Tarif Khalidi, “Palestinian Historiography: 1900–1948,” Journal of Palestine Studies 10, no. 3 (spring 1981); Kenneth W. Stein, “A Historiographic Review of Literature on the Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict,” American Historical Review 96, no. 5 (December 1991); and Beshara B. Doumani's important essay “Rediscovering Ottoman Palestine: Writing Palestinians into History,” Journal of Palestine Studies 21, no. 2 (winter 1992).

S. N. Eisenstadt, Israeli Society (New York, 1967), 1.

Talal Asad, “Anthropological Texts and Ideological Problems: An Analysis of Cohen on Arab Villages in Israel,” Review of Middle East Studies, no. 1 (1975), 14 n. 11; also excerpted in MERIP Reports, no. 53 (December 1976). See also Gershon Shafir, Land, Labor and the Origins of the Israeli–Palestinian Conflict, 1882–1914 (Cambridge, U.K., 1989), 1–7.

Dan Horowitz and Moshe Lissak, Origins of the Israeli Polity: Palestine under the Mandate (Chicago, 1978), 13; first published in Hebrew as Meyishuv lemedina: yehudei eretz yisra'el betkufat hamandat kekehila politit (Tel Aviv, 1977).

Michael Shalev, Labour and the Political Economy in Israel (Oxford, 1992), 13–14. Even some of the most theoretically sophisticated work produced by Israeli scholars shares these flaws: for example, Amir Ben-Porat's Between Class and Nation: The Formation of the Jewish Working Class in the Period before Israel's Statehood (Westport, Conn., 1986). Ben-Porat uses what he terms a “neo-Marxist” conception of class formation to analyze Jewish working-class formation in Palestine. But he treats that process as if it were basically unconnected to the Yishuv's relations with its predominantly non-Jewish environment and therefore has very little to say about Palestinian Arabs.

See, for example, ‘Abd al-Wahhab al-Kayyali, Ta’rikh filastin al-hadith (Beirut, 1970), or Muhammad Nakhla, Tatawwur al-mujtami‘ fi filastin (Kuwait, 1983).

I will cite just two examples. Mitchell Cohen's Zion and State: Nation, Class and the Shaping of Modern Israel (Oxford, 1987), an analysis of the Zionist project from what Cohen terms a “Lukacsian” perspective, more or less ignores that project's interactions with Arabs as a significant factor in class formation and state building. Virginia R. Dominguez's People as Subject, People as Object: Selfhood and Peoplehood in Contemporary Israel (Madison, 1989) is an interesting and in some ways enlightening study, but it has almost nothing to say about how Zionism's encounter with the Palestinians helped shape conceptions of selfhood and peoplehood among Israeli Jews. In contrast, I argue here that that encounter shaped those conceptions in crucial ways and must therefore be an integral component of any exploration of Israeli Jewish identity.

Avishai Ehrlich, “Israel: Conflict, War and Social Change,” in Colin Creighton and Martin Shaw, eds., The Sociology of War and Peace (Houndmills, Hampshire, U.K., 1987), 131.

On relational history, see Perry Anderson, “Agendas for Radical History,” Radical History Review, no. 36 (September 1986), though my conception of what such an approach to history entails is not identical to his. See too Joel Beinin, Was the Red Flag Flying There? Marxist Politics and the Arab-Israeli Conflict in Egypt and Israel, 1948–1965 (Berkeley, 1990), ch. 1.

Readers may find useful a brief discussion of some of the work which in my opinion has contributed to a rethinking of the modern history of Palestine. I make no pretense here of being comprehensive, however, and I fully understand that the authors whom I do mention may well not share my understanding of the significance of their work.

What might be called the “revisionist” tendency in Israeli historiography encompasses several distinct but mutually interacting currents. Baruch Kimmerling can be said to have pioneered one influential approach, in his books Zionism and Territory: The Socio-Territorial Dimensions of Zionist Politics (Berkeley, 1982) and Zionism and Economy (Cambridge, Mass., 1983), his edited volume The Israeli State and Society: Boundaries and Frontiers (Albany, N.Y., 1989), and various articles. In his pathbreaking Land, Labor and the Origins of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, 1882–1914 (Cambridge, U.K., 1989), Gershon Shafir very effectively grounded the evolution of the Zionist project in conditions in Palestine itself while expanding our understanding of its similarities with, and differences from, other projects of European overseas settlement; both the Introduction and Chapter 1 of this book draw heavily on his pioneering work. Michael Shalev drew on the “split labor market” approach pioneered by Edna Bonacich in his contribution to Kimmerling's edited volume, “Jewish Organized Labor and the Palestinians: A Study of State/Society Relations in Israel,” while his book Labour and the Political Economy in Israel (Oxford, 1992) very usefully explored the historical development and specific character of what he called Israel's “social-democratic corporatism.” Lev Luis Grinberg's Split Corporatism in Israel (Albany, N.Y., 1991) addressed a similar set of questions. Tamar Gozanski's Hitpathut hakapitalizm bepalestina (The development of capitalism in Palestine [Haifa, 1986]) is an important work of synthesis informed by a fairly orthodox Marxist perspective.

Ehrlich's essay cited earlier, “Israel: Conflict, War and Social Change,” provides a useful critique of Israeli sociology, as do the opening pages of Shafir's and Shalev's books. The Israeli “new historians” have produced an extensive revisionist literature on the birth of Israel and Palestinian displacement in the 1947–49 period, including work by Benny Morris, Tom Segev, Ilan Pappé, Avi Shlaim, and the late Simha Flapan. For a discussion of some of these books and the political conjuncturewithin which they emerged, see my essay “Original Sin,” in Zachary Lockman and Joel Beinin, eds., Intifada: The Palestinian Uprising against Israeli Occupation (Boston, 1989). See also Laurence J. Silberstein, ed., New Perspectives on Israeli History: The Early Years of the State (New York, 1991).

The studies that appeared in the now-defunct Israeli journal Mahbarot lemehkar ulebikoret played an important role in opening up new space for critical analysis of Israeli society and history. Ella Shohat's 1988 article “Sephardim in Israel: Zionism from the Standpoint of Its Jewish Victims” and Shlomo Swirski's Israel: The Oriental Majority (London, 1989) also deserve mention for breaking with Ashkenazi-centered analyses of Zionism and Israeli society. Recent years have also witnessed a dramatic improvement in the quantity and quality of published work on the culture(s) of Jews in Palestine and later Israel, including contributions by Itamar Even-Zohar, Tamar Katriel, Tsili Doleve-Gandelman, Jonathan Frankel, Ya‘el Zerubavel, Nurith Gertz, and Menahem Perry.

Given the dispersion, statelessness, and subordination that characterize Palestinian life, the continuing centrality of the struggle for national self-determination and the limited resources at the disposal of most Palestinian scholars, it is perhaps not surprising that explicit revisionism has been less in evidence among Palestinians. Nonetheless, there have been a number of studies which manifest what I am calling a relational approach. One of the most important is Elia Zureik's The Palestinians in Israel: A Study in Internal Colonialism (London, 1979), which explicitly seeks to show that in the mandate period “the two sectors, Arab and Jewish, did not develop separately and independently under similar conditions, but that they were interconnected in an asymmetrical relationship, mediated by the British presence” (5; emphasis in the original). There have also been a number of studies which depart from the traditional nationalist narrative in approach and/or choice of subject, including work on the Palestinian communist and labor movements by Musa al-Budayri (Musa Budeiri), Mahir al-Sharif, and ‘Abd al-Qadir Yasin, as well as Philip Mattar's 1988 biography of Amin al-Husayni and Muhammad Muslih's The Origins of Palestinian Nationalism (New York, 1988). One of the most important recent contributions to the history of Palestine is Walid Khalidi, ed., All That Remains: The Palestinian Villages Occupied and Depopulated by Israel in 1948 (Washington, D.C., 1992), an invaluable source of information on the hundreds of Arab villages in Palestine which no longer exist. Various Palestinian research centers and institutions of higher education have also published other important work on aspects of Palestinian social and cultural history.

Among works produced by scholars who are neither Israeli nor Palestinian, pride of place belongs to Roger Owen's edited volume, Studies in the Economic and Social History of Palestine in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (Carbondale, Ill., 1982), and especially to Owen's introduction, which usefully discusses various conceptualizations of Palestinian history. Asad's article “Anthropological Texts and Ideological Problems,” cited earlier, analyzed changes in Arab village organization in terms of “the articulation of a capitalist with a non-capitalist mode of production mediated by the British colonial state” (14). In some crucial respects Stanley Greenberg's Race and State in Capitalist Development: Comparative Perspectives (New Haven, Conn., 1980), a broad comparative analysis of racial and ethnic relations in South Africa, the United States, Northern Ireland, and Israel, paved the way for some of the work by Israeli sociologists which I have already cited. Derek Penslar's Zionism and Technocracy: The Engineering of Jewish Settlement in Palestine, 1870–1918 (Bloomington, Ind., 1991) is a useful contribution to our understanding of early Zionism. Theodore Swedenburg's innovative study of the 1936–39 revolt in Palestine as constructed in popular memory is forthcoming from the University of Minnesota Press. Rachelle Taqqu's Ph.D. dissertation, “Arab Labor in Mandatory Palestine, 1920–1948” (Columbia University, 1977), which unfortunately has not been published, deserves special mention as a very useful source of information for this book. Barbara J. Smith's The Roots of Separatism in Palestine: British Economic Policy, 1920–1929 (Syracuse, N.Y., 1993) sheds important new light on Palestine's economic development and Arab-Jewish relations. Jeff Halper's Between Redemption and Revival: The Jewish Yishuv of Jerusalem in the Nineteenth Century (Boulder, 1991) has helped undermine views of the “Old Yishuv” as completely insular and stagnant, if not moribund; on this topic see too Shlomo Shva and Dan Ben-Amotz, Eretz Tziyon Yerushalayyim (Jerusalem, 1973), an entertaining collection of clippings from the pre–First World War Jewish press in Palestine. Though Beinin's Was the Red Flag Flying There? deals mainly with the post-1948 period, it deserves mention here because it transcends conventional boundaries and offers a relational perspective on the trajectories of the Marxist left in both Egypt and Israel.

Recent contributions to the study of women and gender in the Zionist-Palestinian conflict include Elise G. Young, Keepers of the History: Women and the Israeli-Palestine Conflict (New York, 1992) and Sheila Katz's unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, “Women and Gender in Jewish and Palestinian Nationalisms before 1950: Founding and Confounding the Boundaries” (Harvard University, 1993). A great deal of work remains to be done on women and gender in Palestine, especially for the pre-1948 period.

Ibrahim Abu-Lughod, “The Perils of Palestiniology,” Arab Studies Quarterly 3, no. 4 (fall 1981).

I discuss this question more fully in “ ‘Worker’ and ‘Working Class’ in pre-1914 Egypt: A Rereading,” in Zachary Lockman, ed., Workers and Working Classes in the Middle East: Struggles, Histories, Historiographies (Albany, N.Y., 1994), ch. 4.


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