February 19, 2006

A Biased View of Jabotinsky

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:47 pm by yisraelmedad

A letter I ghost wrote:

Sir, – Colin Shindler made three assertions in his article summarizing his new book The Triumph of Military Zionism: Nationalism and the Origins of the Israeli Right (“Jabotinsky vs Begin,” February 5). All three are dubious and untenable. First, the vision of Jabotinsky is unauthentic in that it “was constructed by both David Ben-Gurion and Menachem Begin” and, moreover, was “the product of Begin’s determined attempt” to claim the leadership of the national camp in the state of Israel. Second, this vision is based on “a selective reading of Jabotinsky’s canon of writings.” Third, it is doubtful that Jabotinsky would “have embraced military Zionism” had he lived.Shindler goes over ground well-trod over the past two decades by partisan Israeli writers such as Yigal Eilam, Yaakov Shavit and Yochanan Shapiro. However, Jabotinsky’s writings, including an 18-volume edition and, more recently, eight volumes of his letters, have been available for study for 40 years and more. Any unfaithful “construction” that any non-objective researcher such as Shindler proffers has already been debated and found wanting.

First, the vision of Jabotinsky is unauthentic in that it “was constructed by both David Ben-Gurion and Menachem Begin” and, moreover, was “the product of Begin’s determined attempt” to claim the leadership of the national camp in the state of Israel. Second, this vision is based on “a selective reading of Jabotinsky’s canon of writings.” Third, it is doubtful that Jabotinsky would “have embraced military Zionism” had he lived.Shindler goes over ground well-trod over the past two decades by partisan Israeli writers such as Yigal Eilam, Yaakov Shavit and Yochanan Shapiro. However, Jabotinsky’s writings, including an 18-volume edition and, more recently, eight volumes of his letters, have been available for study for 40 years and more. Any unfaithful “construction” that any non-objective researcher such as Shindler proffers has already been debated and found wanting.Jabotinsky fully embraced the military phase of Zionism and actually had done so in 1915 when he initiated the establishment of the Jewish Legion. In 1938, he praised the Irgun, writing: “Happy am I that I have merited such pupils as these.” In 1939 he advanced the planning of an invasion of then Palestine and an Easter Uprising-like takeover of government offices. He further praised the actions of the nascent Irgun against Arab terror in June 1939 when he wrote: “My children ‘write’ better and more clearly than I” while seeking that the organization keep to an ethical code of armed struggle.

Jabotinsky, who attended Begin’s wedding in Drohobych in May 1939 and had appointed him to the top leadership positions of Betar in prewar Europe while disagreeing with him at the 1938 World Conference of Betar, had already selected him as his main ideological heir. Begin’s leadership of the Revisionist Movement (he preferred to use the term “Jabotinsky Movement” to include not only the political branch but the youth movement Betar, the Irgun and elements of Lehi, the National Workers’ Federation, National Sick Fund and additional institutions) before and after 1948 was recognized and accepted by the vast majority of Betar, Revisionist and Irgun veterans.

Although, to be fair, we need to read Shindler’s entire book, this excerpt already illustrates his own selective interpretation and biased construction.

HARRY (TZVI) HURWITZ
Menachem Begin
Heritage Center

Jerusalem

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