Israeli Labor Party (1964-2000): Book Review


The book “Israeli Labor Party 1964-2000” by Dr. Haytham Mouzahem offers an incisive historical and political analysis of the Israeli Labor Party from its inception in 1964 to the year 2000. Within this time frame, the book delves into an array of significant issues, including the party’s ideological shifts, its relationship with Palestinian nationalism, and its varying influence over Israeli domestic and foreign policy.

Dr. Mouzahem begins by tracing the party’s roots, charting its initial alignment with Zionism and its eventual, albeit gradual, distancing from its far-left contemporaries. This historical backdrop is crucial for understanding the party’s policies and positions, particularly its contentious relationship with Palestinian nationalism. The author brings a nuanced perspective to the term “terrorism,” often employed by the Israeli Labor Party to describe acts of Palestinian resistance. By doing so, Mouzahem provides a lens through which the reader can better understand the framing mechanisms utilized by political entities in conflict.

The book also addresses the Labor Party’s strategic pragmatism, dissecting its use of terminologies such as “exceptional acts” to describe transgressions by the Israeli military. This kind of euphemistic language serves dual purposes: internally, it placates a domestic audience, and externally, it navigates international norms and expectations. The book does an excellent job in revealing how this duality forms an integral part of the party’s political identity.

Importantly, Dr. Mouzahem delves into the ideological shifts within the party, highlighting the conference where then-leader Isaac Herzog declared a centrist path as the most viable option for counteracting Benjamin Netanyahu’s influence. This revelation serves as a focal point in the narrative, elucidating the Labor Party’s ongoing struggle to define its identity amid changing political landscapes. The analysis goes deeper by citing previous criticisms aimed at former leader Ehud Barak, especially regarding the internal investigations—or lack thereof—into allegations of Israeli military misconduct against Palestinian civilians in Gaza. The book convincingly argues that these moments signify not just ideological shifts but also ethical and moral dilemmas within the party.

One of the book’s strengths lies in its integration of various primary and secondary sources, from official documents and reports to interviews and speeches from key political figures. The author’s rigorous approach lends credibility to the narrative, making it a valuable addition to the existing scholarship on Middle Eastern politics. However, the book could benefit from a more exhaustive analysis of the Labor Party’s internal dynamics. While it touches upon ideological differences and leadership debates, a deeper dive into these areas would offer more comprehensive insights.

This book is a commendable work that explores a complex political entity within an equally complex geopolitical setting. Dr. Haytham Mouzahem’s treatment of the subject is both scholarly and accessible, making it a significant contribution to the fields of political science and Middle East studies. With its well-reasoned arguments and meticulous research, this book is highly recommended for anyone interested in understanding the nuanced dynamics of Israeli politics and its impact on the Palestinian question.

Mohamad Zreik
Mohamad Zreik
Mohamad Zreik is an independent researcher, doctor of international relations. His areas of research interests are related to the Foreign Policy of China, Belt and Road Initiative, Middle Eastern Studies, China-Arab relations, East Asian Affairs, Geopolitics of Eurasia, and Political Economy. Mohamad has many studies and articles published in high ranked journals and well-known international newspapers. His writings have been translated into many languages, including French, Arabic, Spanish, German, Albanian, Russian, Bosnian, Bulgarian, etc.