Labor Zionism

Labor Zionism or socialist Zionism[1] (Hebrew: צִיּוֹנוּת סוֹצְיָאלִיסְטִית, translit. Tziyonut sotzyalistit; Hebrew: תְּנוּעָת הָעַבוֹדָה translit. Tnu'at ha'avoda, i.e. The labor movement) is the left-wing of the Zionist movement. For many years, it was the most significant tendency among Zionists and Zionist organizations. It saw itself as the Zionist sector of the historic Jewish labor movements of Eastern and Central Europe, eventually developing local units in most countries with sizable Jewish populations. Unlike the "political Zionist" tendency founded by Theodor Herzl and advocated by Chaim Weizmann, Labor Zionists did not believe that a Jewish state would be created simply by appealing to the international community or to a powerful nation such as Britain, Germany or the Ottoman Empire. Rather, Labor Zionists believed that a Jewish state could only be created through the efforts of the Jewish working class settling in the Land of Israel and constructing a state through the creation of a progressive Jewish society with rural kibbutzim and moshavim and an urban Jewish proletariat.

Labor Zionism grew in size and influence and eclipsed "political Zionism" by the 1930s both internationally and within the British Mandate of Palestine where Labor Zionists predominated among many of the institutions of the pre-independence Jewish community Yishuv, particularly the trade union federation known as the Histadrut. The Haganah, the largest Zionist paramilitary defense force, was a Labor Zionist institution and was used on occasion (such as during the Hunting Season) against right-wing political opponents or to assist the British Administration in capturing rival Jewish militants.

Labor Zionists played a leading role in the 1948 Arab–Israeli War and Labor Zionists were predominant among the leadership of the Israeli military for decades after the formation of the state of Israel in 1948.

Major theoreticians of the Labor Zionist movement included Moses Hess, Nachman Syrkin, Ber Borochov, and Aaron David Gordon and leading figures in the movement included David Ben-Gurion, Golda Meir, and Berl Katznelson.

Ideology

Moses Hess's 1862 work Rome and Jerusalem. The Last National Question argued for the Jews to settle in Palestine as a means of settling the national question. Hess proposed a socialist state in which the Jews would become agrarianized through a process of "redemption of the soil" that would transform the Jewish community into a true nation in that Jews would occupy the productive layers of society rather than being an intermediary non-productive merchant class, which is how he perceived European Jews.[citation needed]

Ber Borochov, continuing from the work of Moses Hess, proposed the creation of a socialist society that would correct the "inverted pyramid" of Jewish society. Borochov believed that Jews were forced out of normal occupations by Gentile hostility and competition, using this dynamic to explain the relative predominance of Jewish professionals, rather than workers. Jewish society, he argued, would not be healthy until the inverted pyramid was righted, and a substantial number of Jews became workers and peasants again. This, he held, could only be accomplished by Jews in their own country.[2]

Another Zionist thinker, A. D. Gordon, was influenced by the völkisch ideas of European romantic nationalism, and proposed establishing a society of Jewish peasants. Gordon made a religion of work.[clarification needed] These two figures (Gordon and Borochov), and others like them, motivated the establishment of the first Jewish collective settlement, or kibbutz, Degania, on the southern shore of the Sea of Galilee, in 1909 (the same year that the city of Tel Aviv was established). Deganiah, and many other kibbutzim that were soon to follow, attempted to realize these thinkers' vision by creating communal villages, where newly arrived European Jews would be taught agriculture and other manual skills.[citation needed]

Joseph Trumpeldor is also considered to be one of the early icons of the Labor Zionist movement in Palestine.[3] When discussing what it is to be a Jewish pioneer, Trumpeldor stated

What is a pioneer? Is he a worker only? No! The definition includes much more. The pioneers should be workers but that is not all. We shall need people who will be "everything" – everything that the land of Israel needs. A worker has his labor interests, a soldier his esprit de corps, a doctor and an engineer, their special inclinations. A generation of iron-men; iron from which you can forge everything the national machinery needs. You need a wheel? Here I am. A nail, a screw, a block? – here take me. You need a man to till the soil? – I’m ready. A soldier? I am here. Policeman, doctor, lawyer, artist, teacher, water carrier? Here I am. I have no form. I have no psychology. I have no personal feeling, no name. I am a servant of Zion. Ready to do everything, not bound to do anything. I have only one aim – creation.

Trumpeldor, a Socialist Zionist, gave his life in 1920 defending the community of Tel Hai in the Upper Galilee. He became a symbol of Jewish self-defense and his reputed last words, "Never mind, it is good to die for our country" (En davar, tov lamut be'ad artzenu אין דבר, טוב למות בעד ארצנו), became famous in the pre-state Zionist movement and in Israel during the 1950s and 1960s. Trumpeldor's heroic death made him not only a martyr for Zionists Left but also for the Revisionist Zionist movement who named its youth movement Betar (an acronym for "Covenant of Joseph Trumpeldor") after the fallen hero.[citation needed]

Albert Einstein was a prominent supporter of both Labor Zionism and efforts to encourage Jewish–Arab cooperation.[4] Fred Jerome in his Einstein on Israel and Zionism: His Provocative Ideas About the Middle East argues that Einstein was a Cultural Zionist who supported the idea of a Jewish homeland but opposed the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine "with borders, an army, and a measure of temporal power." Instead, he preferred a bi-national state with "continuously functioning, mixed, administrative, economic, and social organizations."[5] However Ami Isseroff in his article Was Einstein a Zionist argues that Einstein was not opposed to the state of Israel given that Einstein declared it "the fulfillment of our dreams." Perceiving its vulnerability after independence, he again set aside his pacifism in the name of human preservation, when president Harry Truman recognized Israel in May 1948.[6] In the November 1948 presidential election Einstein supported former vice-president Henry A. Wallace’s Progressive Party, which advocated a pro-Soviet foreign policy – but which also at the time (like the USSR) strongly supported the new state of Israel. Wallace went down to defeat, winning no states.[7]