Netanyahu on Jabotinsky

If anyone wants to understand the thinking behind Netanyahu and Israel at this crucial moment in time, I encourage you to read Netanyahu’s thoughts on Jabotinsky and Jews in the 1930’s. Specifically, Jabotinsky’s plan to evacuate the millions of Jews from Poland before they faced their extermination. The British government rejected Jabotinsky’s plan and in fear of being out of synch with the English, the diaspora Jewish community dismissed it.


Worse, a substantial segment of Jewish opinion assimilated this disparaging image of the Jew, and many Jews came to view themselves as others had come to view them. This took on a particularly pernicious twist in the modern era. As the doctrines of modern pacifism emerged, many Jews rushed to embrace them, pretending they could transform into a universal virtue what had always been a unique vulnerability of the Jews. That the Jews “would not” (could not) resort to arms, that they would not “demean” themselves by “stooping to violence,” was taken to be a clear sign of their moral superiority over other peoples who were not similarly constrained. Once leading segments of Jewish opinion in Europe had transformed Jewish weakness into a positive good, the Jewish people’s chances of escaping its fate reached a new low.


Of all Zionist leaders, Jabotinsky was virtually alone in seeing where all this was leading. Throughout the 1930s, he sounded the alarm of impending danger. In Warsaw in 1938, on the Jewish fast day of Tisha B’av (marking the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans), he said to Poland’s three million Jews, almost none of whom were to survive the war:


For three years I have been imploring you, Jews of Poland, the crown of world Jewry, appealing to you, warning you unceasingly that the catastrophe is nigh. My hair has turned white and I have grown old over these years, for my heart is bleeding that you, dear brothers and sisters, do not see the volcano which will soon begin to spew forth its fires of destruction. I see a horrible vision. Time is growing short for you to be spared. I know you cannot see it, for you are troubled and confused by everyday concerns… Listen to my words at this, the twelfth hour. For God’s sake: let everyone save himself, so long as there is time to do so, for time is running short.


Even a year before the outbreak of the war, few could see the catastrophe coming, and fewer still could share in Jabotinsky’s note of hope. For those who could see the danger clearly, the Jewish people was approaching the end.


For anyone with sober vision, it was suddenly and completely clear that Britain was prepared to betray the idea of the Jewish National Home. But incredibly, many Jews did not see this. They were frustrated by Britain’s policies, but after each rebuff they were mollified by the government’s public declarations of its friendliness and irrevocable commitment to the Jewish people. Having been stateless for so many centuries, the Jews now suffered from an acute political myopia and refused to recognize the true motives of British policies and the catastrophic consequences of failing to forcefully challenge them—much as Jews in Europe did not recognize where Nazism was leading a few years later.

The handful like Jabotinsky who did understand had to overcome the tendency of the majority not to want to understand, for this would necessarily involve a confrontation with Great Britain, then the preeminent world power. For the majority of Jews, schooled in centuries of submission to the powers that be, such a confrontation with Britain was unthinkable. As a result, the Jewish people remained largely docile during the period between the two world wars, as their patrimony and national rights were progressively whittled away and as millions of their fellow Jews were being imperiled.

— Benjamin Netanyahu talking about one of his greatest influences, Ze’ev Jabotinsky.

About the Author
Daniel lived in Israel where he pursued his graduate studies focussing on Israeli policy. Daniel is now back in his home country of Canada studying law. Come check me out at
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