22 August '10
Vladimir (Ze’ev) Jabotinsky – the Jew from Odessa who became one of the towering figures in the history of Zionism — was commemorated on the 70th anniversary of his death in a lecture at Park East Synagogue on August 18 in New York, delivered by Douglas Feith (currently a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute).
It is a 4,000-word discussion of Jabotinsky’s character, accomplishments, and current relevance that is worth reading in its entirety, as perhaps this brief excerpt about Jabotinsky’s political and intellectual influence — then and now — will demonstrate:
Though Ben Gurion is admired by many Israelis, no political leaders in Israel anymore describe themselves as Ben Gurionites. None describe themselves as Weizmannites. But many proudly think of themselves as Jabotinskyites …
Jabotinsky understood that the physical vulnerability of a people or a nation has both physical and metaphysical effects. [...] This was a paramount theme of his life. In his early manhood, he organized a Jewish group to fight violent antisemites in his home city of Odessa. During World War I, he was the prime mover for the creation of a Jewish Legion in the British army that would help conquer Palestine. After that war, as the Arabs in the Jerusalem area prepared their first major anti-Jewish progrom, Jabotinsky put together a Jewish defense organization known as the Hagana, a forerunner of the underground militia of the same name. Jabotinsky created Betar, the Zionist youth organization that trained its members in military discipline and skills. Jabotinsky provided inspiration and leadership to the Irgun, one of the underground military organizations in Mandate Palestine. And when he died in New York seventy years ago, he was laboring to the point of exhaustion to create a Jewish army to fight Hitler.
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