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5 THE E CONOMIC C ULTURE: T HE O RIGINS The Basic Ideology The artificial economy of Israel is rooted in the very ideology that governed the early settlement of Palestine, both social and national. As already noted, the socialist Zionists who immigrated to Palestine after the turn of the century held that the national redemption of the Jews was necessarily intertwined with their social salvation. But the very welding together of the socialist ideology and nationalism already involved a certain amount of artificiality. The combination of Zionism and socialism had been challenged vigorously by the leader of the Revisionist Zionists, Ze'ev Jabotinsky (1880-1940). He insisted that Zionism must be the sole occupier of the ideological front seat, and that all other concerns should be postponed until after the main objective of Zionism -the creation of a Jewish majority in Palestine-had been achieved.' ln principle, socialism and nationalism were contradictory. Socialism was supposed to change the order of the world so as to render national differences insignificant. The real battle, according to the socialists, was not between nations, but between the oppressed workers of the world and their oppressors everywhere. Nor was there any real reason for hatred on the basis of race or religion: it had all been the contrivance of the ruling classes, who sought to perpetuate their rule by pitting worker against worker. The implication was that the salvation of the Jews would come automatically with the triumph of the socialist revolution. Hence, a reconciliation of socialism and Zionism presented a difficult intellectual problem. The first to try to resolve the apparent contradiction between socialism and Zionism was Moshe Syrkin (1868- 1924). His reasoning was based on the belief that antisemitism grew out of the class structure that characterized the Jewish community in the diaspora of Eastern Europe. But Ber Borochov (1881-1919), considered the father of Zionist socialism, provided the definite framework for doing what Syrkin had suggested.2 His basic argument was that the Jews could not be salvaged unless they acquired an employment structure similar to that which characterized their host nations. The reality had 96 The Poltical Economy ofIsrael been that Jews in Eastern Europe, with whom Borochov was familiar, were concentrated in small-time commerce and finance. This occupational structure had been brought about by a combination ofexpulsions ofJews from certain areas and restrictions imposed on them. On the one hand, they were prohibited from owning land, so they were forced to live in urban areas and engage in urban trades. On the other hand, they were chased from time to time from their places of abode and so preferred to have their wealth invested in easily movable assets. That implied financial assets, and so Jews engaged a lot in banking and other forms of financial market activities. This, argued Borochov , constituted a very unhealthy occupational structure, which he dubbed rhe upside-down pyramid. Liberation of the Jews therefore could be accomplished only if they again became farmers and industrial workers, that is, if the pyramid were rectified, and that could not be attained in the Diaspora. The conditions of the Jewish population that had existed in Palestine prior to the start of immigration in the 1870s lent reinforcement to the perceived need to change the occupational structure. Of the 20-25,000 Jews living in Palestine at the time, practically all were concentrated in Jerusalem, Tiberias, and Safed. Although there were small merchants and artisans among them, they survived mostly on donations collected abroad. The advent of Zionist socialism actually caused the Jewish socialists to split. Some, who fom1ed the non-Zionist Bund, adhered to the idea that Jews would be liberated by the socialist revolution in any event and therefore did not need to form a national movement. They were wrong, but they were consistent in the sense that they did not bend their socialist beliefs to fit what were in principle conflicting aspirations. The argument that had been invented to make socialism compatible with nationalism gained enormous stature in the Zionist movement. The idea of returning to a healthier occupational structure became so powerful that even a nonsocialist like Arthur Ruppin stated with great conviction:3 Outside Palestine the Jewish population is composed in such a way as to resemble a pyramid whose broad base consists of merchants, their employees and commercial middlemen. These are followed by industrialists , by professional men (doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, journalists , artists, etc.), and by artisans (especially tailors, bootmakers, tinkers , glaziers...


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