Delayed renaissance for Jabotinsky’s legacy
LONE WOLF: THE BIOGRAPHY OF ZEEV JABOTINSKY BY SHMUEL KATZ IS AVAILABLE FROM AMERICANS FOR A SAFE ISRAEL
In 2005, the Knesset established a law establishing the Hebrew date of Tammuz 29 (which this year coincides with July 7) as the date on which Israel would hold a range of events and ceremonies commemorating the life and work of Ze’ev Jabotinsky. This law clearly indicated a shift in attitude toward a man who is widely considered one of the fathers of the Zionist movement, and who was formerly condemned by his ideological dissidents. Now, however, Jabotinsky’s legacy is experiencing an overdue — though not too late — renaissance.
David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, implemented a fair share of Jabotinsky’s principles, though he did so unwittingly and to meet the challenges of the time. Due to the bitter political rivalry between the two, however, Ben-Gurion refused to honor Jabotinsky’s final wishes and bring him to Israel to be buried. It was another leader, Levi Eshkol, who, shortly after being appointed prime minister, honored Jabotinsky’s final wishes and signaled a marked shift in attitude towards political adversaries from the rival camp.
One cannot deny that for several decades Jabotinsky was deemed a fascist of sorts, a dictator, and at the very least a harmful political figure. Jabotinsky’s Russian name was Vladimir, and Ben-Gurion — most likely as a result of electoral and political demands — dubbed him “Vladimir Hitler.” An actual and comprehensive political debate was never held regarding the unique ideology that Jabotinsky delineated and tried to promote.
In recent years, however, Jabotinsky and his legacy have experienced an unprecedented revival, surprisingly at the hands of the successors of his ideological opponents. The social protests of 2011, as well as the increasingly adversarial relationships between Knesset members and Supreme Court justices, have brought Jabotinsky — as well as former Prime Minister Menachem Begin — to the political forefront once again. The philosophy and work of these two politicians is now being discussed as part of a much broader agenda, which, though it is still not all encompassing, is nevertheless interesting. Last year, 72 years after Jabotinsky’s death, Opposition Leader and Labor party head Shelly Yachimovich was one of the keynote speakers during events commemorating this anniversary. Her words left no doubt as to the singularity of the man. And thus, years after it condemned these two leaders, the Israeli Left has changed its tone and tune.
Jabotinsky’s legacy is evaluated in a practical, topical manner and thus there are no limits to the respect that it can garner. The leader of Israel’s social-democratic party can speak of Jabotinsky with a sense of longing, mainly because the agenda he espoused was not dogmatic, but rather ingeniously diverse.