Be inspired by Ze’ev Jabotinsky, a fighter, thinker, writer and dedicated Zionist who helped shape modern Israel.
In this video, Professor Moshe Arens, a three-time Minister of Defense of Israel and former Minister of Foreign Affairs, gives a quick rundown of the life and achievements of the founder of the Revisionist Movement and the Betar youth movement. And he should know. As a teenager, Arens was one of the last people to see Jabotinsky alive before his sudden death from heart failure in the United States.
ZE’EV JABOTINSKY, THE BASIS OF THE BETARIAN VIEWPOINT CONSISTS OF ONE IDEA: THE JEWISH STATE: THE IDEOLOGY OF BETAR [The aim was] very simple though difficult: to create that type of Jew which the nation needs in order to better and quicker build a Jewish state…The greatest difficulty is encountered because, as a nation, the Jews today are neither “normal” nor “healthy” and life in diaspora affects the intelligent upbringing of normal and healthy citizens.
DANIEL GORDIS, ISRAEL: A CONCISE HISTORY OF A NATION REBORN In theory, Revisionist and mainstream Zionism were not all that different. Both believed in the “establishment of Jewish settlements in Palestine, the right to a Jewish armed force, and free Jewish immigration to Palestine, all accomplished through diplomacy with the British.” Both of them also endorsed Jewish settlement of the entire Land of Israel as outlined in the Bible, including both sides of the Jordan river. Where they differed was in the degree to which they might be willing to use force–if needed–to achieve their goals.
ZE’EV JABOTINSKY, “THE IRON WALL,” QUOTED IN GIL TROY’S THE ZIONIST IDEAS Individual Arabs may perhaps be bought off, but this hardly means that all the Arabs in Eretz Yisrael are willing to sell a patriotism that not even Papuans will trade. Every indigenous people will resist alien settlers as long as they see any hope of ridding themselves of the danger of foreign settlement. This is what the Arabs in Palestine are doing, and what they will persist in doing as long as there remains a solitary spark of hope that they will be able to prevent the transformation of “Palestine” into the “Land of Israel”…The colonization can, therefore, continue and develop only under the protection of a force independent of the local population–an iron wall which the native population cannot break through.
MICAH GOODMAN, CATCH 67 Jabotinsky foresaw the coming treachery of the British, the impending destruction of the Germans, and the inevitable clash with the Arabs. He was a suspicious man and a pessimist, and tragically, he was almost always right… People, he believed, harbor violent impulse that cannot be eliminated by mere social arrangements. Because of this, they need to preserve the option of war even in times of peace. This is classical right-wing thought: suspicion of human nature generates suspicion in politics, which in turn encourages hyper-defensiveness, self-segregation, and militarism–all of which can be found in Jabotinsky’s agenda.
ZE’EV JABOTINSKY, “ISRAEL’S LAND,” GUIDING PRINCIPLES FOR THE PROBLEMS OF THE DAY If we have a Jewish majority in this land, we will first and foremost establish a regime of complete, total, and perfect equality of rights, without a single exception. Whether one is a Jew, an Arab, an Armenian, or a German matters not at all to the law–every path must be open to every citizen.
ZE’EV JABOTINSKY, “STORY OF MY LIFE,” COLLECTED WORKS In the beginning, God created the individual. Each individual is a king unto himself, with equal value to his neighbor–even the wicked are kings in their own right. Better the individual sin against society than that society sin against the individual. Society was created for the sake of the individual.
MICAH GOODMAN, CATCH 67 Begin inherited Jabotinsky’s liberalism: it was Begin who demanded that the Mapai (Workers Party) government lift the martial law imposed on the Israeli Arabs during the 1950s and 1960s following the War of Independence. It was Begin who insisted that the Knesset ratify a constitution in order to limit the government and protect individual rights.
In the early 20th century, there were many approaches to Zionism. Max Nordau focused on a new muscularity, and Ze’ev Jabotinsky felt that physical power and an “iron wall” were keys to Zionist expression. Others like Brit Shalom echoed the earlier ideas of Ahad Ha’am and wanted Israel to become a cultural center of world Jewry. Still others, like A.D. Gordon, also a disciple of Ha’am’s worldview, agreed it was time for a “new Jew,” which would emerge from building, working and cultivating the land. Of these three approaches to Zionism, which one do you identify with the most?
First, compare and contrast the anthem from mainstream Zionism, Hatikvah, and the anthem of Betar, which followed Jabotinsky’s philosophy. Second, why do you think Hatikvah was chosen as the national anthem of the new state of Israel and not Betar’s anthem? HATIKVAH ANTHEM: As long as within our hearts The Jewish soul sings, As long as forward to the East To Zion, looks the eye – Our hope is not yet lost, It is two thousand years old, To be a free people in our land The land of Zion and JerusalemBETAR’S ANTHEM: In the face of every obstacle In times of ascent, and of setbacks A fire may still be lit With the flame of revolt For silence is dirt Sacrifice blood and spirit For the hidden glory To die or to conquer the mountain Yodfat, Masada, Betar
Jabotinsky established the philosophy that one can be suspicious of rivals and enemies, but to also show empathy and sensitivity to the minorities living together with them. Why do you think this quality is so rare in the current political climate of the 21st century?
When the controversial nation-state law passed, Menachem Begin’s son, Benny, disapproved and said, “There cannot be any conflict between nation-state, nationalism and equal rights.” Does Begin’s son’s disapproval of the nation-state law surprise you? Based on the above quotes from Jabotinsky, why do you think Benny Begin disliked the language of the law?
John Dewey once said, “Conflict is the gadfly of thought. It stirs us to observation and memory. It instigates to invention.” Much of Jabotinsky’s ideas can lead to internal conflict. In what ways can this internal conflict be healthy and critical for your imagination and perspective-taking?