This essay is brilliantly timed so as to be read as “UN Secretary-General calls, “With Gaza on knife’s edge, for restraint, urges parties to avert ‘full-blown war.’ ” (www.un.org/News, July, 13, 2014) – which, being translated, means that the world is again demanding that Israel surrender its right of self-defense against its terrorist neighbours. Dr. Crouse has put his finger on the reason why Israel always wins its wars, at enormous cost, and invariably loses the peace that follows these wars. He proposes that this cycle can be broken, but only if Israelis finally take to heart the central message of the life and work of Vladimir Ze’ev Jabotinsky (1880-1940.)
As the history of Zionism has always been of great interest to me, I offer here two-cents-worth of additional story-line to Eric’s impeccable argument. Jabotinsky was raised in a secular, middle-class Russian home – one that had put away its religious and Jewish heritage. He was radicalized by the series of pogroms that began in Kishinev in 1903 and that were ultimately inspired by the profound anti-Semitism of Russia’s proudly-Christian Romanov dynasty. He joined the Jewish Self-Defense Organization and was elected as a Russian delegate to the Sixth Zionist Congress in 1903 in Basle. After Herzl’s death in 1904, the WZO was repeatedly torn apart by personality contests fueled by what today look like arcane theoretical obsessions. The wing led by Jabotinsky, called Revisionism, essentially maintained that only by asserting the maximum Zionist demands about borders for the future Jewish could the Jews achieve unity among themselves and wear down the British.
Jabotinsky’s version of Zionism was always the most muscular of them all. During the First World War, Jabotinsky built up credit with the British (or so he thought) recruiting the Jews of Palestine as well as many from the western world to serve at the most dangerous fronts of World War I: there was the Zion Mule Corps serving at Gallipoli and the Jewish Legion serving at several locations in Europe. After discharge from the British Army, Jabotinsky formed civilian militia units throughout Palestine to defend the Jewish towns and villages from Arab terrorism; these eventually morphed into guerrilla units intended to make Britain pay a high price for continued delay of implementing the 1917 Balfour pledge about creation of a Jewish State. In 1930, while Jabotinsky was out of Palestine, the British announced that he would never be permitted to return. And he never did return – dying in 1940 in New York State while preparing fighting units for further harassment of the British in Palestine.
The mainstream Zionist view today is that many opportunities for diplomacy both with the British and with the Arabs were lost by Jabotinsky’s maximalist demands. This is at best debatable, and most likely just plain wrong. In any case, the enduring legacy of Jabotinsky attaches to his realistic expectation, informed by his experiences as a boy in Russia, that the Jewish State cannot survive if the Jews keep on dealing away their right to self-defense in the futile quest for the approbation of mankind. This is because Anti-Semitism is still deeply imbedded in European culture at the same time as Muslims everywhere are enslaved to the anti-Jewish teachings of their Prophet that the world will never accept conditions which allow Jews to live at peace in their own national home.
This proposition is at least as true today as it was in 1939 when the Chamberlin government announced its abandonment of the Balfour pledge to the Jews, believing that in doing so it would win the gratitude of the Arab and Muslim masses. Instead it emboldened the Arabs to follow the example of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, who went to Berlin and got in line behind Hitler’s very practical programme for ridding the entire world of Jews.
The story of Husseini’s campaign to rid the world of Jews can be quickly updated if we substitute for the name of Husseini the Mufti of Jerusalem the name of Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas or Hassan Nasrallah of Hezbollah or Ali Khamenei, Supreme Leader of Iran or Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Leader of ISIS and recently-declared Caliph of the Islamic World – all names from this week’s newspapers.
There are many anomalies in Jabotinsky’s career. Like all fanatical idealists, he could be swept from his moral bearings by sudden discovery of an opportunity for an irresistible bargain with the Devil. In 1936, for instance, foreseeing something like the Final Solution being prepared by Hitler, he undertook personal diplomacy with the leaders of the governments of Poland, Hungary and Rumania towards a Plan for Evacuation, under which over ten years the entire Jewish population of these countries would be transferred to Palestine. Controversy arising from news of this plan greatly demoralized the Jewish communities of Europe and Palestine before the Plan was rejected by both the British government and the World Zionist Organization’s Chairman, Chaim Weizmann.
Under pressure of circumstance, Israelis have become more attuned with each passing decade to the thinking of Jabotinsky, while leaders in our part of the world are still in the grip of the pseudo-pacifist mindset that handed to Hitler his initial diplomatic victories. Hamas is determined to provoke Israel into another war which will provide Hamas with opportunities to offer up its civilian population for martyrdom and attendant opportunities for the BBC to turn world opinion against Israel and for the UN to pass Resolutions demanding that Israel cease fire against Gaza leaving her mission unfinished again — as has happened several times following previous Israeli campaigns of pre-emptive self-defense taken in Lebanon and in Gaza.
Whatever supplies of rockets remain to Gaza, they are limited and not being replenished—certainly not by Egypt anymore. We can assume that Iran has lost interest in maintaining the bankrupt Hamas, which (when we last looked) had taken the side of Hezbollah against Iran’s ally, the dictator Assad. And so time is on the side of Israel.
Jabotinsky has been gaining credibility in Israel over the past few decades, as the full effects of Arab refusal to live with Jews anywhere in the Middle East have become clearer. If the full Jabotinsky argument had been applied in the first place, we would never have come this moment, when the world is treating the Hamas gangsters as though they were a sovereign government, deserving parity of respect with Israel. But having come to this point, it is surely time for Israel to rally at last around the core of Jabotinsky’s argument and give up on the expectation that world opinion will ever find virtue in her self-defensive actions, and just do what needs doing.