Hebrew labor

Hebrew labor

Hebrew labor ( _he. עבודה עברית, "Avoda Ivrit") refers to the concept of hiring Jewish workers in Ottoman and Mandate Palestine.


Ottoman era

During the Second Aliyah period many Jewish immigrants to the Land of Israel sought year round jobs on the agricultural tracts and plantations of their co-religionists who had arrived during the First Aliyah. Rather than hire their fellow Jews, the immigrants of the First Aliyah were initially inclined to hire local Arabs who provided cheaper labor. Eventually the immigrant laborers of the Second Aliyah successfully unionized and emphasized their Jewish identity and shared nationalist goals in order to persuade the First Aliyah immigrants to hire them and thereby displace the Arab labor. They organized under the banner of “Hebrew Labor” or “conquest of labor”. [Shafir and Peled (2002) "Being Israeli; The Dynamics of Multiple Citizenship" Cambridge University Press] [ [http://www.zionism-israel.com/dic/Kibbush_Haavoda.htm Avoda Ivrit] Zionism and Israel]

The struggle for 'Jewish labour', for Jews to employ only Jews, signified the victory of Jewish labour in creating a new society. [C.D. Smith, 2001, 'Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict', 4th ed., p. 118] This struggle was constantly pushed by the leaders of the second Aliyah (1904-1914), who founded Labor Zionism and in the 1930s became the leaders of the Zionist movement. [Y. Gorny, 1987, 'Zionism and the Arabs, 1882-1948', p. 3,70] [Flapan, 1979, 'Zionism and the Palestinians', p. 199] Shortly after his arrival in Palestine in 1906 David Ben-Gurion noted that a moshava, a private Jewish agricultural settlement, employed Arabs as guards. He asked himself: "Was it conceivable that here too we should be deep in Galuth (exile), hiring strangers to guard our property and protect our lives?" [Ben-Gurion, 1959, 'Rebirth and destiny of Israel', Thomas Yoseloff Ltd., London, p. 14] . Soon Ben-Gurion and his companions managed to amend this situation. According to Teveth in these early years Ben-Gurion developed the concept of" 'Avodah Ivrit', "or 'Jewish labour'. [Teveth, 1985, 'Ben-Gurion and the Palestinian Arabs', p. 8, 11]

The leaders of the second Aliyah agreed that Jewish labour was vital for the national revival process as they were convinced that Jews should 'redeem' themselves by building with their own hands a new type of Jewish society. They also thought the use of Arab labour could create a typical colonial society, exploiting cheap, unorganised indigenous labour, and would hamper further Jewish immigration. Finally they considered manual labour a good therapy for Jews as individuals and as a people. In Ben-Gurion's opinion Jewish labour was "not a means but a sublime end", the Jew had to be transformed and made creative. [Y. Gorny, 1987, 'Zionism and the Arabs, 1882-1948', p. 12] [Teveth, 1985, 'Ben-Gurion and the Palestinian Arabs', p. 44] [Flapan, 1979, 'Zionism and the Palestinians', p. 199,230]

In 1907 Ben-Gurion called for Jewish labour on lands owned by the Jewish National Fund. [Teveth, 1985, 'Ben-Gurion and the Palestinian Arabs', p. 66] There were difficulties here, because Arabs were prepared to work long hours for very low wages, and most Jewish immigrants preferred to settle in the cities. In this context occurred the development of the concept of the kibbutz, 'the co-operative settlement based on self-labour and motivated by Zionist ideals'. [Flapan, 1979, 'Zionism and the Palestinians', p. 200] In a summary made in 1956 Ben-Gurion said the kibuutz movement was not started because of some socialist theory, but as an effective way to "guarantee Jewish labour". [Sternhell, 1999, 'The Founding Myths of Israel ...', p. 74]

Mandate era

Around 1920 Ben-Gurion began to call for Jewish labour in the entire economy, and labour Zionism started striving for an absolute segregation of the Jewish and Arab national communities. In this way 'Jews and Arabs [...] would live in separate settlements and work in separate economies'. [Teveth, 1985, 'Ben-Gurion and the Palestinian Arabs', p. 44,66] Ben-Gurion used the 1929 riots and the 1936 general strike as opportunities to further enforce his drive for Jewish labour. [Teveth, 1985, 'Ben-Gurion and the Palestinian Arabs', p. 79] [Flapan, 1979, 'Zionism and the Palestinians', p. 231] In 1930 the Hope Simpson Report blamed the Jewish labour policy for the grave unemployment in the Arab sector. [Flapan, 1979, 'Zionism and the Palestinians', p. 205] According to Flapan in 1933 the Histadrut launched its first campaign to remove Arab workers form the cities. In many cases the removal of Arab workers 'took the form of ugly scenes of violence'. Reports of this in the Jewish and Arab press 'created an atmosphere of unprecedented tension'. [Flapan, 1979, 'Zionism and the Palestinians', p. 206] According to Flapan this forceful eviction of Arab workers and the 'acrimonious propaganda' which accompanied the operation amplified Arab hostility and ultimately precipitated the outbreak of the Arab revolt in 1936. [Flapan, 1979, 'Zionism and the Palestinians', p. 207]

In 1947 the UN Special Commission on Palestine summarised the situation:

The economic life presents the complex phenomenon of two distinctive economies - one Jewish and one Arab, closely involved with one another and yet in essential features separate. [...] Apart from a small number of experts, no Jewish workers are employed in Arab undertakings and apart from citrus groves, very few Arabs are employed in Jewish enterprises [...] Government service, the Potash company and the oil refinery are almost the only places where Arab and Jews meet as co-workers in the same organization. [...] There are considerable differences between the rates of wage for Arab and Jewish workers in similar occupations. [Flapan, 1979, 'Zionism and the Palestinians', p. 198; citing the 1947 UN SCOP report]

Modern Israel

In recent times large segments of the Israeli economy has developed a dependency upon Arab labor, nonetheless there have been attempts at reviving the practice of hiring exclusively Jewish labor in the Land of Israel particularly after the Second Intifada. Selective hiring practices are illegal in Israel under the Act of Equality in Employment, however many employers cite overriding security concerns. [ [http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1191257206620&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull Burger-joint hires Jewish workers only] Jerusalem Post] In 2004 an Israeli website promoting Hebrew Labor was shut down under pressure from the Mossawa Center for Arab Rights. [ [http://truthnews.com/world/2004120175.htm Arabs Enjoy Human Rights In Israel] TruthNews] which is funded by the New Israel Fund. [ [http://www.danielpipes.org/comments/70045 Dr. Daniel Pipes] American Jewish donations to the Mossawa Center] In March 2008 in light of the Mercaz HaRav massacre which was initially reported to have been perpetrated by an Arab employee of the seminary, [ [http://www.thestar.com/World/Columnist/article/326397 Mideast's Ugly Dance of Death] The Star] Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky ruled “it is completely forbidden to hire Arabs, especially in yeshivas” due to the “concern of endangering lives”. [ [http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/125573 Rabbi Bans Arab Labor Following Attack] Israel National News] One week later the Chief Rabbi of Hebron and Kiryat Arba, Rabbi Dov Lior ruled that "it is strictly prohibited to hire Arabs, or to rent houses on Israeli land to them. Their employment is out of the question, not only in the yeshivas but also in hotels or factories; basically anywhere." [ [http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3521246,00.html Rabbi Lior Speaks Out Against Hiring of Arabs] Yedioth Ahronoth] Additionally during the same period (following the aforementioned massacre), a protest march took place on the East-Jerusalem neighborhood where the Israeli-Arab terrorist lived, many of the protestors prominently carried large printed banners calling for Avoda Ivrit indicating the rising popularity of the conviction that only Jewish labor should be used. [ [http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/125620 Photo Essay: Bereaved and Angry March on Jerusalem Terrorist's Home] Israel National News]


"Hebrew labor" is often also referred to as "Jewish labor" although the former is the literal translation of "avoda ivrit". According to Even-Zohar the immigrants of the Second Aliyah preferred to use the word "Hebrew" because they wanted to emphasize the difference between their "new Hebrew" identity and the "old Diaspora Jewish" identity. For them the word "Hebrew" had romantic connotations with the "purity" and "authenticity" of the existence of the "Hebrew nation in its land", like it had been in the past. [I. Even-Zohar, 'The emergence of a Native Hebrew culture in Palestine, 1882-1948', in 'Essential Papers on Zionsm', ed. By Reinharz & Shapira, 1996, p.727-729, ISBN 0-8147-7449-0]

Related to the concept of "Hebrew labor" was the concept of "alien labor". Ben-Gurion wrote about the settlers of the First Aliyah: "They introduced the idol of exile to the temple of national rebirth, and the creation of the new homeland was desecrated by "avodah zara". According to Shapira "avodah zara" means both "alien labor" and, in a religious sense, "idol worship". Along with bloodshed and incest this is one of the three worst sins in Judaism. Application of this concept to the employment of Arab workers by Jews depicted this as a taboo. [Anita Shapira, Land and Power; The Zionist Recourse to Force, 1881-1948, Oxfore U. Press, N.Y., 1992. P. 64]

ee also

*Labor Zionism
*Zionist and Palestinian Arab attitudes before 1948


External links

* [http://www.zionism-israel.com/dic/Kibbush_Haavoda.htm History of Hebrew Labor] Zionism and Israel

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