Ze'ev Jabotinski and 'The iron wall'

New Insights in Zionism - Six thinkers who shaped Israel

Gepubliceerd op: 21 oktober 2021

In the series of lectures New Insights in Zionism, we will examine the responses of Jewish thought to the challenges of the modern world. The encounter with profound change in social and political conditions provoked a reexamination of old paradigms which where the foundations of Judaism for centuries.
The thinkers and writers whose works we will read have committed themselves to find new ways of giving meaning and direction to modern Jewish life thus approaching the past from the perspective of the present.
Their achievements, dialogue and disagreements are very stimulating efforts to address issues with which the Jewish people still struggles.

On Wednesday, December 22nd, we will focus on Ze'ev Jabotinski and his article: The Iron Wall.
Ze’ev (Vladimir) Jabotinsky (1880-1940) was an extremely influencial Zionist leader – the founder of the Revisionist Movement and the youth movement Betar. A writer, poet, publicist and translator.
Following the Kishinev Pogroms in 1903, Jabotinsky devoted himself to Zionist activity. He struggled for minority rights in Russia and was elected soon thereafter as a delegate to the Sixth Zionist Congress, the last one attended by Theodore Herzl, who made an enormous impression on Jabotinski: "Herzl made a huge impression on me - the word is not an exaggeration, there is no other description that would fit: huge;[…] Only here I felt that I stand before the choice of fate, a prophet and a leader in supreme grace, worth following.
And to this day it seems to me that his voice still rings in my ears as he vowed before us all: "If I forget you, O Jerusalem …". I believed in his oath […] and sill, I voted against him […]"

The Zionist aspiration to establish a state in Eretz Yisrael of Jewish majority and sovereignty was publicly and sincerely promoted by Jabotinsky. In his article "On the Iron Wall" (1932), Jabotinsky established that the Arabs of Eretz Yisrael are a living nation, and that there are very few chances of them acknowledging the implementation of a Zionist entity in Eretz Yisrael. For this reason, he said, there is a need to establish a methaphorical iron wall – a fortified military front – and to stubbornly defend the Zionist position, also by military means.

In this lecture we will study the ideas of Jabotinski and the difficulties he tried to tackle in this article, which seem at times still as actual and relevant today as 90 years ago.

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