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May 27, 1977 - Image 2

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1977-05-27

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Riday, May 27, 1977


Purely Commentary

Menahem Begin as Standard Bearer of Movement and Ideology
Inherited from his Famous Mentor, Vladimir Jabotinsky . . . Old
Prejudices Pursued by the Media in Judging the Next Israel P.M.

Likud's Charter: Menahem Begin
Recaptures Jabotinsky Image

Menahem Begin's triumph at the polls in Israel marks
the most notable achievement for his party in its entire Zi-
onist history. What his mentor Vladimir Jabotinsky failed
to attain — top leadership for the Revisionists who became
the Herut Party in Israel — has been attained by the lead-
er of the Likud, which is the party of contiuity that had its
origin in the Revisionist Zionist party.
Revisionism began with Jabotinsky's leadership in the
1920s. Therefore, the struggle that reached its fruition on
Israel's election day, May 17, has a half-century history.
There were the Revisionists, the Jewish State Party.
Herut and now the Likud.
Not to be forgotten are the bitter struggles between Jabo-
tinsky and the early Zionist leaders, the Jabotinsky-Weiz-
mann and Jabotinsky-Ben-Gurion controversies.
They continued in the Knesset where David Ben-Gurion
and Menahem Begin exchanged diatribes which became
- personality conflicts.
Now Begin is at the helm, and the former hatreds of him
by Labor may be transformed into the ideological rather
than the personal hatreds.
The name-calling has been reduced with the years. The
most damaging appellation for Begin and Likud is that of
hawkishness. For Begin himself there is much admiration
and great respect. He is a modest man. a Jewish in-
tellectual with an aristocratic image.
Begin is a religious man, and affiliation of the religious
groups in whatever coalition government he may form is a
He will undoubtedly impress the Washingtonians when
he comes to the United States to confer with President
Jimmy Carter.

The Background of Revisionism
and Vladimir JabotinSky

To understand the backgrciund of the Herut and Likud it
is necessary to know what Vladimir Jabotinsky stood for
and how he operated.
In a special article that appeared in the now ,defunct
New York Herald, dated Sept. 10, 1948. soon after the proc-
lamation•of Israel's statehood. Arthur Koestler, the prom-
inent author, wrote about Jabotinsky and gave an inter-
esting description of
him, stating:
Jabotinsky was a
national liberal in
the great 19th Cen-
tury tradition, a rev-
olutionary of the 1848
brand, a successor
to Garibaldi and
Mazzini. He was one
of the most colorful
figures that modern
Jewry has produc-
ed. He wrote prose
in eight languages,
poetry in four, trans-
lated Dante and Poe
into Hebrew, Hebr-
ew poetry into Rus-
sian; his pub-
lications, under the
nen name Atalena,
range from novels to studies in comparative phonet-
ics. He was idolized by the youth, endowed with excep-
tional personal charm, and was a brilliant public
On one occasion this writer saw him keep an open air
audience of serveral hulzdred thousand spellbound for
five solid hours.
Jabotinsky created the first Jewish fighting force in
modern times: the so-called Judean Regiment, which
fought under British command in Palestine in the
1914-18 war. When the Arabs rioted in 1920, he organiz-
ed the Jewish self-defense, was sentenced for it by the
British Military Administration to 15 years hard labor,
but was released on amnesty after a few months. He
was elected a member of the Zionist Executive in
1921, came into conflict with his colleagues almost
from the beginning, resigned, and in 1925 created the
party of Zionist-revisionists and the para-military
youth organization Betar, out of which, through a proc-
ess of fissure and budding, the terrorist organizations
were to develop.
The conflict between revisionism and official Zion-
ism was mainly one of character and temperament;
the long and bitter struggle between their respective
leaders was as dramatic as that between Trotsky and
Stalin. Coming from a race with a long history but
without a political background, neither leader had the
true political temperament.
Dr. 'Weizmann is a distinguished chemist; his ap-
proach to politics is the scientist's empirical, cautious-
ly hesitant, step-by-step method, tinged with a certain
self-righteousness and a deep distrust of the imagina-
tive and unorthodox. Jabotinsky was a litterateur,

By Philip

the Left rejected it as contrary to Jewish tradition. At
the same time the revisionists' economic liberalism
was already vieux jeu and reactionary in the eyes of
the Zionist labor movement.

Begin 'as Counterpart
of Vladimir Jabotinsky


with the artist's broad imaginative sweep, his in-
tuition, impatience and emotionalism. Dr. Weizmann's
background is that of the eastern Jewish masses; he
was born in the small provincial town of Motl, near
Pinsk, was brought up along traditionalist lines, and
speaks the language to which the Jews of Pinsk are
prepared to listen. Jabotinsky came from the in-
tellectual center of Odessa, was brought up in a cos-
mopolitan environment, hated everything connected
with Pinsk, and spoke all of his eight languages with
the accent of an Italian opera baritone, which is ana-
thema to Jewish ears.
Jabotinsky fought for the westernization of Israel
which was to become the seventh Dominion of the
British Commonwealth—for a change in spirit of Jew-
ish education from that of a Talmudic seminary to
that of the British public school. In short, while the
psychology of official Zionism represented a contin-
uation, Jabotinsky and his revisionists represented a
complete break with it.
Jabotinsky was doomed to defeat for reasons not un-
like those which led to the defeat of that other cosmo-
politan Jewish litterateur from Odessa, Leon Trotsky.
The working classes were not ripe for a truly socialist
international revolution,' and the Jews were not ripe
for their Garibaldian march to revolution. Jabot-
sinsky's insistence on a Jewish state as the ultimate
aim of Zionism was a mortal heresy the official Zion-
ist movement of 15 years ago (1933), and led to the
revisionist's secession from it.
Similarly, his demand for a Jewish army was
branded as militarism and fascism, and his plan for
the mass evacuation of the doomed Jews of Central
Europe to Palestine immediately before the war was
decried as utopian and irresponsible.
Jabotinsky died in 1940 at the age of 60 while en-
gaged in organizing an international Jewish force to
fight with the Allied armies. In the light of present
events,with the Jewish state an established reality, al-
most every point in Jabotihsky's program has either
been implemented by official Zionism, or vindicated
by the trend of events—except for his stubborn fight
against the partition scheme.
But though Israel was not ripe for its Garibaldi, who
was born a couple of decades too early and had to pay
the usual price which history exacts from her pre-
cious children, he is beginning to reap the posthumous
awards which she bestows in such cases. In Israel's
deficient pantheon, where whole centuries are repre-
sented by empty towns, he will fill the place of the
19th Century liberal patriot — that missing link in the
abrupt transition of eastern Jews from the Tsarist
ghetto to the adVanced social experiment in Pales-
Jabotinsky is a spiritual heritage; in party politics
he was significantly unsuccessful. The revisionist
party's development was unfortunate from its begin-
nings. The gap in Jewish social history to which we
have _repeatedly referred—the telescoping of centuries
of social evolution into a few decades —left no room
for a true national liberal party: it was crushed be-
tween the ghetto and e Utopia.
On the one hand, its national-revolutionary tenets and
Western orientation went against the traditionalist in-
stincts of the Eastern Jew, regardless of his political
orientation. It is characteristic that Jabotinsky, the na-
tionalist, fought for the Latinization of the Hebrew al-
phabet to break down the barriers between Judaism
and Western civilization, while the internationalists of

It is imperative that the rise of Menahem Begin be
judged in historic perspective. He is the counterpart of
Vladimir Jabotinsky. He is an idealist and Ike his mentor
in Revisionism, is a scholar, a linguist, an orator.
How else would he have captured the imagination of his
fellow citizens? Is it right to say that the appearance on
Israel's political scene of Yigael Yadin and the Democrah.
is Movement for Change. (shinui! ) is ascribable to t
losses sustained by the Labor Alignment? It is more realis-
tic to believe that many who voted for Yadin and his party
— excluding the kibutz members, might have voted for
Likud and Begin and the result might have been even
more dramatic in Begin's favor.
While time judges everything and everybody. it is more
than visionary to say at this time that the Israelis turned
to a gigantic figure in their midst when seeking a change
in government.

The 'Terrorist' Charge
and Diplomatic Niceties

As was to have been expected, Menahem Begin became
a target for the Arabs and for the news media. Remember-
ing his leadership in Irgun Zvai Leumi, all that was consid-
ered was that he was a militant and to those questioning
his leadership he was a "terrorist. - And in the process
there is the recollection of Deir Yassin and the death of
some 250 Arabs in that village in 1948.
Forgotten are the circumstances of those years, the fact
that Jews in Palestine were fighting the British who had
betrayed their trust to the Jews. Forgotten is the fact that
Deir Yassin was one of many incidents in Israel's struggle
for life, the Arabs in that village having lured the Irgun
group with white flags denoting peace and then shooting at
the invaders who had come to pursue a battle for pro-
tection of Jewish posts in the new state.
Forgotten is the fact that Israel admitted guilt for what
had occurred in Deir Yassin—David Ben-Gurion apologized,
told of his nation's sorrow, accepted responsibility. But
while Israel admitted guilt for that occurrence there were
scores like it committed by Arabs and never an apology
for them.
Were the Israelis "opting" for trouble,• saying "to hell
with diplomacy' by voting preference for the Likud in last
week's election? That's a columnist's sensationalism. The
Israelis were fed up on Labor shenanigans and elected a
challenger. This challenger speaks plain language when he
says he is obligated to protect "our land." That's how he
describes the Jewish legacy and it may prove more effec-
tive in diplomacy than beating around the bush. The fact
is that the concessions to Palestininans in the White House
are muting the issue. The PLO says it will never merge
with the Jordanians. but Jordan already is the home of Pa-
lestinians who were granted a state there in the partition
plan. Palestinians are members of King Hussein's cabinet.
The new talk of Palestinianism is a scheme to create
a battlefield whence to attack Israel on the West Bank.
How can Israel tolerate such a danger? Why hasn't Presi-
dent. Carter been alerted to this danger? Will Begin prove
more effective in defining the realities to the President?
Time may aid Begin to be a healer.
* * *

Lou Gordon: A Social Challenger
Who Insisted on the Factual

Lou Gordon learned well from his mentor, the late Drew
Pearson: his main aim was to get at the facts in whatever
case he tackled. That is why those who might have aimed
at hiding truth didn't like him. He was hated because he
exposed indecencies.
He was tough on many of the notables he had inter
viewed. It is doubtful whether too many left with a lack of
respect for his programmatic methods of unearthing the
facts. That took courage. Whether he criticized the Presi-
dent, or the Governor, or the Mayor, he searched for the
He staunchly defended Israel and constantly pleaded for
justice for the Jew who built Israel and the state that was
redeemed. On this as on many other issues he was un-
compromising. Therefore, because he would not yield an
inch in his devotion to the Zionist dream which he had in-
herited from a devout father, he disliked Henry Kissinger
and disapproved of the former Secretary of State's con-
cessions to the Arabs. Had he known him, Menahem Begin
would have liked Lou Gordon, and given the chance Lou
might have liked Menahem.
In the history of television broadcasting. Lou Gordon has
left a memorable page, a legacy for the militants who
fight for justice. _That's an unchallenged record highly to
he admired. It was good to have him as a friend.

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