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Article: Voice of the People

קומוניזם ולאומיות

Voice of the People

Samuel Thrope 

We will never know if the publishers of the inaugural May 1944 issue of the Arabic newspaper Al-Ittihad were aware of the historical and political earthquake that would soon engulf them. Imbued with a proletarian spirit and enchanted by the 1917 October Revolution, the editors sought to give voice to “Arab workers in Palestine,” as the newspaper’s masthead proclaimed. The newspaper was established not just to represent but also to build the working class of Mandatory Palestine: factory workers, employees of the British Army, and stevedores at the Haifa port.  

Following the United Nations partition of Palestine in November 1947, which the newspaper supported, and especially after the establishment of the State of Israel, Al-Ittihad became one of the primary forums to support the Arabs who had remained in their homeland and to advocate for their rights. Under the military government that ruled Israel’s Arab citizens until 1966, reporters and other newspaper employees were persecuted and even imprisoned, despite the fact that the newspaper was the official publication of the Communist Party, which was represented in the Knesset.

Al-Ittihad’s most important function was to foster a Palestinian identity among Arabs in Israel and to serve as a forum for Arab writers, artists, and intellectuals. In fact, the newspaper’s longest-serving editor, the writer and politician Emile Habibi (1922–96), was known as “the teacher” precisely for his role in educating the first two post-1948 generations. Habibi was also responsible for turning Al-Ittihad into a daily newspaper in 1983, which led to its heightened influence in the late 1980s.