Ze’ev Jabotinsky is Born, 1880
On This Day in Jewish History: October 18, 1880
On this day, 1880, Ze’ev Jabotinsky was born. Jabotinsky is most famously known as the father of Revisionist Zionism. Revisionist Zionism developed as1 a more extreme branch of Zionism which advocated for an establishment of a Greater Israel from the League of Nations Mandate of Palestine to the Transjordan. Considering these borders, Revisionist Zionism was considered expansionist by many, particularly by Israel’s dominant political stream of socialist Labour Zionism. However, political rivals have long debated the term “expansionist” since, technically, the Revisionist borders respected the territorial integrity of 1,000 years of Jewish presence in historical Israel.
Ze’ev Jabotinsky, nee Yevgenyevich Vladmir Jabotinsky, was born in Odessa, Ukraine, during a time of violent and widespread pogroms (white supremacist riots aimed at genociding Jews). Following the massacres, Jabotinsky established the Jewish Self-Defense Organization, a guerrilla warfare group which fought for Jewish civil rights in Europe. The group’s slogan was, “Jewish youth, learn to shoot!”. Jabotinsky was a firm believer in armed self-defense against the injustices of the power structure. In fact, Jabotinsky once famously said “Better to have a gun and not need it than to need it and not have it!”
Despite his seemingly leftist ideal of teaching self-defense to marginalized groups, Jabotinsky took a far-right stance as a Russian delegate to the Zionist Congress. Following Theodor Herzl’s death in 1904, Jabotinsky’s newly-found Revisionist Zionism became the main competitor against mainstream Labour Zionism. Jabotinsky differentiated his ideology from mainstream Zionism via emphasis on nationalism, economic liberalism, and the interest groups of the Jewish middle class. On the other hand, Labour Zionism prioritized socialism, productive labour, and the creation of a Jewish working class.
Despite their differences, it is interesting to note that Jewish theorists and politicians, such as Jabotinsky, do not always conform to a bi-partisan system (this is partially attributed to the nuances of a Jewish identity in diaspora politics). For example, while Jabotinsky is considered right winged, he believed the "'elementary necessities' of the average person...: food, shelter, clothing, the opportunity to educate his children, and medical aid in case of illness" should be supplied by the state.
Today, the ghost of Jabotinsky has transformed the capital, ideals, and values of Israelis. Labour Zionism, while once the dominant stream of Zionism of Eretz Israel, lost to its right-winged competitors such as the Revisionists. The Revisionist dream of a society that is economically liberal yet which holds strong social welfare programs came intro fruition by Menachem Begin and his party of Likud. With the introduction of the Menachem Begin administration (first Likud administration) in the 1970s, a strive for a socialist society became replaced by neoliberal values. Probably much to Jabotinsky’s liking if he were alive today, Israel’s economy transitioned to a capitalist economy with social welfare programs, such as nationalized healthcare, income support, and a pension system.