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Railway Workers and Relational History: Arabs and Jews in British-Ruled Palestine Author(s): Zachary Lockman Source: Comparative Studies in Society and History, Vol. 35, No. 3 (Jul., 1993), pp. 601-627 Published by: Cambridge University Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/179148 . Accessed: 13/01/2014 22:30
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Railway Workersand Relational History: Arabs and Jews in British-RuledPalestine


ZACHARY LOCKMAN Harvard University Duringthe periodof Ottomanrule over the ArabEast, from 1516 until the end of the First World War, the term Palestine (Filastin) denoted a geographic region, part of what the Arabs called al-Sham (historic Syria), ratherthan a district. By contrast, from 1920 specific Ottomanprovince or administrative to 1948, Palestineexisted as a distinctand unified political (and to a considerable extent economic) entity with well-defined boundaries.Ruled by Britain undera so-called mandategrantedby the League of Nations, Palestine in that period encompassed an Arab majorityand a Jewish minority. By now a fairly substantialhistorical and sociological literatureon Palestine duringthe mandateperiod has accumulated.Broadlyspeaking, several this literature. For one, it gives disproporfeaturescan be said to characterize tionate attentionto elites and to diplomatic, political, and militaryhistory,to the disadvantage of other social groups and of the social, economic, and culturaldimensions of the developmentof the Arab and Jewish communities in Palestine. There is also, for a varietyof reasons, a greatquantitative (andto some extent qualitative)disparitybetween the publishedresearchon the policies and activities of the Zionist movement, its componentpartiesand institutions in Palestine, and more broadlythe developmentof the Yishuv, the preStudies My thanksto Joel Beinin, BesharaDoumani, Joel Migdal, andthe editorsof Comparative in Society and History for their helpful comments on earlierversions of this essay. This version was completed while I was a Visiting Fellow at Princeton University's Shelby Cullom Davis Center for Historical Studies, for whose financial support and intellectual stimulation I am grateful. 1 Much of what follows also applies to the literatureon Palestine in the late Ottomanperiod and to Israel and the Palestiniansinside and outside what had been Palestine after 1948 as well. But it is especially relevant to the four decades during which Palestine existed as an administratively unified entity, before partition, war, Palestinian displacement, and massive Jewish immigrationradically altered the terms of the interactionbetween Arabs and Jews in Palestine. For surveys of the field, see KennethW. Stein, "A Historiographic Review of Literature on the Origins of the Arab-IsraeliConflict," The AmericanHistorical Review, 96:5 (December 1991), 1450-65; TarifKhalidi, "PalestinianHistoriography:1900-1948," Journal of Palestine Studies, 10:3 (Spring 1981), 59-76; and BesharaB. Doumani'simportant essay, "RediscoveringOttoman Palestine: Writing Palestinians into History,"Journal of Palestine Studies, 21:2 (Winter 1992), 5-28. 0010-4175/93/3787-0375 $5.00 ? 1993 Society for ComparativeStudy of Society and History 60o

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state Jewish communityin Palestine, on the one hand, andthe literature on the cultural of and Arab economic Palestine's political, social, community history on the other. I would also argue that many, if not most, of the historians, sociologists, and others who have contributedto this literaturehave worked from within (and implicitly accepted the premisesof) either Zionist or Arab/ Palestiniannationalisthistoricalnarratives.As a result, muchof the published in its own right, nonethelessfails research,while often valuableand important to adopt a sufficientlycritical stance towardthe categoriesof historicalanalysis which it deploys. These characteristics are to varying degrees relatedto the historiographical issue on which I would like to focus here, an issue centralto the way in which the moder history of Palestine has been framedbut which has only recently begun to be subjectedto a serious critique. The paradigmof historical interhas been premisedon the implicitor pretationinformingmuch of the literature explicit representationof 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 usually depicted as coherent and unconflicted objects which developed along entirely distinct paths in accordancewith dynamics and as the result of factorslargely unique and internalto each. The paradigmthus assumes that the Arab and Jewish communities in Palestine interactedonly in very limited ways and only en bloc and certainlydid not exert a formativeinfluenceon one another,as whole of theircomponentparts. By extencommunitiesor throughthe interrelations sion, communal identities are regardedas natural,ratherthan as constructed within a largerfield of relationsand forces thatdifferentiallyaffected(or even constituted)subgroupsamong both Arabs and Jews. We may call this the dual society model because it posits the existence of two essentially separate societies with distinct and disconnected historical trajectoriesin mandatoryPalestine. This model manifests itself most clearly, perhaps, in the work of leading Israeli scholars, who startfrom the premise that the history of the Yishuv (and later of Israel) can be adequatelyunderstood in termsof the interactionof the Yishuv's own internalsocial, political, economic, and cultural dynamics with those of world Jewish history. The influence of the largely Arab environmentwithin which the Zionist project and the Yishuv developed and of the matrix of Arab-Jewishrelations and interactionsin Palestine is defined a priorinot as constitutivebut as marginal and is largely excluded from consideration. A classic example is S. N. Eisenstadt's 1967 study, Israeli Society, which promises to provide "a systematic analysis of the developmentof the Jewish communityin Palestine from its beginning in the late 1880s up to the present day."2As Talal Asad (among others) has pointed out, PalestinianArabsplay
2

(New York:Basic Books, 1967), 1.

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virtually no role whatsoever in this analysis: The Yishuv seems to have and triumph developed in a vacuum, its evolutionpropelledby the articulation of values conducive to successful institutionbuilding.3Eisenstadt'sstudents, Dan Horowitz and Moshe Lissak, embracethe dual society model even more explicitly in their influentialOrigins of the Israeli Polity: Palestine under the Mandate: In Mandatory andstratification andparallel economic Palestine two separate systems of different whichmaintained levels of modernization only limitedmutual emerged of ideologrelations. is thatthisphenomenon arose dueto theinfluence Ourcontention ical and politicalpressures exertedwithineach of the two national communities.4 The dual society model also informs most work on the mandateperiod by Palestinianand other Arab scholars, though it is usually not explicitly theorized. No Arab historianor sociologist suggests that the Zionist project did not, in the long run, have a tremendousimpact on PalestinianArab society. But that society is usually representedas a pre-existing, pre-formedentity which was then threatened,encroached upon and, in 1947-49, largely debetween Arabs and stroyed by an aggressively expandingYishuv. Interaction Jews is largely limited to the sphere of political and militaryconflict, rather than seen as havinghad a significantimpacton the developmentof Palestinian Arab society in other spheresas well.5 Many of the foreign scholarswho have published research on the modem history of Palestine have also shared this focus on one or the other of the two communities, which are depicted as essentially separateand self-containedentities. The dual society paradigm does of course allow for a single significant mode of interactionbetween Arabs and Jews in Palestine:conflict, violent or otherwise. This is one reason for the disproportionate attentionin the literature to the political, diplomatic, and military dimensions of the relations between Arabs and Jews. However, the criticism which Avishai Ehrlich recently put forwardwith regardto Israeli sociologists can also be extended to many historians of modem Palestine. Arab-Jewishconflict, Ehrlich argues is not integrated into the theoretical framework of the sociological disanalytically
course. . . . [It] is not perceived as a continuousformativeprocess which shaped the

institutional structure andthe mentality of theIsraeli socialformation (as well as that of the Palestinian Arabsociety).At best, if at all, theArabs andconflictareregarded

3 Talal Asad, "AnthropologicalTexts and Ideological Problems:An Analysis of Cohen on Arab Villages in Israel," Review of Middle East Studies, 1 (1975), 14 n. 11 (also excerpted in MERIPReports, 53 [December 1976]). See also GershonShafir,Land, Labor and the Origins of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, 1882-1914 (Cambridge:CambridgeUniversity Press, 1989), 1-7. 4 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press), 1978, 13; first published in Hebrew as Miyishuv limedina:yehudei eretzyisra'el bitequfathamandatkeqehilapolitit (Tel Aviv: 'Am 'Oved, 1977). 5 For example, 'Abd al-Wahhab filastin al-hadith (Beirut: Al-Mu'assasa al-Kayyali, Ta'rikh al-'arabiyya lil-dirasat wa'l-nashr, 1970), or Muhammad Nakhlah, Tatawwural-mujtami'fi filastin (Kuwait: Mu'assasat Dhat al-Salasil, 1983).

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as an external to an internally structure: an an appendix addendum, self-explanatory inflammation.6 whicherupts fromtimeto timein a temporary appendix The scarcity of historianswith a commandof both Arabic and Hebrewhas no doubt contributedto the prevalence and persistence of the dual society model, as have the insularity,self-absorption,and reluctanceto challenge the prevailing consensus characteristicof (but of course not unique to) societies many of whose members perceive themselves as still engaged in a life-ordeath struggle to secure their collective existence against grave threats and realize their national(ist) project. But the dominance of this paradigmalso reflects (and reinforces) the way in which most scholars have implicitly or explicitly conceptualizedtheir object of study. The result has been an histoof the two commuriographywhich has hardlyquestionedthe representation nities as self-evidently coherententities largely uninfluencedby one another. This approachhas renderedtheir mutuallyconstitutiveimpactvirtuallyinvisidivisions and focused attention on ble, tended to downplay intracommunal episodes of violent conflict, implicitly assumedto be the sole normalor 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 boundariesbetween (and within) communitieswere drawn and reproduced, and practices of separation, exclusion, and conflict articulated.7
THE EMERGENCE OF A RELATIONAL PARADIGM

In recentyears the utility of this paradigmhas been increasinglychallengedby Israeli, Palestinian, and foreign scholars who have consciously sought to problematizeand transcend,or at least to rendermore complex, both Zionist and categories. This projectof and Palestiniannationalisthistoricalnarratives a move beyond the narrowly involved has and reconceptualization critique histories of each comand cultural to the social, economic, political explore to relational commitment a new reflected also has it More important, munity. and Jews in Arabs of histories the that in an rooted understanding history, Palestinecan only be graspedby studying modem (and especially mandatory) the ways in which both these communitieswere to a significantextent constituted and shaped within a complex matrixof economic, political, social, and cultural interactions. This project has also sought to explore how each was shaped by the largerprocesses by which both were affected, for example the specific form of capitalist development which Palestine underwentfrom the
6 "Israel: Conflict, Warand Social Change," in Colin Creightonand MartinShaw, eds., The Sociology of Warand Peace (Houndmills, Hampshire:The MacMillan Press, 1987), 131. of those identities, discoursesand practices 7 For example, researchon the genderedcharacter has gotten underwayonly recently.

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nineteenthcentury onward, marketsfor labor and land, Ottomanpatternsof law and administration,and British colonial social and economic policies. This turn to relationalhistory was greatly facilitatedby the new forms of interaction between Israeli and Palestinian societies that developed in the aftermathof Israel's 1967 conquest of the remainderof mandatoryPalestine and the extension of Israel'srule to encompass fully one-half of the Palestinian people. The subsequentdecades of occupation, conflict, and crisis have made it increasinglyclear that at the core of the Arab-Israeliconflict lies the Zionist-Palestinianconflict. This has led IsraeliJewish intellectualsin particular to seek a new, demythologized understanding of their past as a way of making sense of the political, social, and culturalchanges their own society has undergoneas a result of this historicencounter.For theirpart, Palestinian intellectualsand scholars in the occupied West Bank and Gaza and elsewhere of have, since 1967, acquireda much deeperand more nuancedunderstanding Israeli politics, society, and culture, which has opened the way to a better understandingof Zionist and Israeli history. Foreign scholars have also contributedinnovative new work in recent years.8 One risk in adopting a relationalapproach,of course, is that the specificity of the histories of Arabs and Jews in Palestine 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 subsumedwithin a Zionist historicalnarrative, thereby denying them an independentidentity and agency-that Pales8 The Israeli scholars who have pioneered what might be called the revisionist tendency of Israeli historiographyinclude Baruch Kimmerling, Gershon Shafir, Michael Shalev, Lev Luis to the now-defunct Gozanski, Shlomo Swirski, Ella Shohat, andthe contributors Grinberg,Tamar journal Mahbarotlimehkarvelebikoret.For a discussion of some of the revisionistworks on the events of 1947-49 and of the political conjunctureout of which they emerged, see Zachary Lockman, "OriginalSin," in ZacharyLockman and Joel Beinin, eds., Intifada: the Palestinian Uprising Against Israeli Occupation (Boston: South End Press, 1989); see also Laurence J. Silberstein, ed., New Perspectives on Israeli History: the Early Yearsof the State (New York: New York University Press, 1991). Given the dispersion, statelessness, and subordinationthat characterizePalestinian life, the and the limited resources at continuing centralityof the struggle for national self-determination the disposal of most Palestinianscholars, explicit revisionism has perhapsnot surprisinglybeen less in evidence among Palestinians. Nonetheless, a numberof studies manifest what I call a relational approach, most notably Elia Zureik's The Palestinians in Israel: A Study in Internal Colonialism (London:Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1979). A numberof other Palestinianscholars have produced studies which depart from conventional narrativesin approachand choice of subject, including Salim Tamari,Musa al-Budayri,Mahiral-Sharif, 'Abd al-QadirYasin, Philip Mattar, and MuhammadMuslih. VariousPalestinianresearchcenters and institutionsof higher education have in recent years also publishedimportant work in Arabicon aspects of Palestinian social and culturalhistory. Among works produced by scholars who are neither Israeli nor Palestinian, pride of place belongs to Roger Owen's edited volume, Studies in the Economicand Social Historyof Palestine in the Nineteenth and TwentiethCenturies (Carbondale,Ill.: SouthernIllinois University Press, of 1982), and especially to his introduction,which explicitly discusses variousconceptualizations Palestinian history. Innovative work has also been producedby Talal Asad, Theodore Swedenburg, Rachelle Taqqu, and Joel Beinin. This survey is of course by no means exhaustive.

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tinian political scientist IbrahimAbu-Lughod seems to have been warning against a decade ago when he rebukedhistoriansof Palestine for assuming that it is impossible to "study the historical developmentof the Palestinian Arab community at any particularpoint in modem times without taking immediate cognizance of the presence-effective or fictitious-of the Jewish communityas representedby the Zionist movement."While admittingthat it is "difficultto disentangle Palestinianhistory and culture from the endemic conflict between Palestinianand Zionist and Palestinianand 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 imperialistor Zionist."9 attenAbu-Lughodis certainlyright to arguethatthe very disproportionate tion paid to Zionism and the Yishuv, and the not unrelatedneglect (and implicit marginalization)of Palestine's Arab majority,has had a distorting of the modem history of Palestine. His effect on our overall understanding assertionthat "the social and culturalevolutionof the Palestiniansin modem times is in desperateneed of study"is also entirelyjustified. Without question, more (and better)researchon the historyof the PalestinianArabcommunity as a distinct (though of course not homogeneous or internally unconflicted) entity is urgently needed. At the same time, however, historians cannot avoid seeking to grasp how the developmentof Palestine'sArab community was shaped by a complex set of economic, social, cultural, and political forces, including those generatedby the Zionist project and British colonialism. The same applies, of course, to historiansof Zionism and the Yishuv. We must certainly recognize, though, that there will inevitably be some tensionbetween the effortto achieve a relationalperspectiveand respect for the historical specificity of each community.10 The project of reconstructinga relationalhistory of Palestine is still in its initial stages, and many issues remainto be examinedor re-examined.In the context of the preceding discussion and in order to illustratethe utility of a shift in focus from the internaldynamics of a single community(as the dual interaction,I society paradigmwould prescribe)to the domainof Arab-Jewish briefly explore here one particularcase from the British mandateperiod: the
9 "The Perils of Palestiniology,"Arab Studies Quarterly,3:4 (Fall 1981), 403-11. The subsumption of Palestinian identity, agency, and history is obviously related to the longstanding disparityin the relative power and status of Israeli Jews and Palestinians.While the formerare citizens of an established nation-state,most of the latter live underalien (and often repressive) rule, whether within or outside their historic homeland, and as a people are still denied national self-determinationin any part of Palestine. 10 The catastrophicdisruptionof Palestinian Arab society in 1947-49 and the consequent destructionof many of the source materialsfrom which Palestiniansocial and culturalhistory might have been reconstructed,combined with the relative abundanceof materialon the Jewish side, make it very difficult to avoid privileging the history and perspectives of the Yishuv-a skewing which my own researchpresentedhere does not, I admit, entirely escape.

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evolving relationsbetween Araband Jewish railwayworkers,especially those employed at the railwayrepairand maintenanceworkshopson the outskirtsof Haifa. Several factors make explorationof this groupparticularly interesting.Unlike nearly all Arab-ownedenterprisesand most Jewish-ownedenterprisesin Governmentof Palestine, the Palestine Railways (an agency of the mandatory both Jews. one of the few Arabs and It was, therefore, Palestine) employed in which Arabs and Jews worked side side, enterprises by encounteringsimilar conditions and being compelled to interactin the search for solutions to their problems. The Palestine Railways was also one of the country's largest employers, with a work force of about2,400 in 1924, reachinga war-swollen peak of 7,800 in 1943. This work force, comprised of numerousunskilled Arab peasants hired to build and maintainroadbedand track, also included substantialnumbersof skilled personnelin the runningand trafficdepartments and at stations across the countryand, in 1943, some 1,200 Arab and Jewish workersemployed at the Haifa workshops.1 Indeed, until the proliferation of British military bases during the Second World War, the Haifa workshops constitutedPalestine's largest concentrationof wage workers. In addition, the railwaymen were among the first industrialworkers in Palestine to organize themselves. An organizationof Jewish railway workers was establishedas early as 1919, while Arabrailwayworkersbegan to evince interestin tradeunionism soon thereafter and would go on to play a key role in founding and leading the PalestinianArab labor movement. Moreover,it was in large part the interactionof 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-Zionistcommunists,on the one hand, and various forces in the Arab communityon the other, to confront, in both ideological and practical terms, the question of relations between the Jewish and Arab working classes in Palestine. The extent, duration, and characterof the interactionsamong Arab and Jewish railway workers were exceptional, making them an atypical group in many respects. That very atypicality,that group's location astridecommunal boundaries, may, however, serve to highlight some of the problematicfeatures of the nationalistand conventional scholarly narrativesof the mandate of cooperaperiod. It may also allow us to get beyond the usual counterposing tion and conflict as mutually exclusive binary opposites, a dichotomization which tends to presume the prior existence of two distinct entities between which one or the other of these states obtains, thereby obscuringthe larger field within which those entities are constitutedand interrelatein whole or in part. The more open-endedconcept of interactionmay be of greaterutility in exploring the ways in which relationsamong the membersof this group (and
11 Palestine Railways, Report of the General Manager, passim.

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others) took shape within a broader (and historically specific) economic, political, and culturalmatrix. At the end of this essay I will point to some of the broaderimplicationsof this approach,which I believe may contributeto a conflict.12 rereadingof the history of the Zionist-Palestinian
HEBREW LABOR AND ARAB WORKERS

projectlinkingJaffa Although Palestine'sfirst railroadline, a French-financed coast to Jerusalemhigh in the hill country,was opened on the Mediterranean in 1892 and the subsequenttwo and one-half decades witnessed substantial railway development, very little is known about the railway workers themselves until after the First WorldWar. At that point the railway work force seems to have been drawnmainly from the local Arabpopulation,along with many Egyptiansconscriptedfor laborservice with the Britishforces conquering Palestine from the Ottomansand a small numberof Syrian, Greek, and other foreign skilled workers. 3 These workerswerejoined from 1919 onward jobs by by Jewish immigrantsfrom Russia and Polandchanneledinto railroad of the two offices the and Zionist of the employment by Organization agencies labor-Zionistparties, the social-democraticAhdutHa'avoda(Unity of Labor) and its nonsocialistrival Hapo'el Hatza'ir(The YoungWorker).4 The Zionist movement was anxious to lay the basis for the large-scale immigrationand settlement finally made possible by the Balfour Declaration of November the establishmentin 1917, in which Britainhad committeditself to supporting Palestine of a "nationalhome" for the Jews. For the labor-Zionistpartiesand, from 1920 onward, for their creationthe in the Landof Israel), of HebrewWorkers Histadrut (the GeneralOrganization movewhich soon became not only the centralinstitutionof the labor-Zionist Jewish ment but also a dominantforce in the Yishuv as a whole, placing new immigrantsin jobs on the railroadswas not simply or even primarilya matter of securing their individual livelihoods. It was part of the broadercampaign for the conquest of labor (kibbushha'avoda), a campaignthe goal of which was the achievement of Hebrew labor ('avoda 'ivrit).'5 These were central
12 This discussion of the railway workers is drawn from a larger research project which explores interactionsamong Jewish and Arabworkers,tradeunions, labormovements, and leftist political parties during the mandateperiod. 13 The Syrians were not, of course, actually considered foreign until Britain and France divided up geographicSyria into the four new political entities of Syria, Lebanon,Palestine, and On the railway workersin the early postwarperiod, see Bulus Farah,Min al-'uthmTransjordan. aniyya ila al-dawla al-'ibriyya (Nazareth:al-Sawt, 1985), 40-46. 14 See the transcriptsof interviews with Yehezkiel Abramov (April 9, 1972) and Efrayyim Shvartzman (March20, 1972), Centerfor OralDocumentation,Archiveof LaborandPioneering, at the Lavon Institutefor the Study of the Labor Movement, Tel Aviv [hereaftercited as AL]. 15 From its inception at the turnof the centuryand with diminishingconsistency up to 1948, the labor-Zionistmovement tended to use Hebrew ('ivri) instead of Jewish (yehudi) to refer to itself and its project. This was an expression of labor Zionism denigration and rejection of Diaspora Judaism, which it associated with statelessness, powerlessness, and passivity, and its

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movement. Though elements in the discourse and practiceof the labor-Zionist in the socialist which adherents had roots of labor Zionism ideology they from were in with them Eastern large partthe productof brought Europe,.they the Jewish workers' encounterwith Palestinianrealities in the decade before the First WorldWar. Those immigrants'desire to proletarianizethemselves and create a Jewish workingclass in Palestinewhich would both wage its class struggleand assert itself as the vanguardof the Zionist movement as a whole founderedon the fact that the gradual, though incomplete, integration of Palestine into the of agrarianrelations in the capitalist world market and the transformation from the late nineteenth countryside century onward, coupled with rapid had created a populationgrowth, growing pool of landless Arabsavailablefor labor in the new Jewish settlements, as well as in the towns wage agricultural and cities. The dominationof the local labormarketby large numbersof Arab workerswilling to work for low wages and a severe shortageof employment opportunitiesowing to the country'sunderdevelopment posed a serious problem for the Zionist project. Unless employmentin jobs with wages approaching European rates could be found or created, it was unlikely that Jewish immigrantswould come to Palestine in significant numbersor remain there long, and the firm implantationof an ever-growing Yishuv would be very much in doubt. movement gradually Througha process of trial and error,the labor-Zionist developed two complementary strategies to deal with this situation.16To create employment opportunitiesand develop the Yishuv's increasinglyselfsufficienteconomic base, the Histadrut,less a conventionaltradeunion federation than a highly centralizedinstrumentof the Zionist project, used funds supplied largely by the Zionist Organization (which until the 1930s was dominated by bourgeois Zionists) graduallyto build up its own high-wage economic sector in which only Jews would be employed, includinga ramified network of industrial, transport,marketingand service enterprisesand new forms of collective and cooperative agriculturalsettlement (the kibbutzand the moshav). At the same time, the labor-Zionistmovement engaged in a sustained effort to gain for Jews a larger share of the existing and newly created jobs in other sectors by trying to induce Jewish and other private
exaltation of the (suitably mythologized) ancient Hebrews as a socially normal and politically sovereign nation living in its homeland and working its soil. By conceiving of themselves as Hebrews, a new and different type of Jew living in the Land of Israel and free of the defects allegedly produced by two thousand years of exile, these Zionists meant to emphasize their authenticityand their rootedness in Palestine. 16 Gershon Shafir has analyzed most effectively how labor-Zionist ideology, and the practices and institutions associated with it, were strongly shaped by the marketsfor labor and land in which the immigrantsof the second Aliya (wave of Jewish immigration)found themselves when they arrived in Palestine between 1903 and 1914 (see his Land, Labor and the Origins of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict).

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to hire Jewish workers instead of employers and the British administration less expensive and (at least initially) less demandingArab workers. This in turnrequiredan effort to pressureJewish workerswho sought easier ways of makinga living to accept and remainat even the most difficultandpoorly paid occupations. The Histadrutleadership insisted that the fate of the Zionist projectin Palestinedependedupon the success of this relentlesscampaignfor the conquest of labor and the achievementof maximalHebrewlabor (that is, Jewish employment) in every sector of Palestine's economy.17
JOINT ORGANIZATION AMONG THE RAILWAY WORKERS

Achieving the conquestof laboron the PalestineRailwaysprovedparticularly difficult, however. Few Jewish immigrantschanneledinto railroad jobs were low harsh to endure for the hours, conditions, willing very long wages, long and abusive treatmentcharacteristicof railway work in Palestine, so whenever betterjobs were available elsewhere, the Jewish immigrantsquit. The leaders of the first organizationof railway workers in Palestine, the exclusively Jewish Railway Workers' Association (Agudat Po'alei Harakevet, to which that union was RWA),foundedin 1919, and leadersof the Histadrut affiliatedthus found that laborZionism's struggleto strengthenHebrewlabor in this economically and politically vital sector conflicted with what most Jewish workersperceived to be their own self-interest. It soon became apparentthat a significant numberof Jews could be kept working as railwaymenonly if wages and working conditions were significantly improved. However, the Jewish railway workers, though disproportionately representedamong the skilled workers, accountedfor only a small minority(rangingfrom 8 to 12 percent)of the railwaywork force as a whole. No matterhow well organized, the Jewish railway workerscould not hope to improve their wages and working conditions by their own efforts. This broughtto the fore the issue of cooperationbetween the Jews and the Arab railwaymenwho constitutedthe great majorityof the work force, especially the Arab foremen and skilled workersin Haifa. The issue became especially acute when in the summerof 1921 Arab railway workersin Haifa (to which the Palestine Railways' main maintenanceand repairworkshopswere being from Lydda) approachedtheir unionized Jewish coworkers about transferred the possibility of cooperation; some even expressed interest in joining the Histadrut, attractive not only because of its apparentstrength as a labor organizationbut also because it offered its members such services as health care, interest-freeloans, and access to consumercooperatives.
17 For a classic statement of the doctrineof Hebrewlabor,see David Ben-Gurion,'Avoda'Ivrit (Tel Aviv: Histadrut,1932), translatedinto English and publishedin Londonas Jewish Labourat aboutthe same time. Ben-Gurionwent so far as to accuse Jewishprivateemployers(mainlycitrus Arabto Jewish workersof "economicantisemitism." On the campaignsto farmers)who preferred impose Hebrewlaboron Jewish farmers,see Anita Shapira,Hama'avakhanikhzav:'avoda 'ivrit, 1929-1939 (Tel Aviv: HakibbutzHame'uhad, 1977).

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That the Haifa workshops were the scene of these initial contacts is not surprising.As noted earlier,before the Second WorldWarthese shops constituted the largest single concentrationof industrialwage labor in Palestine, employing side by side hundredsof Arab, Jewish, and otherworkers,many of them skilled or semiskilled. In the 1920s, a substantialJewish minoritylived alongside an Arab majorityin Haifa, which was a rapidly growing and relatively cosmopolitancity alreadyon its way to becoming Palestine'smain port and industrialcenter.18In this atmosphereit was possible for Jewish workers, especially recent arrivalsfrom Russia who had been radicalizedby the October Revolution and its aftermath,to establish contact with an emerging stratum of relatively skilled and educatedArabworkersand foremeninterestedin trade unionism. Some of the latterwere no doubt influencedby the activities of the Jewish union, but others may already have become acquaintedwith trade unionism in their countries of origin (for example, those from Syria or Egypt) or through contact in Palestine with non-Jewish Europeanworkers, mainly Greeks and Italians, who had their own mutual aid societies. Thus, developmentson the groundamong the railway workersthemselves first put the issue of relationsbetween Jewish and Arabworkerson the agenda of the Zionist labormovement and laterkept it there. Well into the 1920s, the question of joint organization (irgun meshutaf) was extensively (and often hotly) debatedwithin and among the contendingleft-Zionistpartieswithin the Histadrut.In these debates party leaders and Histadrutofficials expressed a broadrange of conflicting perspectivesaboutjoint organization,rangingfrom enthusiasmto strenuousopposition. On the one hand, many left-Zionists professed loyalty to the principle of class solidarity across ethnic lines. As socialists standingat the head of what they regarded as a better-organizedand culturally more advanced Jewish working class, they felt that they had a moral obligation to help their less class-conscious and largely unorganizedArab fellow workers-a sort of proletarian mission civilisatrice.19 Although this perspective was tinged with

paternalismand replete with contradictionsand ultimatelycould not be separated from the broader issue of the Zionist project's implications for Palestine's Arab majority,it would nonetheless be a mistake to lose sight of the subjective moral impulse involved and of the extent to which even the most
18 Haifa's populationrose from some 18,000 in 1918 to nearly 100,000 by 1936. On the city's development in this period see May Seikaly, "The Arab Communityof Haifa, 1918-1936: A (Ph.D. disser., Somerville College, Oxford University, 1983), and Study in Transformation" Joseph Vashitz's uneven but useful study, "Jewish-ArabRelations at Haifa under the British Mandate"(unpublishedmanuscript,kindly provided by the author). 19 Some went so far as to depict the Jewish proletariat in Palestineas the vanguardof a mighty movement which would liberate the oppressed workers of the entire Arab East, though this theme, not unpopularearly in the decade, faded away thereafter.See for example Ben-Gurion's August 1921 theses for the AhdutHa'avodapartycongress, first publishedin issue 91 of the party organ, Kuntres,and later republishedin Anahnuveshcheineinu(Davar:Tel Aviv, 1931), a collection of his essays and speeches on the Arab question, 61-62.

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exclusivist practices were embedded in a discourse of socialism and proletarianinternationalism. Arguments based on morality and principle were complementedby more pragmaticarguments.Some labor-Zionistleaders arguedthat the best way to eliminate the threat that cheap unorganizedArab labor posed to expensive organized Jewish labor and enhance job opportunitiesfor Jews was to help Arab workersorganize themselves. OrganizedArab workerswould presumably be better able to raise their wages, eliminatingor at least reducing the wage differentialwhich led employers to prefer them to Jews. It is unlikely that such a strategycould have been effective in the labormarketthat existed in Palestine at thattime, but it nonethelesshad its proponents,among them (in the early 1920s, at least) David Ben-Gurion, the Histadrut'sincreasingly powerful secretaryand pre-eminentleader of Ahdut Ha'avoda.20 But labor-Zionistleaders also expressed anxiety aboutjoint organization's possible consequences for the Zionist project. The admissionof Arabs to the Histadrutor its constituenttradeunions, or even their organizationinto separate unions underthe Histadrut's tutelage, was likely to conflict with the longterm goal of increasing Jewish employment;and once organized, the Arab workers might not be controllable. "Fromthe humanitarian standpoint,it is clear that we must organize them," said one Histadrutofficial in December 1920, "but from the national standpoint,when we organize them we will be arousing them against us. They will receive the good that is in organization and use it against us."21Histadrutleaders were also well awarethat in neighboring Egypt, for example, the trade unions were underthe influence of the nationalistsand played a significant role in the anticolonialstruggle.22 towardaction In the end, the most importantfactor proddingthe Histadrut did not organizeArabworkers, the was probablythe fear that if the Histadrut Palestinian Arab nationalist movement-defined in labor-Zionistdiscourse of exploitnot as an authenticnationalmovement but ratheras an instrument ative and reactionaryArab landlordsand clerics-might seize the initiative with potentially dangerousconsequences for the Zionist project. In January 1922 the Histadrutmajority,led by Ben-Gurionand his allies, endorsedjoint organizationamong the railway workers, a decision reaffirmedand extended to encompass workers in other mixed workplaces at the Histadrut'sthird congress in July 1927. However, these resolutionsalso requiredthat anyjoint union of Arabs and Jews be composed of separateand largely autonomous nationalsections for each, with the Jewish sections to remainaffiliatedto the
See for example his speech published in Kuntres, 106 (January1922). AL, protocols of meeting of the executive committee of the Histadrut[hereafterEC/H], December 20, 1920. 22 On the Egyptian labor and nationalist movements in this period, see Joel Beinin and Zachary Lockman, Workerson the Nile: Nationalism, Communism,Islam, and the Egyptian WorkingClass, 1882-1954 (Princeton, NJ: PrincetonUniversity Press, 1987), chs. 4-5.
21

20

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Histadrut.23From the standpoint of labor Zionism, this approachhad the internationalism apparentvirtue of reconciling the demandsof proletarian and Zionism: The Histadrutwould demonstrateits commitmentto helping Arab fellow workersunionize and improvetheirlot while at the same time preserving the exclusively Jewish character of the Histadrutand its trade union organizations, which would thus be free to carry out their national (i.e., Zionist) tasks, includingimmigration,settlement,economic developmentand the struggle for Hebrew labor.
ABORTIVE UNITY

This position was not, however, acceptableto the Arab skilled workersand foremen who spoke for a substantialnumberof other Arabs employed in the Haifa railway workshops and elsewhere. As they became increasinglyaware that the Histadrutwas an integral part of the Zionist movement, the Arabs insisted that any joint union of Jews and Arabs not be divided into separate nationalsections and not have any links with the Histadrut.Ilyas Asad, one of the Arab workers' leaders, told his Jewish colleagues at a March 1924 meeting of the Railway Workers'Association council that I am strivingto establishties betweenthe Jewishand Arabworkers becauseI am certain thatif we areconnected we will helponeanother, without to religion or regard do not wishto join nationalist because nationality. ManyArabworkers organizations theirpurpose anddo notwishto abeta lie. Theysawon themembertheyunderstand workers' thewords Federation of Jewish Workers shipcard[of therailway union] [i.e., the Histadrut] and they cannotunderstand whatpurpose this serves. I ask all the comrades to removethe wordJewish,andI am surethatif theyagreetherewill be a bondbetween us andall theArabs willjoin. I wouldbe thefirstwhowouldnot strong wanttojoina nationalist labor There aremany Arab nationalist organization. organizations, andwe do not wantto join them,andtheywill say we havea joineda Jewish nationalist organization.24 As a result of these differences, negotiations between Arab and Jewish railway workers'leadersover the formationof a joint union for all the railway workers in Palestine were for years unsuccessful. In 1924, however, adherents of Po'alei Tziyon Smol (Workersof Zion-Left), a partywhich occupied the extreme left end of the Zionist spectrum, won effective control of the RWA. Although committed to establishing a Jewish homeland in Palestine, this small but vigorous party simultaneouslyregardeditself as the authentic revolutionaryvanguardof the world Jewish proletariat(and unsuccessfully sought admission to the Comintern as such); rejected participationin the Zionist Organization,which it regardedas an instrumentof the Jewish bourgeoisie; and denounced the Histadrutmajority'sdeterminationto build up a
23

24 Kuntres, 165 (March 4, 1924).

Din veheshbon lave'ida hashlishit shel hahistadrut(Tel Aviv, 1927), 155.

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separatehigh-wage economic enclave for Jews in Palestine.25This partywon growing support among the rank and file of the (still exclusively Jewish) railway workers'union because its call for militancy and class struggle was attractiveto many disgruntledworkers whose already miserable wages and working conditions were being exacerbatedby layoffs and managementefforts to cut costs and who had lost patience with demands by the Ahdut Ha'avoda-dominated Histadrutfor self-sacrifice in the nationalcause. Po'alei Smol also a position on the question of joint organization advocated Tziyon that seemed to offer a real prospect of achieving unity between Arabs and Jews, which many of the Jewish workers had come to see as an absolutely essential preconditionfor improving their situation. The party not only rejected the notion of separate national sections within the railway workers' union but also wanted the Histadrutitself to undergowhat it termeda separation of functions:that is, to transferits Zionist functionsto a separateorganization and transformitself into a Jewish-Arabtradeunion federationcommitted solely to the class struggle. After an intensive effort, the new railway union leadershipcame to terms with the leaders of the Arab workersin November 1924. The Arab unionists union with the agreed to join their Jewish colleagues in a new international that would an role in the union and that they play equal running understanding the new organization would disaffiliate from the Histadrutif it refused to accept the separationof functions. By the end of November 1924, several hundred Arab workers had joined the union (now known as the Union of an organizaRailway, Postal and Telegraphworkers,URPTW), transforming tion which had since its inception as the RWAbeen virtuallyall Jewish into one whose membershipwas roughly half-Jewish and half-Araband encompassed some 20 to 25 percent of the railway work force.26 This joint union of Arabsand Jews survivedfor only a few months. Most of the Arab unionists soon concluded that their Jewish colleagues were not sincerely committedto achievingunity as originallyconceived nor to developing a completely independentand apoliticaltradeunion dedicatedonly to the interestsof all the railway workers. The Arabs also grew impatientwith what they took to be dissembling, if not outrightdeception, on the part of their
25 The only serious study of this partyis ElqanaMargalit,Anatomiashel smol: Po'alei Tziyon be'eretz yisra'el (1919-1946) (Y. L Peretz:Jerusalem, 1976). 26 The available figures are not entirelyconsistentor reliable, but at the end of 1924 the union was apparentlycomprisedof some 529 Jewish and Arabrailwayworkers, out of a work force of almost 2,400. Almost all the Jews, but only 10 to 15 percent of the Arabs, employed on the railroadbelonged to the union; most if not all of the Arab union members seem to have been skilled or semiskilled workshopworkers, foremen, and other more or less permanent personnel from the runningand trafficdepartments.On the size and compositionof the union membership, see AL 104/25a, memorandum of the URPTWto the general manager,Palestine Railways;AL 208/14a, CentralCommitteeof the URPTWto EC/H, November30, 1924; AL 237/1; and also the figures given in Din veheshbon, 64. None of these figures include the unionized postal and telegraphworkers, whose numberswere in any case much smaller.

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Jewish colleagues, whom they came to believe were not being straightforward with them about their commitmentto the Zionist project. Their suspicions and doubts were not withoutbasis in reality.Even as they and Arab-Jewishsolidarity,the Jewish spoke of proletarianinternationalism union leaders continued to work behind the scenes with the Histadrutto increase Jewish employmentby incessant lobbying of railways management, the government of Palestine, and the Colonial Office but also by pressing Jewish foremen to hire only Jewish job applicants.27The Histadrut'scampaign for Hebrew laboron the railways, to which even the new Po'alei Tziyon resentment Smol-influencedleadershipwas party,was a sourceof tremendous who that were discriminated felt the Arab rank and file, being among they against in hiring and promotion and feared displacement by Jewish immigrants.28

The Arabunionists also felt thattheirJewish colleagues were takingadvanof Yishuv tage of the Arabs' ignoranceof Hebrew and limited understanding politics. That the Arab unionists did not fully grasp their Jewish colleagues' politics is suggested by the fact that, as late as November 1924, Hasanayn Fahmi, one of the Arabs co-opted onto the union's central committee, was asking his Jewish colleagues whetheror not there was in fact any connection between the union he had just joined and the Zionist movement and whether or not they themselves were Zionists. In this and other instances, Po'alei Tziyon Smol activists tended to provide evasive or disingenuousresponses in order to downplay their commitmentto Zionism, avoid alienatingthe Arab unionists, and preserve the joint union. But there were also instances of deliberatedeception. At a meeting of the union's council in January1925, for who was renderingthe proceedingsinto Arabic example, the Jewish translator for the benefit of the Arab delegates deliberatelywatered down the Zionist content of a speech by Ben-Gurionto make it more palatableto the Arabs.29 These things made the Arab unionists vulnerableto criticism, from the Arab nationalistpress and activists and from among the rankand file, thatthe Arab unionists were being duped and exploited by the Zionists. In the first months of 1925, most of the Arab trade unionists who had joined the URPTW's leadershiponly a few months earlier quit, taking most of the Arab rank and file with them. the collapse of the joint The Jewish unionists and the Histadrutattributed union to sabotage by the communists, Palestine Railways management, or both. Activists of the still almost exclusively Jewish but strongly anti-Zionist
27 On these ongoing efforts, see for example EC/H, October 10, November 7, 1922; secreas S/EC/H], October25, 1925; tariatof the Histadrutexecutive committee [hereafterabbreviated Central Zionist Archives, S9/1424a, NURPTW to the Zionist Executive, November 1929; Meirowitz to the Labor Departmentof the Jewish Agency, March 28, April 27, 1930. 28 On shop-floor sentiments, see Farah,Min al-'uthmaniyya,42-43. 29 AL 208/14a, CC/URPTW to EC/H, November 30, 1924, and Haifa, 6 (January1, 1925, 29, 1976, AL, Centerfor OralDocumentation. 43-44; interview with AvrahamKhalfon, January

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Palestine CommunistParty (known as the PKP, from its initials in Yiddish) had sought to alert the Arab railway workersthat they were joining a union still closely affiliated with the Zionist Histadrutand led by committedZionists; but at the beginningof 1925 the communistswere in fact urgingthe Arab workersnot to leave the joint union but ratherto remainwithin it and struggle to reformit. Palestine Railways managementhad an obvious interestin keeping its work force divided and does seem to have used selective wage increases and equally selective dismissals to signal its anti-unionattitudeto the Arab rank and file; but the decision of most of the Arab workersto leave the union cannot be attributedsolely or even mainly to managementpressure. In fact, the Histadrut'sattemptto pin the blame on "outside agitators"tells us less about the actual causes of the breakupin early 1925 than it does about laborZionism's conceptionof its own projectand of Arabs, which renderedit unable to come to terms with its own role in this failure.30 In the summerof 1925, a few months after the breakupof the joint union, the seceding Arab unionists joined forces with the leaders of a mutual aid society for Arab railway workers and established a new, exclusively Arab organization, the Palestinian Arab Workers' Society (PAWS).31Although PAWS initially consisted almost exclusively of Arab railway workers in Haifa, its new name and its programindicatedits founders'ambitionto make of the Histadrut,an organizationwhich would eventuit the Arab counterpart all Arab workersin Palestine. Until the emergenceof rival the ally encompass communist-led trade union federations in the 1940s, PAWS was indeed the largest and most importantPalestinian Arab labor organization, uniting a fluctuatingmembershipdrawnfrom varioustradesand locales arounda more stable core of Haifa railway workers, whose own organizationwould later be formally known as the Arab Union of Railway Workers(AURW).32
TENUOUS COOPERATION

From 1925 until the end of the mandateperiod, then, two separateunions were active amongthe railwayworkers.Relationsbetweenthe AURWand the older, larger and wealthier union led by Jews, soon back in the hands of majorityand known from 1931 as supportersof Ben-Gurionand the Histadrut the International Union of Railway, Postal and TelegraphEmployees in Palestine (IU), were often rocky, with alternatingperiods of cooperationand of
30 I discuss this question more fully in "We Opened Up the Arabs' Minds: Labor-Zionist Discourse and the Railway Workersof Palestine, 1919-1929," Reviewof Middle East Studies, 5 (1992). 31 On the emergence of the PAWS, see Haifa, 15 (April 30, 1925), 117-8; Filastin, March6, 1925; al-Yarmuk,October 22, 1925; al-Budayri, Tatawwur;and Yasin, Ta'rikh. 32 Though it may sometimes be anachronistic,for the sake of clarityand consistency I will use AUR,Wthroughoutto denote the Arab railway workersorganized within PAWS.

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conflict.33 The main impetus for cooperationwas the glaringly obvious fact that, confronted by a highly intransigentmanagementbacked by a miserly colonial state, neitherunion was sufficientlystrongon its own to achieve very much for its membership:The IU had some 250 dues-paying members in 1927, and the AURWeven fewer. Chronicdiscontentby the rankand file over low wages and poor workingconditionswas periodicallyexacerbated by what the workersperceived as arbitrary and abusive acts by management,including wage cuts, layoffs, and short hours. The resultingsense of grievanceand the understandingthat disunity meant weakness generateddemands from rankand-file Arab and Jewish workersthat their leadershipsput aside their differences and work together. Typically,pressurefrom below and upsurgesof rank-and-file militancyled the two unions' leaders to negotiate the formationof an ad hoc joint committee based in Haifa. This committee, comprising representativesof both unions, would then proceed to organize protestmeetings, draw up memoranda of grievancesand demands, and representthe railwayworkersin talks with management. These joint committees tended, however, to be rather shortlived. After a few months they were increasingly underminedby conflicts between the two unions, ultimatelyresultingin the joint committee'sdissolution and barragesof mutualrecriminationsas each side accused the other of selfishly sabotaging unity and the workers' interests. As a result, relations between the two unions were not infrequently clouded by bitterness and mistrust. In large measure, this mistrustwas generatedby the steadfastinsistence of the IU that it was the sole legitimate representative of all the railway workers in Palestine, Jewish and Arab. The Jewish-ledunion thus refusedto regardits Arab counterpartas an equal partnerthat authenticallyrepresentedthe Arab railway workersand even launchedsporadicdrivesto undermineit by directly recruitingArab workers. The IU's claim to exclusivity was bolstered by its retention, until 1936, of a number of Arab members attractedby its much more effective and visible presence in the workplaceand as a nationalorganization, the perception that behind the IU stood the wealthy and powerful Histadrut, and an ability to offer its members access (via the Histadrut)to services that were totally beyond the AURW's means, including health care, loans, and legal aid. For their part the AURW's leaders accepted the legitimacy of, and were of the Jewish willing to cooperatewith, the IU, but only as the representative railway workers. The Palestinianunionists enormouslyresentedthe IU's refusal to extend reciprocalrecognition, its attemptsto recruitArabworkersand
33 Though the Jewish-led union was known between 1927 and 1931 as the NationalUnion of Railway, Postal and TelegraphWorkers, for the sake of clarity I will henceforthrefer to it as the IU.

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its continued commitmentto Hebrew labor, manifestedin constant lobbying to get more Jews hired. Arabs who joined the IU were denouncedby AURW leaders as dupes or lackeys of the Zionists, if not outrighttraitors. However, the rank and file's desire for cooperationwas such that neither leadershipcould afford to appearto be seen as openly opposed to unity. For example, even when IU leaders concluded that the benefits of cooperation were accruing disproportionately to the AURW, broke up joint committees and initiateddrives to recruitArabworkers,they soughtto place the blame for the collapse of cooperation on their erstwhile Arab partners, whom they accused of inactivity or bad faith.34The Arab unionists displayed a similar concern for rank-and-file opinion: On severaloccasions in the late 1920s they went so far as to distributeleaflets in Hebrewto the Jewishrailwayworkersto make known theirversion of what had led to the breakupof a joint committee and to accuse the IU leadershipof acting in bad faith and underminingthe workers' unity.35Moreover, at least until the outbreakin 1936 of a countrywide Arab revolt against British rule and Zionism, Arab railway unionists generally ignored or resisted pressurefrom the Palestiniannationalistmovement to terminatecooperationwith Jewish unionists. It is significant,too, that the dream of a single union for all of Palestine's railway workersremained very much alive among the rank and file right up to 1936, and in a more subduedway even beyond, though its realizationwas always blocked by the same issues that had underminedunity in 1925. The extent to which this apparently widespreaddesire for cooperationat the institutionallevel was accompaniedby the developmentof social relationships between Arab and Jewish workersat the personallevel, within or outside the workplace, is unclear. In the early 1920s, at least, some Jewish railway workerslived in predominantly Arab neighborhoodsof Haifa, and elsewhere of railway work threw Jews and Arabs together, the long shifts characteristic especially at remotelocations. A reportin 1928 of Arabworkersattendingthe In funeralof a Jewish coworkersuggests some degree of social interaction.36 his memoirs, Bulus Farah, an Arab unionist (and later a communistactivist) who went to work in the Haifa workshops in 1925 as a fifteen-year-old that had prevailedthere and apprentice,spoke of the "mutualunderstanding" suggested that the Jewish workers respected their Arab coworkers for their technical abilities.37This is not implausible,given thatmost of the Jews were new to industrialwork and some may have seen the Arabsas exemplarsof the proletarianauthenticityfor which they were striving. Over the years, Arab and Jewish union leaders do seem to have developed personalrelationships:
34 See for example AL 237/24, Grobmanto Ben-Tzvi, May 1928; AL 208/815a, Dana to S/EC/H, January6, 1935. 35 See for example AL 490/3. 36 In a Hebrew-languageleaflet issued by PAWS, AL 237/21, September29, 1928. 37 Farah,Min al-'uthmaniyya,41.

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Yehezkel Abramov, a longtime Jewish railway union leader, would in his old age remember sitting around with colleagues from the AURW on the Tel Aviv beachfront after a joint meeting with management.38 Yet Abramov also conveyed his frustration that most of his fellow Jews could not be bothered to learn or use the names of Arab coworkers and instead referred to specific individuals simply as "the Arab."39 Unlike his colleagues, Abramov took the trouble to learn Arabic and made a point of sitting with Arab workers during lunch breaks at the Haifa workshops. That he regarded himself as exceptional in this regard suggests a high degree of social separation: Though Arabs and Jews may have worked side by side, apparently in their leisure time within and outside the workplace they generally kept to themselves. In the 1920s and the early 1930s the IU sponsored cultural and educational activities for its Jewish and Arab members, and the meetings which it sponsored jointly with the AURW were usually held in Arab coffeehouses. But there are no reports of Jewish workers frequenting Arab coffeehouses, the main site of leisure-time social interaction among men in urban Arab neighborhoods; and relatively few Arab workers took part in the cultural and social institutions sponsored by the Histadrut or other Jewish organizations. In mixed cities like Haifa, some degree of interaction in public spaces was inevitable and persisted until 1948. Despite Zionist campaigns to boycott Arab in favor of Jewish produce, many Jews (especially from the working class) continued to frequent Arab markets to take advantage of lower prices; and some Jews continued to live in Arab neighborhoods, where rents were lower. But Jews were increasingly concentrated in exclusively Jewish neighborhoods, for example the string of new workers' suburbs just north of Haifa, especially after outbreaks of violence in 1921, 1929, and especially 1936-39, made mixed neighborhoods unsafe.
WARTIME RESURGENCE AND POSTWAR MILITANCY

In addition to exacerbating residential, social and economic segregation, the intercommunal violence and tensions which accompanied the 1936-39 revolt made cooperation between Arab and Jewish railway workers even on purely economic issues all but impossible. By contrast, the period of 1940 to 1946 witnessed unprecedented solidarity between Arab and Jewish workers, not only among the railwaymen but in many other mixed enterprises as well. This may seem ironic in retrospect, since by the end of 1947 Palestine was engulfed in a full-scale civil war. But during the Second World War and immediately after it, a short-lived conjuncture created new possibilities for militant
38 Oral interview, May 14, 1987. 39 In our interview Abramovused the Yiddish term der Araber, reflecting the widespreaduse of that language among new immigrantsfrom EasternEurope. By contrast,Abramovnoted, the Arabs were more respectful of Jewish coworkers and referredto them by name.

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joint action, though they were eventually eclipsed by escalating political tensions. The Palestinian working class, Arab and Jewish, expanded very dramatically during the war. Disruptionof the usual sources of supply stimulated developmentof the country'sindustrialbase, as did the demandcreatedby the enormously swollen British and Allied militarypresence. Militarybases and related service enterprisesproliferated, drawing tens of thousands of Arab peasants and townspeople into wage laborat work sites which also employed Jews. The railway sector sharedin this expansion. After sufferingduringthe 1930s because of growing competition from motor transportand then the Arab revolt, the war years witnessed the rapid extension of railroadlines, a tripling of freight tonnage carriedper kilometer, and a large increase in the work force of the Palestine Railways.40 the workers'bargaining Laborshortagesin many sectors strengthened position, while high inflation pushed them toward action. In Palestine as elsewhere in Britain'sdomain during this period, the Britishcolonial authorities to monitor moderatedtheir hostility to tradeunions, createda new apparatus and mediatelabordisputes, and looked more favorablyon laborlegislation. In wave of unionizationand these circumstancesthere ensued an unprecedented militancy which affected Arab workers most dramaticallybecause they had hitherto been less active and less organized. The leaderships of both the Histadrutand the PAWSregardedthis developmentwith some ambivalence. By contrast, this upsurge was encouraged by, and in turn benefited, newly reinvigoratedleft-wing forces in both the Arab community and the Yishuv which implicitly challenged nationalistleadershipson both sides by advocating class solidarityand political compromisebetween Arabs and Jews. During the war a new Arab left emerged in Palestine, organized in the communist-led National Liberation League ('Usbat al-Taharrur al-Watani, NLL). Left-wing trade union activists, among them veterans of the AURW, won significant support in unions hitherto under the control of the more conservativePAWSleadership,as well as in newly organizedunions, leading ultimatelyto a split in the Arab tradeunion movementand the establishment of a left-led ArabWorkers' Congressaligned with the NLL. In the Yishuv, the Hashomer Hatza'ir (Young Guard) socialist-Zionist kibbutz-based initially movement, which advocated a bi-national Palestine and Arab-Jewishclass solidarityand was tryingto extend its influence amongJewish urbanworkers, now emerged as a serious force on the left flank of the Histadrut leadership.In a sense, HashomerHatza'ir can be said to have replaced the defunct Po'alei Tziyon Smol at the left end of the Zionist spectrum;and it won significant support among militant Jewish workers, including railway workers in what
40 Paul PubTourret Cotterell, The Railways of Palestine and Israel (Abingdon, Oxfordshire: lishing, 1984), ch. 5.

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had become known as Red Haifa. The Jewish communist movement also resurfacedduringand afterthe war. Largelydiscreditedin the Yishuv because of its supportfor the 1936-39 Arab revolt, it now sought to gain legitimacy and support from the wartime popularityof the Soviet Union, whose Red Army the Yishuv hailed as the main force fighting the Nazis, and by tryingto ride the wave of worker activism. The Jewish communists also moderated theirlong-standinghostility to Zionism and sought admissionto the Histadrut, from which they had been purged two decades earlier. Among the railway workers the changing circumstanceswere first manifested in unprecedentedlysmooth relations between the IU and the AURW from 1940 onward. The IU tacitly recognized that under the prevailing circumstances, recruitmentof Arab workerswas unrealisticand rapprochement with the AURWthereforeunavoidable,while the paralysisof the Arabnationalist movement duringthe war years and strong rank-and-filepressuremade A series of job actions the AURWleadershipmore amenableto cooperation.41 and short strikes culminated, much to the unhappinessof the Histadrutand PAWS leaderships, in a three-day occupation of the Haifa workshops in February1944.42 Unrest continued afterthe end of the war in Europe, manifested during 1945 in a numberof brief wildcat strikesby railway and postal workers, now among the most militant and experienced(and of course most integrated)segments of the Palestinianworkingclass. The NLL's newspaper, al-lttihad, hailed these incidents as "clear proof of the possibility of joint action in every workplace,"providedthat the workers steered clear of interference by both Zionism and "Arabreaction."43 The Arab communists' prescriptionseemed to find confirmationin April 1946, when a planned strike by Jewish and Arab postal workersin Tel Aviv spontaneouslyexpandedto encompass some 13,000 Arab and Jewish postal, telegraph, railway, port and public works departmentworkers, along with 10,000 lower- and middle-level white-collar government employees. This and won the supgeneral strike paralyzedthe British colonial administration of much of Jewish and Arab The Arab and Jewish port public opinion. communists naturallysaw in it a wonderfulmanifestationof class solidarity, "a blow against the 'divide and rule' policy of imperialism,a slap in the face of those who hold chauvinistideologies and propagatenationaldivision," but warned the strikers against "defeatist and reactionaryelements, Arab and Jewish." Conservativenewspaperson both sides were less enthusiastic.The conservativenationalistnewspaper,Filastin, for example, attackedPAWSfor
41 AL 237/26b, Bermanto EC/H, May 3, 1940; AL 237/16, IU, centralcommitteemeetingof November 9, 1940. 42 HashomerHatza'ir archives, AharonCohen papers, 6 (5), "'Al hashvitabevatei hamal'aha shel harakevet"; AL 208/3660, "Hashvitabevatei hamal'ahabehaifa"; Filastin, February 5, 1944; Mishmar,February 6, 1944;Haqiqat al-Amr,February 8, 1944;PalestinePost, February 6, 1944.

43 June 17, 1945.

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allegedly colluding in what it regardedas a politically motivatedand Zionistinspiredmovement. The right-wingJewish daily, Ma'ariv, hailed the strikeat first but later denounced it as detrimentalto the Zionist cause.44 The strikersultimatelywon many of theirdemands,and theirvictorygave a strong boost to the fledgling Arab labor movement. The following year witnessed the rapid growth of unions and the spreadof worker activism, especially in the army camps and at the oil refinery and the Iraq Petroleum Company'spipeline terminalin Haifa. In these workplacesArab and Jewish workers often cooperated in pursuit of higher wages and better conditions, although relations between the Histadrutand the Arab unions were never entirely free of friction.
CIVIL WAR AND PARTITION

That friction was exacerbated,and the postwar wave of activism ultimately brought to an end, by the rising political tensions which accompaniedthe escalation in 1947 of the three-waystruggleamongthe Zionist movement, the Palestinian nationalist movement, and the British to determine the fate of Palestine. In 1944 the Zionists had launcheda campaignto force Britain,their erstwhile protector and ally, to open Palestine to Jewish immigration and move towardJewish statehood, which in turnhelped stimulatethe revival of the PalestinianArab nationalistmovement. Unable to suppressopposition or achieve a negotiated solution, an exhausted and isolated Britain turned the Palestine issue over to the United Nations, whose GeneralAssembly adopted a resolutionon November 29, 1947, recommendingthe partitionof Palestine into independentArab and Jewish states. Partitionwas rejectedby the leaders of Palestine's Arab community, still two-thirdsof the country'spopulation, who saw it as a violation of their right as the indigenous majorityto selfdetermination in an undividedPalestine. Partitionwas acceptedby most of the leaders of the Yishuv and of the Zionist movement, for whom a sovereign Jewish state, even if in only partof Palestine, was still a tremendousachievement.45 Violence between Arabs and Jews erupted almost immediately after the vote and quickly escalated into a cycle of terroristviolence and counterviolence directedmainly against civilians. By the end of Decemberover 350 people had lost their lives in the civil war engulfing Palestine. The single
44 See the Palestinian press for April 1946; AL 425/33, joint leaflet of the PKP and NLL, April 18, 1946; AL, EC/H, April 24, 1946; Israel State Archives, 65/779, Arab Workers' Congress, Bayan, April 25, 1946. 45 This is not to say that the Zionist leadershipactuallydesired or expected the establishment of a PalestinianArab state. The Jewish Agency, the de facto leadershipof the Yishuv, had in fact with King Abdullahof Transjordan secretly reachedan informalunderstanding wherebythe king would occupy and annex much of the territoryassigned to the Arab state. See Avi Shlaim, CollusionAcross the Jordan:KingAbdullah,the ZionistMovement,and the Partitionof Palestine (New York:Columbia University Press, 1988).

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bloodiest incidentof this first monthof violence was touchedoff on December 30, 1947, when operatives of the right-wing Zionist Irgun Tzva'i Le'umi (National Military Organization,usually referredto in Hebrew by its acronym, Etzel), commandedby MenachemBegin, threw a numberof grenades into a crowd of some 100 Arabs gathered at the main gate of the Britishowned oil refinery on the northernoutskirtsof Haifa in the hope of finding work as day laborers. Six were killed and forty-two wounded in what Etzel claimed was an act of retaliation for recent attacks on Jews elsewhere in Palestine. Within minutes of the incident, an outragedmob of Arab refinery workersand outsidersturnedon the Jewish refineryworkers,killing forty-one and wounding forty-ninebefore British army and police units arrived.46 News of the bloodshed at the oil refineryquickly reachedthe nearbyrepair and maintenanceworkshopsof the PalestineRailways. Tensionswere already high there because of the deterioratingpolitical and security situationin the country,and now they soaredto explosive levels as some of the youngerArab workersthreatenedtheir Jewish coworkers(of whom there were fewer than a hundred at the time) and tried to shut down the machinery. The railway workshops were, however, spared the orgy of bloodletting which had engulfed the oil refinery.The veteranArab unionists, some of whom had been among the foundersof PAWS, quickly intervened,faced down the hotheads, and kept the peace until buses could be brought to transportthe Jewish workers home safely. The workshopswere then shut for ten days, until relative calm had been restoredin Haifa and securityarrangements put in place.47 In the following months, Palestine descended into full-scale civil war, but the railway workshops continued to function as normally as external circumstances allowed. The existence of Arab and Jewish union cadres with extensive experience of cooperationand a traditionof mutualrespect allowed these workers to avoid, for a time at least, being drawn into the maelstromof intercommunal violence. After April 1948, however, the questionof relationsbetween Arabs and Jews at the Haifa workshopsbecame moot. The work force there was left almost exclusively Jewish when most of the city's Arab populationfled as Jewish militaryforces besieged their neighborhoods. The same transformationtook place throughoutthe country. Though the work force of the Palestine Railways had been mostly Arab, the flight or expulsion from theirhomes of half of Palestine'sArabpopulationduring 1947 to 1949 left the work force of the new Israel Railways almost entirely
46 See the report of the committee of inquiry appointedby Haifa's Jewish community, AL 250/40-3-9, and contemporarypress accounts. Although the Jewish Agency promptly denounced the Etzel attackoutside the Haifa refineryas an "act of madness,"it also authorizedits own militaryforce, the Hagana, to retaliatefor the massacreof Jews at the refineryby attacking and killing Arab civilians in the outlying village of Balad al-Shaykhon December 31. 47 Oral interview with EfrayimKrisher,a formerleaderof the Jewish railway workers'union, May 13, 1987.

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Jewish.48Nearly four decades of interactionamong Arab and Jewish railway workers thus came to an abruptend.
RETHINKING PALESTINIAN HISTORY

There are students of the Zionist-Palestinianconflict who have pointed to instances of cooperation between Jews and Arabs in mandatoryPalestine, especially cooperationamong workers, as evidence that the conflict need not have takenthe course it did, thata peaceful solutionwhich met the basic needs of both Arabs and Jews might have been found had the voices of reason, compromise, and working-classsolidarityon both sides prevailed. The history of the mandateperiod thus becomes a story of missed opportunities,or a morality tale in which the so-called bad guys on both sides triumphover the peacemakers, whose weakness and ineffectuality is somehow never really accounted for.49 I am not making that argument here. On the contrary,the Zionist and Palestiniannationalistmovementsclearly sought irreconcilable objectives and were on a collision course from the very start. Moreover,althoughduringthe mandateperiod Arab and Jewish railway workerswere involved in persistent efforts to cooperate and developed a sense of solidarity that at times transcended (or at least moderated)nationaldivisions, relationsamongthem were conprofoundly affected by the dynamics of the broaderZionist-Palestinian in demonas of their interaction 1948 the denouement flict, conclusively strated. In addition, as I noted earlier, the railway workers were in many respects an atypical group. In the history recountedhere, one can find instances of both conflict and cooperation between Jews and Arabs. Insteadof trying to locate the sole or essential meaning of relations among Arab and Jewish railway workers in either term, however, it may make more sense to shift our focus to the ways in which intercommunalas well as intracommunal identities, boundaries, and and and were constructed place in the foregroundthe projects reproduced, contestation which always characterizedthose processes. Thus among the Arab railway workers some unionists who certainly regardedthemselves as nationalists strongly opposed to what they saw as Zionist encroachmenton their homelandnonetheless defied the official nationalistline by embracinga discourse of workersolidarityacross ethnic boundariesthatpromotedcooperation with Zionist Jews. Similarly, contending political forces among the Jewish railwayworkersput forwardconflicting definitionsof what it meantto be a Jew and a worker in Palestine and widely differing notions of how to
48 The best work on the causes of Palestinian displacementis Benny Morris, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949 (Cambridge:CambridgeUniversity Press, 1987); on Haifa in particular,see pages 73-93. 49 AharonCohen's Israel and the Arab World (London:W. H. Allen, 1970) is a classic of this genre, as it contains much useful information.

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relate to the Arab majority of the railway work force. More broadly, the existence of a more or less unified marketfor unskilled and semiskilled labor in Palestine, especially in the governmentsector, and the circumstancesand exigencies which employment by the colonial administrationgenerated, helped shape perceptions, strategies, and relationshipsamong all membersof the Palestine Railways work force. In this sense, the Arab and Jewish railway workers not only "madethemselves" (to borrowE. P. Thompson'simagery) but also "made"each other within a broadermatrixof relations and forces. It is not only with respect to the railway workersthat a relationalapproach which focuses on the mutually constitutive interactionsbetween Arabs and Jews in Palestine may prove useful, however. Forexample, I suggestedearlier that the urgent need to exit (at least partially)a labor marketdominatedby abundantlow-wage Arablaborpromptedthe labor-Zionist movementto strive to constructa relatively self-sufficient, high-wage economic enclave for Jews in Palestine. This imperative also propelled the unrelenting struggle for Hebrewlabor and otherpracticescouched in the languageof workersolidarity and class strugglebut aimed largely at excluding or displacingArab workers. These practices exacerbatedintercommunal tensions but also facilitatedlabor Zionism's drive for hegemony over rival social and political forces withinthe Yishuv. By the mid-1930s this strategy,implementedmainly by the Histadrut of the Yishuv's popula(whose membershipencompassedmore thana quarter tion in 1936) and its affiliatedeconomic, social, cultural,and militaryinstitutions, had helped the Zionist labor camp become the dominantforce within the Yishuv and the international Zionist movement. In this sense, many of the institutionsand practiceswhich for an entirehistoricalperiod, from the 1930s into the 1970s, were considered among the most distinctive features of the Yishuv and of Israeli society (e.g., the kibbutz, the powerful public and Histadrut sectors of the economy, the cult of pioneering, the role of the military)can be understoodas directlyor indirectlythe productof the Zionist project's interactionwith Arabs and Arab society on the groundin Palestine. Similarly,while Israeli sociologists have conventionallyexplainedthe subordinatesocial location and status of Israel's OrientalJews-the majorityof the country's Jewish population, which derives from Arab countriesor from elsewhere in Asia or Africa, as opposed to EasternEurope-in terms of the failure of these culturallytraditional people to adaptsuccessfully to a modern society, recent critical scholarshiphas stressed their relegationto the bottom ranksof the labormarket(wherethey displacedor replacedPalestinianArabs) and official denigrationof their culture, defined by the dominantgroups in Israel as backward(Arab).50Before the FirstWorldWarsome Zionist leaders had already envisioned Yemeni Jews as replacementsfor Palestinian Arab
50 See Shlomo Swirski, Israel: the Oriental Majority (London: Zed Press, 1989), and Ella of its Jewish Victims," in Social Text, in Israel:Zionism from the Standpoint Shohat, "Sephardim 19/20 (Fall 1988), 1-35.

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agriculturalworkers and actually sponsored Yemeni Jewish immigrationto Palestine. After 1948, it was largely Jewish immigrantsfrom Arab countries who filled the social vacuum created by the flight or expulsion of the vast majorityof the Arabs who had lived within the bordersof the new state of Israel. Fromthis perspective, then, it can be arguedthatthe matrixof JewishArab interactionsin Palestineplayed a centralrole in shapingethnic relations within Jewish society in Palestine (and later Israel). Arab society in Palestinewas, in turn,profoundlyinfluencedby the Zionist project in a variety of ways. There was, of course, the catastrophic displacement of 1947-49, but in the preceding decades Jewish immigration,settlement, investment, and state building had alreadyhad an important impact on Arab society. That impact can be seen in the direct and indirect effects of Jewish land purchases, settlementand agricultural practiceson Arab agrarian the effects on the Arab relations, complex economy of the large-scale influx of capital that accompaniedJewish immigrationand development, and the effects of the economic and social policies implementedby a British administration committed to fostering a Jewish national home in Palestine but also concerned about alienatingthe country's Arab majority. Most of the scholars who have so far deployed a relationalapproachhave tended to emphasize the structural economic relationshipsbetween Arabs and Jews in Palestine, especially marketsfor land and labor. This emphasis has been extremelyuseful as a correctiveto the conventionalhistoriography, but it can marginalizequestions of meaning and conduce to an economistic reductionism. Yet neither the evolution nor the content of a distinctly Palestinian Arab culture, identity, and nationalmovement can be adequatelyunderstood except in relation to the specific characterof the Palestinians'confrontation with Zionism. Nor can one make sense of the labor-Zionistproject without takinginto accountnot only labormarketstrategiesbut also the ways in which and the Arabworkerand the Arabworkingclass in Palestinewere represented discourse. At a crucialstage, the roles they were made to play in labor-Zionist it was to a significantextent in relationto those (always contested)representations of Arab workersthatlaborZionism articulated its own identity,its sense of mission, and its strategy to achieve hegemony within the Yishuv and realize its version of Zionism.51The modes of interactionbetween the Arab andJewish communitiesin Palestineand theirmutuallyconstitutiveimpacton one anothermust thereforebe seen as discursive as well as material.52 As historians and others explore the history of moder Palestine in new
51 I explore this question in "Exclusionand Solidarity:LaborZionism and Arab Workersin Palestine," in Gyan Prakash, ed., After Colonialism: Imperialismand the Colonial Aftermath (Princeton:PrincetonUniversity Press, forthcoming). 52 ItamarEven-Zohar's work on the evolutionof Hebrewculturein Palestinesuggestsone path along which a relational approachto Palestinianculture might be developed. See "The Emergence of a Native Hebrew Culturein Palestine, 1882-1948," Poetics Today, 11:1(Spring 1990), 175-91, and his other articles in that same issue.

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ways, as the object of inquiryis reconceived, and as a differentset of concepts and categories deployed, it will become increasinglyclear that the two communities were neither natural nor essentially monolithic entities; nor were they hermeticallysealed off from one another,as the conventionalhistoriography assumes. Rather, the two communities interactedin complex ways and had a mutually formative effect on one another, both as communities and throughrelationshipswhich crossed communalboundariesto shapethe identities and practices of various subgroups. These complex and contested processes operated at many levels and in many spheres, including marketsfor labor, land, agriculturalproduce and consumer goods, business ventures, residentialpatterns, manufacturing and services, municipalgovernment, and various aspects of social and cultural life. These interactionsalso had an importantbut little-explored spatial dimension manifested in shifts and reorientations in demographic, economic, political and cultural relations and flows among and within differentsettlements,villages, urbanneighborhoods, towns, cities, and regions of Palestine. A numberof recently publishedworks alreadymanifest new approachesto the histories of Arabs and Jews in Palestine. These approacheschallenge conventional categories, cross hitherto unquestioned boundaries, and treat Palestine not as sui generis but as suitablefor comparativestudy.This process will be furtheredas more scholars frame and explore new and differentkinds of problems while drawing on both Arabic and Hebrew source materials. In the long run, I would hope, it will be possible to put the pieces togetherand move toward a new relationalsynthesis of the history of mandatory Palestine more over of Palestinian the two centuries. Such a and, broadly, history past will to need and transcend nationalist on narratives both synthesis interrogate sides, respecting what is specific to the histories of Arabs and Jews in Palestine even as it explores the ways in which those historieswere (and remain) inextricablyand fatefully intertwined.

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