Penslar, Derek. “Rebels Without a Patron State: How Israel Financed the 1948 War.” In Purchasing Power. The Economics of Modern Jewish History (ed. Rebecca Kobrin and Adam Teller; Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015): 171-91, 316-20.
The Zionist project was as much a product of the era of post-1945 decolonization as it was of colonialism’s zenith in the early twentieth century. The British Empire nurtured the Jewish National Home, yet it was empire’s collapse that made possible the state of Israel’s birth. The nascent state of Israel generated a revolutionary torque akin to that which caused the overthrow of tyrannical regimes and expulsion of colonial masters throughout the world. Like other revolutionary projects of the last century, Zionism displayed hubris and cruelty, but also an unshakable faith in humanity’s capacity to re-engineer itself. Some historians of the 1948 war have described the Yishuv as a well-oiled machine that aligned its entire population into a dedicated fighting force. Not only are such explanations exaggerated, they also overlook the fact that other national liberation organizations such as the FLN or Viet Minh were highly successful at organizing the extraction of revenue and resources from the population and developing an effective fighting force. Compared with the Arab world, Israel in 1948 was indeed exceptional, and the war that secured sovereignty for Israel also brought catastrophe upon the Palestinians. When observed on a global level, however, Zionism’s resemblance to anticolonial and national liberation movements becomes apparent, not only in self-conception but also in method.