By Ted Belman
I was once complaining to a leftist that the left are unscrupulous in their efforts to win. She said in return that the right is too. She went on to identify how the right uses civil disobedience and other techniques to thwart the government and asked how is that any different than the tactics of the left. In my gut I knew that she was wrong but wasn’t able to distinguish the difference at the time.
This conversation came to mind as I was reading more of Lone Wolf, Shmuel Katz’s biography of Ze’ev Jabotinsky.
Throughout the twenties, Weizmann and Jabotinsky were at logger heads. They differed in a fundamental way on how to deal with violation of the Mandate by the British, i.e., whether to call them out and confront them or to go along to get along. Jabotinsky favoured the former and Weizmann the latter. They also differed on what the goal of Zionism should be, as strange as that may seem. Jabotinsky would settle for nothing less than a Jewish State as envisaged by Herzl while Weizmann favoured something less. In fact in the summer of 1930 he said:
“The Jewish State was never an end in itself, it was only a means to an end. Nothing is said about a Jewish State in the Basle Programme, nor in the Balfour Declaration. The purpose of Zionism is to create in Palestine a number of significant bases, upon which an autonomous, self-sufficient and productive community can be established…Palestine could become a Jewish State if it were an uninhabited country. But it is not an uninhabited country…
“The essence of Zionism was not so much the Jewish State as the creation of material conditions for the establishment of an autonomous productive society…”
Herzl turned over in his grave.
Weizmann was supported by the bulk of the Actions Committee of the Zionist Organization and by Ben-Gurion. He was strongly opposed by the Revisionists led by Jabotinsky.
Another basic difference between them was that Weizmann wanted the Jewish Agency, then being formed, to include non-Zionists, thinking that such an agency would provide more money to the Yishuv. Jabotinsky was vehemently opposed and even suggested that it would not garner the Yishuv more money. He wanted to remove non-Zionists from the Jewish Agency. He was proved right on both accounts.
At the 17th Zionist Congress in 1930 Weizmann said:
“I have no understanding and no sympathy with the demand of a Jewish majority in Palestine, Majority does not guarantee security, majority is not necessary for the development of Jewish civilization and culture. The world will construe the demand only in the sense that we want to acquire a majority in order to drive out the Arabs.”
Needless to say this did not go down well even among the Labor ranks.
It appeared that the position of the revisionists would win the vote so the Labor leadership resorted to fraud and deception to turn things in their favour. They had a fraudulent telegram sent from Palestine, ostensibly from the Va’ad Leumi, urging caution accompanied by a dire warning of Arab violence. This was enough to defeat the Revisionists.
After the Congress, Labour leaders such as Katznelson, Ben Gurion and Golumb were not comfortable that they had abandoned the fight for a Jewish State. Jabotinsky continued to rake them over the coals and they decided to crush the Revisionists resistance to the Labor Party hegemony in the economic field.
Jabotinsky was demanding a “special contract”, between workers and employers under which neutral labour exchanges would ensure equal opportunity for all workers. Such a request completely negated the practice and purpose of the Histadrut policy. With the Histadrut in charge of the labour exchanges, it would only give jobs to workers of their political persuasion. Revisionist were unable to get work.
To thwart Jabotinsky, the Labour leaders enlisted their newspaper Devar, to produce slanted and one-sided reports and attacks of the most violent character on Jabotinsky, the Revisionists and Betar.
“Controlling the Histadrut as they did, and enjoying a near-monopoly of subsidies of Zionist funds, the Labour leaders had ready at hand the most effective weapon in their bid for hegemony in the national economy: control of the right to work. That part of the dream of Boshevik-styled dictatorship and control of the workers lives, explicitly expounded by Ben-Gurion a decade earlier, was being realized. The use of violence by the Labor movement was not a product of local and immediate frustration. It had its origin in Marxist ideology.”
For a decade the Histadrut, with the support of Labor leaders, had resorted to violence to secure a monopoly on the right to work and to force people to join the Labor Party in order to secure work.
“The Labor leaders were determined to eliminate Revisionism root and branch and the means for doing so were a relentless propaganda campaign of demonization and, where applicable, deliberate use of violence – accompanied by the dissemination of reports that it was the Revisionists and Betar victims who were in fact the perpetrators of the violence.”
Katznelson, to his credit, left the Labor Party because of its resort to violence. Ben-Gurion, to his discredit, supported its use.
Jabotinsky received the brunt of the demonization, not for the first time. He was called a fascist, a militarist and any other pejorative that came to mind.
Furthermore, the worker’s schools, run by the Labor Party, began to indoctrinate the students to hate Revisionists, Betar and Jabotinsky and to embrace the ideology of the Labor Party. The kibbutzim, where Devar reigned supreme, were hermetically sealed off from any outside influence. The same went for the socialist indoctrination in the towns.
“The chilling consequences of this indoctrination imbibed in the youth were lasting. The later history of the Jewish community in mandated Palestine, leading into the period of the State of Israel, was heavily flecked with that traditional hatred.”
In the forties, the Irgun issued a proclamation of war against the British much to the chagrin of the Yishuv leadership headed by Ben-Gurion. Their primary concern was to protect their leadership role. In 1944, Sneh and Golomb representing the Haganah, met with Begin and said as much..
Moshe Sneh said, inter alia: “To expand your activities requires control of the souls and the property of the public. And it is we who control the public. We do not intend to renounce that control, because it is we who have received a mandate from the Jewish people… If you continue your activities, a clash will result.”
Eliyahu Golomb was even blunter:
“We demand that you cease immediately [your activity against the British]… We do not want a civil war… but we will be ready for that as well. We will be forced to adopt our own measures to prevent your activities. The police, in our opinion, will not be able to liquidate you, but if the Yishuv rebels, it could come to that.“
Following the assassination of Lord Moyne in Cairo in late 1944 by Lehi fighters, the Jewish Agency executive declared war on the Irgun and Lehi and collaborated with the British to bring about the arrest of their fighters. As a result of this operation called the “Hunting Season”, the Haganah handed over to the British a list of names of persons suspected of being members of the Irgun and they kidnapped Irgun fighters.
Close to one thousand people were handed over to the British. Most of them were taken to the Latrun detention camp and several hundred were deported to detention camps in Africa (see “African Exile”) . In addition, dozens of suspects were kidnapped and detained in prison cells built especially for this purpose on various kibbutzim. They were interrogated by members of the Haganah Intelligznce Service and occasionally suffered torture.
This background is the context in which to view the sinking, in 1948, of the Altelena, which name was chosen as it was Jabotinsky’s pen name. The attack on this ship was ordered by Ben-Gurion and executed by Rabin. Many Revisionists were murdered by Rabin’s forces as they fled the doomed ship. The hatred was so great that it trumped any consideration for saving a shipload of much needed arms and munitions in the middle of the War for Independence. These weapons would have enabled the Jews to conquer Jerusalem in that war. Ben-Gurion justified his order at the time saying: “What is happening endangers our war effort, and even more important, it endangers the very existence of the state because the state cannot exist until we have one army and control of that army. This is an attempt to kill the state.” Hardly.
The Irgun, led by Begin, had brought the ship to Israel. He was one of the last to abandon it. Though his men were being shot at, he ordered his men not to shoot back. It was one of his cardinal principles to avoid a civil war in which Jews killed Jews. Not so for Ben-Gurion.
It took Begin 25 years before he became Prime Minister. It took another 20 years or so before PM Netanyahu tamed the Histadrut and began the process of making Israel a capitalist nation rather than a socialist one.
The left die hard.
Even today Leftists are doing everything they can to prevent Israel from being a Jewish State. Even though they are now in a minority they are thwarting the will of the majority at every turn. They are still in the indoctrination and demonization business. They are still anti-Zionist and anti-Judaism. They fight for the Arab cause and not the Jewish cause.
My leftist friend was wrong. There is a difference.