Jabotinsky, Vladimir

15 Jun 2006

Vladimir Jabotinsky, one of the most controversial figures in the history of Zionism, was born in Odessa in 1880, when that city was teeming with many varieties of Jewish life. He seems to have become an active Zionist when, as a pogrom was gathering force and he realized that it was not only a local phenomenon, he saw Jewish self-defense as the only way for his ancient People to survive. Although he continued to make his living as a journalist, from then on he dedicated his considerable writing and speaking abilities to the cause of obtaining and securing a Jewish State.

When World War I broke out, he became convinced that the cause of Zionism would fare better if the Allies would win the war. Almost single-handedly, battling against the majority of Jewish opinion, he convinced the British to allow the Jews to fight on their side. One of the three Jewish battalions that were formed fought with Allenby in the campaign in Palestine in 1918. Jabotinsky himself enlisted as a private, but was soon promoted to lieutenant.

In 1925, Jabotinsky organized the Revisionists. This organization would evolve into the Irgun. He based his ideas for obtaining and securing a Jewish State on the judicious use of force, involving “illegal” immigration into Palestine against the will of the British, and direct action against them until the creation of the State in 1948. The Irgun was called a “terrorist” organization, G-d Forbid, but its operations were light years from what are now called “terrorist” acts. The Irgun gave ample warning before attacking, and never attacked civilians. Today’s terrorists take deadly aim particularly at civilians.

In 1937, he gave testimony before the Peel Commission, that had been formed to deal with the aftermath of the Arab riots of 1936. Some of the highlights of that testimony are the following:

“…Why should the Jews in Palestine be forced to prepare for self-defense underhand; as though committing a legal offense? You know what a pogrom means in Jewish history; we know what pogroms mean in the history of Mandatory Palestine. The Jews have never been allowed to prepare for that holy duty of self-defense, as every Englishman would have done. We had in our case to prepare by underhand methods, with insufficient equipment, with insufficient drilling, in an amateurish way.”

“…Why should the impression be created in this country that we want Johnny, Tommy and Bobby to defend us? We do not. If, in the building of Palestine, sweat and gold have to be employed, let us give the sweat and let us give the gold; if blood has to be shed by the defenders of Palestine, let it be our blood and not English blood. But that suggestion has always been turned down.”

“…There is only one way of compromise. Tell the Arabs the truth, and then you will see the Arab is reasonable, the Arab is clever, the Arab is just; the Arab can realize that since there are three or four or five wholly Arab States, then it is a thing of justice which Great Britain is doing if Palestine is transformed into a Jewish State. Then there will be a change of mind among the Arabs, then there will be room for compromise, and then there will be peace.”

“…We are asked very often: ‘Whatever is meant by the Balfour Declaration was promised in 1917, but since then perhaps the British people have honestly come to the conclusion that they cannot do it.’ I deny it. I affirm they can; but when I am asked, when any Jew is asked: ‘What, are the Jews going to pin us down to the promise and to say – you have promised the pound of flesh, pay us the pound of flesh?’ Gentlemen, here I answer you in the name of the most extreme of Zionist parties: ‘No!’ If Great Britain really is unable to do it (not unwilling, but unable) we will bow to her decision, but we then shall expect Great Britain to act as any Mandatory who feels he cannot carry out the Mandate: give back the Mandate…;”

Sir Laurie Hammond: “To whom?”

Answer: “And do it in a way that will not harm the safety of the Jews who trusted you and came to Palestine on the chances of a Zionist future… but not that Great Britain should go on holding the Mandate and pretend it is ‘fulfilled’ while my people are still suffering in the Diaspora and still only a minority in Palestine. No, that cannot be done. That is not cricket. Therefore, Gentlemen, I submit it cannot be done, and it shall not be done.”