It’s Jabotinsky Time

It’s Jabotinsky Time

Associate Editor

These are the Nine Days of the Three Weeks, when Jerusalemís melancholy comes naturally. These are the Eight Weeks of the final illusion, the eerie wait between Camp David and the Palestinian promise to proclaim a state in September. There are rumors of war. The doves have flown. Amos Oz, one of Israelís most outspoken peaceniks, now says the latest Arab conditions for peace are ìbut an Arab euphemism for the liquidation of Israel,î and if it comes to that, ìthey should know that they will find me ready to defend my country: an old peace activist ready to fight.îEveryoneís waiting for the clock to strike 13.Itís Jabotinsky time. Not only is Labor considering a unity government with Likud (Zeíev Jabotinskyís philosophical grandchildren), but this is the week of his yahrtzeit, Tammuz 29. It was wartime, the first Sunday in August 1940. Jabotinsky died suddenly, aged 60, while visiting Camp Betar in the Catskills. He was in the United States lobbying for a Jewish state.Jabotinsky founded Betar in 1923, naming it for Bar Kochbaís last stand and as an acronym for Brit Trumpeldor ó in honor of Josef Trumpeldor, who died defending Tel Chai from Arab invaders in 1920.Moments before Jabotinsky died, he took a final walk through an honor guard of Betar campers. As always, he was dressed in a suit and tie, his shirt buttoned to the neck, ever the European gentleman, even on an August Sunday.After all, the essence of Betar, said Jabotinsky, was hadar, which he defined as a medicinal blend of pride, dignity, excellence, etiquette, and an almost military discipline. As he wrote in Shir Betar, ìEven in poverty a Jew is a prince … You have been created the son of kings.îAfter the seven lean years of post-Zionism and Oslo, marked by lost pride, lost land, lost lives, and lost opportunities, Betar youth groups sing their defiant anthem: ìI shall approach the company of nations gallantly, like a lion approaching lions, not my conquerors. I am a Betar soldier, a watchman on the threshold of Tel-Chai.îInternational Betar in Jerusalem recently sent Shay Rubenstein to New York as the new shliach (emissary) for North America, the first shliach in some time. His job: to raise the dead, ìto spread the word of our eternal leader, Zeíev Jabotinsky,î says Betarís International Chairman Danny Danon.Rubenstein, who had just been in Tel Aviv at Betar demonstrations against Barak, will start by opening Tagar clubs (Betarís campus affiliate) at Columbia and New York University in the fall.Betar leadership is often a precursor to Israeli leadership. Rubenstein, 26, knows that when Moshe Arens was 26, he, too, led Betar North America. Arens, of course, later became Israelís foreign minister. Before the Shoah, Menachem Begin led Polandís Betar. Mordechai Anelevich, leader of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, was trained in Betar before moving on to Shomer Hatzair. Bobby Brown, who served in the Netanyahu administration, came out of New Yorkís Betar. Benjamin Netanyahuís father was a Jabotinsky confidante, accompanying him on that last trip to the U.S. Other alumni include Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert; Tel Avivís former Mayor Ronnie Milo; and the Center Partyís Dan Meridor, a hardline member of Barakís Camp David team.Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind is another who says that Jabotinsky ìis one of my heroes. He loved the Jewish people. He stood for Jewish pride, dignity and self-respect. Today, the Palestinians have the pride. The Palestinians are the ones sticking to their ëprinciples.í I wish to God we had someone like Jabotinsky, someone so articulate, with that stature and charisma.îThe new Betar office in lower Manhattan is a long rectangular space converted from industrial use. Near Rubensteinís desk is a bust of Jabotinsky. This ìJabotinskyî sits unblinking: owl-rimmed glasses, a flat downturned mouth, recessed jaw, a shock of hair over his right brow.Thereís a poster on the wall from the Jerusalem 3000 celebration of a few years ago, a celebration supported by all political parties and Jewish newspapers and Jewish organizations, swearing allegiance to the eternal unity of Jerusalem. The poster now hangs worthless, like a sheet of Confederate money. Betar, though, is never discouraged by other Jews, or ìthe world,î discrediting Betarís ideals. In Betarís dog-eared files one can find support for the Jewish claim to both sides of the Jordan River, based on a British promise reneged in the 1920s. From the Stavsky scandal to other pre-state disputations about the Altalena and Deir Yassin, there is remarkable documentation in these files to defy the post-Zionists and support the old truths of the dying and the dead.At least Betar is able to smile. The Betar Web site has several tongue-in-cheek e-games such as ìHangman,î with words spelling out ìAkko,î site of the Irgunís prison break in 1947, or ìArlosoroff.îJabotinskyís men were once found guilty of assassinating Laborís Chaim Arlosoroff in 1933 before the courts overturned the convictions. New evidence, however, shows that the assassination was actually a hit job ordered by Nazi propaganda chief Josef Goebbels after he discovered Arlosoroff was the high school sweetheart of Magda Goebbels, Josefís wife. Three weeks before he was killed, Arlosoroff was in Berlin, trying to get Magda, for old timeís sake, to intervene with Goebbels on behalf of Germanyís Jews. Goebbels, embarrassed and furious about Magdaís Jewish connection, arranged for Arlosoroff to be killed one night on the Tel Aviv beach.Jabotinsky founded the first self-defense group in the Yishuv, and is considered the ideological father of the Irgun and Haganah. Rubenstein says, ìJewish existence in Eretz Yisrael can only be assured through Jewish power, by being strong and being patient: the Iron Wall.îJabotinsky first crafted his Iron Wall theory in the 1920s: ìAs long as in Arab hearts there remains even one spark of hope to be rid of us, they will not sell this hope for honey-coated words or far-reaching promises. [They will agree] to concessions concerning great crucial issues of this kind only when all hope is lost, when the smallest chink in the Iron Wall has been sealed. Only then will these radical groups whose slogan is ënever,í lose their influence to the moderates. Only then will these moderate groups approach us with a proposal of mutual concessions.îSeveral months after the peace agreement at Munich, 1938, and several months before Kristallnacht, Jabotinsky delivered his final Tisha bíAv message in 1938: ìI am calling upon you, Polish Jewry, who are the crown of world Jewry…. A catastrophe is coming closer. I became gray and old in these years, my heart bleeds, that you, dear brothers and sisters, do not see the volcano that will soon begin to spit its all-consuming lava…. Listen to me in this 11th hour: In the name of God, let anyone of you save himself while there is still time.îSeveral months ago, to honor Jabotinskyís 120th birthday, Israelís president declared this the year of Jabotinsky, and it has never been so more than this August: The years and dates tumble together; 29 Tammuz, 1940; Tisha bíAv, 1938 and 2000; even Amos Oz is talking like Tel Chai, 1920. Itís Jabotinsky time.

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