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The Holidays of the Revolution Myth, Ritual and Identity among Tel-Aviv Communists, 1919-1965

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Title: The Holidays of the Revolution Myth, Ritual and Identity among Tel-Aviv Communists, 1919-1965
Author: Locker-Biletzki, Amir
Department: Department of History
Program: History
Advisor: McDougall, Alan
Abstract: The Israeli Communist Party (MKI) and its precursor, the Communist Party of Palestine (PKP), were a unique Arab-Jewish organization. Marginalized and persecuted for most of its formative years, the Communist Party developed, from 1919 to 1965, its own distinctive subculture. Negating and absorbing the Zionist-Socialist and Israeli statist cultures, influenced by both Soviet and left wing European traditions as well as Jewish traditional elements, the Jewish Communists developed their own cycle of holidays. Through the examination of primary sources, ranging from internal Communist documents and newspaper articles to photographs and posters, as well as interviews with contemporaries and comparison with parallel Communist experiences in the United States and in the Arab world – this thesis examines the myths and rituals reflected in the holidays, as practiced by the Jewish Communists in MKI and the Israeli Young Communist League (Banki). The thesis scrutinizes the identity these cultural practices produced. By examining the Jewish holidays, the Israeli civic holidays, May Day, the Soviet November 7th and May 9th holidays, and the rituals concerning the relations between Palestinians and Jews, it is shown that between the years 1919 and 1965 the Jewish Communists created a local, Jewish-Israeli, anti-Zionist patriotic identity. This identity, although sensitive to the working class, was not a working-class identity; it was philo-Soviet and interested in civic rights of Palestinians. A minority of Party Members were Palestinians. The thesis concludes that, nevertheless, the Jewish Communists were not able to withstand the attempts of some factions among themselves to favor the nationalist over the socialist principles. Burdened by the weight of the conflict between Arabs and Jews, the MKI finally split in 1965, ending a significant phase in the development of Communist subculture in Israel.
Date: 2013-03
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