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Vladimir (Ze'ev) Jabotinsky

But the events of 1917 and its aftermath bring us to the year of the Balfour Declaration and its aftermath when the British army seized control of Palestine. When this opened the door to large scale Jewish emigration to Palestine there was already a very small but ideologically highly motivated group of emigrés from the Pale of Settlement ready to assume political leadership. According to the account by Joseph Frankel (Prophecy and Politics, p.367), referring to the 'Second Aliyeh' ('ascent') to Palestine which occurred in the wake of the 1905 revolution and the violence that followed:

'The hard core within the immigrant youth, perhaps no more than two or three hundred, were charged to an exceptional degree with political energy - an energy drawing its force from the Russian revolutionary experience, on the one hand, and from Jewish messianism, on the other. The revolution had provided them, first, with a heightened belief in themselves, the youth, as the natural source of political leadership. Increasingly, in the period between the Kishinev pogrom and the assembly of the First Duma [April 1903-March 1906 - PB], the very young had come to dominate Jewish politics in the Pale of Settlement. Those who had grown up in those tumultuous times took for granted that not only their future but also the present belonged to the youth. Second, they brought with them from this contact with the revolution and with radical thought in Russia generally a sharp cutting critical spirit, a profound urge to negate the existent, to damn every compromise or hypocrisy, every tradition as an obstacle to freedom and every sign of comfort as bourgeois.'

and according to Yakov Rabkin ('What is Modern Israel?'):

'The Russian dimension of Zionism cannot be overestimated. One telling indicator is the composition of the Knesset 12 years after the founding of the state. Despite the almost total prohibition of emigration from the Soviet Union for more than four decades, over 70 percent of the members of this political elite were Russian-born, while 13 percent were born in Palestine/Israel of Russian parents. The American Zionist elites, whose support was crucial for Zionism’s success, were also composed primarily of Jews of Russian origin. The replacement of the Jewish elites of German origin with those originating in Russia also contributed to the shift, between the two world wars, of Jewish public opinion in the United States in favour of Zionism. The essentially Russian character of Zionism stands revealed in its concepts, its methods, and in the support it received from American Jews.' (13)

(13)  Yakov M. Rabkin: What is modern Israel?, English translation from the French by Fred A. Reed, London, Pluto Press, 2014, p.87 in the Kindle version.

But I want to say a word about Jabotinsky, the most 'extreme' of the Zionists.

Jabotinsky came from a quite comfortable bourgeois family in cosmopolitan Odessa - his father was a grain merchant. His novel The Five is a wonderful and affectionate evocation of the Odessa of his youth prior to 1905. He himself had (to the surprise of his readers who knew him as an entertaining travel writer) been converted to Zionism through the events surrounding the Kishinev pogrom. During the war he had formed a 'Jewish Legion' which marched into Palestine together with the British army. In 1920 in the context of anti-immigrant riots that had broken out in Jerusalem, he led a Jewish self defence and was sentenced by the British military administration to fifteen years imprisonment. He was released after three months when the military administration was replaced by the civil administration of Sir Herbert Samuel. While in prison he spent his time translating Dante's Inferno into Hebrew (he had earlier translated Edgar Allen Poe's The Raven into Hebrew). He formed a youth organisation - Betar, active throughout Eastern Europe as well as Palestine. Quoting from Hillel Halkin's biography of Zabotinsky (p.145):

'Its members practised martial exercises, were taught callisthenics and techniques of self-defence, drilled at marching and parading, wore military-style uniforms on formal occasions, were organised by rank, company and battalion, had their own special salute, and were expected to carry out the orders of their "commanders"' (14)

(14)  Hillel Halkin: Jabotinsky - a life, Yale University Press, 2014, p.145.

In 1923 Jabotinsky published his highly influential essay The Iron Wall, arguing that no attempt at agreements with the Arab population should be made. But his argument isn't based on contempt for the Arab population, of the type shown by the people who claim to be his successors. On the contrary, it was based on respect:

'Every native population, civilised or not, regards its lands as its national home, of which it is the sole master, and it wants to retain that mastery always; it will refuse to admit not only new masters but, even new partners or collaborators.

'This is equally true of the Arabs. Our Peace-mongers are trying to persuade us that the Arabs are either fools, whom we can deceive by masking our real aims, or that they are corrupt and can be bribed to abandon to us their claim to priority in Palestine, in return for cultural and economic advantages. I repudiate this conception of the Palestinian Arabs. Culturally they are five hundred years behind us, they have neither our endurance nor our determination; but they are just as good psychologists as we are, and their minds have been sharpened like ours by centuries of fine-spun logomachy. We may tell them whatever we like about the innocence of our aims, watering them down and sweetening them with honeyed words to make them palatable, but they know what we want, as well as we know what they do not want.

'They feel at least the same instinctive jealous love of Palestine, as the old Aztecs felt for ancient Mexico , and the Sioux for their rolling Prairies.

'To imagine, as our Arabophiles do, that they will voluntarily consent to the realisation of Zionism in return for the moral and material conveniences which the Jewish colonist brings with him, is a childish notion, which has at bottom a kind of contempt for the Arab people; it means that they despise the Arab race, which they regard as a corrupt mob that can be bought and sold, and are willing to give up their fatherland for a good railway system.' (15)

(15)  Obtained off the internet at

Since this meant that the Arabs would oppose Jewish colonisation with all the means at their disposal, Zionist colonisation 'can proceed and develop only under the protection of a power that is independent of the native population - behind an iron wall which the native population cannot breach.' The difference between the supposedly moderate Zionists (represented by, for example, Chaim Weizmann) and his own 'extremist' tendency was that the moderates wanted the iron wall to be provided by the British while he insisted that it was to be provided by the Jews themselves. 

That, laid out bluntly in the early stages of the Jewish colonisation of Palestine, is the logic of the establishment of the Jewish state, the logic which everyone who accepts the legitimacy of the Jewish state has to accept. It could be laid down as an iron law of politics that a colony cannot become a nation state without reducing the indigenous population to a state of powerlessness. That is what happened - on a much grander scale than in Israel - in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States. It's what the Spanish and Portuguese did in South America where the indigenous population is only now beginning in very limited circumstances to approach the levers of power. It took well over a century before what was still the majority population in Ireland were able to assert themselves politically.