This paper examines how the “new history” of the Arab-Israeli conflict has exposed the seemingly socialist land and labor policies of the Yishuv (the pre-1948 Jewish community in Palestine) to have been pragmatic paths to nationalist aims, rather than straightforward implementations of socialist principles.  But this new literature on the Yishuv’s economic policymaking fails to match its analysis of material factors with an exposition of underlying discursive forces.  Accordingly, the paper turns to recent histories of the evolution of Zionist ideology in order to investigate the triumph of nationalist over socialist objectives.  This literature largely locates Zionism within the framework of Enlightenment political philosophy, thereby implying that socialist ideology is fundamentally extraneous to the Zionist aim of Jewish statehood in Palestine.


Land, Labor, and the Incompatibility of Socialism with Zionism


Traditional historiography on Palestine’s Jewish and Arab communities in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries largely has portrayed a “dual society” in which both publics were “primordial, self-contained, and largely monolithic entities,” such that the Yishuv seemed homogeneously and fervently socialist.  Israeli conventional history in particular has marginalized “[t]he influence of the largely Arab environment within which the Zionist project and the Yishuv developed” and “the matrix of Arab-Jewish relations and interactions in Palestine.”[1]  This traditional approach also has overestimated socialism’s ideological saturation of the Palestinian Jewish public and its responsibility for that society’s economic institutions.[2]  Recent histories on the Yishuv’s economic policies – particularly in the agricultural sector – have probed Arab-Jewish interactions to reveal the incompatibility of socialist precepts with labor Zionism’s employment strategies and to attribute the creation of seemingly socialist Yishuv institutions to less discursive and more pragmatic considerations.  Thus the new history has challenged conventional depictions of both the material and ideological roots of modern Israel – but while it offers an intricate alternative account of the material forces that underlay that nation’s development, it fails to provide an equally elaborate substitute exposition of Zionism’s ideological underpinnings.


Zachary Lockman’s Comrades and Enemies: Arab and Jewish Workers in Palestine, 1906-1948, published in 1996, primarily seeks to transcend the “dual society” approach by fashioning a “relational history,” one which perceives the Arab and Jewish societies in Palestine as mutually steeped in “a complex matrix of…interactions.”[3]  Lockman writes that


to understand the development of the Yishuv, and especially of labor Zionism, which by the 1930s would be the dominant sociopolitical force in the Yishuv and the world Zionist movement, one must focus not so much on the socialist ideology which the generation of ‘founders,’ the self-proclaimed pioneers of Zionist settlement, brought with them from Europe in the decade before the First World War, but rather on the environment in Palestine itself and Arab-Jewish interaction there.[4]


He illustrates “[t]he utility of a relational approach which situates the Zionist project in relation to its Arab context”[5] by chronicling a Yishuv dynamic – the Second Aliya’s “conquest of labor” (kibbush ha-‘avoda) – that pitted labor Zionism’s socialist ideology against its Palestinian environment.


While Lockman draws on Gershon Shafir’s pioneering study (discussed below), he presents one of the “new historiography’s”[6] less controversial narratives.  Lockman recounts that although most of the Second Aliya surged toward the Yishuv’s urban sector, thousands of East European Jewish youth inspired by Marxist or Tolstoyan principles sought to found in Palestine “a large and solidly rooted class of Jewish agricultural workers subsisting by the sweat of their brow.”[7]  But an unwelcoming terrain and limited capital inflows hampered their efforts to settle the land, and they largely failed even to secure employment as agricultural laborers on the First Aliya’s moshavot.  Arab peasants – who accepted substantially lower wages, who were more physically fit for farm toil, and who were legion even in the coastal regions – nearly monopolized the capitalist agricultural-labor market, to which Jewish immigrants’ outspoken socialist views hardly endeared them.[8]  Hindered by these impediments to its agricultural aspirations, the Second Aliya redirected its “conquest of labor” – previously an internal struggle to self-proletarianize – outward in the form of “an active campaign to replace Arab workers employed in the Jewish sector of Palestine’s economy with Jewish workers.”[9]


This historical juncture constitutes an optimal test for Lockman’s “relational” approach.  The need to redress Jewish joblessness – a concrete result of Arab-Zionist interactions – challenged “proletarian solidarity across ethnic and national lines” – one of socialist Zionism’s key ideological stipulations.  And ideology lost: Lockman cites future Israeli president Yitzhak Ben-Tzvi, who in 1912 wrote that the “national interests” of a vulnerable Jewish proletariat momentarily outweighed “class solidarity.”[10]  Labor Zionism perceived its “conquest of labor” not as an exclusionary or discriminatory policy, but rather as a provisional defense against Jewish employers’ “boycott” of Jewish labor.[11]


Still, the labor Zionist movement was never strong enough to overcome the moshavot’s incentives to hire Arab peasants in the context of the Ottoman and Mandatory capitalist labor markets.  Even if it had reversed these incentives, moreover, the Jewish private sector was too feeble to employ “the large number of immigrants needed to make the Zionist project feasible.” 


Labor Zionism again adapted to these environmental constraints, again shelved its socialist ideology – and again vindicated Lockman’s “relational” paradigm.  The movement independently generated high-paying jobs by constructing a purely Jewish Palestinian economic sector with “its own industrial, financial, construction, transport, and service enterprises,”[12] organized after 1920 within the Histadrut “General Organization of Hebrew Workers in the Land of Israel.”  Yishuv agriculture witnessed the evolution of wholly new species of settlements – the communal kibbutz and cooperative moshav – in the first two decades of the century.[13]  Finally, Lockman writes,


[a] Jewish society developed in Palestine that, though never hermetically sealed off from the surrounding Arab society, did not crucially depend on the exploitation of Arab wage labor.  Instead, a substantial class of Jewish…workers was successfully created and implanted, and agricultural settlement took forms that excluded or displaced rather than exploited Arab labor.[14]


Socialist Zionists financed this ambitious employment project by appealing to “bourgeois Zionists” – another ideological compromise – for “the funds controlled by the [World] Zionist Organization [WZO] and its institutions, and by private capital as well.”  WZO elites correspondingly overcame their distaste for socialist Zionism in view of the latter’s institutional capacities for coordinating immigration and economic development.  Here Lockman cites Israeli sociologist Michael Shalev’s formulation of this eventual labor Zionist-WZO partnership as a “practical alliance between a settlement movement without settlers and a workers’ movement without work.”[15]  Labor Zionism seized on this partnership to strengthen its sway over Yishuv politics and economics, and in 1935 – a year before Histadrut membership topped 25 percent of the Yishuv population[16] – Histadrut chief David Ben-Gurion assumed “the chairmanship of the Jewish agency executive” and became the de facto head of the Yishuv.[17]


Simultaneously, although labor Zionism had locked into its campaign for “a separate Jewish economic enclave” alongside the “conquest of labor” strategy by the late 1920s, Ben-Gurion’s Ahdut Ha’avoda party struggled to relegate its socialist hopes for interethnic proletarian solidarity.[18]  The movement manifested a fundamental conceptual shift at the third Histadrut congress of 1927: while Ben-Gurion earlier had advocated “Arab-Jewish working class solidarity” as a prerequisite of a thriving Jewish proletariat, labor Zionism now posited that a prosperous Jewish economy under Histadrut organization would strengthen Arab laborers “in their own community” – an increasingly marginal objective

even among labor Zionists.[19]


Lockman’s narrative provides a valuable refutation of the “dual society” model of Arab-Jewish strife by revealing how friction between the two communities led Zionists to restructure the Yishuv’s economy.  But Lockman investigates both material and discursive dynamics, and counterpoises the newfound explanatory power of “Zionism’s interactions with the existing Arab society in Palestine” against the conventional emphasis on “the [socialist] values and ideology which the ‘pioneers’ of the Second Aliya brought with them to Palestine.”[20]  Here he begs the question: If socialist Zionists did not act on their socialist values, then on what values did they act?


At each stage of Lockman’s story, socialist Zionists faced a choice.  They could have addressed the latest exigencies of Arab-Jewish friction by either (a) enacting whatever concrete policy best conformed to socialism’s abstract precepts, or (b) adhering to a different and more nationalist ideology by adopting the policy that most matched that ideology’s tenets.  To its credit, Comrades and Enemies details exhaustively the Zionist propensity for choosing option (b) during the Ottoman and Mandatory years.  Yet it does not investigate the nationalist ideology that underlay that option, and as the above quote illustrates, it instead conflates the (a)/(b) policy dichotomy with the “dual”/“relational” historiography dichotomy.  Lockman admits, for example, that his “study focuses on the perceptions and practices of the left wing of the Zionist movement” – the foundations of option (a).  He dwells on the thinking of “earlier nonsocialist Zionists, including…Theodor Herzl,”[21] only to add a Eurocentric[22] and ethnocentric[23] dimension to Zionism, not to probe the philosophical basis of an option (b).[24]


Returning to the historical record, however, socialism may have neither fostered interethnic proletarian solidarity in Palestine nor foiled the creation of an exclusively Jewish economic enclave there – but the Yishuv’s new economic, and especially agricultural, institutions gradually took on a socialist cast.  The exposition of their true origins – largely an admixture of West European colonial techniques and economic necessities[25] – is a core feature of Gershon Shafir’s Land, Labor, and the Origins of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, 1882-1914 (first published in 1989), upon which Lockman himself draws.


“The decisive organizational innovation which provided the infrastructure of effective Jewish colonization,” writes Shafir, “was the kibbutz,”[26] the centerpiece of “autonomous labor” within the exclusively Jewish economic enclave.[27]  Although it served a vital function in Zionist nation building, the kibbutz was neither predesigned by Zionist leaders nor predestined by their political philosophy: “in short, it was an unintended means and consequence of Jewish colonization.”[28]


Shafir first argues that the WZO’s strategy of “pure settlement” stemmed from Germany’s “internal colonization” of its eastern Poznan and West Prussian provinces, which began in the late nineteenth century and aimed to neutralize the Polish demographic threat and to reverse westward German migration (peasant Landflucht).  Germany established a Colonization Commission to buy Polish estates, to lease Germans these lands at low rates and for long terms, and to give renters access to a publicly-provisioned infrastructure.[29]  Most German Zionists spent their formative years in this “Ostelbien,” and Shafir therefore takes “their familiarity with this method of settlement” as a given.[30]


Although Herzl himself had neglected to elaborate a settlement strategy, the WZO came to view agricultural settlement as “the sine qua non condition for the success of the colonization project itself.”[31]  And because its West European elites recognized that “[c]apitalist colonization…required wealthy colonists,” they embraced a more nationalist and philanthropic method of settling poor East European immigrants to Palestine.[32] 


In 1901, they established a Jewish National Fund (JNF) to buy landholdings and further “the national ownership of land.”  That this principle was absent from an 1884 proposal for an earlier Zionist National Fund implies that “nationalization of land was not inherent in Zionism,” and Shafir instead traces its conceptual roots to “the European land reform movement” that espoused similar policies in the intervening two decades.[33]


The nationalization principle held enormous practical appeal.  By removing its acquisitions from (a) the land market, in which most participants traded cultivation rights for money, to (b) a Zionist institution which awarded cultivation rights on the basis of Jewish nationality, it could offer the opportunity of agricultural labor to moneyless Jews.  Hence Shafir notes that the JNF’s Memorandum of Association stipulated that “[l]and purchased by the JNF could not be resold, as it was held in trusteeship for the whole nation.”[34]  Shafir also quotes Shalom Reichman and Shlomo Hasson, who had argued five years earlier that


the adoption of the Posen model involved something much deeper than a transfer of a specific colonization technique.  Essentially, it meant an acceptance of or agreement with a political philosophy that assigned a leading role to the national needs and thus was congruent with the goals of the Zionist movement.[35]


After contextualizing this top-down WZO colonization strategy, Shafir examines its interaction with bottom-up Yishuv social forces in order to retrace the kibbutz’s specific origins.  He identifies multiple causes for Jewish agricultural workers’ collectivist and cooperative lifestyles – mainly the monetary benefits of pooling their meager moshava wages and the jump in collective productivity that they gained by playing to their comparative advantages, and only partially the imported Russian tradition of the artel, or workers’ “cooperative living arrangements.”[36]  And because the dominant leftist parties Poalei Zion and Hapoel Hatzair – “the respective organs of whatever ideological orientation existed among the workers” – both preferred that Jewish workers engage with the market economy, neither would consider the establishment of independent workers’ communities “in 1908/9.”[37]  The kibbutz, then, was hardly the material embodiment of socialist Zionist ideals – whose proletarian adherents also exhibited “a strong individualist current” that, ironically, was expected to tear apart any collective economic enterprises.[38]


Indeed, Shafir finds that “[t]he five major works on the history of the Israeli labor movement…have all denied the significance of ideological considerations in creating the kibbutz,” despite “the popular hold of this interpretation.”  Yehuda Slutsky first challenged the conventional ideology-based history in 1968; his “call was first heeded in 1975 and more spiritedly in the early 1980s.”[39]  “Collective settlement,” now argues Shafir – upon whom Lockman draws, as noted above – instead “resulted from the initially asymmetrical ‘alliance’ forged between the organized Eastern European agricultural workers of the Second Aliya and the World Zionist Organization.”[40]


Shafir characterizes the “Ruppin Plan” which underlay the first kibbutz, Degania, as “really a series of offers, with fewer and fewer strings attached, made by [Arthur] Ruppin [of the WZO’s Palestine Land Development Company in 1909] to the workers of Kinneret [training farm].”  The alterations represented continual shifts from considerations of economic rationality and profitability toward a commitment to the nationalist goal of fostering Jewish agricultural settlement.  Ruppin eventually “provided the land, ensured the loan on ridiculously easy, i.e. hardly business, terms and viewed the project as a corridor to permanent settlement.”[41]  Unable to replicate Rothschild’s financial support for the First Aliya’s private estates, Ruppin decided that the concept of a cooperative society offered the “only possibility…to start something new in the sphere of agricultural settlement.”[42]  Finally, “cooperation from above met with cooperation from below,”[43] as workers accepted the creation of a purely Jewish enclave in the Palestinian economy because it removed the element of Arab-Jewish competition from the labor market.[44]  “Only the Third Aliya,” reaching Palestine on the heels of the 1917 Russian Revolution, coated the kibbutz’s decidedly non-ideological origin “in its subsequent ideological armor, viewing it as the Eretz Israeli path to socialism.”[45]


Shafir’s historical account, then, very successfully debunks the myth that such Yishuv institutions derived from socialist philosophy – revealing them instead to be a combination of economic necessities and colonization methods borrowed from the West.  Still, Shafir begs fundamentally the same questions as does Lockman: These policies were economically necessary for what purpose?  Colonization methods were borrowed for what purpose?  The new historiography on Yishuv economic policy lacks satisfactory answers for these questions, so this paper now turns to the literature on Zionist ideology.


Political Zionism: An Enlightenment Ideology


Recent decades have produced works on Zionist political philosophy, such as Mitchell Cohen’s Zion and State: Nation, Class and the Shaping of Modern Israel (published in 1987), that trace the ideological origins of the Zionist movement, examine its more internally consistent Revisionist strain, and thereby help to explain which political principles labor Zionists were willing to prioritize over their initial socialist policy aims.


These newer works have made use of contemporary literature on the rise of nationalism over the past several centuries.  Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, for example, describes the two “large cultural systems”[46] that defined human politics over the millennia of Jewish statelessness.  On the one hand, “the great global communities of the past” consisted of vast religious realms such as Christendom and Dar al-Islam.[47]  On the other hand, religion guarded its temporal power through the institution of the “dynastic realm” which – rather than monopolizing the legitimate use of violence over “a legally demarcated territory” – instead “organize[d] everything around a high centre [sic]” whose “borders were porous and indistinct” and whose “[sovereignty] faded imperceptibly into [other states’].”[48]  Under the paramountcy of a foreign religion, Jews could be seen only as non-Christians or non-Muslims – a status that the nebulous political system offered no hope of bettering.


Drawing on Anderson’s framework, Cohen writes that Europe’s eventual “state centralization” – in conjunction with the Renaissance and Reformation – shook off Christianity’s “universal pretensions and authority.”[49]  Enlightenment philosophers provided the classical liberal justification of a state-centric political order.  In Locke’s words, a “body politic under one supreme government” (a monopoly on legitimate violence) arises when a “number of men so unite into one society”[50] as to surrender “the liberty of the state of Nature [sic]” in order to achieve “a secure enjoyment of their properties, and a greater security against any that are not of it.[51]  In short, a government’s legitimacy rests on its use of “[political] power” to protect private property,[52] the basic individual right.[53]


Within the political transition justified by this philosophy, observes Cohen, the French Revolution played a key role in “modern Jewish history.”  Count Stanislas de Clermont-Tonnerre’s famous 1789 pronouncement – “One must refuse everything to the Jews as a nation but one must grant them everything as individuals; they must become citizens” – symbolized Napoleon’s formal emancipation of most Western and Central European Jews.  Though Waterloo temporarily revived the prior constraints on Jewish life, “the death knell of the [ghetto] had been struck,” and “Jewish legal emancipation was a fact some five decades after the Congress of Vienna.”[54]


            Yet Cohen notes that Eastern European Jewry, confined to a Pale of Settlement that Napoleon had failed to conquer, remained mired in “harsh oppression, poverty, and degradation.”[55]  Still, the Haskalah – the Jewish Enlightenment – spread Western European secular and liberal ideas eastward.  Because many Russian Jews despaired of ever being emancipated by ukase, Haskalah adherents (maskilim) partook of independent intellectual forums dominated by a revived Hebrew language.[56]  But this trend gave little impetus to the Zionism propounded by such early figures as Eliezer Ben-Yehudah, whose goal was the rebirth in Palestine of Hebrew culture.[57]  Instead, European Jews – especially intellectuals – were galvanized by political Zionism, which itself was a reaction to intensified anti-Semitism.


First came the Russian pogroms in 1881, which dashed Eastern European Jewry’s hopes for “liberalization” and “the possibility of assimilation.”[58]  But these hopes could not be crushed without serious ramifications.  Jews had succumbed to past episodes of persecution because their medieval, religion-centered view of temporal sovereignty left them with no political alternative.  In the context of the Enlightenment, however, they understood that states exist to protect their citizens’ rights – that to protect one’s rights, one needs a state apparatus – but that the Russian state did not protect the Jews’ rights.  Their solution simply was to reestablish Jewish statehood.  This was political Zionism, and it spread across the Continent as other states indicated that they, too, were not in the business of protecting Jews’ individual rights.


Thus, chronicles Cohen, Russian Jews therefore bypassed their traditional religious leadership and turned for guidance to maskilim such as Leo Pinsker, who argued that the Jews ought not to rely on the goodwill of their host governments.  Instead, because anti-Semitism is “incurable” and the Jews “cannot be assimilated [or] digested by any nation” – for whatever reason – the Jews had to fashion “an autonomous and independent national existence for themselves.”  This classically liberal program was perhaps the first articulation of political Zionism: “To gain control over their lives Jews needed a land of their own.”[59]  East European Jews responded by organizing a multitude of proto-Zionist parties and movements.[60]


            But the revitalized anti-Semitism was not confined to the Pale of Settlement.  As prominent historian of nationalism Eric Hobsbawm recounts in Nations and Nationalism since 1870 (published in 1990), nationalist sentiments in Western Europe, the font of the Enlightenment, lurched sharply “to the political right” in the 1890s, engendering “the political xenophobia which found its most deplorable…expression in anti-Semitism.”[61]  A key theme in Hobsbawm’s writings on nationalism is the mutation of that concept from a state-based liberal strain into a nation-based illiberal species,[62] which therefore snubbed individual (including Jews’) rights in trying to create a nationally-exclusive polity by shifting political boundaries or relocating aliens.  This shift, confirms historian David Kaiser in Politics and War (also published in 1990), would culminate in the Holocaust.[63]


Writing two years before these historians, Cohen nevertheless situates political Zionism within the context of their narrative.  After reneging on the promise of classical liberalism, Cohen shows, Europeans could see Jews not only as non-Christians, but also as non-French or non-Germans.  In a comment that “illustrates all that brought him to Zionism,” Herzl reflects this conceptual framework: “The French people, or at any rate the greater majority of the French people, does not want to extend the rights of man to Jews.  The edict of the great Revolution has been revoked.”[64]  And this triggered political Zionism.


This historical framework paints a fundamentally anti-collectivist portrait of political Zionism, positing that Jews built it upon Enlightenment foundations to protect their individual rights, not to benefit the Jewish people as a whole.  The narrative portrays those Jewish philosophers who did advocate a Jewish state in Palestine for the collective benefit of Judaism (or humanity) as champions of national culture rather than individual rights.  Therefore their end goal was not classical liberal statehood, and they concentrated on Zionism’s cultural rather than its political dimension.


Thus Cohen writes that the socialism of Moses Hess, an early Zionist, dictated that the Jewish state was not to be “an end unto itself; nor was it simply a mechanism to allow capitalists to compete safely, or to protect individual rights….The state was a means for purposefully re-creating human lives in the form of a national existence.”[65]  Ahad Ha-am, the father of Kultur (cultural) Zionism, was “[preoccupied by the] survival of Jewish Volksgeist, as opposed to solving the problem of individual Jews facing a crisis.”  For him, Jewish culture – “the thread that unites us with the past” – outweighed “material power and political dominion.”[66]  Both thinkers deviated from Herzl’s Staat (political) Zionism,[67] precisely because they diverged from his philosophical assumptions.[68]


In sum, recent literature on Zionist ideology posits that European Jews’ Enlightenment-era understanding of the state as the proper guarantor of political rights determined their reaction to the resurgence of anti-Semitism which accompanied illiberal nationalism.  This reaction was to seek independent statehood.


Labor Zionism and Revisionist Zionism


Yet ideologies are often inconsistent, and Zionism was no exception.  As political Zionism grew in numbers, it split into two broad factions.  One was labor Zionism, whose contradictory policy imperatives were exposed by the new historiography on Yishuv economics.  And in the context of recent histories of Zionist ideology, this political contradiction appears to be only a concrete manifestation of labor Zionism’s abstract dilution of Herzl’s liberal nationalism with more collectivist philosophies.


The other faction was Revisionist Zionism, the creation of Vladimir Ze’ev Jabotinsky, “probably [Zionism’s] only real political writer”[69] – and, perhaps because of the time he invested in that subject, its most consistent theoretician.  Cohen stresses that he “compared his foes’ synthesis of nationalism and socialism with shaatnez, a mixture of wool and linen prohibited in garments by Jewish tradition.”  His alternative was “monism,” Herzl’s political Zionism pared to its most essential elements.[70]  Thus Jabotinsky openly advocated Jewish statehood in Palestine – and “derided all who would not speak forthrightly of [it]” – over a decade before Ben-Gurion backed an independent Jewish commonwealth at the 1942 Biltmore Conference.[71]


Conversely, writes Cohen, labor Zionism saw itself as compelled to choose between a small Jewish state in a partitioned Palestine, to which “persecuted diaspora Jewry” could freely immigrate, and continued British hegemony, under which Jews could continue to settle throughout the Mandate.  Only the Holocaust tipped the labor Zionist scale in favor of the first option, because the second was so central to its goal of building a socialist society,[72] as discussed above.  Yet Revisionist Zionism – which was unwilling to limit Jews’ individual rights to either immigrate to or settle in Mandatory Palestine – opted to contest British rule years earlier, culminating in military operations over the last decade of the Mandate.[73]


Thus Revisionist partisan Ya’acov Liberman writes that “the popularity of Zeev Jabotinsky grew in direct proportion with the spread of Nazism and the ever-growing realization that not only Jews from Austria and Germany, but also those from all over Europe, were in mortal danger.”[74]  Here he reveals not only Jabotinsky’s appeal to the Jewish masses but his own Revisionist understanding of Zionism’s purpose – saving Jewish lives, not Jewish society.


However, socialist Zionists labeled the founder of Revisionism a fascist, and Ben-Gurion himself called Jabotinsky “Vladimir Hitler.”[75]  Cohen writes that he extolled a “militant nationalism” whose hero “was characterized by his rifle,” not the agricultural toil which typified the ideal labor Zionist pioneer.[76]  Yet this was the inevitable product of his passion for “Liberalism [sic], the old-fashioned creed of the XIXth century,” whose revival he encouraged and for whose dictatorial nemeses he expressed only “an instinctive [hatred].”[77]  Alain Dieckhoff – a scholar of Zionist ideology whose The Invention of a Nation (published in 2003) draws a similar picture of Revisionism as a serious alternative to labor Zionism – writes that only through the use of physical force could the future Jewish state protect the individual rights that Jabotinsky so ardently revered.  And because the sanctity of individual freedom in the political and economic spheres would greatly limit the state’s other prerogatives,[78] the classical liberal state (the minimalist state, in modern parlance) could consist of little more than a military – for which a rifle seems a not unreasonable symbol[79] – shielding a libertarian polity and capitalist economy.


This vision of Zionism, rooted in the conception of the state as a monopoly on the legitimate use of force, predictably reappears in the writings of Benjamin Netanyahu, who currently heads Revisionism’s successor political party, the Likud.  His thesis that “[the] question of Jewish powerlessness is central to the traumatic experience of the Jewish people”[80] represents an unambiguous understanding of the classical liberal or individualist conception of statehood.  On the one hand, Jewish statehood in the distant past had secured Jews’ rights:


The Jews may not have been loved in antiquity, but they were respected for their determination and capacity to resist assaults on their rights and liberty….Against Rome and Byzantium, the Jews of Judea stood utterly alone in the face of a superpower that had vanquished most of the civilized world, waging a seemingly hopeless resistance for six centuries.[81]


On the other hand,


once the Jews were driven into exile and became a collection of dispersed communities in the medieval world, they were gradually deprived of all the conditions necessary for self-defense….Most notably in the states of medieval Germany, the Jews were stripped of the right that others had to carry weapons for self-defense….Step by step, the Jews were consigned to the status of a minority dependent on the protection of its hosts – that is, if the hosts were inclined to protect it in the first place.[82]


In short, the leading legatee of the most ideologically consistent form of Zionism continues to justify Zionism’s political aims on classical liberal grounds.


Finally, this ideological principle finds expression in the speech and letters of the Sabras – “the second generation of Zionist Israelis, the first generation to be educated and socialized within the Yishuv” – in the pages of Oz Almog’s The Sabra: The Creation of the New Jew (published in 2000).  A kibbutz movement leader took from the Holocaust the lesson that “[t]hese times have once more [shown], in a terrible light, the fundamental truth of Zionism, which is: the Jewish person cannot exist in the Diaspora.”[83]  Almog argues that “education for militarism” and the elevation of Maccabee valor to “the central educational value…was motivated not only by ideology but also, and perhaps first and foremost, by the pragmatic needs of a society that had to fight.”[84]  Militarism may have been the most pragmatic way to win the fight, but the very need to fight was based on the ideological imperative of achieving independent statehood.  As in the economic sphere, though, this duty assumed a collectivist cast, whether because of socialist ideological influences or because Yishuv soldiers fought to protect a collection of individuals – “[t]he demand to make a sacrifice, even of one’s life, for saving the nation was considered a legitimate demand, and combat service was considered not only a duty but a great privilege.”[85]


Conclusions: Bonding Zionism with Capitalism in Yishuv Citriculture


Nahum Karlinsky’s California Dreaming: Ideology, Society, and Technology in the Citrus Industry of Palestine, 1890-1939, published in 2005, bridges the two halves of this paper.  It portrays a group of citrus entrepreneurs who shared labor Zionism’s aspirations for a Jewish Palestine, but who also believed in both the practical utility[86] and the morality of a capitalist ideology centered on “the individual and the principle of ‘natural rights’ – personal freedom and the right to property above all.”[87]


California Dreaming represents a worrying trend toward overspecialized topics – the experience of Yishuv citriculture is too specific to yield conclusions about the wider Jewish economy and it eludes easy insertion into this paper’s historical narrative.  Karlinsky, moreover, does not adequately flesh out why the citrus planters “saw no contradiction between the liberal capitalistic worldview, to which they subscribed, and a national worldview.” [88]


Yet he does reveal a linkage between the resounding success of a decidedly nonsocialist form of agricultural enterprise (despite “the Zionist Movement’s budgetary exertions” on behalf of labor Zionist settlements, by 1935 three-fourths of “Jewish agricultural output derived from citrus…an industry almost exclusively in private hands” [89]) and the capitalist strain of Zionism espoused by Moshe Smilansky, “the writer, grower, and president of the Farmers’ Federation”[90]: “[I]n Smilansky's vision, Zionist settlement would be mainly a private agricultural venture financed with private capital, undertaken at private initiative, and situated on private land.”[91]  Even if it neither charts out a systemic ideology nor generates generalizable data, then, California Dreaming does at least offer an appealing summary of the trends explored in this historiography.



[1] Zachary Lockman, Comrades and Enemies: Arab and Jewish Workers in Palestine, 1906-1948 (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1996), pp. 4-5.

[2] Gershon Shafir, Land, Labor and the Origins of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, 1882-1914 (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1989), pp. 2-5.

[3] Lockman, p. 8.

[4] Ibid., p. 47.

[5] Ibid., p. 47.

[6] Shafir refers to himself as one of the four charter “new historians,” in addition to Benny Morris, Avi Shlaim, and Ilan Pappe.  Shafir, p. x.

[7] Ibid., p. 48.

[8] Ibid., p. 49.

[9] Ibid., p. 50.

[10] Ibid., pp. 50-51.

[11] Ibid., pp. 52-53.

[12] Ibid., pp. 53-54.

[13] Ibid., p. 54.

[14] Ibid., p. 56.

[15] Ibid., p. 54.

[16] Ibid., p. 368.

[17] Ibid., p. 56.

[18] Ibid., p. 102.

[19] Ibid., pp. 107-108.

[20] Ibid., p. 56.

[21] Ibid., pp. 29-30.

[22] Ibid., p. 34.

[23] Ibid., p. 31.

[24] In fact, by stressing the “ultimate marginality…to mainstream Zionist thought and practice” of thinkers who “acknowledged the presence in Palestine of a coherent Arab community with which the Zionist movement would have to reckon” (p. 36), Lockman automatically rules out the most likely philosophical basis of Zionism’s option (b), as explained below: Jabotinsky’s Revisionist Zionism.

[25] Shafir, pp. 9-11.

[26] Ibid., p. 146.

[27] Ibid., pp. 188-189.

[28] Ibid., p. 146.

[29] Ibid., pp. 148-154.

[30] Ibid., p. 158.

[31] Ibid., pp. 147-148.

[32] Ibid., pp. 154-155.

[33] Ibid., pp. 155-156.

[34] Ibid., pp. 155-156.

[35] Ibid., p. 160.

[36] Ibid., pp. 165-166.

[37] Ibid., p. 182.

[38] Ibid., p. 166.

[39] Ibid., p. 173.

[40] Ibid., pp. 146-147.

[41] Ibid., pp. 176-177.

[42] Ibid., p. 182.

[43] Ibid., p. 181.

[44] Ibid., p. 182.

[45] Ibid., p. 184.

[46] Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London: Verso, 1991), p. 12.

[47] Ibid., pp. 12-15.

[48] Ibid., p. 19.

[49] Cohen, p. 39.  Ernest Gellner also discusses state centralization in great detail, though he attributes the process to the need for an “educational infrastructure” generated by “industrial society” [Ernest Gellner, Nations and Nationalism (Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1983), pp. 35-37].

[50] John Locke, The Second Treatise on Civil Government (Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books, 1986), p. 50.

[51] Ibid., pp. 54-55.

[52] Ibid., p. 8.

[53] Ibid., p. 20.

[54] Mitchell Cohen, Zion and State: Nation, Class and the Shaping of Modern Israel (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, Ltd., 1987), pp. 51-52.

[55] Ibid., p. 52.

[56] Ibid., pp. 54-56.

[57] Ibid., pp. 56-57.

[58] Ibid., p. 57.

[59] Ibid., pp. 59-61.

[60] Ibid., pp. 58-63.

[61] E. J. Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism since 1870: Programme [sic], Myth, Reality (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), pp. 102-105.

[62] E. J. Hobsbawm, The Age of Empire 1875-1914 (New York: Vintage, 1987), pp. 142-144.

[63] It is this collectivist strain of nationalism whose “[failure] to conform to reality” would be responsible for “expelling or murdering literally millions of people” in “the [extraordinarily heterogeneous] population of central and eastern Europe.”  Kaiser, pp. 281-282.

[64] Cohen, pp. 66-67.

[65] Ibid., p. 31.  Emphasis added.

[66] Ibid., pp. 67-68.

[67] Ibid., p. 67.

[68] This divergence seems to survive today in any claim that the Zionist project has failed, on the grounds that Israel’s conflict with the Arabs produces a net increase in global anti-Semitism, or that, in the nuclear age, the congregation of so many Jews in so small a territory endangers the future of the Jewish religion or people.  This line of criticism might trouble scholars like Hess or Ahad Ha-am, whose Zionism rested on collectivist premises, but it is irrelevant to the political Zionism which brought about the state of Israel as a means of upholding Jews’ individual rights at any cost to any collective (Judaism, world Jewry, or humanity).

[69] Alain Dieckhoff, The Invention of a Nation: Zionist Thought and the Making of Modern Israel, trans. Jonathan Derrick (New York: Columbia University Press, 2003), p. 175.

[70] Cohen, p. 138.

[71] Ibid., p. 143, p. 150, pp. 193-194.

[72] Cohen, pp. 193-194.

[73] Cohen, p. 192.

[74] Ya’acov (Yana) Liberman, Tears of Zion: Divided We Stand (Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America,® Inc., 2006), p. 7.

[75] Dieckhoff, p. 175, p. 184.

[76] Cohen, p. 138, p. 164.

[77] Ibid., p. 172.

[78] On the level of politics, Revisionism favored stringent restrictions on government powers to “avoid any excessive encroachment on civil society,” advocating a “separation of powers” and “political representation through a parliament.”  (Dieckhoff, p. 179.)

On the economic plane, Jabotinsky defended “free enterprise” and emphasized the bourgeoisie’s role in effecting a “free circulation of goods, an indispensable condition for the wealth of nations” – defending the concentration of European Jews within the Continent’s middle classes, unlike the Socialist Zionists, who aimed at creating a Jewish agricultural and industrial proletariat.  (Ibid., pp. 178-179).  Further, Jabotinsky believed that the state has no responsibility to “rectify social inequality” – a task which contradicts the right to private property and “civic liberty.”  Indeed, Jabotinsky wrote that “[it] is of no concern to the state that Mr [sic] X dwells in a palatial mansion and Mr [sic] Y is grumbling why he too cannot occupy an equally luxurious place.  Who cares about that…?”  Although Jabotinsky backed minor redistributions of wealth, he justified these on the basis of a minimally interventionist Biblical philosophy, rather than through socialist or Marxist arguments for egalitarianism or a command economy.  (Ibid., p. 187.)

[79] Interestingly, Locke makes this point by citing the experiences of Israel itself in antiquity: “in Israel…the chief business of their judges and first kings seems to have been to be captains in war and leaders of their armies,” yet “at home, and in time of peace, they exercise very little dominion, and have but a very moderate sovereignty.”  Locke, p. 61.

[80] Benjamin Netanyahu, A Durable Peace: Israel and Its Place Among the Nations.  (New York: Warner Books, 2000), p. 354.

[81] Ibid., pp. 355-356.

[82] Ibid., p. 357.

[83] Oz Almog, The Sabra: The Creation of the New Jew, trans. Haim Watzman (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2000), p. 82.

[84] Ibid., p. 141.

[85] Ibid., pp. 70-71.

[86] Nahum Karlinsky, California Dreaming: Ideology, Society, and Technology in the Citrus Industry of Palestine, 1890-1939, trans. Naftali Greenwood (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2005), p. 218.

[87] Ibid., p. 217.

[88] Ibid., p. 217.

[89] Ibid., p. 5.

[90] Ibid., p. 23.

[91] Ibid., pp. 27-29.






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(c) 2008 Jacob Jaffe