[(Continued from p.4)]recognized as doing so by those outside the state deemed to represent "progressive" opinion.
Far from being indifferent to ideological issues, early Labor Zionists engaged in what seem today, given the tiny size of the Jewish groups involved and the emptiness and desolation of the land, ridiculous disputes. Almost from the beginning the socialist Zionists within the Second Aliyah divided into two parties, or more aptly, given their size, "groupuscules," as historian Walter Laqueur has dubbed them. The radicals within Poalei Zion (Workers of Zion) called for a wholly Marxist approach while the Plonskists (named after the town where most of them, including Ben-Gurion, came from) wanted to give primary emphasis to Jewish needs.
Throughout the prestate period, the universalist strain in Labor Zionism was responsible for a steady hemorrhaging of adherents. To take only one example, when Poalei Zion, for the sake of unifying with another Labor Zionist party, softened the language of its platform to omit references to class warfare, members who walked out in protest created the Socialist Workers Party which two years later became the (anti-Zionist) Palestine Communist Party. Many in that group, along with others in a variety of grouplets that continually split off from the centrist labor parties, seeking a purer Marxism, could no longer endure even the proximity of Zionists and migrated to the Soviet Union where most would disappear in Stalinist purges. A sample 1932 flyer declared: "We leave this land not only because Zionism is unable to solve the problem of the oppressed Jewish masses...but because Zionism, from the Black Hundreds of the Revisionists to the so-called radicals of Poalei Zion and the Hashomer Hatzair, is a black reactionary force tightly bound to world bourgeois reaction."
And while Hazony focuses so intently on Ben- Gurion that he seems identical with the Labor Party, even at the height of his influence in the prestate period, Ben-Gurion could not overcome the short sighted ideological objections of his followers to the alliance he crafted with Jabotinsky and the Revisionists.
The implementation of socialist goals also implied achieving rapprochement with fellow Arab workers. And so Labor Zionism defined nationalist opposition by the Arabs as temporary, until the Jews should succeed in educating the Arabs as to their genuine common class interest with the Jewish worker. Jewish socialist-Zionists regarded progressive regimes in the Arab world as the solution, for these regimes would recognize the progressive character of the Jewish enterprise in Palestine and would share with it the shaping of the region, applying socialist principles within compatible Jewish and Arab national frameworks. Political scientist Gil Carl AlRoy has emphasized that this view of Arab hostility as temporary was pragmatic. The British, as indeed the rest of the world, had to be convinced the Zionist movement was practical, and would not create more problems than it solved. If Zionism produced radical opposition among the majority population, there would necessarily be second thoughts among the powers concerning the desirability of supporting it. In this view, the Labor Zionist interpretation of Arab opposition as due to the incitement of the effendis to divert the resentment of the exploited Arab masses from themselves was good practical politics.
It may be true that in the early period, these beliefs were useful in preventing greater opposition to Zionism from developing outside and in sustaining the relatively small Jewish population in Palestine, which had enough practical obstacles to face without having to add the psychological burden of the sense of unalterable opposition to their efforts on the part of the Arabs. But these beliefs would ultimately have devastating consequences. The failure of Arab hostility to dissipate would become an indictment of Labor Zionism, a sign that Zionism itself had failed and deserved to be abandoned, that some new set of ideas had to be developed to bridge the gap between Arab and Jew.
While it is difficult to account for what Hazony aptly calls the "giddiness" of post-1990 Shimon Peres, it
Labor Zionism was permeated with ideology that in its own way was as threatening to Israel's future as the blatant anti-Zionism of the professors.
Does it matter whether "post-Zionism" draws on roots in Labor Zionism as well as on Buber's cadre of professors? Yes, because unfortunately it means that there is less cause for the optimism of Hazony's last few paragraphs. Hazony writes: "Yet the story of Martin Buber's victory over Theodor Herzl and his Jewish State is not only tragedy...it affords optimism, in my opinion, because it also offers a different lesson: the lesson of how a small fellowship of intellectuals ... nonetheless succeeded in changing the life of a nation, against all odds, and despite the deepest longing of an entire people. With this lesson in mind, one cannot help considering what a few individuals might yet be able to do, if their ideas were just a bit more sensible, and if these ideas did correspond in some way to the dreams and desires of our people....It seems to me that such individuals could even
[(Continued on p.6)]
May 2000 - 5 - Outpost