Those familiar with the ever-twisting gyrations of the Zionist project know that it was not just one of bully-boy bigotry but of employment leverage and advantage. Early on, the British Mandate Government encouraged foreign capital from generous Diaspora Jews to stack society in favour of the Jews in Palestine. Wave after wave of immigrants, legal and otherwise, elevated urbanity in the land but, throughout it, the only staff allowed in either the factory or on the farm were the “chosen” few. The 1936-1939 Palestinian workers’ strikes and civil unrest were essentially a peasants’ revolt. The Arab elite and Britain’s Palestine Police force were keen to suppress it, while the fledging Jewish paramilitaries started smuggling in arms in a definite rehearsal for 1947.
The growth of Jewish Palestine was rapid. The workers are striking in Jaffa port? Well then, let’s build a new port adjacent to it, Tel Aviv, modern and as un-Ottoman looking as it can be. And thanks to British and international funds, we’ll do it in just one year. We’ll even call it the “White City” to distinguish it from “those Arabs” in the port next door.
Andrew Ross’ book strips away the façade that Israel’s architectural infrastructure was meaningfully achieved by pioneering Jews. The European Jewish immigrants like me weren’t physically up to the toil and hadn’t the generations of home construction know-how in any event. There weren’t evening classes for that vocation, not even for nice English policemen.
Ross comes at it dually, as a seasoned historian-journalist, mining many historical and contemporary sources, but his exploratory journey started early on. From leaving a North Sea oil rig job to being a sunshine socialist volunteer on an Israeli Kibbutz of then-historic Irgun roots in the 1970s, he observed much. Helping out with a 2015 Palestinian film documentary tugged him by the ear, though, and laid the foundation for this book.
This book has been shortlisted for the Palestine Book Awards 2019, please click here to read the full review on the Palestine book awards site