Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Jabotinsky, a Life

Jabotinsky, a life, explores the life and work of Vladimir Jabotinsky (1880–1940).  All too often in  Zionist studies, Jabotinsky and the movement he created, Revisionist Zionism, is given short shrift in the official narrative of the creation of the State of Israel.  In fact many of his very early pronouncements on the struggle between Jews and Arabs in Palestine have proven to be prophetically true, and his political descendants have more or less ruled Israel since the late 1970s.

Hillel Harkin wants to set the record straight in this biography, showing that Jabotinsky was not quite the Jewish fascist which his opponents claimed.  Rather, he was a man of many dramatic and self-contradictory impulses.  An ardent Zionist nationalist, he lived in Palestine on and off, but appeared to prefer the cosmopolitan life of Paris to the rustic Holy Land.  He fought hard for a robust, military Zionism, one expressed in the armed wing of his movement, the Irgun, but he was against tit-for-tat revenge attaches by Jews upon Arabs and urged restraint.  He was not nearly as radical as the organization he helped found.

This is an excellent book to read it you want to get at the bedrock foundation of right wing Israel politics. Jabotinsky is the political father of Bibi Netanyahu, yet, as Harkin points out, it is difficult to say if Jabotinsky, if he was alive today, would have agreed with all the policies and opinions of those on the Israel right.  He was far too independent minded and worldly to take narrow or parochial views on most geopolitical. He could embrace the little picture while keeping an eye on the wider field of events. His successors appear to lack this vital trait, to their detriment.

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