The Struggle between Communism and Zionism. Jewish Collective Identity between Class and State in Revolutionary Russia and Historic Palestine

Mirjam Limbrunner


Since the end of the 19th century, Jewish-Socialist Russians have played a major part in the development of Zionist thinking and the establishment of Israel. However, their idea of building a Jewish State in Palestine was fiercely opposed by non-Jewish Russian Socialist on the one hand and by anti-Socialist Zionists on the other. How did these Russian Jews reconcile their Socialist ideology with their Zionist identity? And, after many of them had emigrated to Palestine, how did it influence their relationship with the Arabs and the British during the early 20th century? To understand the Socialist-Zionist worldview of that time, the emergence of modern political parties in the Tsarist Empire and the question of Jewish alignments during the Bolshevik revolution will be examined in a first part. The second section analyses Ber Borochov’s early writing "The National Question and the Class Struggle" which attempts to build a synthesis between Marxism and Zionism – two hitherto opposing ideologies. Lastly, the fate of the Socialist-Zionist Poale Zion party in Ottoman and later Mandatory Palestine will be traced, looking at how it coped with the realities on the ground and with the Third Communist International. In the conclusion I am dealing with the question whether the Socialist-Zionist persepctive was doomed to fail or whether it bares some value for the present and especially for the Israel-Palestine Conflict.

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