Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Death of a Prophet
by Dr. Gerardo Stuczynski

Jabotinsky's astonishingly precise view of Israel.

On August 2, 1940, Zeev Jabotinsky died without having been able to see his dream come true. Sixty-nine years after his death, the almost mythical President Shimon Peres referred to this event in front of Jabotinsky's tomb on Mount Herzl.

Jabotinsky's clairvoyance was such that many people (myself included) consider him a real modern prophet "It is likely that great leaders are bound to make great mistakes," said the endless Shimon Peres, referring to the fact that Jabotinsky was wrong about the geographical boundaries that the future State of Israel would have.

Undoubtedly, Jabotinsky was wrong when he considered "both banks of the Jordan" as boundaries of the sovereign territory of Israel. But it was mischief on the part of the president, who plays down his socialist and distant youth, to highlight that aspect, since it is one of the very few concepts in which Jabotinsky did not predict the future with precision.

In everything else, Jabotinsky's clairvoyance was such that many people (myself included) consider him a real modern prophet. Although his person is surrounded by prejudices, these are not based on knowledge of Jabotinsky's political thought, but on the slogans used by his detractors.

He was always convinced that a Jewish State was a historical need that would come to pass. That is why, in 1931, he proposed that the 17th Zionist Congress define its objective as the establishment of a Jewish State on both banks of the Jordan River. But the delegates, who refused to do so, did not reject the idea because of a geographical discrepancy, but because of a conceptual difference. They hardly dared to talk shyly about a Jewish national home. Needless to say, Jabotinsky was right as regards the need of a Jewish State, while other Zionist leaders were satisfied with much less than that.

Jabotinsky understood that the Hebrew language was a central element in the construction of the nation. Many had advocated the use of other languages.

Jabotinky predicted the Shoah explicitly. He made a call to end the Diaspora before the Diaspora put an end to the Jews. He issued his messages in a tone of urgency not shared by the other Zionist leaders. After the Holocaust, it seems unnecessary to go more deeply into who was right.

When the First World War broke out, Jabotinksy proposed the creation of a Jewish legion to support the Allies in the liberation of Palestine from the hands of the Ottomans, so as to earn the right to demand the creation of an independent Jewish State. Contrary to this position, the official Zionist leadership supported neutrality. David Ben-Gurion himself opposed the creation of the Zion Mule Corps. However, with the Balfour Declaration, his position changed to the point of becoming himself a member of such a brigade.

Jabotinsky does not seem to have been wrong either when he demanded the Zionist authorities modify their moderate policies concerning the restrictions on Jewish immigration to Palestine (the White Book) under the British Mandate. His movement led some of the first attempts to rescue Jewish people secretly.

But beyond the historical events themselves, whoever goes now to modern Israel will see a country whose characteristics are those Jabotinsky foresaw, definitely different from those conceived of by his contemporary political rivals.

Most of the early Zionist leadership had a socialist collectivist conception, extremely Statist. Its objective was to represent the interests of the working class and its leaders disapproved of private property. However, Jabotinsky prioritised the individual. The role of the State was to serve the individual and not the other way around. In spite of the accusations of his opponents, he considered himself a bitter enemy of fascism.

The State should satisfy the basic needs of the individual, in Jabotisnky's view, regardless of whether he had a job or not. For the Jews, "not only he who works should eat, but any other who is around and is hungry." He considered democracy the best political system to express the will of the people and essential to respect minorities. For him, what was crucial in democracy was freedom.

He was against the Marxist concept of class struggle

Jabotinsky thought liberalism has its roots in human nature, as opposed to the socialist regime that contradicts it. Therefore, in his view, humanity was not moving towards socialism, as his opponents claimed, but in the opposite direction.

He was against the Marxist concept of class struggle and proposed national arbitration for the reconciliation of the different interests in society. He aspired to a parliamentary system of government and considered private initiative the determining factor in the formation of a society.

Jabotinsky thought racist prejudice was a pathology that could not be cured by means of the law, but by general compulsory education. All the inhabitants of Jabotinsky's future State should have the same rights, regardless of their race, beliefs or nationality. As far as the role of women was concerned, he claimed that there was no role or profession he would not trust a woman with.

Jabotinsky believed in the separation of State and religion, since the latter should be a private issue. On the other hand, the Jewish State should base itself on the Jewish tradition, in order to become an ideal State, and thus ensure its continuity and development.

Jabotinsky strongly believed that the quality of production did not depend on nature, but on man; that was why Switzerland produced quality chocolate without having cocoa. Who can deny such a claim today, in this technological era?

As far as war is concerned, Jabotinsky thought it was a disease from which humanity would be cured one day, but in the meantime it was necessary to have a powerful army with the capacity for action and deterrence. Peace negotiations with the Arabs would only be successful when they became fully convinced it would not be possible to get rid of the Jews by force of arms. Then, and only then, would extremist groups lose their influence.

Jabotinsky is not likely to have imagined that his name would be the most repeated street name in all the cities of Israel. But concerning the characteristics of the Jewish State, its features, political system, society, economy, language, army and existential problems, his predictions were astonishingly precise.

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