Rescuing Jews

Evacuation and Partition


Jabotinsky was most pessimistic about the continuation of Jewish life in the Diaspora. At the Hatzach (New Zionist Organization) Conference held in Warsaw, on June 13, 1936, he clearly raised the idea of "Evacuation" – mass removal of Jews from Europe. Jabotinsky was sharply attacked, accused that his idea would insight the Polish government to expel the Jews.

A British Royal Commission of Inquiryheaded by Lord Peel, in 1937, recommended partition of Eretz Israel and establishment of a Jewish state in a small area. Jabotinsky rejected the idea out of hand, viewing the proposal as absurd, and initiated a systematic campaign to reject the Peel Partition Plan. The main problem facing him was elimination of the Jewish Diaspora. He claimed that only a territory of sufficient dimensions to absorb millions of European Jews would suffice the needs of the Jewish people. Therefore, he saw it as necessary to reject the partition plan, claiming that no one has the right to relinquish parts of Eretz Israel, the birthplace of the Jewish people. Jabotinsky claimed that if the Jews wouldn't eliminate the Diaspora, the Diaspora would eliminate the Jewish people, and that, therefore, there is a necessity to make a mass transfer of Polish Jews to Eretz Israel. Various streams of Judaism, among them the "Bund", fought against the idea to eliminate the Diaspora and Jabotinsky's Evacuation Plan. But he continued to warn, "We must save the millions – many millions. I don't know if the question concerns absorption of one-third of the Jewish race, to half of the Jewish race, or one-quarter of the Jewish race. This I do not know. But, it's a question of millions." However, the British government itself rejected the Partition Plan. In February, 1938, Hatzach accepted the Evacuation Plan as an official program.


"Af-Al-Pi" Immigration


The bloody riots of 1929 and the discontent among the Arab population in Eretz Israel against the Zionist Enterprise and the Jewish Yishuv (pre-State community), caused radicalization to the British Mandate authorities' policy in Eretz Israel, since the riots of 1920 – 1921.

Jewish Aliyah (immigration) to Eretz Israel was one of the main issues harmed by this turnabout. In Lord Passfield's "White Paper" (1930), expression was given to the new policy line concerning Aliyah: a significant reduction in the number of immigrants, and imposing close supervision in accordance with economic and other considerations.

The "White Paper" caused great anger within the Yishuv as well as protest demonstrations. The promise by the British Prime Minister, in a letter to Dr.Chaim Weizmann, President of the Zionist Organization and the Jewish Agency, that there was no deviation from the previous policy, didn't diminish fears.

Zeev Jabotinsky gave expression to the increasing fear and distrust of British policymakers in London. In his article "On Adventurism", from February 1932, he called for a political struggle against the "White Paper" and its prohibitions. This article laid the foundations for the illegal immigration undertaking, organized by Hatzohar (Zionist Revisionists), Hatzach (New Zionist Organization), Betar and Etzel.

Following the Nazi rise to power (1933), Jabotinsky did not spare any effort to advocate this idea, whose objective was to rescue Jews. In June, 1936, he raised the idea of "Evacuation" as the singular constructive solution to the Jewish problem. He called on the Jews to eliminate the Diaspora, primarily in Europe, by removal: "If you won't eliminate the Diaspora – the Diaspora will eliminate you." The issue of Aliyah became the existential matter of the Jewish people.

In his article "National Sport" (May, 1939), Jabotinsky continued to call for the same educational tactic of shattering discipline (and windshields, at times), where circumstance necessitated it. The influence of this article was enormous. In a speech at a Hatzach party in Warsaw, days after publication of the article, Jabotinsky added, "The second issue is Aliyah 'Bet', illegal immigration. As our friend, (Josiah) Wedgwood, says, …'the limitations are illegal'." The power of a law is not in its inscription in a book of laws, but rather in its implementation in reality, and the more time passes, its power increases. The best means by which to cancel the law is by persistently breaking it, and that is the significance of Aliyah 'Bet'. After the Revisionist Movement called for "Af-Al-Pi" Immigration, in 1936, the operation received fresh momentum. Beginning in 1937, tens of illegal immigrant ships left on their way to Eretz Israel.

The riots of "Kristallnacht" (November 9th, 1938) and Jabotinsky's call from Warsaw on the eve of Tisha B'Av (August 1938), that preceded it, increased the sense of urgency. The necessity to escape Europe without hesitation, and to focus on the homeland, were expressed in instructions from Shilton Betar in London, to Aliyah 'Bet' activists, spread at transit points at orders of European states. The aim was to make Aliyah possible to everyone needing it.

Nearly 20,000 illegal immigrants came to Eretz Israel in the framework of the "Af-Al-Pi" project, in ships that broke through the British blockade, and succeeded in escaping the Nazi inferno.