Archived for Educational Purposes only Under U.S.C. Title 17 Section 107
by Jew Watch Library at www.jewwatch.com
|Reported on Usenet, Fri Feb 13, 1998JERUSALEM (CNN) – The dwindling number of Christians in the Holy Land are facing yet another threat. Militant Jews and Israelis are trying to force members of the religion from seeking converts in the country.
Most alarming to Christians is a newly proposed law that would let authorities jail anyone who shares Christian literature.
“It could even include the New Testament because, after all, that is certainly a document Jesus would say, ‘go out into the world and make disciples,'” Pastor Ray Lockhart of Christ’s Church in Jerusalem says.
The proposed legislation is aimed at those who possess, print, reproduce, distribute, import, track or publicize information meant as an inducement to religious conversion.
“We are a Jewish state,” explains Israeli Knesset member and bill co-sponsor Niffim Zilli. “We want to remain a Jewish state.”
Much of the literature in a small Christian bookstore in Jerusalem would be outlawed by the legislation in its present form. Orthodox Jews already visit the store to harass customers, and there are fears that if the proposed anti-missionary law passes, militants might try to close the shop.
“I see this as being quite contrary to human rights, particularly to the right of religious freedom and choice of religion,” Lockhart says.
Zilli’s reply: “Stop your missionary activity in Israel. Stop it!”
Christian Evangelical missions give free food to poor Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem, and indigents line up to accept it.
“Some of Israel’s best friends around the world come from the Bible-believing Christian communities. And if it is seen although Israel or the government is opposing the people who have been the best friends of Israel, then perhaps support for it could run cold,” Clarence Wagner of Bridges for Peace said.
The legislation has cleared its first parliamentary hurdle. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu strongly opposes it, but some believe it could pass over his objections, especially if Orthodox Jews decide to engage in muscle-flexing.
End of CNN Article
For the past 100 years, Jews and Arabs have claimed an ancient right to live in the Holy Land. ”History need not be man’s master,’ said President Bush, but no one can forget the past.
The First Zionist Congress is held in Switzerland, calling for the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine, accelerating the immigration of European Jews.
British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour writes a letter to Lord Rothschild informing him that Britain favors a Jewish homeland in Palestine. The Balfour Declaration also states ”that nothing will be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine,” then nearly90% of the population. In 1920 the League of Nations mandate for Palestine is given to Britain.
The first Palestinian uprising begins — against British rule and continued Jewish immigration. In 1937, Britain proposes partitioning Palestine into Arab and Jewish states. The Jews agree, the Arabs say no. Another British plan in 1939 calls for one state with an Arab majority; the Arabs indicate acceptance, but the Jews oppose it. World War II puts an end to all political activity.
Survivors of the Holocaust flee to Palestine, and the U.N. votes for the territory’s partition into an Arab state, a Jewish state and an international zone for Jerusalem. The Jews accept the plan, but the Arabs reject it.
On May 14, the mandate ends and the state of Israel is proclaimed. Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon invade the same day. Tens of thousands of Palestinians flee to begin their own Diaspora.
Israel signs truces with the Arab countries, gaining more of the old mandate, including West Jerusalem.
Acting secretly with Britain and France during the Suez Canal crisis, Israel invades Egypt in October, occupying the Sinai peninsula and the Gaza Strip. Under concerted U.N. pressure, Israel withdraws in 1957.
The Palestine Liberation Organization is formed in Cairo and thereafter sponsors a guerrilla war against Israel.
In what becomes known as the Six-Day War, Israel launches a pre-emptive strike against the Arabs on June 5. Israeli forces overrun the Sinai peninsula, then occupy both the West Bank and East Jerusalem. They later seize the Golan Heights from Syria. In November the U.N. Security Council adopts Resolution 242, which calls for Israeli withdrawal from ”territories occupied” and the right of all states in the area to live within secure and recognized boundaries.
Egypt and Syria attack Israeli forces in the Sinai and the Golan Heights on Yom Kippur, recapturing some territory before Israeli counterattacks establish a bridgehead across the Suez Canal and push Syria out of the Golan. A U.N. cease-fire resolution halts the fighting, but an international peace conference ends after a single session.
U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger brokers disengagement agreements between Israel, Egypt and Syria.
President Anwar Sadat makes a dramatic trip to Jerusalem, the first Arab head of state to visit Israel, breaking the psychological barrier to peace.
In September, U.S., Egyptian and Israeli leaders meet for 12days at Camp David and agree on a two-part framework for peace. The first is an Israeli- Egyptian treaty returning the Sinai to Egypt and providing for normal relations between the two nations. The second calls for talks among Egypt, Israel, Jordan and the Palestinians for self-government in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, a five-year transition period before a final settlement, and a Jordanian-Israeli peace treaty. The second part never really gets under way.
Israel and Egypt sign the Camp David peace treaty in March, and Israel begins its withdrawal from the Sinai.
Israel invades Lebanon to drive out the POLO. Syrian forces are pushed from Beirut, and the Lebanese capital is under Israeli attack for 10 weeks. While Israeli troops look on, Lebanese Christian militiamen massacre hundreds of Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. A U.S.-brokered agreement permits a P.L.O. withdrawal from Beirut.
Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip begin an uprising, or intifada, which is still in progress. Tough Israeli countermeasures fail to suppress the revolt, which in turn brings the Palestinian cause worldwide attention.
After winning the gulf war, the U.S. pushes for a Middle East settlement. Eight exhaustive visits to the region by U.S. Secretary of State James Baker bring all the parties to the table last week, the first time that Israel and its Arab adversaries have sat down together.
Post-Zionist Historians Attack Israel’s Cherished Beliefs Ethnic New swatchDuring the past decade a group of “post-Zionist” historians have challenged as myths what Israelis generally regard to be historic accounts. The controversy has spilled out of university halls into popular publications, lectures, and symposia. Israel’s behavior during the 1948 War of Independence, the ideals of the Zionist pioneers and the army, and even Israel’s desire for peace have been scrutinized and found flawed by a small but nevertheless influential group of new historians.
Post-Zionism assumes that Israel’s basic task of securing viable state has on the whole been accomplished — that nation building is no longer necessary. A corollary of this view is that Israel is now strong enough to confront its myths about the state’s founding and to voice reservations regarding events of the past, particularly in relation to the Arabs.
For a small group of radical post-Zionist historians, the goal has been not only to present new historical interpretations but also, ultimately, to challenge the Jewish character and purpose of the state. They reinforce the view that Israel should be a state of its citizens, rather than a Jewish state.
Prominent among the widely accepted beliefs that post-Zionist historians question is that Palestinians who abandoned their homes in 1948 did so either voluntarily or because their leaders urged them to leave, with the promise that they would return victorious.
Historian Benny Morris, a one-time journalist and now professor of Zionist history at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, opened a Pandora’ s box in the early ’80s. Working on his doctorate at the Hebrew University a short while after national archive documents from the 1948 War of Independence became available for study, he discovered that in a number of cases Jews expelled Arabs from their homes and villages during the war. His doctoral thesis was later published as The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem,1947-1949 (Cambridge University Press, 1988).
Morris was born in Ein Hahoresh, a left-wing Mapam kibbutz, in 1948, the year the State of Israel was established. “Its not a coincidence that my generation is highly critical of the behavior of the Zionist leaders who established the State of Israel,” he says. “I grew up taking the existence of the state for granted. The older generation of historians lived through the war of 1948 as adults. It was the [most] glorious moment of their lives. They couldn’t be objective about it. The Zionist historians of this period had themselves been mobilized in the cause of nation building, and they were dedicated to the political agenda, mainly of Mapai [the Labor party]. It’s a generational thing. They grew up then, and I grew up on the wars of ’67, ’73and ’82.”
The Six-Day War and Israel’s subsequent rule over the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza raised moral dilemmas that forced many Israelis to confront their nation’s behavior toward Palestinians in 1948. ” We realized,” explains novelist Michal Guvrin, “that basic issues about the conquest of the land and our right to Israel had been swept under the table.”
Morris claims that he began his historical research with no ideological baggage. He was not out to prove anything about the Arab refugees. “I set out to write a history of the Palmach, the pre-State defense force that was later integrated into the Israel Defense Forces,” says Morris. “But after I had worked on it a little, the people in charge of the Palmach archives closed them to me. Apparently they became wary of me, preferring that an ex-Palmachnik, someone with loyalty to them, write it.
“In the meantime I came upon material pertaining to the Palestinian refugees. I saw orders expelling the Arabs of Lodand Ramleh, signed by then-Lieutenant Colonel Yitzhak Rabin,” Morris says, irate at the deception by earlier historians who termed the Arab exodus from Lod and Ramleh a voluntary one. “Throughout the war,” Morris explains, “the two towns, which sat astride the main Tel Aviv-Jerusalem road, interdicted Jewish traffic. Consequently the leaders of the Yeshiva, Palestine’s Jewish community, regarded Lod and Ramleh as a perpetual threat to Tel Aviv itself, a springboard from which the Arabs could attack the Jewish capital.”
The Israeli action may well have been justified, Morris says, but one cannot claim, as historians of the ’50s attempted to do, that expulsion orders were never given. Nevertheless, he denies the claim by Arab historians that there was a premeditated Zionist plan to systematically expel Arabs. He contends that in certain places Arab communities were intimidated, and even expelled, but that on the whole it was war itself that caused Palestinians toffee, particularly since they felt vulnerable and lacking in military leaders. Morris lays the fault at the door of the wealthy Palestinian political and economic leadership who abandoned the country by April 1948 — a month before the State of Israel was declared and the Arab attack began — and left the Palestinians helpless.
Another popular belief challenged by post-Zionist historians is that Israel in 1948 was a weak David fighting an all-powerful Goliath. The new historians, including Morris, claim that in fact the Israeli army was more professional and better trained than the Arabs, and that it even had more men and arms in the field. According to Morris, in mid-May 1948 the Haganah (now the IDF) fielded some 35,000 armed troops, as compared to 25,000 to 30,000invading Arab troops. By the July offensive, the Haganah had 65,000soldiers, and by December, 90,000 — significantly outnumbering the Arab armies.
Undermining the David-Goliath image has provoked strong reactions from those who lived through the War of Independence and experienced the deaths of friends (6,000 of Israel’s 600,000 inhabitants were killed) and the fear of annihilation — particularly on the heels of the Holocaust. They argue that, whatever the facts about the forces in the field, the atmosphere of fear and confusion during the war and the realization of the Arab states’ potential, with their millions of people, justifies the vulnerability Israelis felt in 1948.
Another attack on one of Israel’s articles of faith is historian Edith Serta’s recent book Zahavam Shel Yehudim (The Gold of Jews), about illegal immigration between 1945 and 1948. Zertal charges that Zionist leaders exploited the illegal European immigrants by bringing them to Palestine even when they knew the refugees would be arrested by the British and sent to Cyprus. The Zionists did this, Zertal claims, in order to dramatize for the world the need for a Jewish state. Although there has been some outcry at this interpretation by other historians, Zertal seems intentionally to be seeking a controversial approach to a heroic epoch. Israelis in general have become accustomed to such accusations and don’t find them threatening anymore. Israelis also recognize that conceding Zionist failings doesn’t diminish the importance of the Zionist venture.
While Zertal and Morris seem to be searching for a disinterested understanding of Israeli history, other, more radical historians echo the views of Matzpen, the New Left movement of the ’60s.Using a Marxist conceptual framework, they see Israel as colonialist, an extension of Western imperialism.
Avi Shlaim, one of the first new historians to attract attention, proposed the thesis that Transjordan and Israel, both creations of British imperialism, were in collusion with colonial powers to steal land from the native Palestinians. Shlaim claims in Collusion Across the Jordan (Oxford University Press, 1988) that the clandestine meeting between Golda Meir and Abdullah at Naharayim on the Jordan River on Nov. 17, 1947 was the consummation of negotiations from1946 to 1948 to thwart the emergence of a Palestinian Arab state and to partition the area between Israel and Transjordan. He claims that Transjordan stuck to its nonaggressive stand to take only what was agreed upon — i.e., eastern Palestine — leaving the Yishuv alone to set up the State of Israel.
In two places Transjordan broke the November agreement. They gave in to Palestinian pressure to destroy the Etzion bloc, which they saw as a foreign enclave in an Arab area, and to conquer the Old City of Jerusalem.
Journalist-historian Shabtai Tevet counters the charge of collusion, claiming that the Palestinians could have declared themselves a state and Israel could have done nothing to stop them. In fact, he says, the Palestinians were not psychologically prepared for it, nor strong enough to maintain themselves against the various Arab powers. In any event, it wasn’t Israel’s task to fight foray Palestinian state. Moreover, the Arab Legion (aka Transjordan Ian Army) worked hand in hand with the British, who were entrenched all over the region and did not need Israel’s acceptance.
Although the Marxist scaffolding is no longer compelling to most post- Zionists, the anti-Zionist corollaries of this view continue to echo among radical post-Zionist historians and sociologists. Anita Shapiro, professor of Zionist history at Tel Aviv University, identifies their main goal as changing the nature of the State of Israel — relinquishing its ideological Zionist component to become a secular, democratic state without any predominant national character.
Annulment of the Law of Return, she says, which grants automatic citizenship to Jews coming to Israel and underscores the difference between their status in the country and that of Arabs, would manifest that change.
The most controversial of the radical post-Zionist historians is Haifa University professor Ilan Pappe. He claims that Israel” intentionally uprooted the Palestinian population and justified it on the basis of Jewish uniqueness as a consequence of the Holocaust.”
Pappe grew up in Haifa with Arab friends and feels he was exposed to a more open approach to Arabs at an early age. But it was only after he had studied history at the Hebrew University and went to Oxford for his doctorate in 1980 that he could, he said, “look at Zionist history from the outside. As I delved more and more into the documents, I was shocked to realize that not only the1948 generation of historians but also my teachers — the supposedly objective historians of the second generation, like Anita Shapira– were captives of the Zionist narrative. At the same time,”he says, “I began to be influenced by an approach to history that is more subjective and relativist.”
According to this view, historical interpretations are merely “constructs of the mind,” and historians must choose what fits their moral ideology from among many narratives.
“We’re all political,” says Pappe. “There’s no historian in the world who is objective. I’m not as interested in what happened as in how people see what’s happened. The historical narrative is a very important part of collective identity. Only in Israel do historians — even Benny Morris — still believe they can be neutral.” The question Pappe asks is “which politics to embrace — a national political approach or an internationalist one.”
“Personally,” Pappe says, “I think there are two legitimate narratives: the Palestinian one and the Israeli one. And I believe that we must learn to live with both narratives. Hopefully, a third narrative that is common to both peoples will develop. Narratives change in relation to the needs of a people at a given time.”
In the meantime, Pappe promotes the Palestinian narrative, believing it necessary after all the years during which “national-Zionist ideological hegemony suppressed every other voice. The historical narrative of the Palestinians shows Zionism to be like any other national movement, resorting to violence and power when it was deemed useful and necessary.”
Pappe also takes pains to argue that Zionism is an extension of Western imperialism. He says that during the ’20s and ’30s,Britain extended a “power umbrella” that allowed the growth of the Jewish population in Palestine until it would no longer be a minority and could replace the British government after the Mandate.
When the British saw that the Arabs were rebelling, and that not enough Jews were settling in the country to change its demographics, they attempted by their White Paper to limit Jewish immigration.
Critics of Pappe’s view point out that the British could certainly have tipped the demography of Palestine toward a Jewish majority by allowing Jewish refugees into Palestine during the Holocaust. In contrast to Pappe’s assertions, they say the British did not favor Jews — even those whose lives were threatened by the Nazis– as their colonial heirs.
Pappe insists that the Zionist narrative has been a “history of the victors,” one that claims that no alternatives to conflict with the Arabs existed. He argues that Jews would have had opportunities to make peace if they had been willing to cede their nationalist demands. “After the war of 1948,”he says, “the Arabs would have accepted peace under the right conditions. They reconsidered the UN Partition Plan and were willing to accept partition of the country, repatriation of Arab refugees, and the internationalization of Jerusalem. Ben Gurion rejected the offer.” Therefore, according to Pappe, it was not the Arabs but Ben Gurion’s intransigence that led to the continued state of war.
Other historians have challenged Pappe’s thesis, indicating that, in light of the Arab defeat in 1948, reconsideration of partition was simply a tactic by the Arabs to get back what they had lost by going to war. The repatriation of Arab refugees would have returned a large fifth column to undermine the security and Jewish character of the State of Israel.
Pappe does not deny Shapira’s charge that his agenda is more political than historical. A member of the leftist Israeli-Arab Hadash Party, he makes no bones about his desire that Israel be “a nation of its citizens” — a secular, democratic state affording Jews no unique status.
Envisioning Israel as an integral part of the Middle East, Pappe sees the country as increasingly disconnected from the Jews of the world. “The Jews of America are disappearing,” he contends. “We must turn to what’s going on here and create a new democratic country of Jews and Arabs living together.”
Nevertheless, Pappe rejects replacing Israel with a Palestinian state. He believes that both Israel and a Palestinian state should exist, but that Israel should embrace both Moslem and Jew.
At the core of post-Zionist ideology is opposition to the idea that Israel is a chosen people and should be accorded special privileges like the Law of Return. This resistance to particularism has led post- Zionists to deny Israel the national distinctiveness that every other national group takes for granted.
This posture may originate in the socialist vision of proletarian brotherhood, in which all national distinctions ultimately fade away. But it also harbors the assumption, often utilized in Palestinian propaganda, that the Jewish people disappeared as a nation long ago; after all, goes this argument, Jews have lived in many differentcountries, spoken different languages, and have been molded by different cultures. By this reasoning there is no core Jewish national character, no sense of solidarity — and no right to nationhood.
Post-Zionist historians of the Holocaust such as Tom Segevand Moshe Zimmerman have pointed to the Holocaust as a proof of this lack of solidarity, claiming that the Zionist leadership did not try to save the Jews in Europe except where it benefited the Zionist cause.
Why are Israelis flocking to hear a small number of historians question their cherished beliefs, sully their beloved institutions, and undermine their national character and purpose? After all, most Israelis are far from abandoning Zionism and the Jewish character of the State of Israel. In an Avi Chai Foundation-sponsored study on the beliefs and observances of Israeli Jews, 89 percent of respondents answered affirmatively to the question, “Do you consider yourself a Zionist?”
The intense involvement in post-Zionism can perhaps be attributed to old Jewish anxieties, internalized over 2,000 years in the Diaspora, that the Jewish people may not have a right to exist as a unique nation — to a lurking fear, that is, that perhaps the post-Zionists are right.
Reaction to the de-“Judaizing” of Israel undoubtedly accounts for part of the swing back to greater religious consciousness in the recent election, when an unexpectedly large number of votes were cast even by nonreligious Israelis for religious parties. Many Israelis also worry that negating Israel as a Jewish state has become a “politically correct” stance for their children in universities.
Nevertheless the free discussion of Zionist tenets is a healthy phenomenon in a society where, out of the need to build a nation, those interpretations of history may have been overemphasized. This was particularly true after David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, unified the nation around his Labor movement and suppressed Arab, Sephardic, religious, and feminist divergences. It was inevitable that in time this emphasis on the collective would be resented, and new interpretations of history expounded.
Perhaps the most important aspect of post-Zionist thinking is its challenge to Israelis to face the seeming contradictions inherent in Israel as a Jewish, democratic state. For at the heart of the post- Zionist debate is a tension between the values of democracy and Jewishness, of universalism and particularism –especially as those values apply to Palestinians.
Tova Ilan, director of the Yaakov Herzog Center of Kibbutz HaDati, which holds seminars on Zionism and other Jewish issues, points out that if one pursues the concept of democracy to its consistent end, it might indeed contradict the concepts of a Jewish state and the Law of Return. But she wisely observes too that in life we are always adjusting to accommodate different values; only the madman rigidly insists on executing one value without consideration of others. Post- Zionist history has prodded Israelis to reconsider events in light of new information and to pledge themselves to more democratic values — particularly guarding the civil rights of citizens, Arab as well as Jew. And, as Ilansays, that doesn’t mean sacrificing the Jewish constellation of values. Israelis continue to reaffirm Jewish people hood and the right to express it through a sovereign Jewish state.
<aname=”anchor90894″>Zionism’s Dark Star: Reassessing Jabotinsky’s Vision Ethnic News WatchThis incident is not mentioned by Shmuel Katz in his monumental two- volume biography, Lone Wolf: A Biography of Vladimir (Zee’s) Jabotinsky (Barricade Books, 1995), but on August 31, 1939,the day before the Nazi invasion of Poland that began the Second World War, two men met in a London flat for a conversation that lasted from ten in the morning until seven in the evening. They were the flat’s temporary tenant, Revisionist Party head Vladimir Jabotinsky, a “bourgeois liberal Zionist” as he called himself, and Berl Katznelson, a colleague of Jabotinsky’s political adversary David Ben-Gurion and chief ideologue of Mapai, the main Jewish socialist party of Palestine.
As related by Katznelson’s biographer, Anita Shapiro, Jabotinsky and Katznelson talked about the impending hostilities; the dire situation of the Jews of Eastern Europe; the Revisionist-led Irgun’s policy of counter-terror against the Arabs, opposed by the Mapai-led Haganah; the dangers of a civil war between the two antagonistic wings of the Zionist movement; and about the prospects of a rapprochement between them. The normally ebullient Jabotinsky, who within a year would be dead of a heart attack at age 60, struck Katznelson as “bitter and despairing.” After they parted, Katznelson reported to Mapai’s central committee in Tel Aviv that Jabotinsky had said, “You’ve won. You still have America with its rich Jews. All had was the poor Jews of Poland. Now they’re gone. The game is over for me.”
It is an anguishing scene. I picture a gray London day darkening to night outside rain streaked windows. Jabotinsky’s words span decades, continents. They hark back to his argument with Chaim Weizmann and the Zionist establishment in the early 1920s, when he unsuccessfully fought expanding the Jewish Agency Executive with wealthy, non-Zionist American Jews like Louis Marshall and Felix Warburg — a step that ultimately led to a paradoxical coalition of American Jewish capitalists and Palestinian Jewish socialists. They anticipate the destruction of Ashkenazi Jewry, which Jabotinsky felt coming in his bones more than any other Jewish leader. And they sum up, these brief words, the tragic failure of his career, that of a man who was far-sightedly right about most of the thingsthat he fought over with his Zionist rivals, yet who lost practically every one of these fights.
What indeed, one might ask today, were the crucial issues that Jabotinsky — the “reactionary’,” the “militarist,” even the “fascist,” as he was repeatedly and absurdly called in those years by the Zionist left — was not right about?
..TX.-He was right that the non-Zionists on the Jewish Agency Executive would turn it into a politically emasculated body. Hewas right in predicting in the early years of the British Mandate, against Weizmann’ s soothing reassurances, that England would try to renege on its Balfour Declaration commitments to the Jewish people. He was right when he said that the Arab world would never accept a Jewish state in Palestine, which would have to be established by armed force. He was right that socialism, in the Jewish Yishuvin Palestine as elsewhere, was economically unworkable and would in the end curb Jewish energies and initiative. He was right that the Jews needed to be evacuated from Europe as quickly and massively as possible and that British immigration restrictions to Palestine, which the Zionist left had all but made a virtue of with its policy of “selective alijah,” would doom millions to a frightful fate. He was right that creating a Jewish majority in Palestine was a more crucial priority than creating any specific form of Jewish life there. And he was right — how appallingly right, from a Jewish perspective, he died scant months short of witnessing– when he declared in an early essay that despite all well-meaning talk about the brotherhood of man:
Only the fool relies on justice. Justice exists for those who have the fists and the determination to appropriate it for themselves. When I am reproached for preaching absolute self-reliance, distrust of others, and other things that irk the idealists, I want to answer: I plead guilty…These things alone enable one to survive the wolfishness of man.
Was there anything of equal importance that he was wrong about? Well, perhaps — although this remains all but impossible to judge– the Peel plan. This was a proposal, presented to the British government in 1937 by a royal commission appointed to investigate rising tensions in Palestine, that recommended partitioning the country into an Arab and a Jewish state (the latter composed of the Galilee and the coastal plain as far south as Jaffa), with Jerusalem and a corridor from it to the coast remaining under British control.
Weizmann and Ben-Gurion strongly supported the idea; they felt that such a state, though comprising less than 25 percent of western Palestine, might be expanded by force or demographic pressure in the future and that in the interim it would permit the building of sovereign institutions, including a Jewish army, and the absorption of large numbers of East European Jews. Jabotinsky was against it. And as his testimony to the Peel Commission shows, he took this stand not only because he thought the proposed state was far too small to absorb mass Jewish immigration but for two additional reasons that belie the Left’s stereotype of him.
The first of these was that he, the “fascist,” was adamantly opposed to the idea — one then being mooted in Mapai circles –of “exchanging” or “transferring” Arabs from the Jewish state’s territory in order to increase its Lebensraum. “Although I have been called an extremist, “he said to the commission, “I have never in my life dreamed of demanding of the Arab inhabitants of a Jewish state that they emigrate elsewhere.” Numerous reiterations of this position in his writings make it clear that he was telling the truth.
The second reason was that Jabotinsky, the “militarist,” did not believe in the power of Jewish arms to expand or even maintain such a state. An Arab attack, he thought, was sure to come, and strategically, the Jews crowded into the low-lying coastal plain would be unable to defend themselves against Arab artillery in the mountains, which would determine the outcome.
It is possible to speculate wistfully on the course Jewish history might have taken had the Peel plan been adopted in time for large numbers of Jews to flee Europe for the new state and swell the population and fighting capacity of the Yishuv. However, since the plan was never implemented, less because of the objections of the Revisionists than because of unanimous Arab opposition, Jabotinsky — assuming he was mistaken, as the 1948-1949 Arab-Israeli war suggests — cannot be fairly blamed for torpedoing it.
It may have been the one major occasion on which his usually great predictive powers failed him. And if they did, this was at least partly because, not having been in Palestine since 1930,he was out of touch with the growth that had taken place in the Yishuv’s fighting and self-governing capacities and identified more with the Jews of Europe than with those of Palestine, who stood to gain their independence.
In some respects, morally invidious though the comparison maybe, Jabotinsky’s position visavis Ben-Gurion was not unlike that of the Palestinian rejectionist leaders visavis Yasir Arafat in regard to the Oslo agreement. Just as the anti-Arafatists’ main constituencies lay not in Nablus or Ramallah but in the refugee camps of Beirut and Damascus, so Jabotinsky’s real power bases were more in Warsaw, Vilna, and Riga than in Tel Aviv and Haifa. In the 1933 elections for the World Zionist Congress, the last they took part in, the Revisionists won only 19 percent of the550,000 votes cast but roughly 40 percent in Poland; the Labor bloc, on the other hand, received 71 percent of the vote in Palestine but only 44 percent worldwide. And when the Revisionists, after seceding from the Congress in 1934, formed their own international a year later, 713,000 Jews, mostly from Eastern Europe, turned out to vote for it.
Emotionally, Jabotinsky never rejected the world of Eastern Europe. Perhaps because he did not grow up in a traditional Jewish home, but rather in a Russian-acculturated family in Odessa, he felt no psychological need to repudiate the shtetl or to think of Zionism as a revolutionary cure for the pathology of exile, the way socialists like Ben-Gurion and Katznelson did. Although he expected the Jewish masses to change Palestine, he did not particularly care whether Palestine changed the Jewish masses. This was why, apart from being a mesmerizing orator who spoke with total fluency in seven languages (Yiddish, Hebrew, Russian, German, French, English, and Italian), he appealed to these masses by giving them a sense of being understood and approved of.
He appeared on the scene as a Jewish activist at the time of the death of their adored Herzl, of whom — without the physical glamour — he reminded them. Like Herzl, he was a successful journalist and foreign correspondent (reporting from Italy for Russian papers) before becoming a Zionist leader, and he continued afterwards to be a belle-leftist who wrote decent novels and whose historical hero was Garibaldi. Like Herzl, he was a cosmopolitan, a lover of the theater and the arts, of intellectual conversation, care life, travel, and big cities. And like Herzl, he thought in grand terms and was a Moses figure to his admirers, a sophisticated and worldly Jew who had returned to his brethren to rescue them from penury and danger. He had fought in Palestine in World WarI at the head of the Jewish Legion, which he helped organize and lead, and he had the greatest respect for the courage and dedication of the country’s utopian pioneers, but he felt as uncomfortable with their proletarian pretensions as he did with their collectivist ideology. The sansculottist manners of kibbutzim and workers’ kitchens left him cold.
And while he had a devoted following in Palestine too, this existed largely among the urban petty bourgeoisie, and among the Sephardim, and the Orthodox, the same groups that later formed the bulk of the Irgun. Even before he turned against them politically in the mid 1920s, the halftime never felt that he was one of them. He was too formal, too European, too galut-like: the Palestinian sun had left no mark on his pale complexion. As seen through theeyes of Berl Katznelson on that late-summer London day that faded into night, he “seemed rootless and gave the feeling of an emigrant, of someone separated involuntarily from the land of Israel and the activity of creation going on there.”
But how involuntary was it? I must confess that after reading all 1,219 pages of Shmuel Katz’s meticulously researched, if somewhat adulatory, biography, this question remains a mystery to me. It never even seems to have been seriously asked.
The bare facts are clear enough. Jabotinsky first arrived in Palestine as a lieutenant in the Jewish Legion in 1918; saw action with his unit against the Turks in the Jordan Valley; was demobilized when, against his protests (he had hoped it would become a permanent Jewish military force), the Legion was disbanded after the war; organized Jewish defense forces in Jerusalem against the first anti-Zionist Arab riots in 1920 and was briefly jailed for his role by the British; was active on the World Zionist Executive as a close associate of Chaim Weizmann’s until 1923, when he resigned in protest against its insufficiently militant policies toward the Arabs and the British, who that year detached Transjordan from mandated Palestine; spent the rest of the 1920s mostly traveling and living in Europe, where he established the central offices of the Revisionist Party and founded its youth movement, Bertrand was on a speaking tour of South Africa in 1930 when he was informed by the British government that because of his subversive activities and statements, he would no longer be allowed to enter Palestine. He never set foot there again.
The odd thing is that he did not vigorously fight the ban. A skilled orchestrator of protests, Jabotinsky could be tireless in dashing off letters, circulating petitions, and organizing rallies against British White Papers and Zionist Congresses; yet on behalf of his right to return to Palestine there is no sign that he took any more than the most perfunctory steps. Was he — a man who made a principle of putting the cause above the individual and who, endowed with a great capacity to laugh at himself, was as amused as he was irritated by the attempts of some of his followers to turn him into a Mussolini- like duce — embarrassed to make a cause célèbre of his personal problem? Or was there some other reason for submitting to the fate imposed on him? It does not seem to have weighed on him heavily.
In any event, though reports from Palestine flowed to him constantly, and he sent constant directives back in return, Jabotinsky was indeed separated from the Jewish rebirth that he devoted his life to. Even the Irgun slipped away from his control and began, in the late 1930s, a policy of retaliatory attacks against civilian Arab targets that he was unhappy about but forced to swallow.While Hitler was casting his shadow over Europe, and Ben-Gurion and the Zionist left were building a socialist state-in-progress, and the Zionist right in Palestine remained weak and leaderless, Jabotinsky was shuttling by boat and train between London, Paris, Berlin, Warsaw, Bucharest, New York, and Cape town, trying to negotiate alliances with anti-Semitic Polish and Rumanian governments (which were as eager to ship Jews to Palestine as he was, and as helpless to persuade the British to accept them), and to arouse the Jews of the world to act. So convinced was he by now that salvation could only come from the Diaspora, so removed from Palestinian realities, that before his death — a fact unknown to me until I read Katz’s biography — he was seriously considering a plan to land East European Betarniks equipped with Polish rifles on the shores of Tel Aviv and have them march on Jerusalem. It tells us how desperate he had become.
His long absence from Palestine helps explain why in Israel, to this day, he is such a shadowy and misunderstood figure, one never adopted by the folklore of the country the way Ben-Gurion was. There is a street named after him in every middle-sized town and city; his portrait is on the 200 shekel bill; a framed photograph of his near sighted, bespectacled, slightly froggy face regularly appears at Likud conventions; but the political reality of him has never risen above caricature. To the right, he is the supreme apostle of an undivided land of Israel, the great hang-tough maximalist– his liberalism forgotten, his unflinching honesty unemulated, his breadth of intellect of no interest. To the left, he remains the nationalist demagogue, an admirer of authoritarian regimes (in fact he despised them) and an Arab-hater (he actually had great sympathy and understanding for the Arab position).
I would give a great deal to know how Jabotinsky would have reconciled his genuinely liberal beliefs with his genuine territorial maximalist under today’s circumstances. Would he have sacrifice done for the other, as both the left and the right have been urging Israelis to do for 30 years? And if so, which for which? The answer isn’t in his writings. It isn’t anywhere. The dead can speak to our times, but they cannot think about them. A pity, because nobody else would have thought about them as clearly.