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Labor Zionism (Hebrew: צִיּוֹנוּת סוֹצְיָאלִיסְטִית, Tziyonut sotzyalistit) or socialist Zionism (תְּנוּעָת הָעַבוֹדָה, Tnuʽat haʽavoda) refers to the left-wing, socialist variation of Zionism. For many years, it was the most significant tendency among Zionists and Zionist organizations, and was seen as the Zionist sector of the historic Jewish labor movements of Eastern Europe and Central Europe, eventually developing local units in most countries with sizable Jewish populations. Unlike the "political Zionist" tendency founded by Theodor Herzl and advocated by Chaim Weizmann, Labor Zionists did not believe that a Jewish state would be created by simply appealing to the international community or to powerful nations such as the United Kingdom, Germany, or the former Ottoman Empire. Rather, they believed that a Jewish state could only be created through the efforts of the Jewish working class making aliyah to the Land of Israel and raising a country through the creation of a Labor Jewish society with rural kibbutzim and moshavim, and an urban Jewish Proletariat.
Before 1914, the growing alienation from Bolshevism on the one hand and the unification of the Jewish Labor Movement in Ottoman Palestine on the other hand made it possible for Zionism to gain a measure of recognition and legitimacy, particularly in the United States. The leadership of the Jewish left in the U.S. was drawn only from two distinct sources: the internationalist and cosmopolitan line of thought of the founding father who arrived in the 1880s, and the Jewish Labor Bund veterans who left the Russian Empire after 1905 and saw no contradiction between socialism and nationalism within the Jewish diaspora.
By the 1930s, the Labor Zionist movement had substantially grown in size and influence, and eclipsed "political Zionism" both internationally and within the British Mandate of Palestine; Labor Zionists predominated among many of the institutions of the Yishuv, particularly the trade union federation known as the Histadrut. The Haganah, the largest Yishuv paramilitary, was a Labor Zionist organization; on occasion, it partook in military action (such as during The Saison) against certain radical right-wing Jewish political opponents and militant groups, sometimes in cooperation with the British Mandate administration.
Labor Zionists played a leading role in the 1947–1949 Palestine War, and had a dominant presence among the leadership of the Israel Defense Forces for decades after the independence of the State of Israel during the 1948 Arab–Israeli War.
Major theoreticians of the Labor Zionist movement included Moses Hess, Nachman Syrkin, Ber Borochov, and Aaron David Gordon; and leading figures in the movement included David Ben-Gurion, Golda Meir, and Berl Katznelson.