Jabotinsky's Liberal Solution
To The Arab-Jewish Conflict

By Dr. Noah Nissani

Note: The following lines present historical facts that may clash with the history you have learned. Please read about the sources of these facts in the The Israeli Classical Liberal Web Sites.

Historical Background:

Herzl and Jabotinsky were both assimilated Jews with little Jewish background, who knew well the gentile culture through their work as journalists. From direct contacts with anti-Semitic circles, they understood that the rise of revolutionary Marxist movements and their doctrine of a class struggle against the bourgeoisie and all world religions is bound to trigger a fierce global reaction. In the late 19th Century, they both reached the conclusion that the prominent role that many educated Jews took in leading these movements, would turn the Jewish community into a helpless target and a readily available victim of the reactionary movements. They both foresaw the rise of a new, global anti-Semitism that was to be quite different from the chronic anti-Semitism of previous centuries, as it would pose a threat to the very existence of the Jewish Diaspora. This required a speedy evacuation of the Jews from their exile, as expressed by Jabotinsky in 1898: "Jews! Terminate the exile, or the exile will terminate you!"

In the early 1920', as the Russian revolution made the Marxist danger more tangible, reactionary movements seized power in many European countries and the Jews were put in harsh conditions. Most countries, including democratic states that accepted Jewish immigration before, were closing the gates on millions of desperate Jews who tried to escape from Eastern Europe. Even the Land of Israel, which was immersed in a Marxist dream of building a new, productive and just society, accepted only immigrants who were found suitable to its goals. Jabotinsky published a series of essays, presenting his version of Zionism, and demanded a revision of the Zionist Organization's policies, including its immigration policy. These essays led to the creation of "revisionist" circles in Jewish communities around the world that formed the revisionist party in 1925.

These essays also included Jabotinsky's Liberal approach to the future of the Arab population that inhabited the historic homeland of the Jewish people - the land that was designated for the Jews by the victors of World War I and the League of Nations. Like Montesquieu, the founder of modern Liberal political science, Jobotinsky held that a nation which felt under threat had the right to seize a territory that was required for its security, but also had the obligation to recognise the full rights of the people under its control. The essays contain the following principles:

A voluntary agreement between the two peoples:

Such an agreement is impossible in our times, or in the foreseeable future, since no people can willingly forsake any part of its homeland. In this respect, Jabotinsky saw the failure of the Oslo Accord, some eighty years before it collapsed.

Jewish immigration:

Nearly ten million desperate Jews from Eastern Europe were seeking in vain a route of escape from the rising anti-Semitism in their countries of residence. The right of their mass immigration could not be compromised, but there was no chance that the Arabs would accept it of their own will. While the Arab population was about half a million strong at that time, the rapid process of immigration of millions of Jews, was expected to create a solid Jewish majority, which was to rule out any demographic problem in the present and in the future. This majority was to allow for the immediate creation of a Jewish state, utilising a window of opportunities liable to be closed at any time. This evacuation plan could have saved millions of Jews from extermination in Europe, but it would prevent the creation of the "just society".

The "Iron Wall":

Since there was no chance for obtaining the Arabs' consent to massive Jewish immigration, which would have turned them into a minority in their land, the only option was to impose the plan by force.

A Political Process:

The uncompromising plan defined by Jabotinsky as "The Iron Wall", was designed to be accompanied by a Liberal political process, that would allow the Arabs to enjoy the progress brought by the Jews with their return to their ancient homeland, and to reassure them that the Jews had no intention of dispossessing the local Arabs but rather to build with them a Liberal society. Accordingly, Jabotinsky opposed the "Hebrew Labour" ideology which sought to drive the Arabs away from Jewish workplaces and discriminated against them in their own land. In this respect, Jabotinsky understood, some twenty years before the Western powers, the mistakes of the domineering Versailles Agreement, which were not repeated after World War II, when the victors involved, without negotiations or agreements, the defeated Germany, Japan and Italy in a Liberal political process, that led to their integration with the democratic world.

Two Autonomies:

As a classic Liberal, Jabotinsky respected national and religious values and sanctioned the duty to honour not only individual rights, but also the national and religious rights of all minorities. Hence, he proposed to establish two communal autonomies with equal rights that would share the same undivided land.

Liberal Equality:

Liberal democracy is not based on majority rule, but rather on mutual consideration. Based on the American model, where each state has equal representation in the Senate, both autonomous communities would enjoy equal rights, regardless of the size of their populations. Avoiding the fine constitutional details, Jabotinsky expressed his Liberal outlook, demanding that even after the massive Jewish immigration creates a Jewish majority: "If a Jew shall be prime-minister, his deputy will be an Arab, and vice versa."


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