It would seem obvious that Arabs and Jews formed separate communities in British Palestine 1917-48. But it's not obvious to leftist American historians, for whom class matters more than nation. For instance, Zachary Lockman's Comrades and Enemies: Arab and Jewish Workers in Palestine,1906-19481 is a paean to the cooperation among Arab and Jewish workers.

Nor is it obvious to Israel's post-Zionist historians, one of whose fixations is to celebrate multiculturalism and deplore the creation of Jewish institutions. Bernstein, a senior lecturer at the University of Haifa, explains how she set out to show that the standard Zionist history has overlooked extensive interactions between Arab and Jewish workers. To maximize her chances of success, she focused on labor relations in Haifa, one of the few mixed Arab-Jewish towns. Making extensive use of Hebrew- and Arabic-language archives and contemporary accounts, she examines in detail the Arab-Jewish worker interaction in such areas as building construction, manufacturing, the port, and the railway.

As Bernstein confesses in her conclusion, what she found surprised her. Rather than the numerous expressions of joint economic activity she expected, she discovered separation between Arab and Jewish workers was wide-ranging and pervasive. For instance, while they worked side-by-side at the port, they worked separately for different employers, using different equipment, different storehouses, and different entry gates. While giving ample space to brief episodes of cooperation, especially on the railway, Bernstein shows these were very much the exception. She tries valiantly to present her results in ways least challenging to the post-Zionist ideology, arguing that she has shown post-Zionists are correct to emphasize the importance of the interaction between Arabs and Jews—never mind that the post-Zionists portray this interaction as one of cooperation whereas she shows it was one of separation.

That she is sympathetic to post-Zionism makes her account all the more useful for, despite the author's intentions, it systematically debunks the post-Zionist myth that Jews and Arabs often did get along just fine and could have lived together in peace had it not been for those ideological Zionists. Bernstein is to be congratulated for her intellectual rigor and honesty, traits too little rewarded in contemporary academia.