Brit Hatzohar

Zionist Executive Member


In March, 1921, Weizmann invited Jabotinsky to join the Zionist Executive, and, together with Nahum Sokolov, to manage the political department and carry out various other roles. Jabotinsky saw ultimate importance in the renewal of Jewish Legion activities, and claimed that without military power, a Jewish majority in Eretz Israel was not feasible. In July 1921, during the session of the Zionist Executive Committee, his opinion was accepted on the subject. Jabotinsky undertook activities of "Keren HaYesod" (United Jewish Appeal) which approached Jews around the world, requesting that they allocate one-tenth of their funds to build Eretz Israel. He was a directorate member of the fund and also press and publicity department director. In November 1921, Jabotinsky travelled to the U.S., and, for seven months, he spoke in more than fifty cities. In June 1922, he returned to London, where Weizmann showed him a draft of Churchill's "White Paper", which called for eliminating the eastern portion of Transjordan from the Jewish national home. The Zionist Executive Committee met that same day in order to vote to accept the Paper. Weizmann voted in favor. Viewing the Paper as the beginning of the end of Zionism, Jabotinsky voted against, but didn't resign from the Committee. He took responsibility upon himself, feeling that it would not be reasonable to resign, leaving his comrades alone in the system at such a fateful moment. The British offered to establish a joint militia of both Jews and Arabs. Jabotinsky opposed this idea claiming that the militia would mostly consist of Arabs. He proposed a program to establish "a military force in Eretz Israel" with a Jewish military garrison, in the framework of the British Army, in order to protect immigration to Eretz Israel and the existent Yishuv (pre-State Jewish community).

During this period, Jabotinsky's stance concerning the Arab question crystallized. In his speech at the session of the Zionist Executive Committee in Prague, July 1921, he first coined the term "The Iron Wall", whose meaning was to seal any opening that would deceive the Arabs into thinking it was possible to ruin the Zionist structure, if they would just persist in their violent provocations. He warned that the Arabs should not be fooled and that it's preferable to speak with them openly, and that, from within their wisdom, they would accept the decision of the establishment of a Jewish state. Jabotinsky was convinced that the moral right over Eretz Israel was in the hands of the Jews, and explained that it was the only place in the world in which Jews could build a state, while the Arabs had many other countries in which to live. Jabotinsky promised the Arabs that when the Jews would govern in Eretz Israel, they would be granted full national and cultural autonomy, as an ethnic minority. He never desired to expel the Arabs from the land.


Rift in Zionist Executive and Establishment of Brit Hatzohar


In the Zionist Executive Committee Session in Berlin, that took place in January, 1923, an open rift occurred between Jabotinsky and Weizmann and his supporters. Members of the Executive Committee accused Jabotinsky of connections with    Symon Petliura, the Ukrainian statesman who, under his command, pogroms were staged against the Jews of the Ukraine in 1919. Jabotinsky suggested establishing a Jewish unit which would attach to the Ukrainian army and would prevent pogroms from recurring, an idea that ultimately did not come to fruition. On January 18th, Jabotinsky submitted his resignation from both the Zionist Executive and the Zionist Organization together. He moved to Paris in 1924, and opened an office there whose purpose was to consolidate and organize all of the opposition groups within the Zionist Organization. A new party, calling itself the "Zionist Revisionists", developed through this office, meant to constitute an opposition within Zionism. Its first conference assembled in April 1925 and resolved: "the purpose of Zionism is to turn Eretz Israel (including Transjordan) into a Jewish community, under the protection of a guaranteed Jewish majority". Jabotinsky demanded that the new movement, "Brit Hatzohar" (Union of Zionist Revisionists), condemn the White Paper. This new body was declared an inseparable part of the World Zionist Organization. Its Executive Committee decided that Jabotinsky must be placed at the head of the Revisionist list in Eretz Israel, in elections to the upcoming Zionist Congress. At the 14th Zionist Congress in Vienna, in 1925, Jabotinsky was the sole delegate elected for the Revisionist list. His speech made a huge impression, saying that "we demand free Aliyah (immigration)." During his visit to Eretz Israel in 1926, he was invited to participate in a session of the Jewish National Council. Under his influence, and that of Yitzhak Ben Zvi, the decisive majority voted in favor of the proposal to demand that the government organize a Jewish military unit within the framework of the planned Transjordan frontier force.  At the end of 1928, Jabotinsky returned to Europe to participate in the Third World Hatzohar Conference and in July 1929, he set out for Europe again to participate in the 16th Zionist Congress in Zurich. In his speech at the conference, he blamed the Zionist Executive for relating too lightly to the Yishuv's complaints against the Mandate government and primarily opposed participation by non-Zionist representatives, who had not been elected to the Jewish Agency Executive. Before his departure for the Congress, there was an altercation in a session of the elected assembly, held on July 3, in Tel Aviv. Jabotinsky was shocked by the violence demonstrated by the representative of the left toward his supporters. In an article called "Hate", he wrote, "In a Jewish assembly, in a completely Jewish city, I saw human beings hitting," and saw in the countenance of the attackers "a look of such inhuman hate that I've never seen, even in Russia, not even among Arabs during the days of rioting in Jerusalem."

On December 23rd he gave a speech at a mass rally in Tel Aviv before an audience of 6,000 people, in which he harshly criticized Zionist policy and concessions to the Arabs – concessions that would not achieve anything in return. In 1929, bloody riots erupted against the Jews (Riots of 5689). Jabotinsky understood that Weizmann's policy had failed and that it was no longer possible to rely on the British. In June 1931, he wrote, "Our relations with the Mandate government have reached a very dangerous stage. An action in opposition will quickly prove if it is worthwhile to continue to try with England."

Following the riots, Jabotinsky left for a lecture tour in Europe and South Africa, with the goal of awakening the Jewish community and forcing the Zionist Executive to plan a broad Jewish conference that would open with an attack against the British government. During his visit with the South African Jewish community, he received notice that his speeches and articles were angering the Arabs, and that the British Commissioner was also dissatisfied. When he requested to return to Eretz Israel, he was informed that the British government had moved to cancel his entry permit to Eretz Israel, claiming that he was endangering the peace between two sectors of the population. Thus, the gates of Eretz Israel were closed to him.


Rift in Hatzohar


The Fifth World Hatzohar Conference commenced on August 28, 1932, in Vienna. Jabotinsky opened the conference with a speech about the Mandate government's anti-Zionist policy. Jabotinsky's proposed policy at the conference, concerning the Movement's relationship to the Zionist Organization, met with difficult opposition. Meir Grossman wanted to include the Movement in the existent Zionist establishment, while Jabotinsky wished to sever relations with the establishment, hoping to create a new, independent Zionist body. Differences of opinion and power struggles between them grew and Jabotinsky deliberated as to how to persevere and conduct Movement matters, and even considered transferring the position of president to Grossman. Grossman had already been appointed as Jabotinsky's deputy at the Movement's founding in 1925. They had cooperated together in the struggle to create the Jewish Battalions and in the establishment of 'Di Tribune' newspaper in 1915. In April 1931, the two sides gathered in Boulogne, France, in an effort to iron out the issues, but the compromise reached there did not endure. The rift between them intensified at the 17th Congress, after Jabotinsky firmly refused to assemble a coalition along with other parties and after his proposal to create a majority on both banks of the Jordan was rejected. In a dramatic act, he tore his delegate card and left the hall. Grossman remained alone in the political arena and understood that the path had been paved for him to take charge of the Movement.

Jabotinsky decided to resign and take a six month vacation together with his family, to distance himself from Movement matters. But he continued to follow events, and during that time, he disagreed with the direction Grossman was taking. Jabotinsky knew that there was a group of enthusiastic supporters of his policies in Eretz Israel, and that it would be unreasonable to leave them on their own. He, therefore, shortened his vacation after less than a month and returned to the political arena. Hatzohar was divided and factious. On September 28th and 29th, 1931, the Movement's World Executive convened in Calais, France, in another effort to solve the differences of opinion. After heated arguments, the "Calais Compromise" was reached – Hatzohar removed itself from the Zionist Organization and decided, from that point on, to act independently, mainly in all relating to political activity, regarding establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz Israel, and raising funds for the Movement. But this compromise only sharpened the conflict more vigorously and raised criticism in the various Movement circles. Another effort toward reconciliation at the Katowice Conference, in March 1933, didn't succeed and, at the close of the Conference, Jabotinsky went to Lodz, where, on March 22nd, he informed, "From this day on, I am taking upon myself the leadership of World Brit Hatzohar and all matters of the world movement." His decision surprised many Movement members, even those close to him. From then on, the paths of Jabotinsky and Grossman diverted. The division in the Movement was final and, for elections to the Zionist Congress, two Revisionist lists were submitted, Hatzohar under Jabotinsky's leadership and the Revisionist list under Grossman's direction.