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October 17, 1980 - Image 72

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1980-10-17

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12 October 11, 19N


Unheeded Zionist Prophet

Vladimir Jabotinsky


(Editor's note: The fol-
lowing article by a disci-
ple of Vladimir
Jabotinsky is presented
in advance of the
Jabotinsky Centennial
Dinner Nov. 11 in New
York. Speaker at that
dinner will be Jabotinsky
protege Menahem Begin,
prime minister of the
state of Israel.)
Back in the early 1930s,
he was in his 50s. We were
in our late teens or early
He was one of a number of
Zionist leaders we in Pales-
tine knew from our child-
hood. Weizmann, Us-
sishkin, Sokolov, Ahad
Ha'am, Berl Katznelson,
Ben-Gurion, Ben-Zvi. We
chose to follow Jabo — Vla-
dimir `Zeev" Jabotinsky.
We were students, work-
ers, tradesmen in
Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Riga, ,
Warsaw, Vienna and
Bucharest. We took him to
our hearts. He became
"Jabo" — our "old man," our
Out of his teaching
sprang the - Betar, the
Irgun Tsvai Leumi, the
Hebrew Revolution.
Out of our ranks came the
Raziels, the Ben-Yosefs, the
Dov Gruners, the Begins.
For most of us it was a
short, personal association
— 15 years, sometimes 10 or
even less.
Then we carried on,
alone, without him.
* * *
On a visit to a Hebrew-
language school somewhere
in the Diaspora, a proud
teacher presented his pupils
to Jabotinsky. In answer to
the teacher's questions as to
what was the most precious
thing to them, a student an-
swered with the teacher's
beaming approval,
"Artzenu" (Our country —
Eretz Israel).
Jabotinsky patted the
boy's head and asked:
"What is even more pre-
cious than our land of Is-
rael?" The students and
the teacher looked puz-
"Amenu — our people"
said Jabotinsky softly.
Jabotinsky appealed to
and captured the hearts and
minds of the youth and, in
his last years, of the masses
of the Diaspora, because he
reduced the Hebrew renais-
sance, above all, to its basic
element — survival.
Humanitarian Zionism
meant, above all, the over-
riding concern for the sur-
vival of the millions of the
Jewish proletariat of East-
ern Europe. Firstly, physi-
cally. Thereafter, in dig-
nity, productively, re-
generating a just society,
nourishing itself from its

own fountainhead of ethical
teachings, of the Bible and
the ensuing Jewish law.
Strangely, few of
Jabotinsky's critics and
not all of his pupils
looked for the bedrock of
his thinking and teach-
ings in the overriding
precept of, above all,
securing the survival of
the disenfranchised
Jewish masses.
What few recognize is
that Jabotinsky was a
rationalist, a non-mystic.
Although a romantic, poe-
tic, want and humane be-
ing, his analyses were
rooted in cold reason. Next
to survival, what mattered
was the manner in which a
nation survives and is re-
In 1903, at age 23,
Jabotinsky, already a re-
nowned journalist, threw
himself, body and soul, into
Zionism. His first introduc-
tion to Zionism was joining


actively a students' self-
defense group in Odessa. In
those actions of the young
man are to be found the
roots of his other basic prin-
ciples of faith: self-respect
and self-reliance.
Jabotinsky drew on his
deep attachment and
knowledge of the Italian re-
naissance for guidelines to
the Hebrew Risorgimente.
The Hebrew Risorgimente
was to follow the concept of
"Italia fara da se — Italy
will liberate itself!" The
humiliating experience of
the 1903 Kishinev pogroms
only deepened his belief in a
nation's self-reliance in ac-
tivism and strength. Survi-
val was to be coupled with
Zionist Congress was the
sixth one, (1903), the last
one for Herzl. There
Herzl was attacked for
negotiating with the Rus-
sian interior minister,
von Phleve, an avowed
anti-Semite. Jabotinsky
spoke about ethics and
tactics, and defended
Herzl's contacts with
This sensitive subject was
to be raised again and again

during Jabotinsky's politi-
cal activity. Jabotinsky
dealt with an aide to the
murderer Petlura, but
called for a world-wide
boycott of Hitler (in 1933).
The moral basis for He-
brew rebirth in its land is
unchallengeable. But Arab
opposition is to be expected,
as is the case with all native
people who oppose any col-
onizers — whether outright
aliens or natives returning
to their homeland, as in the
case of the Jews returning
to the land of Israel.
Jabotinsky wrote (in the
late 1930s): "There are 38
million Arabs . . . they oc-
cupy an (arable) area as
large as half of Europe .. .
One every square mile .. .
there are no more than 16
Arabs . . . Eretz Israel is
only 170th the size of the
vast area on which the
Arabs have settled .. .
`There are between 15
and 16 million Jews in the
world. Half of them today
lead, in plain terms, the
life of a homeless hunted
dog ...
". . When a homeless
Jewish people demands
Eretz Israel for itself, it is
regarded as 'Unethical' be-
cause the local population
finds it unpleasant. There is
room for such an ethic
among cannibals . . . the
earth does not belong to
those who have too much
To take a piece of land
from an over-endowed na-
tion, • in order to provide a
home for a wandering na-
tion, is an act of justice . •. ."
He put it bluntly: "One of
the two things is true: either
Zionism is morally good or it
is morally bad. This prob-
lem should have been solved
before we became Zionists


• • •

A lot has happened
since the above was writ-
ten but the fundamentals
have not changed. Now, a
Palestinian-Arab na-
tionalism has been de-
veloped and a
Palestinian-Arab state
has come into being in
Eastern Palestine — Jor-
dan. And Jabotinsky's
views of the 1920s would
have undoubtedly led to
the same basic conclu-
sions today — if the
Palestinian-Arab entity
is not ready to sit down at
the negotiating table and
work towards peace,
then for the time being
the Palestinian-Jewish
entity will have to go it
But in the 1930s, what
Jabotinsky taught was pure
heresy. His deductive
thinking was clear: For sur-
vival, the nation needs a
land; the only land it is his-
torically and morally

entitled to is Eretz Israel; in
the process of achieving it, it
may clash with the native
population; to defend itself
from such an attack and se-
cure its future, it must be
physically strong.
This is what Jabotinsky
called: "learning to shoot
." It caused alarm in
Zionist ranks. It smacked of
militarism or worse.
Jabotinsky put it point
blank. Is it all right for the
Zionist leadership to call
upon the British adminis-
tration to defend the Yishuv
with British weapons and
lives? But is it wrong for the
Jewish youth to devote it-
self and proudly acquire the
are of self-defense?
In his classical article,
"On the Hearth" (1935),
Jabotinsky wrote-, "One
does not depend on the
enemy's righteousness, but
only on making it physi-
cally impossible for him to
kill our people and to burn
our houses .. .
"I would . . . concede
that it is very sad for us
Jews at a time like this to
be forced to learn to
shoot . . . it is futile to
argue against the com-
pulsion of an historical
reality ... That is the les-
son of the past . . . and the
project for (the future)


Jabotinsky's message to
the new Hebrew generation
was explicit — you cannot
survive in this imperfect
world of ours unless you are
strong. From this view he
did not deviate since he first
expressed his views at the
seventh Zionist Congress
(1905): "Politics is power.
This power we do not pos-
sess. Zionism must
endeavor to become a power

It was the driving power
behind the formation of the
Jewish battalions in the
British Army in the First
World War. He organized
the Hagana in 1920 and the
British clamped him in jail
for it. He founded the Betar
and gave the Jewish youth
the chance to acquire -the
elements of military train-
In 1937, he became sup-
reme commander of the
Irgun Zvai Leumi, and in
August 1939, he laid out the
plan for the first armed He-
brew revolt in almost 2,000
While Jabotinsky for-
mulated the policies of
political Zionism, defined
goals and labored on the
diplomatic level, paral-
lelly, since the mid-1930s
to his last days, he
encouraged the Betar
and the Irgun to build the
physical power to back
diplomatic action.
In the 1920s and early
1930s, Jabotinsky urged in-
creased Jewish immigra-
tion to Palestine. This was
mostly rooted in political
considerations, esbecially
because of the phenomenal
growth of the Arab popula-
tion of Palestine, , and the
urgent need to achieve a
Jewish majority and He-
brew sovereignty.
The advent of Hitler to

struggling for emigration,
he, a man of science, has to
admit that Palestine could
not take them in. All he was
asking was for two million
youth to be given the chance
to immigrate and be saved.
And the rest? "They will
pass," Weizmann declared.
"They were dust, economic
and moral dust in a cruel
To admit that the dream
of Zionism could not meet
the problem of physical
existence of the Diaspora
must have been a deep emo ,
tional trauma for Weiz-
mann. But, the truth was
power in the early 1930s that Cultural-Socialist
changed the political scene Zionism never aimed at
radically. solving the problem of the
in Europe
Jabotinsky saw an increas- physical existence of the
ingly growing threat to Jewish masses.
what he called "the zone of
As the vise was closing on
Jewish distress," overlap- Europe's Jews, the fact that
ping the areas of the old the British shut the doors of
Pale, from the Baltic Palestine was for the
through Eastern and Cen- Zionist - Pacifist - Socialist
tral to South eastern leadership an obstacle that
Europe and the Black Sea. could not be overcome.
Millions of Jews were now
Dr. Weizmann stated to
exposed to grave danger, the commission that
possibly destruction.
Palestine could not ab-
With the Nazi regime es- sorb six million Jews. In
tablished in Germany in fact, Weizmann publi-
1933, the ideological evolu- cally consigned four mil-
tion of Jabotinsky contin- lion European Jews "to
ued. He grimly forewarned dust." The British
(in his article "Germany" in policies, over the coming
February 1933 of the un- eight years, upped it to
precedented Nazi platform six!
which meant a declaration
At the same time,
of war on the Jewish people. Jabotinsky, who predicted
From that date on- that the Peel Commission
ward, Jabotinsky carried recommendation for a
on his campaign of warn- mini-Jewish state in the
ing and predicting de- Plains of Palestine would
struction to the East- come to naught, commenced
Central European Dias- his own evolution towards
pora, where millions of breaking the impasse with
Jews resided. His call for Britain, through means
evacuation (1935) — mass other than passive ac-
emigration from the ceptance of British whims.
zone of Jewish dis-
Of course, the seeds for
tress," was assaulted by military activism were
the Zionist-Jewish estab- there all along. Jabotinsky,
lishment world-wide.
who called for proud self-
In 1935, the New Zionist reliance, who incisively de-
which fined the moral basis of the
headed, return to Zion, who told the
launched a program to move youth to "learn to shoot"
a million Jews, over 10 and now saw the Dark Ages
years, in Palestine.
sweep once again over the
Even this was unaccept- Jewish danger zone, was
able to the Zionist estab- only one step away from the
lishment. As late as 1948, final one, an attempt to
Ben-Gurion still referred to change the course of Jewish
Jabotinsky as a "Dohek history by armed action.
Haketz" ("The one who
Jabotinsky knew that the
rushes the arrival of the Italian Risorgimento did
Messiah . .").
not achieve Italian freedom
Jabotinsky saw the writ- through a spiritual renais-
ing on the wall and had no sance alone. Probing
alternative but to rush slowly, he raised the subject
things . . . In contrast, for with a group of Irgun lead-
my generation active in the ers who visited him in
Irgun in Palestine in the Egypt -in July 1937. (Be-
mid 1930s, Jabotinsky was cause of his "militancy," the
trailing events.
British banned Jabotinsk -
The year 1937 was a in 1929, from enteric
momentous year in the Palestine.)
evolution of Zionism.
For the first time, he
Both Chaim Weizmann raised questions of the
and Zeev Jabotinsky potential manpower for
were nearing their mo- military action against
ments of truth. Weizmann the British Administra-
at last admitted that, con- tion of Palestine, the
trary to his long held be- reaction to be expected
liefs and policies, from the establishment
Zionism failed to provide (Jewish Agency/World
the Jews of Europe with Zionist Organization/
the haven they needed.
He declared before the
If it came to military ac-
British Peel Commission of tion, he would approve such
Inquiry (January 1937)
action only if he would par-
that, although six million ticipate in person.
European Jews (what an
(Continued on Page 54)
ironic coincidence) were


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