Was Jabo Liberal? New Works on Jabotinsky & Begin
Our board’s resident expert on Zionist history, Jerome Chanes, has just had these two articles published in The Jewish Daily Forward:
- Cliffs’ Notes on Jabotinsky: “Vladimir [Ze’ev] Jabotinsky was an essayist, a leader, a writer, a Zionist. Above all, he was a polymath. Jerome Chanes tries to simplify his complicated career…”
- Searching For the Soul of Menachem Begin, a review of Menachem Begin: The Battle for Israel’s Soul by Daniel Gordis (Schocken, 320 pages, $27.95).
The first article may be read in tandem with “How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love Vladimir Jabotinsky
,” Adam Rovner’s review (also in The Forward) of Hillel Halkin’s new biography, Jabotinsky: A Life
. Among the fascinating facts about this iconic founder of Revisionism (right-wing Zionism) — who died of a heart attack at the age of 59 in Upstate New York in 1940 — is that he wrote two published novels, one of which, “Samson the Nazarite,” became the basis for a Hollywood movie (“Samson and Delilah,” starring Heddy Lamarr and Victor Mature). At his book launch at YIVO’s New York center the other week, Halkin indicated that Jabotinsky might well have chosen writing fiction over politics, claiming to have the plots of eleven unpublished novels in his head.
Although Halkin doesn’t fully endorse the following view, he also was probably more of a classical liberal (anti-socialist but pro-civil rights) than his left-wing Zionist foes, in the heat of political combat, often characterized him as being. Both his son Eri and Hillel Kook (better known as Peter Bergson, leader of the Bergson group that energetically pressed the U.S. to rescue Jews during the Holocaust) left Menachem Begin’s Herut party caucus in the Knesset in the early 1950s, to protest Begin’s alleged betrayal of Jabotinsky’s vision of equal rights for Israel’s Arab citizens. It’s tempting to speculate on Jabotinky’s impact if he had lived and went on to lead his movement in the State of Israel’s early years.
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