This paper focuses on the Zionist challenges regarding “Jewish labor” through the micro-history of the Salonikian longshoremen on the eve of their emigration from Greece (early 1930s), and during the first period of integration in the Haifa Port (1933–1936). To date, the hegemonic perspective on Salonikian longshoremen has emphasized the immigrants’ crucial role in overcoming the Arab-dominated port labor market. However, while tending to paint a romantic picture of national fervor, this Zionist view obscured the economic, ethnic, and cultural confrontation involved in realizing “Jewish labor”. These multiple forms of confrontation occurred not only between ethnic groups (Jewish-Arab struggle) but also within the local Jewish labor community. Re-visiting the Zionist agenda from the vantage point of both the Salonikian longshoremen and the Zionist establishment enables to present largely neglected aspects of the complex relations between the Sephardic Salonikians and the Ashkenazi/Eastern European-dominated Jewish labor establishment. Due to heavy doubts about the Salonikian commitment to the uphill battle for “Jewish labor,” the Haifa Labor Council excluded the latter from the labor community. Consequently, the cultural marginality of the Salonikians weakened the Zionist vision of uniting all Jewish wage earners into a cohesive working class in the middle of the 1930s.
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© 2023 British Society for Middle Eastern Studies.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Geography, Planning and Development
- Earth-Surface Processes