The Zionist Myth of the Zionist Pioneers (Haluzim)


by Yossi Schwartz, ISL (Section of the RCIT in Israel / Occupied Palestine), 07.07.2021




Andrew Ross, Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis at New York University, in his book Stone Men: The Palestinians Who Built Israel is dealing with another Zionist myth. This article has used among other materials his fine book.


An old Israeli joke is that a father tells his son that the Zionist pioneered dried lake Hula and the marshland surrounding it that were a breeding ground for mosquitoes carrying malaria, the child does not understand and asks: "Why? Were there no Arabs at that time?"


According to the Zionist myth, the early Zionist "pioneers" were hard-working men and women building the empty land from scratch. They carried bricks on their strong shoulders and used the shovels to dig ditches. They mixed sand, gravel, and cement to form blocks to build houses. The right-wing poet Nathan Alterman wrote in 1932, in his “Morning Song”: “We love you, motherland / with joy, with song and with toil.'' and "We shall dress you in a gown made of concrete and cement."


At the same time when Palestinians were mentioned by Zionists they were presented as poor dirty primitive Fellahin (peasants). This myth hides the reality where Arabs were experts in using stones to build houses suitable for the hot climate of Palestine. The Zionist colonialist settlers could not compete with the Arab workers that the Jewish capitalists preferred, because they were more efficient and cheaper while the Zionist "pioneers" demanded "European salaries" and were unfit to work in the Baron Rothschild's settlements. To overcome the skill of the Arab masons, the Zionists "pioneers" used blocks made of concrete and cement that require much less skill. Thus, while Tel-Aviv was built from blocks, the houses of Jaffa were built from Kurkar quartz sandstone taken from the coastal plains of Palestine.


In Jaffa, the richer Zionists began to build what is known today as Tel-Aviv. First, they built Hauzat Biet and later Neve Tzedek. The Labor Zionists demanded to employ only Jews, but the contractor Joseph Eliyahu Chluouche a "Separatic" Jew preferred to employ the Arab workers. In a book called in Hebrew “Parashat Hayai” (Reminiscences of My Life), he described his life up to 1929. In this book, he attacked the European Zionists who describe Palestine as a wasted ruined country with no inhabitants. The exclusion policy of the labor Zionists led to conflict between the Arab workers and the labor Zionists that led to the physical conflict in May 1921. According to the Zionist propaganda, this was an anti–Jewish pogrom. This is the Zionist version of the event:


“The first of May 1921 was “May Day” the international day of labor solidarity. Two processions were scheduled for the occasion, both planned by Jews. One was by Ahdut Haavoda (Labor Unity), a new party headed by David Ben-Gurion and Berl Katzenelson, in Tel Aviv. Their rally was authorized.


The other, in Jaffa, was by the far smaller Socialist Workers Party, which dreamed of a Soviet Union of Palestine and had distributed flyers in Yiddish and Arabic to that effect. Theirs was not.


The twin labor marches collided in Manshiya, a mixed Arab-Jewish quarter in Jaffa surrounding the Hassan Bek Mosque. Fists flew, and one female Marxist was knocked down and suffered a bad head wound.


By then some Arab residents of Jaffa had assembled in Manshiya. They were perturbed by the rising frequency of immigrant boats docking at Jaffa Port in the few years since the British arrived and World War I ended, unloading some 20,000 Jews upon their shores. And they had come under the impression that most Jews were Bolsheviks, and that Bolsheviks opposed property, marriage and religion itself. There were now several thousand people in Manshiya, where according to a subsequent commission of inquiry, “a general hunting of the Jews began.” Jews were assaulted — some fatally — in their homes and shops with blunt instruments, and afterward women, children and even the elderly came to loot. Three high-ranking Arab effendis including the mayor arrived to calm tempers but found Manshiya’s main street entirely pillaged. The dead and wounded were carried to Tel Aviv’s Herzliya Gymnasium, Palestine’s first Hebrew-language high school.


Meanwhile, another crowd gathered at the Jewish immigrant hostel in Jaffa’s Ajami neighborhood, where some 100 new arrivals were staying until they could find work. To the immigrants’ relief, a pair of Arab policemen arrived. But they too began shooting at the hostel and its main gate. A superior ordered them to stop, but then went home for lunch. The officers kept firing, the gate was opened, and the mob poured in.


Some men tried fleeing into the street and were beaten to death with sticks and wooden boards. Others were killed in the hostel courtyard. One Arab policeman attempted to rape several women; other Arab neighbors gave shelter to the desperate Jews. Several hours passed before a small contingent of British troops arrived from Lod and Jerusalem.” [1]


What the Zionists hide is that this clash was the result of the racist policy of the labor Zionists that excluded Arab workers, the expulsion of the Arab peasants from their lands that the Zionists bought from rich landowners living in Lebanon and the opposition to the pro-Zionist policy of the British imperialists.


“A report presented to the British Parliament in October 1921 by a Commission of Inquiry, chaired by Chief Justice of Palestine Thomas Haycraft, set up to investigate the 1921 riots in and around Jaffa. The commission found that the primary cause for the "disturbances" was Arab discontent over the political and economic consequences of continued Jewish immigration, as well as perceived pro-Jewish bias by Mandatory authorities. The report was followed by the 1922 Palestine White Paper, a policy document aimed to conform to its findings.” [2]


The Zionist historiography is very similar to Walt Disney movies for children like Peter Pan (1953) and Pocahontas (1995) that are stereotypical towards and dehumanizing of the Native Americans. Similarly, the Hollywood movies industry recycled the dual stereotype of the noble Indian who serves the white men and the bloodthirsty savage that attacks for no reason the peaceful European wagons. For example, King Vidor’s Northwest Passage (1940), portraying the Natives as Nazis, and George B. Seitz’s The Vanishing American (1925) are similar to racist propaganda.


In the 1930’s the rich Zionists in Tel Aviv adopted the Bauhaus architecture characterized by clean lines and white plaster facades which made it easier for the labor Zionists to build in contrast to the Arab building style. With the ideology of Only Hebrew labor, came popular songs like: “Who will build a house in Tel Aviv? Tel Chay? and Rehovot?” Rehovot was built on the lands of the Arab village Zarnuqa, Tel Chay in the upper Galilee was populated by several semi-nomadic Bedouin Arab tribes, the largest residing in Halasa before it became a Zionist settlement. Here is the song:


“Who will build a house in Tel Aviv?


We - the pioneers -


We'll build Tel Aviv.


Bring us/materials and bricks.


and build Tel Aviv.




Who will sow a field in Tel Chay?


Who will sow a field in Tel Chay?


We - the pioneers -


we'll sow Tel Chay


bring us seeds.


and we'll sow Tel Chay.




Who will plant an orchard in Rehovot?


Who will plant an orchard in Rehovot?


We - the pioneers -


we'll plant in Rehovot


bring us plants


and we'll plant in Rehovot.”




This is a song that people who do not know the history of Palestine cannot understand what is wrong with it, it can be compared with the 'Eyes of Texas’. Here are the lyrics:


“The Eyes of Texas are upon you,


All the livelong day.


The Eyes of Texas are upon you,


You cannot getaway.


Do not think you can escape them


At night or early in the morn --


The Eyes of Texas are upon you


'Til Gabriel blows his horn.”


Is there anything wrong with this song? Like in the case of the Zionist songs you have to understand the historical background to understand the racist message.


“University of Texas Professor Edmond Gordan explains: "The Eyes of Texas" was originally a satirical song once performed at minstrel shows, which are comedic variety shows featuring white performers in blackface. The Texas Cowboys school spirit association was a key social group on the UT campus for decades. In the past, Gordan said members would put on blackface and perform a sort of a minstrel show each year for their schoolmates. "The Eyes of Texas" is a satirical rendition of Confederate commander Robert E. Lee’s saying “the eyes of the south are upon you,” which was made popular on the UT campus by former university president William Lambdin Prather.” [3]


White Tel-Aviv was built in a different style than Jaffa for the same racist reasons colonialist settlers in other countries had a section of the city built with a different style than the houses of the native people. This was the case with cities like Dakar or Casablanca.


The story of Tel-Aviv is not only a story of a city built for racist reasons, it is a story of the demolition of 24 surrounding Arab villages that were destroyed after 1948 to expand the city. These were less than 5% of the villages destroyed by Israel to form the Zionist apartheid state long before the occupation of the West Bank in 1967. The same logic that characterized the exclusion of Arab labor led to ethnic cleansing and the destruction of the villages. Anyone who knows the history of the destruction of the villages of the Native Indians of South and North America by the European settler colonialists can see the same pattern.


In 1948 the main Zionist force, the Hagana's demolition squads, moved from house to house in Jaffa as part of Plan D using explosion materials while learning how to destroy Arab houses without injuring themselves. More than 95% of the Arab population of Jaffa were driven out from the city. Part of the lands that once were Arab villages became parks, this was and continue to be the Zionist policy as we can see today in Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah in Jerusalem.


Archeology in Israel is a Zionist pseudoscience aimed at proving that Jews lived in this country for the last 3000 years. For this reason, they destroy layers of thousands of years. To hide the history of the Arabs in Palestine they build hotels and parking lots on Arab cemeteries. They planted pine trees on the demolished villages that led years later to forest fires as Pine trees catch fire very fast.


After the occupation of 1967, many Palestinian workers from the West Bank and Gaza found employment in pre-1967 Israel and in the new Zionist settlements, many of them as construction workers building for the Zionists. These numbers were reduced drastically after the first and the second intifada and were replaced by guest workers. Still, 140,000 Palestinian workers are building Israel. After the Oslo agreement the small capitalist class in the West Bank had been growing among the members of the PLO. After Arafat's death, this class enjoyed the protection of the Palestinian Authority under Abbas Mahmud, their position was even better after 2007 when Salam Fayyad a technocrat of the IMF became the Prime Minister until 2013. There are now rumors that he is to replace Abbas as the head of the PA.


The connection of the PA government and Capital corrupted the PLO to the bones. Israel needed such capitalists and corrupt governments to extract wealth and resources without pushing for an uprising against the masters. Palestinian capitalists became junior partners with Israeli capitalists. In 2004 the PA faced a scandal when it was discovered that the capitalist Masri obtained a license from the PA to sell 360,000 tons of cement to Israeli importers, most of which was used to build the separation wall in the northern West Bank. Thus, the Palestinian popular classes face not one enemy – the Zionist settler colonialists – but also the local capitalist protected by the PA acting as a police force for Israel and the Palestinian capitalists, and in addition, the corrupted Arab local ruling classes, servants of the other imperialists.


To end this inhuman situation the imperialists and their servants must be smashed by the Arab revolution!


Down with the Zionist apartheid!


Down with the PA!


For the Arab revolution!