The Fall of the House of Labor

In 1927, there was a deep economic crisis in Palestine. Unemployed workers would gather in a workingmen’s club in the cellar of Beit Brenner in Tel Aviv to bitterly vent their difficulties. One evening, David Ben-Gurion, then General Secretary of the Histadrut (Zionist Labor Federation in Palestine), addressed them about the future of Zionism and the primacy of the Jewish worker’s role in building the land of Israel. A cry of anger erupted from the audience: “Leader, give us bread!” Ben-Gurion replied: “I have no bread. I have a vision.” This episode provides the terms for understanding what has happened to the Labor movement in Israel. There is no famine in the country now, and until the advent of the corona-virus there was no economic distress — but neither is there a vision, or anyone worthy of being described as a leader. How did it come to pass that the

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