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Zeev (Vladimir) Jabotinsky - biography

Ze'ev Jabotinsky MBE (Hebrew: זאב ז'בוטינסקי‎, Ukrainian: Володи́мир (Зеєв) Євге́нович Жаботи́нський, born Vladimir Yevgenyevich Zhabotinsky (Russian: Влади́мир Евге́ньевич Жаботи́нский) (October 18, 1880 – August 4, 1940) was a Revisionist Zionist leader, author, orator, soldier, and founder of the Jewish Self-Defense Organization in Odessa. He also helped form the Jewish Legion of the British army in World War I, and was a founder and early leader of the militant Zionist underground organization, Irgun.

Contents

Biography

Born Vladimir Jabotinsky in Odessa, Russian Empire, he was raised in a Jewish middle-class home and educated in Russian schools. While he took Hebrew lessons as a child, Jabotinsky wrote in his autobiography that his upbringing was divorced from Jewish faith and tradition.

Jabotinsky's talents as a journalist became apparent even before he finished high school. His first writings were published in Odessa newspapers when he was 16. Upon graduation he was sent to Bern, Switzerland and later to Italy as a reporter for the Russian press. He wrote under the pseudonym "Altalena" (the Italian word for 'swing'; see also Altalena Affair). While abroad, he also studied law at the University of Rome, but it was only upon his return to Russia that he qualified as an attorney. His dispatches from Italy earned him recognition as one of the brightest young Russian-language journalists: he later edited newspapers in Russian, Yiddish, and Hebrew. He married Jeanne in late 1907. They had one child, Ari Jabotinsky, who was a member of the Irgun-inspired Bergson Group, briefly served in the Knesset and died in 1969.

Zionist activism in Russia

After the Kishinev pogrom of 1903, Jabotinsky joined the Zionist movement, where he soon became known as a powerful speaker and an influential leader. With more pogroms looming on the horizon, Jabotinsky established the Jewish Self-Defense Organization, a Jewish militant group, to safeguard Jewish communities throughout Russia. Jabotinsky became the source of great controversy in the Russian Jewish community as a result of these actions. Around this time, he set upon himself the goal of learning modern Hebrew, and took a Hebrew name—Vladimir became Ze'ev ("wolf"). During the pogroms, he organized self-defense units in Jewish communities across Russia and fought for the civil rights of the Jewish population as a whole. His slogan was, "better to have a gun and not need it than to need it and not have it!" Another call to arms was, "Jewish youth, learn to shoot!" That year Jabotinsky was elected as a Russian delegate to the Sixth Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland. After Herzl's death in 1904 he became the leader of the right-wing Zionists. In 1906 he was one of the chief speakers at the Russian Zionist Helsingfors Conference in Helsinki, which called upon the Jews of Europe to engage in Gegenwartsarbeit (work in the present) and to join together to demand autonomy for the ethnic minorities in Russia. He remained loyal to this Liberal approach scores of years later with respect to the Arab citizens of the future Jewish State: "Each one of the ethnic communities will be recognized as autonomous and equal in the eyes of the law." In 1909 he fiercely criticized leading members of the Russian Jewish community for participating in ceremonies marking the centennial of the Russian writer Nikolai Gogol. In view of Gogol's anti-Semitic views, he said, it was unseemly for Russian Jews to take part in these ceremonies; it showed they had no Jewish self-respect.

Military career

Badge of Members of the Order of the British Empire, obverse and reverse During World War I, he conceived the idea of establishing a Jewish Legion to fight alongside the British against the Ottomans who then controlled Palestine. In 1915, together with Joseph Trumpeldor, a one-armed veteran of the Russo-Japanese War, he created the Zion Mule Corps, which consisted of several hundred Jewish men, mainly Russians, who had been exiled from Palestine by the Turks and had settled in Egypt. The unit served with distinction in the Battle of Gallipoli. When the Zion Mule Corps was disbanded, Jabotinsky traveled to London, where he continued his efforts to establish Jewish units to fight in Palestine as part of the British Army. Although Jabotinsky did not serve with the Zion Mule Corps, Trumpeldor, Jabotinsky and 120 V.M.C. did serve in Platoon 16/20th Battalion of the London Regiment. In 1917, the government agreed to establish three Jewish Battalions, initiating the Jewish Legion. Jabotinsky soldiered in the Jordan Valley in 1918 and was decorated for bravery. As an officer in the 38th Royal Fusiliers, Jabotinsky fought with General Allenby in 1917, and was decorated with the MBE for heading the first company to cross the River Jordan into Palestine.

Jewish self-defense

After Ze'ev Jabotinsky was discharged from the British Army in September 1919, he openly trained Jews in self-defense and the use of small arms. After the 1920 Palestine riots, at the demand of the Arab leadership, the British searched the offices and apartments of the Zionist leadership, including Weizmann's and Jabotinsky's homes, for arms. In Jabotinsky's house they found 3 rifles, 2 pistols, and 250 rounds of ammunition. Nineteen men were arrested, including Jabotinsky. A committee of inquiry placed responsibility for the riots on the Zionist Commission, for provoking the Arabs. Jabotinsky was given a 15-year prison term for possession of weapons. The court blamed 'Bolshevism,' claiming that it 'flowed in Zionism's inner heart' and ironically identified the fiercely anti-Socialist Jabotinsky with the Socialist-aligned Poalei Zion ('Zionist Workers') party, which it called 'a definite Bolshevist institution.' Following the public outcry against the verdict, he received amnesty and was released from Acre prison.

Founder of the Revisionist movement

In 1920, Jabotinsky was elected to the first Assembly of Representatives in Palestine. The following year he was elected to the executive council of the Zionist Organization. He was also a founder of the newly registered Keren Hayesod and served as its director of propaganda. He quit the mainstream Zionist movement in 1923, however, due to differences of opinion between him and its chairman, Chaim Weizmann, and established the new revisionist party called Alliance of Revisionists-Zionists and its youth movement, Betar (a Hebrew acronym for the "League of Joseph Trumpeldor"). His new party demanded that the mainstream Zionist movement recognize as its stated objective the establishment of a Jewish state; one on both banks of the Jordan River. His main goal was to establish a modern Jewish state with the help and aid of the British Empire. His philosophy contrasted with the socialist oriented Labor Zionists, in that it focused its economic and social policy on the ideal of the Jewish Middle class in Europe. An Anglophile, his ideal for a Jewish state was a form of nation state based loosely on the British imperial model, whose waning self-confidence he deplored. His support base was mostly located in Poland, and his activities focused on attaining British support to help in the development of the Yishuv. Another area of major support for Jabotinsky was Latvia, where his fiery speeches in Russian made an impression on the largely Russian-speaking Latvian Jewish community.

Return to Palestine blocked by the British

In 1930, while Jabotinsky was visiting South Africa, he was informed by the British Colonial Office that he would not be allowed to return to Palestine.

The movement he established was not monolithic however, and later included three separate factions, of which Jabotinsky's was the most moderate. Jabotinsky favored political cooperation with the British, while more irredentist-minded individuals like David Raziel, Abba Ahimeir, and Uri Zvi Greenberg focused on independent action in Mandate Palestine, fighting politically against the Labor mainstream, militarily against the British Authorities, and retaliating for Arab attacks. During his time in exile, Jabotinsky started regarding Benito Mussolini as a potential ally against the British, and contacts were made with Italy. However, unlike the Maximalists, Jabotinsky never embraced fascism, instead wanting Palestine to become a democratic state.

Evacuation plan for the Jews of Poland, Hungary and Romania

During the 1930s, Jabotinsky was deeply concerned with the situation of the Jewish community in Eastern Europe, particularly Poland. In 1936, Jabotinsky prepared the so-called 'evacuation plan', which called for the evacuation of the entire Jewish population of Poland, Hungary and Romania to Palestine. Also in 1936, he toured Eastern Europe, meeting with the Polish Foreign Minister Colonel Józef Beck; the Regent of Hungary, Admiral Miklós Horthy, and Prime Minister Gheorghe Tătărescu of Romania to discuss the evacuation plan. The plan gained the approval of all three governments, but caused considerable controversy within Polish Jewry, on the grounds that it played into the hands of Polish anti-Semites. In particular, the fact that the 'evacuation plan' had the approval of the Polish government was taken by many Polish Jews as indicating Jabotinsky had gained the endorsement of what they considered to be the wrong people. The evacuation of Jewish communities in Poland, Hungary and Romania was to take place over a ten-year period. However, the controversy was rendered moot when the British government vetoed it, and the World Zionist Organization's chairman, Chaim Weizmann, dismissed it. Two years later, in 1938, Jabotinsky stated in a speech that Polish Jews 'were living on the edge of the volcano' and warned that a wave of bloody super-pogroms would be happening in Poland sometime in the near future. Jabotinsky went on to warn Jews in Europe that they should leave for Palestine as soon as possible.

Belief in integrating the Arab minority

Jabotinsky was a complex personality, combining cynicism and idealism. He was convinced that there was no way for the Jews to regain any part of Palestine without opposition from the Arabs, but he also believed that the Jewish state could be a home for Arab citizens. In 1934 he wrote a draft constitution for the Jewish state which declared that the Arab minority would be on an equal footing with its Jewish counterpart "throughout all sectors of the country's public life." The two communities would share the state's duties, both military and civil service, and enjoy its prerogatives. Jabotinsky proposed that Hebrew and Arabic should enjoy equal rights and that "in every cabinet where the prime minister is a Jew, the vice-premiership shall be offered to an Arab and vice versa."

Death

Jabotinsky died of a heart attack in New York, on August 4, 1940, while visiting an armed Jewish self-defense camp run by Betar. He was buried in New Montefiore cemetery in New York rather than in Palestine, in accordance with the statement in his will, "I want to be buried outside Palestine, may NOT be transferred to Palestine unless by order of that country's eventual Jewish government."

Initially, after the State of Israel was established, the governments headed by Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion did not make such a decision, but in 1964, shortly after becoming Prime Minister, Levi Eshkol ordered the reinterment of Jabotinsky and his wife in Jerusalem at Mount Herzl Cemetery. A monument to Jabotinsky remains at his original burial site in New York.

Legacy and commemoration

Ze'ev Jabotinsky's legacy is carried on today by Israel's Herut party (merged with other right wing parties to form the Likud in 1973), Herut – The National Movement (a breakaway from Likud), Magshimey Herut (young adult activist movement) and Betar (youth movement). In the United States, his call for Jewish self defense has led to the formation of Americans for a Safe Israel and the Jewish Defense Organization. The JDO's training camp is named Camp Jabotinsky. In Israel, there are more streets, parks and squares named after Jabotinsky than any other figure in Jewish or Israeli history. The Jabotinsky Medal is awarded for distinguished service to the State of Israel, and most Israeli cities have streets named after him. On 11 August 2008, left wing Israeli Education Minister Yuli Tamir announced plans to remove Jabotinsky's name from a list of terms students are required to learn, creating an uproar.

Works

Books

By Jabotinsky

  • Turkey and the War, London, T.F. Unwin, Ltd. [1917]
  • Samson the Nazarite, London: M. Secker, [1930]
  • The Jewish War Front, London: T.F. Unwin, Ltd. [1940]
  • The War and The Jew, New York, The Dial Press [c1942]
  • The Story of the Jewish Legion, New York, B. Ackerman, incorporated [c1945]
  • The Battle for Jerusalem. Vladimir Jabotinsky, John Henry Patterson, Josiah *Wedgwood, Pierre Van Paassen explains why a Jewish army is indispensable for the survival of a Jewish nation and preservation of world civilization, American Friends of a Jewish Palestine, New York, The Friends, [1941]
  • A Pocket Edition of Several Stories Mostly Reactionary, Tel-Aviv: Reproduced by Jabotinsky Institute in Israel, [1984]. Reprint. Originally published: Paris, [1925]
  • The Five, A Novel of Jewish Life in Turn-of-the-Century Odessa

About Jabotinsky

  • Lone Wolf: a Biography of Vladimir (Ze'ev) Jabotinsky, by Shmuel Katz; New York: Barricade Books, [c1996]
  • The Vladimir Jabotinsky Story, by Joseph B Schechtman; New York, T. Yoseloff [c. 1956-1961]
  • Zev Jabotinsky: Militant Fighter for Jews & Israel- Jewish Defense Organization booklet
  • Jabotinsky and the Revisionist Movement, 1925-1948, by Yaacov Shavit, London, England; Totawa, N.J.:F. Cass, [1988]
  • Zionism in the Age of the Dictators, Lenni Brenner, Lawrence Hill & Co; Rev Ed edition [c1983]
  • Vladimir Jabotinsky, Michael Stanislawski (Introduction), [2005] ISBN 978-0-8014-8903-7
  • Vladimir Jabotinsky: The Man and His Struggles, by Joseph Nedava; Tel Aviv [1986]

Articles and poems

  • The East Bank of the Jordan (also known as "Two Banks has the Jordan"), a poem by Jabotinsky that became the slogan and one of the most famous songs of Betar

Video of Jabotinsky Speaking of Jewish Eastern Palestine, 1934

  • Zionism and the Land of Israel
  • Tisha B'Av, 1937
  • Instead of Excessive Apology, 1911
  • The Ideology of Betar
  • Iron Wall (essay)
  • "The Ethics of the Iron Wall", 1923
  • A selection of Jabotinsky's writings: The World of Jabotinsky

Jabotinsky translated Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven" into Hebrew and Russian, and parts of Dante's Divine Comedy into modern Hebrew verse.






Article author: Zipora Galitski
Article tags: biography
The article is about these people:   Zeev (Vladimir) Jabotinsky

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