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Ze'ev Jabotinsky
Ze'ev Jabotinsky
Born Vladimir Yevgenyevich Zhabotinsky
(1880-10-18)18 October 1880
Odessa, Russian Empire
Died 4 August 1940(1940-08-04) (aged 59)
New York, United States
Place of burial 1940–1964: New Montefiore Cemetery, New York, United States
1964–present: Mt. Herzl, Jerusalem, Israel
Residence until 1904: Odessa
from 1904 Saint Petersburg
Nationality Russia
Education Law
Alma mater Sapienza University of Rome
Occupation Journalist, writer, military leader and political activist
Known for creation of the Jewish (and later Israeli) right-wing secular politics; head of Betar
Religion Jewish atheist[1][2]
Spouse(s) Hanna Markovna Halpern (m. 1907–40)

Ze'ev Jabotinsky MBE (Hebrew: זאב ז'בוטינסקי‎; Ukrainian language: Володи́мир (Зеєв) Євге́нович Жаботи́нський ), born Vladimir Yevgenyevich Zhabotinsky (Russian: Влади́мир Евге́ньевич Жаботи́нский) (18 October 1880 – 4 August 1940), was a Revisionist Zionist (nationalist) leader, author, poet, orator, soldier, and founder of the Jewish Self-Defense Organization in Odessa. With Joseph Trumpeldor, he co-founded the Jewish Legion[3] of the British army in World War I and later established a number of Jewish organizations such as Beitar, Hatzohar, and the Irgun.


Jabotinsky and his family

Jabotinsky was born Vladimir Yevgenyevich (Yevnovich) Zhabotinsky[4] in Odessa, Russian Empire to an assimilated Jewish family. His father Yevno (Yevgeniy Grigoryevich) Zhabotinsky was a serviceman[Clarification needed] of the Russian Society of Sailing and Trade who was involved in wheat trading. He was held from Nikopoldisambiguation needed.[Clarification needed] His mother, Chava (Eva Markovna) Zach (1835–1926), was from Berdychiv. His older brother Myron died in childhood, while sister, Tereza (Tamara Yevgenyevna) Zhabotinskaya-Kopp, was a founder of a private female gymnasium in Odessa. In 1885, due to his father's illness, the family moved to Germany, but returned a year later upon the death of Yevno Zhabotinsky.

Zhabotinsky was raised in a Jewish middle-class home and educated in Russian schools. While he took Hebrew lessons as a child, Jabotinsky wrote in his autobiography that his upbringing was divorced from Jewish faith and tradition. Chava Zhabotinskaya opened a store in Odessa selling stationery and enrolled the young Vladimir to the city gymnasium. Young Jabotinsky did not study very well and was not able to finish school, due to his involvement in journalism. Beginning in 1896, at age 16, Jabotinsky wrote articles for a major local Russian newspaper "Odessa Leaflet" and as its correspondent was sent to Italy and Switzerland. He also cooperated with another newspaper, "Odessa News". Since his childhood he was a close friend of another Russian journalist and poet Korney Chukovsky. In 1903 when Chukovsky worked in London, Jabotinsky attended his wedding with Maria Goldfeld.

Jabotinsky wrote under the pseudonym "Altalena" (the Italian word for 'swing'; see also Altalena Affair). While abroad, he graduated from the law school of the Sapienza University of Rome, but only later qualified as an attorney upon his return to Russia. His dispatches from Italy earned him recognition as one of the brightest young Russian-language journalists: he later edited newspapers in Russian, Yiddish, and Hebrew. He married Yohana in late 1907. They had one child, Eri Jabotinsky, who was a member of the Irgun-inspired Bergson Group, briefly served in the Knesset and died in 1969 at the age of 58 nearly the age his father had died at.

Zionist activism in Russia

After the Kishinev pogrom of 1903, Jabotinsky joined the Zionist movement, where he soon became known as a powerful speaker and an influential leader. With more pogroms looming on the horizon, Jabotinsky established the Jewish Self-Defense Organization, a Jewish militant group, to safeguard Jewish communities throughout Russia. Jabotinsky became the source of great controversy in the Russian Jewish community as a result of these actions. Around this time, he set upon himself the goal of learning modern Hebrew, and took a Hebrew name—Vladimir became Ze'ev ("wolf"). During the pogroms, he organized self-defense units in Jewish communities across Russia and fought for the civil rights of the Jewish population as a whole. His slogan was, "better to have a gun and not need it than to need it and not have it!" Another call to arms was, "Jewish youth, learn to shoot!" That year Jabotinsky was elected as a Russian delegate to the Sixth Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland. After Herzl's death in 1904 he became the leader of the right-wing Zionists. That year he moved to Saint Petersburg and became one of the co-editors for the Russophone magazine "Yevreiskaya Zhyzn" (Jewish Life) that, after 1907, became the official publishing body of the Zionist movement in Russia. On the pages of the newspaper Jabotinsky conducted fierce polemics against the supporters of assimilation and the Bund. He was one of co-founders of the "Union for Rights Equality of Jewish People in Russia" (1905). In 1906 he was one of the chief speakers at the 3rd All-Russian Conference of Zionists in Helsinki (Helsingfors), which called upon the Jews of Europe to engage in Gegenwartsarbeit (work in the present) and to join together to demand autonomy for the ethnic minorities in Russia.[5] He remained loyal to this liberal approach scores of years later with respect to the Arab citizens of the future Jewish State: "Each one of the ethnic communities will be recognized as autonomous and equal in the eyes of the law."[5] In 1909 he fiercely criticized leading members of the Russian Jewish community for participating in ceremonies marking the centennial of the Russian writer Nikolai Gogol. In view of Gogol's anti-Semitic views, Jabotinsky claimed it was unseemly for Russian Jews to take part in these ceremonies; it showed they had no Jewish self-respect.[citation needed]

Military career

Lt Jabotinsky in uniform 38th RF.

Badge of Members of the Order of the British Empire, obverse and reverse

During World War I, he conceived the idea of establishing a Jewish Legion to fight alongside the British against the Ottomans who then controlled Palestine. In 1915, together with Joseph Trumpeldor, a one-armed veteran of the Russo-Japanese War, he created the Zion Mule Corps, which consisted of several hundred Jewish men, mainly Russians, who had been exiled from Palestine by the Turks and had settled in Egypt. The unit served with distinction in the Battle of Gallipoli. When the Zion Mule Corps was disbanded, Jabotinsky traveled to London, where he continued his efforts to establish Jewish units to fight in Palestine as part of the British Army. Although Jabotinsky did not serve with the Zion Mule Corps, Trumpeldor, Jabotinsky and 120 V.M.C. did serve in Platoon 16/20th Battalion of the London Regiment. In 1917, the government agreed to establish three Jewish Battalions, initiating the Jewish Legion.

As a lieutenant in the 38th Royal Fusiliers, Jabotinsky saw action in Palestine in 1918.[6] His battalion was one of the first to enter Transjordan.[6] In August 1919, soon after he complained to Allenby about the British Army's attitude towards Zionism and the Jewish Legion, he was compulsorily demobilised.[7] His appeals to the British government failed to reverse the decision, but in 1920 he was awarded an MBE for his service.[8]

Jewish self-defense

After Ze'ev Jabotinsky was discharged from the British Army in September 1919, he openly trained Jews in warfare and the use of small arms. After the 1920 Palestine riots, at the demand of the Arab leadership, the British searched the offices and apartments of the Zionist leadership, including Weizmann's and Jabotinsky's homes, for arms. In Jabotinsky's house they found 3 rifles, 2 pistols, and 250 rounds of ammunition. Nineteen men were arrested, including Jabotinsky.

A committee of inquiry placed responsibility for the riots on the Zionist Commission, for provoking the Arabs. Jabotinsky was given a 15-year prison term for possession of weapons. The court blamed 'Bolshevism,' claiming that it 'flowed in Zionism's inner heart' and ironically identified the fiercely anti-Socialist Jabotinsky with the Socialist-aligned Poalei Zion ('Zionist Workers') party, which it called 'a definite Bolshevist institution.'[9] Following the public outcry against the verdict, he received amnesty and was released from Acre Prison.

Founder of the Revisionist movement

In 1920, Jabotinsky was elected to the first Assembly of Representatives in Palestine. The following year he was elected to the executive council of the Zionist Organization. He was also a founder of the newly registered Keren Hayesod and served as its director of propaganda.[10] He quit the mainstream Zionist movement in 1923, however, due to differences of opinion between him and its chairman, Chaim Weizmann, and established the new revisionist party called Alliance of Revisionists-Zionists and its youth movement, Betar (a Hebrew acronym for the "League of Joseph Trumpeldor"). His new party demanded that the mainstream Zionist movement recognize as its stated objective the establishment of a Jewish state; one on both banks of the Jordan River. His main goal was to establish a modern Jewish state with the help and aid of the British Empire. His philosophy contrasted with the socialist oriented Labor Zionists, in that it focused its economic and social policy on the ideal of the Jewish Middle class in Europe. An Anglophile, his ideal for a Jewish state was a form of nation state based loosely on the British imperial model, whose waning self-confidence he deplored.[11] His support base was mostly located in Poland, and his activities focused on attaining British support to help in the development of the Yishuv. Another area of major support for Jabotinsky was Latvia, where his fiery speeches in Russian made an impression on the largely Russian-speaking Latvian Jewish community.

Literary activity

From 1923 Jabotinsky was editor of the revived Jewish weekly Rassvet (Dawn), published first in Berlin, then in Paris. Besides journalistic work, he published novels under his previous pseudonym Altalena; his historical novel Samson Nazorei (Samson the Nazirite, 1927), set in Biblical times, describes Jabotinsky's ideal of an active, daring, warrior form of Jewish life. His novel Pyatero (The Five, written 1935, published 1936) has been described as "a work that probably has the truest claim to being the great Odessa novel... It contains poetic descriptions of early-twentieth-century Odessa, with nostalgia-tinged portraits of its streets and smells, its characters and passions."[12] Although it was little noticed at the time, it has received renewed appreciation for its literary qualities at the start of the twenty-first century, being reprinted in Russia and Belarus and in 2005 translated into English (the first translation into a Western language).[13]

Return to Palestine blocked by the British

Ze'ev Jabotinsky during World War I.

In 1930, while Jabotinsky was visiting South Africa, he was informed by the British Colonial Office that he would not be allowed to return to Palestine.[14]

The movement he established was not monolithic, however, and later included three separate factions, of which Jabotinsky's was the most moderate. Jabotinsky favored political cooperation with the British, while more irredentist-minded individuals like David Raziel, Abba Ahimeir, and Uri Zvi Greenberg focused on independent action in Mandate Palestine, fighting politically against the Labor mainstream, militarily against the British Authorities, and retaliating for Arab attacks. During his time in exile, Jabotinsky started regarding Benito Mussolini as a potential ally against the British, and contacts were made with Italy. In 1934 Jabotinsky and the Revisionist Zionist movement set up the Betar Naval Academy in Mussolini's Italy, which operated until 1938.

Evacuation plan for the Jews of Poland, Hungary and Romania

During the 1930s, Jabotinsky was deeply concerned with the situation of the Jewish community in Eastern Europe, particularly Poland. In 1936, Jabotinsky prepared the so-called 'evacuation plan', which called for the evacuation of the entire Jewish population of Poland, Hungary and Romania to Palestine. Also in 1936, he toured Eastern Europe, meeting with the Polish Foreign Minister Colonel Józef Beck; the Regent of Hungary, Admiral Miklós Horthy, and Prime Minister Gheorghe Tătărescu of Romania to discuss the evacuation plan. The plan gained the approval of all three governments, but caused considerable controversy within Polish Jewry, on the grounds that it played into the hands of Polish anti-Semites. In particular, the fact that the 'evacuation plan' had the approval of the Polish government was taken by many Polish Jews as indicating Jabotinsky had gained the endorsement of what they considered to be the wrong people. The evacuation of Jewish communities in Poland, Hungary and Romania was to take place over a ten-year period. However, the controversy was rendered moot when the British government vetoed it, and the World Zionist Organization's chairman, Chaim Weizmann, dismissed it. Two years later, in 1938, Jabotinsky stated in a speech that Polish Jews 'were living on the edge of the volcano' and warned that a wave of bloody super-pogroms would happen in Poland sometime in the near future. Jabotinsky went on to warn Jews in Europe that they should leave for Palestine as soon as possible.

Integrated state with Arabs

Jabotinsky was a complex personality, combining cynicism and idealism. He was convinced that there was no way for the Jews to regain any part of Palestine without opposition from the Arabs. In 1934 he wrote a draft constitution for the Jewish state which declared that Arabs would be on an equal footing with their Jewish counterparts "throughout all sectors of the country's public life." The two communities would share the state's duties, both military and civil service, and enjoy its prerogatives. Jabotinsky proposed that Hebrew and Arabic should enjoy equal rights and that "in every cabinet where the prime minister is a Jew, the vice-premiership shall be offered to an Arab and vice versa."[15] According to historian Benny Morris, however, documents show that all Zionist leaders of the 20s, 30s, and 40s, including Jabotinsky, favored the transfer of Arab populations if required for establishing a (still-proposed) Jewish state.[16]


Grave of Jabotinsky, Mount Herzl, Jerusalem

Jabotinsky died of a heart attack in New York, on 4 August 1940, while visiting a Jewish self-defense camp run by Betar. He was buried in New Montefiore cemetery in New York rather than in Palestine, in accordance with the statement in his will, "I want to be buried outside Palestine, may NOT be transferred to Palestine unless by order of that country's eventual Jewish government."

Initially, after the State of Israel was established, the governments headed by Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion did not make such a decision, but in 1964, shortly after becoming Prime Minister, Levi Eshkol ordered the reinterment of Jabotinsky and his wife in Jerusalem at Mount Herzl Cemetery. A monument to Jabotinsky remains at his original burial site in New York.

Legacy and commemoration

Ze'ev Jabotinsky's legacy is carried on today by Israel's Herut party (merged with other right wing parties to form the Likud in 1973), Herut – The National Movement (a breakaway from Likud), Magshimey Herut (young adult activist movement) and Betar (youth movement). In the United States, his call for Jewish self-defense has led to the formation of Americans for a Safe Israel and the Jewish Defense Organization. The JDO's training camp is named Camp Jabotinsky. In Israel, there are more streets, parks and squares named after Jabotinsky than any other figure in Jewish or Israeli history.[17] The Jabotinsky Medal is awarded for distinguished service to the State of Israel, and most Israeli cities have streets named after him. On 11 August 2008, left wing Israeli Education Minister Yuli Tamir announced plans to remove Jabotinsky's name from a list of terms students are required to learn, creating an uproar.[18]



By Jabotinsky
  • Turkey and the War, London, T.F. Unwin, Ltd. [1917]
  • Samson the Nazarite, London: M. Secker, [1930]
  • The Jewish War Front, London: T.F. Unwin, Ltd. [1940]
  • The War and The Jew, New York, The Dial Press [c1942]
  • The Story of the Jewish Legion, New York, B. Ackerman, incorporated [c1945]
  • The Battle for Jerusalem. Vladimir Jabotinsky, John Henry Patterson, Josiah Wedgwood, Pierre van Paassen explains why a Jewish army is indispensable for the survival of a Jewish nation and preservation of world civilization, American Friends of a Jewish Palestine, New York, The Friends, [1941]
  • A Pocket Edition of Several Stories Mostly Reactionary, Tel-Aviv: Reproduced by Jabotinsky Institute in Israel, [1984]. Reprint. Originally published: Paris, [1925]
  • The Five, A Novel of Jewish Life in Turn-of-the-Century Odessa: Paris, [1936]
About Jabotinsky
  • Lone Wolf: a Biography of Vladimir (Ze'ev) Jabotinsky, by Shmuel Katz; New York: Barricade Books, [c1996]
  • Rebel and Statesman: The Vladimir Jabotinsky Story, by Joseph B Schechtman; New York, T. Yoseloff [c. 1956–1961]
  • Zev Jabotinsky: Militant Fighter for Jews & Israel- Jewish Defense Organization booklet
  • Jabotinsky and the Revisionist Movement, 1925–1948, by Yaacov Shavit, London, England; Totawa, N.J.:F. Cass, [1988]
  • Zionism in the Age of the Dictators, Lenni Brenner, Lawrence Hill & Co; Rev Ed edition [c1983]
  • Vladimir Jabotinsky, Michael Stanislawski (Introduction), [2005] ISBN 978-0-8014-8903-7
  • Vladimir Jabotinsky: The Man and His Struggles, by Joseph Nedava; Tel Aviv [1986]

See also

Articles and poems


  • "Internationally, we will announce that those Jews who do not remove the rust of the exile from themselves and refuse to shave their beard and sidelocks (payos) will be second class citizens. They will not be given the right to vote." (From "Outside the encampment" Ha'aretz Newspaper 22 Oct 1919)
  • "Our habit of constantly and zealously answering to any rabble has already done us a lot of harm and will do much more. ... We do not have to apologize for anything. We are a people as all other peoples; we do not have any intentions to be better than the rest. As one of the first conditions for equality we demand the right to have our own villains, exactly as other people have them. ... We do not have to account to anybody, we are not to sit for anybody's examination and nobody is old enough to call on us to answer. We came before them and will leave after them. We are what we are, we are good for ourselves, we will not change, nor do we want to." (From Instead of Excessive Apology, 1911)
  • "Eliminate the Diaspora, or the Diaspora will surely eliminate you." (From "Tisha B'av 1937")
  • A Jew brought up among Germans may assume German custom, German words. He may be wholly imbued with that German fluid but the nucleus of his spiritual structure will always remain Jewish, because his blood, his body, his physical-racial type are Jewish. ... It is impossible for a man to become assimilated with people whose blood is different from his own. In order to become assimilated, he must change his body, he must become one of them, in blood. ... There can be no assimilation as long as there is no mixed marriage. ... An increase in the number of mixed marriages is the only sure and infallible means for the destruction of nationality as such. ... A preservation of national integrity is impossible except by a preservation of racial purity, and for that purpose we are in need of a territory of our own where our people will constitute the overwhelming majority.[19]

See also

  • Itamar Ben-Avi


  1. Joanna Paraszczuk (28 April 2011). "A revisionist's history". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 25 February 2013. "Even religious Zionist settlers in the West Bank have adopted Jabotinsky as a symbol – although he was an atheist who believed that the Arabs should share equal rights with Jews in a future Jewish state, famously declaring: “In every cabinet where the prime minister is a Jew, the vice-premiership shall be offered to an Arab, and vice versa.”" 
  2. Michael Stanislawski (2001). "Jabotinsky's Road to Zionism". Zionism and the Fin de Siècle: Cosmopolitanism and Nationalism from Nordau to Jabotinsky. University of California Press. p. 158. ISBN 9780520935754. "In sum, just as his turn to Symbolism and Decadence in the late 1890s was typical rather than idiosyncratic, Jabotinsky's abandonment of Symbolism and Decadence was also typical rather than idiosyncratic. A thoroughgoing atheist and rationalist, he could not, to the end of his days, comprehend any mystical or religious sensibility or even any metaphysical philosophical stance, idealist or not." 
  3. Klinger, Jerry (October 2010). "The Struggle for the Jewish Legion and The Birth of the IDF". Jewish Magazine. Retrieved 5 December 2010. 
  4. Nataliya and Yuri Kruglyak, KRT Web Studio at, Odessa, Ukraine (27 July 1939). "Archival documents on Zhabotinsky (Russian)". Retrieved 28 November 2011. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Jabotinsky Ze'ev. Liberal and Zionist Leader. Brief Biography". Retrieved 22 September 2010. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 Joseph Schechtman (1956). Rebel and Statesman; the Vladimir Jabotinsky Story. New York: Thomas Yoseloff. pp. 268–271. 
  7. Schechtman (1956), pp. 279–282.
  8. Schechtman (1956), pp. 283–284.
  9. Tom Segev, One Palestine, Complete, Metropolitan Books, 1999. p.141
  10. The Concise History, (Excerpt from Encyclopaedia Judaica, Vol.10)
  11. 'England is becoming continental! Not long ago the prestige of the English ruler of the "colored" colonies stood very high. Hindus, Arabs, Malays were conscious of his superiority and obeyed, not unprotestingly, yet completely. The whole scheme of training of the future rulers was built on the principle "carry yourself so that the inferior will feel your unobtainable superiority in every motion".’ Jabotinsky, cited Lenni Brenner, The Iron Wall London, ch.7, 1984
  12. Charles King, Odessa: Genius and Death in a City of Dreams (W. W. Norton & Company, 2011; ISBN 0393080528), p. 156.
  13. King, Odessa: Genius and Death in a City of Dreams, p. 156.
  14. "H-Net Reviews". Retrieved 22 September 2010. 
  15. Karsh, Efraim (Spring 2005). "Benny Morris's Reign of Error, Revisited: The Post-Zionist Critique". pp. 31–42. Retrieved 15 June 2013. 
  16. Morris, Benny (13 January 2004). "For the record". Retrieved 15 June 2013. 
  17. Jabotinsky most popular street name in Israel Ynetnews, 28 November 2007
  18. Ha'aretz 11 August 2008 Tamir infuriates rightists by removing Jabotinsky from curriculum
  19. V. Jabotinsky, "A Letter on Autonomy", Evreiskaya zhizn no. 6, June 1904, as translated in "Israel among the nations : selection of Zionist texts" (ed. Zvi Zohar; Jerusalem : World Zionist Organization, Organization Department, Research Section, 1966). Reprinted in L. Brenner, "51 Documents", Barricade Books, 2002, pp. 7–20.

External sources

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