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Topics in Israel Studies: Labour and Development



This course analyses the Yishuv, Israel, and Palestine through the prism of labour – both as a process (work) and as a movement (parties, unions, campaigns). It aims to show how central labour and the struggles surrounding it have been in the formation of the Israeli state, the development of its economy, and the relationship with the Palestinian people. In doing so, the course hopes to move beyond the general categories and intra-state dynamics that usually dominate coverage of Israel/Palestine. Instead, it discusses the last hundred years through the prism of social, political and economic developments and attempt to make sense of a number of key conflicts that have shaped this period. This includes the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians but also those between Mizrahi and Ashkenazi populations, between labour and capital, as well as between conflicting branches of the Zionist movement. The course aims to be shaped by students’ own reading, questions, and interests. In so doing, the course remains flexible – within the general structure provided by the lecturer – to follow student’s own curiosity and interests.

Course objectives

  • Familiarise oneself with the history, politics, and challenges faced by the labour movement in the Yishuv, Israel, and Palestine.

  • Understand the interaction between labour, state formation, and economic development.

  • Examine how different sections of the population interact with each other, as well as with capital, and the state.

  • Analyse the impact of labour on political and economic life, conflict, and development in the Yishuv, Israel, and Palestine.

  • Articulate how changes in Israel’s political and economic order, have and continue to impact the working lives of different segments of the Jewish, Palestinian, and migrant workforce.

  • Critically identify and assess questions relevant to labour, state formation and economic development in the Yishuv, Israel, and Palestine.

  • Discuss the political and economic reality in Palestine and Israel beyond the framework of intra-state conflict

  • Identify the specific positions and challenges faced by different populations, and their evolution over time.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

Attendance and active participation are obligatory for seminars. Students are required to prepare for and attend all sessions. The convenors need to be informed without delay of any classes missed for a good reason (i.e. due to unforeseen circumstances such as illness, family issues, problems with residence permits, the Dutch railways in winter, etc.). In these cases it is up to the discretion of the convener(s) of the course whether or not the missed class will have to be made up with an extra assignment. The maximum of such absences during a semester is two. Being absent without notification and/or more than two times can result in exclusion from the term end exams and a failing grade for the course.

Assessment method

BA 1, 3, and Pre-Master - Engagement, 10% (active, informed participation)
Students are expected to attend and participate in course discussions. Since this is a seminar, thoughtful engagement is central to the course’s success. Students are therefore required to complete all readings in advance as well as attend all seminars. Marks are not awarded for filling a chair. Students are also expected to submit two questions on the Discussion Board on Brightspace the night before the seminar.
BA 1, 3, and Pre-Master - Presentation: 30%
Each student will deliver a presentation during the seminar on the topic of the week. Signing up to these presentations will be discussed in week 1 of the course. Students will develop an argument based on the readings from the week, and present a case study/examples as evidence for their argument. (The presentation is not an opportunity to summarise or discuss all the points of all the readings. Everyone is expected to have read the readings). Students will circulate an abstract (250-500 words) of the presentation at least two full days prior to the class by uploading it to Brightspace. Presentations should be no more than 10-15 minutes in length, to leave ample time for discussion afterward. Students will be graded on presentation delivery, content, originality, depth of analysis, clarity of argument, ability to hold attention and stimulate discussion.
BA 1 - Take Home Exam: 60%
Students will have a take home exam at the end of the term. The exam will be posted on Brightspace and will need to be returned on Brightspace also within 72 hours. It will be made up of five questions, covering the material studied in the course. Students will choose 2 questions, which they will answer in 800 words each. The course readings will suffice to complete the answers. No further research will be necessary. Students will need to reference their answers and present a complete bibliography. Late submissions will suffer a penalty each day, and will not be accepted more than 4 days after the due date, including weekends.
BA3 & Pre-Master - Final Paper: 60%
Students will choose from among the thematic topics covered in the course and develop an original research paper on a question related to that theme. All paper topics must be approved by the professor by the 6th seminar meeting. The paper should be 3000 words in length (excluding the bibliography), contain a clear introduction, argument, and sufficient evidence to support the argument. This is a research paper and therefore requires time, research, and extensive peer-reviewed sources. Papers should be clear and succinct, with an unambiguous thesis on the first page. Paper should be submitted on Brightspace by their due date. Late papers will suffer a penalty each day, and will not be accepted more than 4 days after the due date, including weekends.
Students must complete the assignment on time. No paper will be accepted more than 4 days after the due date. In order to pass the course, students must obtain an overall mark of 6) or higher. A new version of the final assignment may only be written if the overall mark for the course is “5.99” or lower, and if the final paper was submitted on time. The deadline for this version will be determined in consultation.
Late submissions will be penalised by a deduction of the grade assigned to the paper, as follows: 1-24 hours late = – 0.5; 24-48 hours late = - 1.0; 48-72 hours late = - 1.5; 72-96 hours late = -2.0.
The course is an integrated whole. The final examination and the assignments must be completed in the same academic year. No partial marks can be carried over into following years.


Re-sit Examination: If the grade for the take home exam/final paper is is lower than 6, there is a possibility of retaking the assessment as long as the student has handed in their original take home exam/final paper. No resit is possible if the original assessment was not submitted. No resit for the tutorial is possible. Please note that if the Resit Exam grade is lower than 6, you will not pass the course, regardless of the tutorial grade.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

Required Readings:
Articles and book chapters can be found in the library, on the online library catalogue, or on the course Brightspace page. If students wish to engage with the material in advance, the following books offer useful overviews of the course as well as different approaches to the subject material:

  • Bichler, Shimshon & Nitzan, Jonathan (2002). The Global Political Economy of Israel. London: Pluto Press.

  • Khalidi, Rashid (2020), The Hundred Years' War on Palestine: A History of Settler Colonialism and Resistance, 1917–2017. London: Profile Books.

  • Rivlin, Paul (2011). The Israeli Economy from the Foundation of the State Through the 21st Century. New York: Cambridge University Press.


Students will be registered by the administration.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office Vrieshof