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The Construction of “Native” Jews in Late Mandate Palestine: An Ongoing Nahda as a Political Project

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 June 2021

Aviv Derri
Departments of History and Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, New York University, New York, NY, USA
E-mail address:


This article concerns the place of late Ottoman Jews in Palestine on the eve of the 1948 War. It focuses on Israel Ben-Zeʾev (Wolfensohn), a Jerusalem-born educator and Nahda intellectual who led a movement of self-identified “native” Jews, including both “Old Yishuv” Ashkenazim and Sephardim, to combat their marginalization by the Zionist institutions. I examine his lifetime struggle to advance the study of Arabic and “Arab Jews” (yahud ʿarab) under early Islam by creating institutions of knowledge production and educational programs modeled on those he knew from his early academic career in Cairo. It was in the context of these struggles that demands for separate political representation for native Jews and for a specialized field of Arab Jewish studies coalesced as part of a broader project of a shared Arab-Jewish cultural modernization. They culminated in 1948, when Ben-Zeʾev finally realized his Arabic library project, ironically using looted Palestinian books, only to see its destruction four years later by Zionist leaders and Hebrew University professors.

Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press

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1 Yishuv is the Zionist term for the pre-1948 Jewish community in Palestine. A basic distinction is made in Zionist discourse between the New Yishuv, that is, European-Zionist settlers, and the local Ottoman Jewish population in Palestine before 1882, referred to as the Old Yishuv. As the NYF case shows, the term Old Yishuv was used by locally born Jews themselves to stress their self-identification as the country's natives.

2 On Sephardi associations and the inherent tension between independent political action and the need to prove their loyalty to the main Zionist institutions, see Abigail Jacobson and Moshe Naor, Oriental Neighbors: Middle Eastern Jews and Arabs in Mandatory Palestine (Waltham, MA: Brandeis University Press, 2016).

3 On Sephardi Jews as Arabists in the mandate era, see Gil Eyal, The Disenchantment of the Orient: Expertise in Arab Affairs and the Israeli State (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2006), ch. 3. For a discussion of the mediating role of Sephardi and Oriental Jews that considers their sociocultural background as Ottoman Arabic-speaking Jews, see Jacobson and Naor, Oriental Neighbors, esp. chs. 1–3. In the rhetoric of Sephardi Jews who sought a position in the Zionist institutions as mediators during the mandate period, many of them based their claim for expertise on their lived experience among Arabs before World War I.

4 Michelle U. Campos, Ottoman Brothers: Muslims, Christians, and Jews in Early Twentieth-Century Palestine (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2011); Abigail Jacobson, From Empire to Empire: Jerusalem between Ottoman and British Rule (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2011); Johann Büssow, Hamidian Palestine: Politics and Society in the District of Jerusalem, 1872–1908 (Leiden: Brill, 2011); Yuval Ben-Bassat and Eyal Ginio, eds., Late Ottoman Palestine: The Period of Young Turk Rule (New York: I. B. Tauris, 2011).

5 Büssow, Hamidian Palestine; Ben-Bassat, Yuval, “The Challenges Facing the First Aliyah Sephardic Ottoman Colonists,” Journal of Israeli History 35, no. 1 (2016): 3–15CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Vincent Lemire, Jerusalem 1900: The Holy City in the Age of Possibilities, trans. Catherine Tihanyi and Lys Ann Weiss (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017); Angelos Dalachanis and Vincent Lemire, eds., Ordinary Jerusalem, 1840–1940: Opening Archives, Revisiting a Global City (Leiden: Brill, 2018); Ben-Bassat, Yuval, “Reconsidering the Role of a Maghrebi Family in the Yishuv in Late Ottoman Palestine: The Case of the Moyal Family,” Journal of Modern Jewish Studies 19, no. 4 (2020): 490–508CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Derri, Aviv, “Historiya Hevratit shel Elitot Soharim lo-Muslemiyot be-Suriya ha-Osmanit,” Jamaa: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Middle East Studies 25 (2020): 91110Google Scholar.

6 For instance, see Michael Meeker, A Nation of Empire: The Ottoman Legacy of Turkish Modernity (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2002); Manna, Adel, “Between Jerusalem and Damascus: The End of Ottoman Rule as Seen by a Palestinian Modernist,” Jerusalem Quarterly 22/23 (2005): 109–25Google Scholar; Jacobson, From Empire to Empire; Tamari, Salim, “Issa al Issa's Unorthodox Orthodoxy: Banned in Jerusalem, Permitted in Jaffa,” Jerusalem Quarterly 59 (2014): 1636Google Scholar; and Michael Provence, The Last Ottoman Generation and the Making of the Modern Middle East (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2017).

7 Tamari, Salim, “Ishaq al-Shami and the Predicament of the Arab Jew in Palestine,” Jerusalem Quarterly 21 (2004), 1026Google Scholar; Jacobson, From Empire to Empire; Aviv Derri, “Mizrahanut Alternativit ve-Hishtalvut ba-Merhav ha-‘Aravi ha-Mekomi: Dr. Israel Ben Zeʾev, ha-Sifriya ha-‘Aravit be-Yafo veha-Maʾavak ʿal Sfarim Falastinim ‘Netushim’ 1948–1952” (MA thesis, Ben Gurion University, 2013); Levy, Lital, “The Nahda and the Haskala: A Comparative Reading of ‘Revival’ and ‘Reform,’Middle Eastern Literatures 16, no. 3 (2013): 300–16CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Moshe Behar and Zvi Ben-Dor Benite, eds., Modern Middle Eastern Jewish Thought: Writings on Identity, Politics and Culture, 1893–1958 (Waltham, MA: Brandeis University Press, 2013); Jacobson and Naor, Oriental Neighbors; Amos Noy, ʿEdim o Mumhim (Tel Aviv: Resling, 2017); Cohen, Hillel and Evri, Yuval, “Moledet Meshutefet o Bayt Leumi: Bney ha-Arets, Hatsʾharat Balfour ve ha-Shʾela ha-ʿAravit,” Teoria u-Bikoret 49 (2017): 291304Google Scholar; Haramati, Michal, “The Theory of Autochthonous Zionism in Political Discourses in Israel, 1961–1967,” Journal of Spatial and Organizational Dynamics 6 no. 2 (2018), 112139Google Scholar; Yuval Evri, Ha-Shiva le-Andalus: Mahlokot ʿal Tarbut ve Zehut Yehudit-Sfaradit beyn ʿArviyut le-ʿIvriyut (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 2020).

8 Zachary Lockman, Comrades and Enemies: Arab and Jewish Workers in Palestine, 1906–1948 (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1996), ch. 7; Charles Anderson, “From Petition to Confrontation: The Palestinian National Movement and the Rise of Mass Politics, 1929–1939,” (PhD diss., New York University, 2013), 1118–19, 1131–33; Sherene Seikaly, Men of Capital: Scarcity and Economy in Mandate Palestine (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2016), 14–15.

9 An important study in this regard that focuses on the earlier decades of the 20th century is Noy, ʿEdim o Mumhim. Noy critically examines the “nativeness” rhetoric among Jerusalem-born Sephardi intellectuals, which he views as a scholarly strategy through which they gained symbolic capital in Western “knowledge communities” as natural intermediaries uniquely positioned within both Arab and Jewish cultures.

10 See Orit Bashkin's call to “provincialize Zionism” in “The Middle Eastern Shift and Provincializing Zionism,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 46, no. 3 (2014): 577–580, as well as her work on the integral role of Ottoman-Iraqi Jews in local social and cultural transformations in the Tanzimat era. Bashkin, “‘Religious Hatred Shall Disappear from the Land’ – Iraqi Jews as Ottoman Subjects, 1864–1913,” International Journal of Contemporary Iraqi Studies 4, no. 3 (2010): 305–323.[10]

11 The Prushim, followers of the Vilna Gaon, emigrated from the Russian Empire (today's Lithuania) to Palestine in 1809. They settled first in Safad and later Jerusalem and formed the (anti-Hasidic) core of what would become the ḥaredi community in the mandate period.

12 Salim Tamari, “Confessionalism and Public Space in Ottoman and Colonial Jerusalem,” in Cities and Sovereignty: Identity Politics in Urban Spaces, ed. Diane E. Davis and Nora Libertun de Duren (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2011), 63.

13 Israeli State Archives (hereafter ISA), P-2531/1, Israel Ben-Zeʾev, 17 December 1964. On the ways in which local Muslims, Christians, and Jews belonging to this intellectual elite negotiated their multiple loyalties, including an ingrained commitment to the Ottoman imperial framework, see Rashid Khalidi, Palestinian Identity: The Construction of Modern National Consciousness (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997), ch. 4; Salim Tamari, Mountain against the Sea: Essays on Palestinian Society and Culture (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2009); Campos, Ottoman Brothers; Ben-Bassat and Ginio, Late Ottoman Palestine; Jacobson, From Empire to Empire; and Mahmoud Yazbak, “Be-tsel ha-Imperiya: Tguvot Falastiniyot la-Tnuʿa ha-Tsiyonit 1882–1914,” in Ha-Tsiyonut ve ha-Imperiyot, ed. Yehouda Shenhav (Jerusalem: Van Leer, 2015), 183–211. In particular, see Lital Levy's observation concerning nahḍāwī intellectuals who saw themselves primarily as enlightened thinkers, a key identity shared across communal lines; “Jewish Writers in the Arab East: Literature, History, and the Politics of Enlightenment, 1863–1914” (PhD diss., University of California at Berkeley, 2007), esp. 125–26, 221–26.

14 The Arab Teachers Training College was opened in 1918 with the official name Dar al-Muʿallimin, until 1927 when its name was changed to al-Kulliyya al-ʿArabiyya, or the Arab College. It was closed in 1948. Davis, Rochelle, “Commemorating Education: Recollections of the Arab College in Jerusalem, 1918–1948,” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 23, no. 1/2 (2003): 190–204CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Muhammad Yusuf Najm, Dar al-Muʿallimin wa-l Kulliyya al-ʿArabiyya fi Bayt al-Maqdis (Beirut: Dar Sadir, 2007).

15 Central Zionist Archives (hereafter CZA), AK 474/6, “Pratim le-Toldot Hayei Dr. Israel Ben-Zeʾev,” n.d. Later in his life Ben-Zeʾev lamented: “Had other Jewish students gone to the Arab Teachers Training College in Jerusalem, the turn of political and social events in Palestine would have been different”; ISA, P-2531/1, Israel Ben-Zeʾev, 17 December 1964. It was the Zionist leadership that insisted on this separation throughout the mandate period Abdul Latif Tibawi, Arab Education in Mandatory Palestine (London: Luzac, 1956), 255–67; Shlomo Svirsky, Hinukh be-Yisrael: Mehoz ha-Maslulim ha-Nifradim (Tel Aviv: Brerot, 1990), 17–32. The Vaʿad Leumi was the representative body of the pre-1948 Jewish community in Palestine.

16 According to Ben-Zeʾev's daughter, her father probably could not afford traveling to Europe at the time, even if he had considered that option; author interview with Ofra Rachlin, 22 June 2012.

17 Reid, Donald M., “Cairo University and the Orientalists,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 19, no. 1 (1987): 51–75CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

18 Ahmed, Hussam R., “The Nahda in Parliament: Taha Husayn's Career Building Knowledge Production Institutions, 1922–1952,” Arab Studies Journal 26, no. 1 (2018): 9–33Google Scholar.

19 Israʾil Wulfinsun (Abu Zuʾaib), Tarikh al-Yahud fi Bilad al-‘Arab fi al-Jahiliyya wa Sadr al-Islam (Cairo: Matbaʿat Lajnat al-Taʾlif wa-l-Tarjama wa-l-Nashr, 1927).

20 Reid, “Cairo University,” 52–53.

21 Husayni's trajectory in many ways resembled that of Ben-Zeʾev. He even served as supervisor of Arabic in Palestine's government schools when Ben-Zeʾev held the parallel position in Jewish schools. However, whereas Ben-Zeʾev continued in this post for years, his Palestinian counterpart was forced to leave the country in 1948. Muhammad ʿUmar Hamada, Aʿlam Filastin (Damascus: Dar al-Kutayba, 1985), 293–97; Kamil Salman Juburi, Muʿjam al-Udaba': Min al-ʿAsr al-Jahili hatta Sanat 2002 m. (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiya, 2003), 385.

22 Jerusalem Municipality Archives (hereafter JMA), 451/25, Haim Bar-Droma to Israel Ben-Zeʾev, 3 July 1934; JMA, 451/25, Haim Bar-Droma to Israel Ben-Zeʾev, 26 February 1935; JMA, 451/25, Elazar Marbach to Israel Ben-Zeʾev, 24 January 1937; JMA, 451/25, Israel Ben-Zeʾev to Haim Bar-Droma, 19 April 1945; author interview with Ofra Rachlin (Ben-Zeʾev's daughter), 22 June 2012.

23 Israʾil Wulfinsun (Abu Zuʾaib), Tarikh al-Lughat al-Samiyya (Cairo: Matbaʿat Lajnat al-Taʾlif wa-l-Tarjama wa-l-Nashr, 1929), Introduction. This book was still in use in Egypt in the 1970s; CZA, AK 474/6, “Pratim,” n.d. Ben-Zeʾev probably chose Dhuʾaib (Zuʾaib) instead of the direct translation of his name as dhiʾb (wolf) due to its negative connotations in Arabic. I thank Yonatan Mendel and Ofra Rachlin for this observation.

24 Israel Wolfensohn, Kaʿb al-Ahbar und seine Stellung im Hadit und in der islamischen Legendenliteratur (Gelnhausen, Germany: Kalbfleisch, 1933); Israʾil Wulfinsun (Abu Zuʾaib), Musa ibn Maymun, Hayatihi wa-Musannafatihi (Cairo: Matbaʿat Lajnat al-Taʾlif wa-l-Tarjama wa-l-Nashr, 1936). The “future of the Egyptian Jewish past” has been recently reconsidered following the discovery of rare, old Jewish manuscripts in Cairo as part of a project initiated by the current president of the local Jewish community, Magda Haroun. See Yoram Meital, “A Thousand-Year-Old Biblical Manuscript Rediscovered in Cairo: The Future of the Egyptian Jewish Past,” Jewish Quarterly Review 110, no. 1 (2020): 194–219.

25 Levy, “Jewish Writers,” 127, 136.

26 Mostafa Hussein, “The Integration of Arabo-Islamic Culture into the Emergent Hebrew Culture of Late Ottoman Palestine,” Jewish Quarterly Review 109, no. 3 (2019): 464–69; Almog Behar and Yuval Evri, “From Saadia to Yahuda: Reviving Arab Jewish Intellectual Models in a Time of Partitions,” Jewish Quarterly Review 109, no. 3 (2019): 458–63; Evri, Ha-Shiva le-Andalus. See also Levy, “Jewish Writers,” 127–38.

27 Israel Ben-Zeʾev, “Darko shel David Yellin el ha-Safa ha-ʿAravit,” Davar, 24 March 1939; Dr. Ben-Zeʾev, “Rabbi Yitzhak Yahuda, Ishiyuto ve Talmudo,” Moznaim 1–2 (1941–42): 71–77; Dr. Ben-Zeʾev, “Prof. A. S. Yahuda ha-Hoker ha-Lohem,” Davar, 30 November 1951. Yahuda was a wealthy merchant family (related by marriage to the Sasson family) that migrated to Palestine from Baghdad in the mid-19th century.

28 Levy distinguishes between Jewish nahḍāwīs who wrote in Hebrew and those who wrote in Arabic in terms of their self-understanding and scholarly interventions; “The Nahda.”

29 In their correspondence, Ben-Zeʾev and Yahuda use terms like bney ha-ʾarets and yelidey ha-ʾarets (natives of the country) to distinguish themselves from Hebrew University professors and from the Zionist leadership.

30 Evri, Ha-Shiva le-Andalus, 140–43. He also resented the belated acceptance of Yellin as a professor at the Hebrew University despite his contribution to its establishment; ibid., 95.

31 National Library Archives, Jerusalem (hereafter NLA), Ms Var 38/267, Abraham Shalom Yahuda to Israel Ben-Zeʾev, 7 November 1946.

32 Evri analyzes these differentiation strategies as they were used by Yellin vis-à-vis Shaul Abdallah Yosef (1849–1906), a Baghdadi merchant and scholar of Arabic Jewish literature with no formal academic or rabbinic training, as well as toward Yahuda upon his rejection by the IOS; Ha-Shiva le-Andalus, 93–99, 143–49.

33 Rivlin, who also was of Old Yishuv Ashkenazi background, although from an upper-class family, managed to develop a successful long-term career at the IOS as soon as he completed a PhD in Germany in 1927. According to Ben-Zeʾev's daughter, “Rivlin was among the opponents to my father's appointment [to the IOS]. He [Ben-Zeʾev] used to talk about it a lot at home. He was very disappointed. He knew they were in his way, that they feared for their positions”; author interview with Ofra Rachlin, 22 June 2012. Yitzhak Shamosh (1912–1968), a Jew from Aleppo, also taught at the IOS from 1937 until his death, but always as a nontenured Arabic teacher.

34 Ben-Zeʾev, “Darko shel David Yellin.”

35 Ahmed, “The Nahda.”

36 NLA, Ms Var 38/267, Ben-Zeʾev to A. S. Yahuda, 11 May 1947; NLA, Ms Var 38/267, A. S. Yahuda to Ben-Zeʾev, 7 December 1947.

37 ISA, M-1057/8, Report from the Assembly of Arabic Teachers in Jerusalem, 13 August 1946.

38 ISA, P-2522/1, Israel Ben-Zeʾev to the Department of Education of Palestine, 18 September 1942.

39 CZA, J17/7236, Protocol of the Meeting of Arabic Teachers in Tel Aviv, September 1939.

40 CZA, J17/319, Conference on Arabic Teaching, 10–11 April 1938; ISA, P-2528/1, Ben-Zeʾev to B. Ben-Yehuda, 30 May 1950.

41 ISA, P-2522/1, Ben-Zeʾev to M. Soloveitchik, Head of the Education Department, Summary Report on Arabic Teaching for the Year 1943, 31 October 1943.

42 Jacobson and Naor, Oriental Neighbors, 111.

43 NLA Ms Var 38/267, Education Department of the National Council, “Courses for Arabic Teachers in Primary and High Schools,” 13 July 1947. Among the teachers listed in the training courses were Diab Rabi‘, Jeryes Mansur, Ahmad Youssef, Esther Moyal, Yaacov Yehoshua, Yitzhak Shamosh, and Ben-Zeʾev himself.

44 This was part of a larger process that Yonatan Mendel describes as the securitization of Arabic studies in mandate Palestine; The Creation of Israeli Arabic (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), 11–40.

45 ISA, M-1057/8, Courses for Arabic Teachers in Primary and Secondary Schools, Department of Education: Winter 1946 program, 10 February 1946; Summer 1946 program, 20 May 1946; Winter 1947 program, 26 December 1946.

46 NLA, Ms Var 38/267, Ben-Zeʾev to A. S. Yahuda, 24 July 1947.

47 Ben-Zeʾev's choice of the term ḥakhamim-ḥoḳrim indicates that he saw himself and his ideal cadre of engaged and enlightened intellectuals as embedded within both Jewish (Sephardi) thought (ḥakham, pl. ḥakhamim) and modern scientific scholarship (ḥoḳrim, denoting researchers).

48 NLA Ms Var 38/267, Ben-Zeʾev to A. S. Yahuda, 29 June 1947.

49 “The Arabic Teachers’ Conference,” ʿAl ha-Mishmar, 23 August 1944; CZA, J17/5853, “Arabic Teachers’ Courses,” 26 November 1945; Ben-Zeʾev to Ofra Rachlin, 6 December 1945; ISA, M-1057/8, Arabic Teachers’ Assembly in Jerusalem, 13 August 1946; NLA Ms Var 38/267, Ben-Zeʾev to A. S. Yahuda, 6 January 1947.

50 CZA, J17/5853, “Arabic Teachers’ Training Courses,” 26 November 1945.

51 This process is analyzed in Mendel, Creation of Israeli Arabic. See also Eyal, Disenchantment; and Liora Halperin, Babel in Zion: Jews, Nationalism, and Language Diversity in Palestine, 1920–1948 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2015), chs. 4–5. Although Ben-Zeʾev participated in the increasingly common discourse on practical Arabic (indeed, he was probably appointed as supervisor to promote that type of expertise among Jews), my analysis makes clear that these discursive practices should be situated in the context of his larger cultural and political projects to understand his approach to Arabic teaching. His views were not merely rooted in a cultural Ottoman Arab background (shared by some Sephardi figures that feature in Jacobson and Naor's Oriental Neighbors as “cultural mediators”); Ben-Zeʾev's comprehensive cultural project, of which Arabic language studies were part, drew on specific models he engaged with as a scholar and educator in Cairo. Together with his critical political agenda, his views pitted him not only against Zionist academic and political elites but also against native Jews who aligned with them, acting as cultural mediators.

52 By the early 1950s, priorities had changed and Zionist officials no longer deemed the study of the language important; Mendel, Creation of Israeli Arabic, ch. 2.

53 During his time in Cairo, Ben-Zeʾev assisted the Hebrew University in raising funds from the local Jewish communities. In the early 1940s he hoped to use his new position as supervisor in Palestine to demand that the university invest some of these funds in his new Arabic school program, implying that he could use his influence in Egypt to impede the transfer of these funds. Moshe Shertok, the head of the Jewish Agency's Political Department, reacted furiously to these demands, emphatically rejecting Ben-Zeʾev's “strange” manners and “style.” Scolding Ben-Zeʾev for thinking he had “any authority to make demands upon the university,” Shertok stressed the Jewish Agency's full commitment to the university. He concluded with regret that Ben-Zeʾev's unacceptable behavior might affect his future position and career. CZA, S25/911, Dr. Ben-Zeʾev to Moshe Shertok, 15 February 1942; ibid., Moshe Shertok to Dr. Ben-Zeʾev, 23 February 1942.

54 ISA, P-2519/1, Protocol meeting no. 1, 23 July 1939; ISA, P-2519/1, Protocol meeting no. 2, 30 July 1939.

55 JMA, 451/25, Protocol meeting no. 7, 13 July 1939; Uzi Benziman, “Ha-Tovʿim et Zchuyot he-ʿAvar,” Haʾaretz, 23 May 1966. The “small organization” that was forming in those meetings became the Association for the History of the Old Yishuv, an intellectual forum led by Hebrew University Orientalist Yosef Y. Rivlin.

56 Among the NYF's financial supporters were the Sephardi leaders Eliyahu and Menashe Elyachar; ISA, P-2519/1, Protocol meeting no. 11, 16 February 1941. In addition to established native families, the federation intended to raise funds from “non-Zionist institutions” in the US; ibid., Protocol meeting no. 26, 9 June 1940.

57 For more on the Labor Zionists’ strategies to block and delegitimize political groups that sought independence from their institutions by labeling them as separatist, see Hanna Herzog, ʿAdatiyut Politit: Dimuy mul Metsiʾut (Tel Aviv: Hakibbutz Hameuchad, 1986), 81–119. See also Jacobson and Naor, Oriental Neighbors, esp. ch. 1.

58 ISA, P-2519/1, Protocol meeting no. 4, 10 September 1939.

59 ISA, P-2519/1, Protocol meeting no. 19, 23 February 1940. In that meeting, participants discussed the refusal of the Jewish Agency and the Jewish National Council to recognize the NYF as a legitimate organization.

60 ISA, P-2519/1, Protocol meeting no. 29, 11 August 1940. This was a highly unacceptable view in the Yishuv, especially as Zionist demands for statehood were becoming the consensus, but at the same time it reflected a particular moment after the Great Revolt and during World War II in which public criticism of various kinds was voiced against the Labor Zionist establishment.

61 NLA Ms Var 38/267, Ben-Zeʾev to Yahuda, 6 January 1947; Ben-Zeʾev to Yahuda, 29 June 1947.

62 NLA Ms Var 38/267, Yahuda to Ben-Zeʾev, 7 November 1946; Yahuda to Ben-Zeʾev, 7 December 1947.

63 Michael Roman, “Maʿavaro shel ha-Merkaz ha-Demografi ve ha-Kalkali mi-Yerushalayim le-Tel Aviv bi-Tkufat ha-Mandat,” in Yerushalayim ba-Todaʿa u va-ʿasiya ha-Tsiyonit, ed. Hagit Lavsky (Jerusalem: Zalman Shazar Center, 1989), 217–34.

64 Isaac Levy, “Ha-Peʿilut ha-Politit ve ha-Irgun shel ha-Kehila ha-Sfaradit ba-Yishuv u bi-Madinat Israel” (PhD diss., Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 1998), 79, 87.

65 Jacobson and Naor, Oriental Neighbors, ch. 2. MAPAI (Hebrew acronym for Mifleget Poʿalei Erets Yisrael) was the dominant Labor Zionist party in the Yishuv. By the mid-1930s, it came to control the Yishuv under the leadership of David Ben-Gurion as the chair of MAPAI and the Histadrut and the Jewish Agency's executive. The Histadrut was the largest Labor Zionist organization, which dominated the increasingly separate Jewish economic sector but served in fact as a proto-state, providing social services and including nonworkers in its ranks.

66 Lockman, Comrades and Enemies, 89–93, 105–10, 183–86, 219–22.

67 Levy, “Ha-Peʿilut ha-Politit,” 52–55, 101–6; Herzog, ʿAdatiyut Politit, 102–6.

68 The Jerusalem Sephardi leadership's mouthpiece commented on the NYF's defeat in the elections, asserting that “without the Sephardim, the natives of the Yishuv cannot exist”; Hed ha-Mizrah, 4 August 1944.

69 Gish Amit, Ex-Libris: Historiya shel Gezel, Shimur ve Nikhus ba-Sifriya ha-Leumit bi-Yerushalayim (Hakibbutz Hameuchad, 2014), 78–126. See also, Derri, “Mizrahanut Alternativit.”

70 Government representatives explained their objection to individual looting, arguing that such acts might result in a large number of financial claims by Palestinians in the future and increase their hostility to the state; ISA, HZ 2564/9, Military Governor of Jaffa to Shitrit, Minister of Arab Affairs [sic], and the Police, 1 June 1948.

71 Between 1949 and 1954 the state earned over 17,000 liras from the sale of books. However, as a whole, the process was far from perfect, as only limited funds were extended for the storing and cataloging of the many tens of thousands of books. Amit, Ex-Libris, 111–120.

72 Ibid., 87–90.


73 Ibid., 9–10. Amit also studied the plunder of books of Holocaust victims and Yemenite Jews by the university library.


74 See, for instance, Goitein, Shlomo D., “Sifro shel Ibn-ʿUbayya ‘al Harisat Beit Ha-Knesset Ha-Yehudi bi-Yrushalyim bi-Shnat 1474,” Zion 13 (1948): 1832Google Scholar; and Eliyahu Ashtor, “Osef shel Kitvey Yad Arviyim me Erets-Israel,” in Yerushalayim, Mehkarey Erets Israel: Sefer Yishʿayahu Peres, ed. Michael Ish-Shalom, Meir Benayahu, and Azriel Shohat (Jerusalem: Ha-Rav Kook Institute, 1953), 285–90.

75 In general, the IOS and the university library, particularly the latter's Oriental department, shared many of their staff; Hebrew University, Ha-Universita ha-ʿIvrit bi-Yerushalayim: Hithavuta u-Matsava (Jerusalem: Azriel, 1939), 38–39, 41–42; Amit, Ex-Libris, 97.

76 See Derri, “Mizrahanut Alternativit,” for an elaborate analysis of Orientalists’ pursuit of Palestinian books. On the attempts of IOS professors to use their connections in the government for this purpose, see 56–57.

77 ISA, GL 1429/4, “The Arab Library of the State,” n.d.

78 Yehuda Burla's son lived on the top floor with his family; author interview with Ofra Rachlin, 22 June 2012.

79 ISA, GL 1429/4, Israel Ben-Zeʾev to Bar-Zimra, 19 September 1950; ISA, GL 1429/4, “Board of Trustees of the Arab Library: Protocol,” 6 July 1952; ISA, GL 1429/4, “The Arab Library of the State,” n.d.

80 Ben-Zeʾev tried to prevent the dismantling of his library by writing to various government ministries and protesting in the press. Shortly afterward he received notes (labeled confidential) from education ministry officials that threatened him with “far-reaching general and personal consequences” if he did not evacuate the building immediately with his family, leaving all the books behind. ISA GL 1429/4, Legal Advisor to the Education Ministry to Israel Ben-Zeʾev, n.d.; ISA GL 1429/4, B. Z. Dinaburg to Israel Ben-Zeʾev, 2 June 1952.

81 ISA, GL 1429/4, I. Joel to B. Z. Dinaburg, 25 January 1952; ISA, GL 1429/4, I. Joel to B. Z. Dinaburg, 3 April 1952; ISA, GL 1429/4, E. Ashtor to Y. L. Benor, 17 February 1957.

82 Derri, “Mizrahanut Alternativit,” 56–57; Amit, Ex-Libris, 103–8.

83 ISA, G-300/80, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Bechor Shalom Shitreet: Brief Biography.”

84 Shira Robinson's analysis of the tensions and contradictions inherent to the formation of the Israeli state and its management of its Palestinian citizens offers a useful framework for considering the place of native Jews as both participants in the settler-colonial project and its victims; Citizen Strangers: Palestinians and the Birth of Israel's Liberal Settler State (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2013).

85 Gadi Algazi, “Ba-shulayim ve ʿal ha-Gvul: Havlaḥot shel Hitnagdut, 1951-1952,” presented at Bimdina Hadasha: Hitmodeduyot yomyomiyot nifradot u-meshutafot shel Mizrahim, Falastinim ve sordei Shoʾa bi-shnot ha-hamishim, Beit Berl College, Israel, June 25, 2018. I thank Gadi Algazi for sharing with me the extended version of his presentation.

86 Koren, Alina, “Kavanot Tovot: Kavim li-Dmuto shel Misrad ha-Miʿutim, 14 May 1948—1 July 1949,” Cathedra 127 (2008): 113–40Google Scholar.

87 Elie Rekhess, “Initial Israeli Policy Guidelines towards the Arab Minority, 1948–1949,” in New Perspectives on Israeli History: The Early Years of the State, ed. L. J. Silberstein (New York: New York University Press, 1991), 115; Alisa Rubin-Peled, Debating Islam in the Jewish State: The Development of Policy toward Islamic Institutions in Israel (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2001), 38.

88 Meir-Glitzenstein, Esther, “Mehuyavuyot Mitnagshot: ha-Manhigut ha-Mizrahit be-MAPAI bi-Shnoteha ha-Rishonot shel ha-Medina,” Israel 5 (2004): 6397Google Scholar (73 quoted).

89 “The purpose is clear […] keeping us deprived citizens, hewers of wood, drawers of water, and beggars outside of the institutions of the government, the Knesset, and the municipalities.” JMA, 451/25, “A Call for the Public in Jerusalem.”

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