Comrades and Enemies: Arab and Jewish Workers in Palestine, 1906-1948
By Zachary Lockman
University of California Press, 1996, 440 pp.
Conventional nationalist histories of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are the target of this study of Arab and Jewish workers in Palestine in the first half of the century. Lockman does not quarrel with the notion that the two communities were on a collision course from the outset, but he argues that each influenced the other in important ways -- they were "mutually formative" -- and that moments of cooperation occurred. His specific case involves railroad workers who showed flashes of class solidarity, as good socialists would hope. But on balance, even left-leaning Zionists had a hard time accepting the legitimacy of Arab nationalism, and the concept of "Hebrew labor" made it difficult to forge working-class alliances. Much more information is available on Jewish than on Arab attitudes and policies, but the author uses all available data. Today it is perhaps less surprising that socialist ideology failed to overcome the particularism of national claims, but there was a time earlier in the century in which many Labor Zionists thought a clash between the two communities could be avoided. By looking at the segment of society where class solidarity should have been strongest, Lockman shows in microcosm the tragedy that befell Palestine.