Yossi Klein Halevi: Bibi’s Political InheritanceRoundup: Talking About History
Benzion Netanyahu, scholar of the Inquisition, secretary to Ze’ev Jabotinsky, and father of Bibi, was the last of the purist Revisionist Zionists. He carried Revisionism’s bitter battles against the Zionist left to the end of his 102 years. And his complicated relationship with his son tells the story of the successes and failures of the Revisionist movement.
Through the 1930s and ’40s, Revisionist and left-wing Zionists argued vehemently about the nature of the future state and how to create it. Labor Zionists were socialists, Revisionists capitalists. Labor cooperated with the British mandate; the Revisionists revolted. And Labor accepted the division of the land of Israel, while Revisionists opposed every partition plan, including the first partition in 1922, which created the Kingdom of Jordan. The future state, argued Jabotinsky, would need ample borders in which to accommodate millions of future Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe.
The most profound debate between Revisionism and Labor concerned the nature of the Zionist transformation of the Jew. All Zionists agreed that the Jewish character had been distorted by exile; the question was what aspects of that personality needed to be changed. Labor advocated a total overhaul: a secular socialist Jew, freed of piety and economic marginality, a farmer and a worker. Revisionism, though, had only one demand on the new Jew: Become a soldier. Jabotinsky didn’t care whether Jews were Orthodox or atheist, workers or businessmen—so long as they knew how to defend themselves....
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