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October 16: Ben Gurion

October 16, 2010

David_Ben_GurionIsrael’s founding father, David Ben Gurion (David Gruen), was born in Poland on this date in 1886. A life-long labor Zionist, Ben Gurion emigrated to Palestine in 1906 and became a founder and leader of the Histadrut, the national federation of unions, which would dominate the government during Israel’s first four decades. Ben Gurion consolidated the armed factions of Palestinian Jews and led them to victory in Israel’s 1948 war of independence, then served as the state’s first prime minister, overseeing the absorption of hundreds of thousands of Jewish immigrants from around the world. A socialist in his younger days, he helped defeat the Israeli left in early power struggles. His approach to Arab-Jewish conflict was informed by skepticism and a well-documented interest in “transferring” the Arab population out of Israel — yet Ben Gurion devoted the country, in its Declaration of Independence, to “full and equal citizenship” for Arabs “and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions.”

“The conflict between the interests of the Jews and the interests of the Arabs in Palestine cannot be resolved by sophisms. . . . We want the country to be ours. The Arabs want the country to be theirs.” —David Ben Gurion