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Zion and State: Nation, Class, and the Shaping of Modern Israel Paperback – July 16, 1992

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About the Author

Asher Cohen is Professor of History at the University of Haifa.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 338 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press; Columbia University Press Morningside ed edition (July 16, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231079419
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231079419
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,172,571 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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To imagine how Israel might have evolved into a socialist state sounds like an exercise in alternate history, but it's not as strange as it sounds. There were always middle-class settlers in Palestine, but the Second Aliyah, arriving in Israel about 1905, was passionately socialist. This book tells us how David Ben-Gurion moved from socialism to state-building.

The Marxists among the Second Aliyah immigrants, including Ben-Gurion, were known as Poalei Zion. They envisioned a proletarian revolution in Palestine but only after many years, since the working class was not then large enough. Opposed was Ha-Poel Hatzair, influenced by Tolstoy and Proudhon, and desiring immediate action. This group valued above all the manual worker, especially in agriculture, and originated the famous collective settlement known as the kibbutz. Despite their almost religious belief in manual labor, they were in fact not very good workers because they could not function well unless they controlled the terms of their work. Their settlement in Palestine was subsidized by the Zionist Organization (ZO), which was overwhelmingly bourgeois. The "cooperative" principle that worked for settlements was soon extended to other worker-related organizations like employment exchanges. Even so, these organizations were not very efficient or profitable in a normal business sense.

With the Balfour Declaration, the various factions of Palestine Jews formed political parties in preparation for elections to an assembly and an Executive. This quasi-government was to mediate their relations with the Mandatory authority. Ben-Gurion was able to form a single big entity known as Histadrut out of the various cooperatives that had been formed.
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Zion and State: Nation, Class, and the Shaping of Modern Israel
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