An inspiration to manythousands of young Zionists, particularly in East Europe, VladimirJabotinsky was a soldier, orator, novelist and poet, founder of theJewish Legion and supreme commander of the Irgun Zeva'i Le'ummi(IZL).
His accomplished oratory in Russian, Hebrew, German, Yiddish, Englishand French, characterized by a compelling logic and magnetic imagery,often provided the climax to crowded Zionist conferences throughout theworld.
Born of a middle class Odessa family, Jabotinsky returned from travelingin Europe in 1903 to organize a Jewish self-defense group to face theimminence of a local pogrom. Thereafter he became absorbed in Zionistactivities, advocating settlement in Erez Israel and political andeducational activities in the Diaspora.
For a time Jabotinsky worked for the World Zionist Organization tryingto gain Ottoman support, but at the outbreak of World War I he was sentto Western Europe as roving correspondent for a Moscow newspaper. Whilein Alexandria, with Joseph Trumpeldor, he suggested raising a JewishLegion to join the Allies in liberating Erez Israel from Turkish rule.Following formation of the "First Judean Regiment" (with a menorah asits insignia), Jabotinsky headed the first company to cross the Jordanriver, and was decorated for doing so (see his book The Story of theJewish Legion, 1945).
After the war, the Legion was disbanded despite Zionist protests.Anticipating anti-Jewish violence by Arab extremists, in 1920 Jabotinskyorganized the Haganah in Jerusalem, openly leading it to confront theincited Arab mobs during the Passover riots. Arrested by the British, hewas sentenced to 15 years hard labor, but was later amnestied and leftprison acclaimed as a hero. As a member of the Zionist Executive, heshared with Chaim Weizmann responsibility for agreeing to the 1922Churchill White Paper on Palestine, which excluded Transjordan from theterms of the Balfour Declaration.
In 1923, after disagreement overZionist acquiescence in the British role in Palestine, Jabotinsky leftthe Zionist Organization and tried to draw attention to the shortcomingsof its policies, calling forgreater militancy and for mass immigration to Palestine. The failure ofan agreement with David Ben-Gurion to ease the internal conflict ofZionism, now faced with the growing Nazi menace, led Jabotinsky to foundhis own New Zionist Organization (NZO). He attempted to gain the supportof European governments for the emigration of 1,500,000 Jews fromEastern Europe to Palestine, but the policy was opposed by most of theEuropean Jewish public. Despite this, the NZO did all it could toincrease illegal Jewish immigration to Palestine.
Following the Arabriots of 1936, Jabotinsky became supreme commander of the terrorist IZLin 1937. In his book The Jewish War Front (1940), he formulated what hethough should be the Jewish attitude to the war and its aftermath. InFebruary 1940 he went to the U.S. to enlist support for a Jewish army,but in August he died of a heart attack near New York. His remains werereinterred on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem in 1965.
An outstanding Hebraist, Jabotinsky's translation of ten cantos ofDante's Inferno is considered a masterpiece. Apart from translations, healso wrote his autobiography, songs, poetry, several plays and shortstories, and novels, including his major literary achievement Samson theNazirite (1926).
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