By Ted Belman
I just finished the first volume of The Lone Wolf, Shmuel Katz’s biography of Jabotinsky, which ends with Jabotinsky resigning from the Zionist Organization just after the ratification of the Palestine Mandate. I wanted to share with you some remarks that apply today as much as they did then.
Katz writes with respect to the signing of the Mandate, “the enemies of Zionism were in full cry against it” In support, he quotes Weizmann,
“All the shady characters of the world are at work against us. Rich,
servile Jews, dark, fanatic Jewish obscurantists, in combination with
the Vatican, with Arab assassins, English imperialist antisemitic
reactionaries – in short, all the dogs are howling”.
The same characters are still around and causing the same trouble.
The removal of Palestine east of the Jordan from the Mandate prior to its ratification in Sept 1922 was a huge loss for the Zionists, not only because they lost 78% of the lands promised to them in the Balfour Declaration and confirmed in law in the San Remo Resolution but because, as Weizmann wrote,
“The climate of Trans-Jordan is invigorating; the soil is rich;
irrigation would be easy and the hills are covered with forests. The
Jewish settlement could proceed on a large scale without friction with
the local population. The economic progress of Cis-Jordania itself is
dependent upon the development of these Trans-Jordanian plains, for they
form the natural granary of all Palestine, and without them Palestine
could never become a self -sustaining economic unit and a real National
Weizmann and Jabotinsky constantly differed on how to handle the British policies which derogated from the promise and violated the legal rights obtained at San Remo.
Of this difference Jabotinsky wrote,
“We have to start all over from the beginning. In place of the true
Zionism we are being offered a poor substitute. Weizmann wants to follow
his system, without a struggle, in an atmosphere of beautiful words and
an expressions of love. This means to concede, to give in, to retreat.
He would like the English to regard him always with “quiet
satisfaction.” But we shall achieve this only if we show firmness in our
views, if we don’t stop pressing, if they have to regard us sometimes
with “anxious disatisfaction.” [..]
“He thinks that his is the way of the flexible architect of compromise
who takes the realities into account while mine is the method of a
stubborn utopian. But I feel that his is the road to disavowal, to
unwitting apostasy. I admit my ways are difficult and stormy, but they
will bring us more speedily to the Jewish State. Of course Weizmann will
be successful with solid “respectable” people but, after all, you and I
never believed that the Jewish State would be built by solid sedate
“Theirs is a hard and unpleasant task; they can only carry it out with
the full weight of their enthusiasm if they know that the ultimate aim
is still the same old Zionism – the creation of a Jewish Commonwealth in
Palestine. When they see this ultimate aim officially clouded by such
statements as Samuel’s speech of June 3, 1921, or the White Paper of
1922, when they read and hear of the anti-Zionist activities of the
Palestine Administration, and when they hear no word of manly protests
against all this on the part of the Zionist Executive, but on the
contrary see that the executive keeps smiling and bowing as though
everything in the government’s behaviour were quite satisfactory; – then
the confidence and the energy of the Zionist worker inevitably weakens.“The most perfect organization of voluntary workers is of no avail
where its very basis – the voluntary workers themselves, – have lost
faith and see no meaning in their work.”
Jabotinsky believed that by not insisting on our rights, we would lose them. The British Government had a conscious aim, he concluded, “of bringing to naught all the pledges and declarations given to the Jewish people, of abolishing de facto our recognized rights and of destroying the very ground under our feet in our country”.
He proposed to the Actions Committee of the Zionist Organization, a resolution which made three demands
1) To inform Britain that their present policies threatens “to ruin
the Zionist movement and bring our enterprise in Palestine to
bankruptcy”,2) “To declare that the presence of anti-Zionists and
anti-semites in the British personnel of the Palestine Administration”
is contrary to the Mandate and to instruct the executive to insist on
their withdrawal” and
3) “To proclaim that “the [Zionist] movement stands on the basis of its historic aim and that our obligations to the Mandatory Power admit of no other interpretation.”
Jabotinsky’s views were so dramatically different from those of the executive, he decided to resign; a decision, not unwelcomed by many.
In his resignation letter, he charged that the executive’s policy “is mainly characterized by the underlying assumption that a party which has no coercive force at its disposal will therefore prove incapable to defend before the British government its constitutional rights.” He utterly rejected this policy and wrote;
“in the heart of the English people and government, he who stubbornly
and systematically fights for a complete fulfillment of his rights will
only meet with approval and respect and – even though it be only after a
long struggle – justice and satisfaction”.
”There is no reason to depict a civilized government as though it were
some highwayman with whom you cannot sit down to table unless you come
with a gun”.
“But for this we need a vigorous and determined campaign, without any
wobbling. When you are fighting for your rights – even when faced by a
stronger side – you are sometimes forced to make demands which are not
convenient and are not pleasant for the other side. Nevertheless they
must be presented and sustained however unpleasant they are to the other
side; and if they flow from an undoubted right, then in the long run,
the British will recognize it.”
Furthermore Jabotinsky had confidence in the English people and their government. Similarly today, Yoram Ettinger argues that we should have confidence in the American people and their government. The justice of our cause will win in the end. Right makes might.
When will our leaders learn.