Jewish National Fund

The Best Biography of Jabotinsky
The Lone Wolf

By: Gad Nashon

"Long life Jabotinsky," cried out the first Revisionist martyr and a member of the youth movement, Betar Shlomo Ben Yosef. These were his last words before he was hung by British soldiers on June 29, 1938. It was a cruel punishment for a young man who just attacked an Arab bus as an act of retaliation. The Ben Yosef affair shocked the entire Jewish community in Palestine or the "Yishuv".

Jabotinsky was, of course, the great Zionist leader, the father of the Revisionist or The New Zionism Movement, which left the World Zionist Congress in 1935, free to fight for its own king of Zionism. Jabotinsky, or "Jabo", was also the father and the head of the Revisionist youth movement Betar, which was founded by young men in Riga, Latvia in 1923.

Jabotinsky was born in Odessa in 1880 and died in New York on August 4, 1940, but his legacy and teachings are still alive and well, at least among the members of the Likud (Herut) party and Betar. Even Bibi Netanyahu, who is being depicted by the media as "pragmatist" is, thanks to his father, Dr. Ben Zion Netanyahu, also a true disciple of Jabo and his legacy.

It is not surprising that Ben Yosef admired his leader, Jabo, who was charismatic and radiated love to the common man. Jabo was a true populist and a leader whose heart was bleeding as a result of the tragic life of the Jews in Europe. And then came the Holocaust.

Ben Josef told his visitors in his cell that he was not afraid to die for the victory of Betar's ideals. He also told them that he will die with the name Jabo on his lips. Jabo was crying in London when he heard that Ben Yosef died, heroically, as a true "Betari". And he wrote to Ben Yosef's mother, "I have not merited that a noble soul like your son should die with my name on his lips. But as long as I live ... his name will live in my heart and his disciples, more than mine, will be the trailblazers of a generation."

This story of documented in a new biography of Jabo, which was written by an old Revisionist, who was a close friend of Jabo, a man who fought for the victory of the Revisionism, as a political activist and as a writer and editor, Dr. Shmuel Katz.

Dr. Katz, 84, who was born in South Africa, dedicated many years of his life in order to write this two volume biography of 1792 pages, entitled "Lone Wolf, A Biography of Valadimir (Ze'ev) Jabotinsky." The publisher is Barricade Books (New York, 1996). Dr. Katz has been a prolific writer. In 1968, Doubleday published his "Days of Fire" and in 1972 Bantam published his "Battleground". He was active as a writer in his movement and for example, in April, 1940, he was the editor of the New Jewish Standard. Dr. Katz was active for many years as a member of the high command of the clandestine Irgun ("Irgun Tzvai Leumi" in Hebrew).

During that era, he worked together with Begin. Dr. Katz was an active participant in the struggle to establish a new Jewish independent state in Palestine. In 1951, Dr. Katz decided to dedicate his life to writing and according to many, he is a "champion among writers." But Dr. Katz never ever deviated from the Jabo legacy and teachings.

Jabo was the idol of millions, among them Dr. Shumel Katz, who met him in 1937 and immediately realized that he was facing a true leader and a prophet as well. But Dr. Katz's monumental and superb biography is a balanced, detailed story of a lion and not a wolf. (Ze'ev in Hebrew means a wolf and this is the reason why the title is "Lone Wolf").

It is a touching biography of Jabo, a leader who was both the best beloved and most maligned personality of our era. To quote Arthur Koesler, an admirer of Jabo, who wrote that he was "one of the great tragic figures of the century...adored hero of the Jewish masses in Russia and Poland." Jabo was the idol of two generations of Jewish youth. He, himself, believed his youth movement, Betar, to be the new leverage for the Jewish people to destroy the Jewish Ghetto mentality.

Dr. Katz described Jabo's political activities and fat from 1900 to 1940. He described Jabo's struggle against the mistakes and the omissions of the Zionist establishment and against the passive policies of Dr. Chaim Weitzman, the famous Zionist leader. Jabo fought against the British betrayal of the Jewish people. As we know the policies of the British mandatory government from 1020 to 1948 was to dismantle the promises to the Zionists that were written in the Balfour Declaration (Nov. 2, 1917). The British government was going to establish an Arab but not a Jewish state in Palestine. Jabo developed a new concept of Zionism based on activism and democracy. The truth of the matter is that he wanted to accomplish the dream of Herzl and like Herzl he was a 19th century liberal and democrat.

Jabo's tools were Betar and his Revisionist movement or "The New Zionist Organization." In 1938, Jabo established his own congress. Dr. Katz has documented the reasons for Jabo's decision to leave the World Zionist Congress. For example, the blood libel against Betar and Revisionists in Palestine as a result of the 1933 murder of Haim Arlazenov on the beach of Tel Aviv. The victims of this blood libel were Abraham Stavsky and Tzi Rosenblatt. Ben-Gurion, personally, was responsible for the occurrence of the blood libel. Later Stavsky died in heat of the "Altalena" affair (June, 1948). It was not an easy decision. Some Revisionists rejected this idea. The Zionist establishment was shocked and Jabo was a victim of many political attacks. But he was used to it.

713,000 Jews registered in the New Zionist Organization 500,000 of the total were Polish Jews. It was a huge achievement for Jabo who was, also, a great orator and prolific writer in many languages such as Russian, Hebrew, French and Latino.

Jabo was sure that he would take over the entire Zionist movement in the world. But he faced an enormous opposition from Zionists and especially from the every-growing Labor- Socialist movement inside the Zionist movement and the "Yishav." The essence of Jabo's Revisionism and Betarism tended to mobilize opposition especially from Zionist- Socialists. It is not the goal of this book review which is based on the documentation, a superb one, of the "Lone Wolf" to deal with the issue of Revisionism, but I would like to explain briefly to the reader about it.

In 1935, every member who registered in Jabo's organization also signed a document stating, "I support the demand for Palestine as a Jewish state on both sides of the Jordan and social justice without class war within Palestine." We can learn that Jabo was a maximalist. He wanted to establish a state only on both sides of the Jordan River. Jabo objected to any territorial compromise. He was against any partition plans between Jews and Arabs. But his personal troubles stemmed from his objection to any kind of socialist idea. He was against the concept of class war and against Marxism.

This objection gave his political enemies a reason to define him as a Fascist and later Gen- Gurion referred to him as a "Jewish Hitler." Many socialists and liberals believed Jabo to be the father of Jewish Fascism. Dr. Katz denies this allegation. Jabo was a true liberal and a true democrat and a fair gentleman. Jabo himself suffered emotionally from the smear tactics against him. The smear of Jabo as a Fascist was linked, also, to Jabo's belief in Jewish defense and the need for military training of young Jews. He was attacked as a "militarist". Jewish power? Jewish army? It is against the Jewish moral legacy argued many Jews. Jabo, who established the first Jewish legion in World War I, dreamt of establishing a Jewish army to fight in World War II, but he failed to fulfil his mission.

In March, 1940, he came to the U.S.A. in order to "sell" this idea to the Americans. Jabo always knew that the Holocaust is waiting in the corner. He always warned Jews, "You should dismantle the Diaspora before it will dismantle you." Here I should note as proof of Dr. Katz's honest-balanced approach to Jabo's legacy the fact that he, Dr. Katz, wrote that Jabo did not foresee the Holocaust as we know it today, to be the "other planet." But Jabo certainly ceaseless did warn the Jews in East Europe about the impending "Destruction" (Hebrew: Horban). And in 1935, he tried to save Jews by the idea of a total Jewish "evacuation plan".

As we know, the British government did everything to close the gates of Palestine in front of the Jewish refugee problem since 1933. The Zionist establishment fought non-stop against Jabo's ideas just because he was, in its eyes, an un-legitimate Zionist opposition. And the left fought against him as a danger to the labor classes. Well, the other Zionists in front of the coming Holocaust did not present any alternative to Jabo's plans. Sad to say, in 1939 the Jewish world was not united, but was on the verge of civil war. Mountains of hate prevented the establishment of one Jewish front. So the life of Britain was easy. "I am so tired. I am so tired." These were the last words of Ze'ev Jabotinsky. He died in a summer camp of Betar in Hunter, New York, a two hour drive from New York City.

Dr. Katz wrote that Jabo encountered heart problems in the past but he managed to keep them a secret. Therefore, his death was a sudden event. The whole world was shocked. He was burned in New York. In his Will, he wrote that he would like to be buried in Palestine, but only as a gesture of a future Jewish state. And Jabo, all his life, did believe that this state will be established in the future. But in the years after Israel was established David Ben Gurion, who never forgave, refused to execute Jabo's Will, saying rudely, "We do not need dead Jews in Eretz Israel only live Jews." But in 1965, Prime Minister Levi Eshkol decided to do justice. Jabo's remains were brought to Israel and he was burned against in Har Hezl, Jerusalem after a national ceremony took place. Jabo's dream came true. Furthermore, in 1977, his close disciple, Menachem Begin, became the first Revisionist prime minister in the history of the Jewish people.


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