Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The official Zionist story versus Jabotinsky

posted by R. Congress

An essential part of the Zionist narrative is that the establishment of the State of Israel is a coming home after centuries of exile. The expelled Jews were just trying to survive and maintain their identity as a people in a hostile Europe until they could finally return home and re-establish their original nation in the Middle East.

Of course the Zionists never take up the issue of whether there ever was any forced exile of Jews when the Roman Emperor Hadrian abolished the Provincia Judea in 132 AD and renamed it Syria Palestina (all the verifiable historical records go against any such single mass expulsion story). Nevertheless, The return home of the wandering people is a lynch pin of Zionist mythology.

Any attempts to do actual objective research on this topic is spurned by official Israeli academia. Those who raise this issue not surprisingly risk being called anti-semitic, politically motivated enemies and so on. The official Biblical/National narrative must not be challenged. (Israeli scholar Shlomo Sand's book “The Invention of the Jewish People” goes into this in detail. A book well worth reading.)

Here's a question then. What would they say when one of their founding icons, Ze'ev Jabotinsky, rejects this thesis and declares the Jews to be first and foremost Europeans? Jabotinsky was an active Zionist in British Mandate Palestine and Europe who died in 1940.

He was an arch-rival to David Ben Gurion for leadership of the movement. Rejecting the social-democratic rhetoric of Ben Gurion's Labor Party, he led the militant Revisionist movement and, influenced by the theorists of Italian Fascism, envisioned the Jewish nation as a forceful, unitary organization that submerged class divisions into a corporate state.

Among his young followers during that time were future Likud party Prime Ministers Itzak Shamir and Menechem Begin. The Likud party has its roots in the Revisionist movement and Jabotinsky can be said to have, in the long run, triumphed over Ben Gurion.

In Shlomo Avinieri's book, The Making of Modern Zionism, The Intellectual Origins of the Jewish State (Basic Books, New York, 1981) he writes of Jabotinsky:

“ ...There is no appreciation of the force, authenticity, let alone legitimacy of Arab nationalism in Jabotinsky's writings. It is true that the confrontation with Arab nationalism has always been a contentious point with many Zionist thinkers, but to a person who viewed nationalism in general as such a central force in world history as did Jabotinsky, this omission is even more surprising. Moreover, in what Jabotinsky wrote and said about the Arabs generally there is a certain tone of condescension, if not outright contempt.

It is true that Jabotinsky maintains, with all his pathos, that the Arabs living in the future Jewish state would enjoy equal civil rights as individuals. But when it comes to Jabotinsky's general attitude to the Arabs as a cultural and political force, he is far less generous.

The reason for this is found in Jabotinsky's basic view about the superiority of European versus non-European culture, and this superiority is evinced in his view of the relative merits of Zionism versus the Arab world. His writings consequently abound with instances in which he insists—counter to the nuances of Zionism-- that in returning to its ancestral land in Palestine, the Jewish people is not returning to the fold of the Orient: on the contrary to Jabotinsky the Jews are, and should always remain, an Occidental, European nation, and he condemns and sort of idealization of the Orient, which sometimes becomes very popular in Zionism and modern Hebrew literature.

In 1927 Jabotinsky argues this point very strongly in an article called “The Arabesque Fashion,” in which he reiterates his views that the Jews are a European people, deeply embedded in European culture, and that in the Occident, and not in the Levantine Orient, lies the cultural fate of of the Jews. He even goes so far as to maintain that the Sephardim possess a European, and not a Middle Eastern culture:

'We, the Jews...have no connection with that “Orient,” perhaps even less that other European people.

'It cannot be argued that we belong to the Orient because we came originally from Asia. All Central Europe is full of races who also came from Asia—and at a much later period than we. All the Ashkenazi Jews, and certain half the Sephardi ones, have been resident in Europe for two thousand years. This is sufficient time for spiritual integration.

'Moreover, not only have we been residents in Europe for many generations, not only have we learnt a lot from Europe, we are also one of the peoples who have created European culture—and we are one of the most important people of that culture.

'The spiritual atmosphere of Europe is ours, and we have the same rights in it just like the Germans and the English and the Italians and the French.

'...And in Palestine this creativity will continue. As Nordau has put it so well, we come to the Land of Israel in order to push the moral frontiers of Europe up to the Euphrates...'”

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