Ze’ev Jabotinsky: The Middle East Past Mirrors the Future
“The past lays a railroad track for the future.” These are the words of Ze’ev Jabotinsky, and how right he is. Perhaps more so than any other Zionist leaders, Jabotinsky was a prophet whose words have ongoing relevance and could be applied to the Middle East challenges of today in so many ways. Here is a collection of his quotes and applicable lessons from them today.
- Jabotinsky: “We [Jews] 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.”
A translation of the words of Kalman Liebskind in Maariv recently: “The insane obsession with what is being dubbed the Jerusalem “lynch” has by now been blown completely out of proportion. This is NOT because we should regard the actual incident lightly but because countless incidents at least as violent are completely ignored by the media. These days some graffiti on an Arab gravestone is international headline news, while the nonstop vandalizing and desecration of Jewish graves on the Mount of Olives gets nary a mention. When a Jew strikes an Arab in anger this is a banner headline. Dozens of Molotov cocktail bombs thrown at Jews by Arabs every day are never mentioned. The excuse is supposed to be that Jews attacking Arabs are news, like a man biting a dog. But I have two responses to that. ‘First, if that is the real reason, then I want to hear it said unambiguously on the news and in the media. The fact that the Arabs are the violent side of the conflict is a matter about which the media refuse to speak. Second, the media are supposed to be an intermediary link between reality and the consumer. So when 1000 attacks against Jews by Arabs are never reported, while one single attack by Jews against Arabs is the focus of the front pages for two weeks, readers will understand that the violent side in the Middle East conflict is the Jews. One cannot overstate the importance of this bias. If the media were to report accurately the dimensions of Arab terror, the Israeli public would be demanding immediate military action against Gaza. When the public is unaware that this terror exists, the public is indifferent.
Oh and one more thing worth noting. Even with all the press attention to the Arab victim of street hooliganism in Jerusalem, the simple fact of the matter is that Arabs can walk about freely in the “Jewish areas” of Jerusalem.”
- Jabotinsky: “‘Everybody is wrong and you alone are right?’ No doubt this question springs by itself to the reader’s lips and mind. It is customary to answer this with apologetic phrases to the effect that I fully respect public opinion, that I bow to it, that I was glad to make concessions….All this is unnecessary, and all this is untrue. You cannot believe in anything in the world, if you admit even once that perhaps your opponents are right, and not you. This is not the way to do things. There is but one truth in the world, and it is all yours. If you are not sure of it, stay at home; but if you are sure, don’t look back, and it will be your way.”
Israel has spoken of the danger of Iran for at least the last 10 years – shouting from the mountain tops about the dangers which Iran poses to the world, and Israel was often condemned for it. Now, the entire world seems to recognize that Israel was right about Iran. As Mitt Romney said recently, “In [Obama’s] first TV interview as president, he said we should talk to Iran.” Today, both Obama and Romney believe talking isn’t enough – and whether through military action or sanctions, Iran must be stopped. Israel was right to stand alone in the world against Iran – despite world pressure.
- Jabotinsky: “What is important is what you are demanding; what is important is in whose name it is being demanded. If the demand is presented in the name of a great mass of people, it is important that that mass itself make it clear from time to time that it is seriously interested in the subject. What is important is patience and stamina; and one of the most important factors is that the spokesman stating the case should be capable of stating it clearly as well as politely.”
Media is so important today to communicating the needs of the only democracy in the Middle East – and the demands are of a civilized nation seeking peace, surrounded by demagogues and brutality. Owning a PR agency I see the thousands being killed in Syria ignored by the world media and wonder how new agencies can be so morally corrupt.
- Jabotinsky believed that “every individual is a king”, and that the Jewish state’s economy must be based upon the Bible: “economic and social policy is one of freedom; rather than forbid or control economic activity, it deals with any negative results by means of institutions such as the Sabbath, tithing, the gleanings and corners of the field that were left for the poor, and the Jubilee.” As his disciple Menachem Begin later said “Private initiative is the least expensive and most efficient system.”
Israel’s economy continues to thrive even through worldwide recession, Israel is one of a few countries continuing to see financial growth. His capitalist vision was, and is the right way forward.
- Jabotinsky: “So long as the Arabs have a glimmer of hope to rid themselves of our presence, they will not give it up for all the sweet words and far-reaching promises in the world.” Only when “there is not a single breach in the iron wall . . . will they start honest negotiations with us” that can lead to the two peoples being “able to peacefully live together like good neighbors.”
The “iron wall” of Israeli resilience allows Israel to survive surrounded by Arab nations. One hopes that one day the Arabs will accept the presence of the Jews. The iron wall has not outlived its usefulness.
Ze’ev Jabotinsky spoke of the Jewish people being “Omni-present”, and there’s no doubt that despite all the difficulties the great state of Israel thrives and grows.
Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR.