Iron Wall 2008

Yisrael Medad,

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צילום: ערוץ 7
Yisrael Medad
Yisrael Medad is a revenant resident of Shiloh, in the Hills of Efrayim north of Jerusalem. He arrived in Israel with his wife, Batya, in 1970 and lived in the renewing Jewish Quarter, eventually moving to Shiloh in 1981. Currently the Menachem Begin Center's Information Resource Director, he has previously been director of Israel's Media Watch, a Knesset aide to three Members of Knesset and a lecturer in Zionist History. He assists the Yesha Council in it's contacts with the Foreign Media in a volunteer capacity, is active on behalf of Jewish rights on the Temple Mount and is involved in various Jewish and Zionist activist causes. He contributes a Hebrew-language media column to Besheva and publishes op-eds in the Jerusalem Post and other periodicals. He also blogs at MyRightWord in English and, in Hebrew, at The Right Word....

Ze'ev Jabotinsky was an intellectual but is a problematic figure even for those who consider him their political and ideological mentior.  For while he was a fierce nationalist and an exponent of the use of force, he was also a liberal and humanist.  In the late 1930s, during the so-called Arab Revolt, he finally gave the order to combat terror with terror but warned his followers that no hand was to be raised against a woman or child, in an earlier form of tohar haneshek (purity of arms).  His rivals pilloried him and Arabs and their supporters villified him.


Jabotinsky seems to get quoted in strange places and circumstances, like in a book review by Alex Renton of "Palestine Inside Out: an Everyday Occupation", authored by Saree Makdisi.

Here's what caught my eye:

The hinge to this guidebook to the Palestinian morass is a quotation from the Zionist thinker Vladimir Jabotinsky: "Every indigenous people will resist alien settlers as long as they see any hope of ridding themselves of the danger of foreign settlement." His essay of 1923, of course, advocates Jews settling in Palestine to make sure that that hope is destroyed among the people they will displace. It was titled "The Iron Wall".

Saree Makdisi is not the first writer to point out that what was a metaphor used by a racist right-winger, reviled at the time by the liberal Zionist mainstream, is now an actuality. A high wall in concrete and steel runs along the occupied West Bank and around Gaza. And Jabotinsky's creeds now run through the heart of 21st-century Israeli government policy...

It is impossible to adequately reply to this calumny and a blog is not for academic essays but I must stress that the quotation is slightly out of context.

Here is how Jabotinsky opens his article, "The Iron Wall (part I)":-

It is an excellent rule to begin an article with the most important point, but this time, I find it necessary to begin with an introduction , and, moreover , with a personal introduction.

I am reputed to be an enemy of the Arabs, who wants to have them ejected from Palestine, and so forth. It is not true.

Emotionally, my attitude to the Arabs is the same as to all other nations – polite indifference. Politically, my attitude is determined by two principles. First of all, I consider it utterly impossible to eject the Arabs from Palestine. There will always be two nations in Palestine – which is good enough for me, provided the Jews become the majority. And secondly, I belong to the group that once drew up the Helsingfors Programme , the programme of national rights for all nationalities living in the same State. In drawing up that programme, we had in mind not only the Jews, but all nations everywhere, and its basis is equality of rights.

I am prepared to take an oath binding ourselves and our descendants that we shall never do anything contrary to the principle of equal rights, and that we shall never try to eject anyone. This seems to me a fairly peaceful credo.

But it is quite another question whether it is always possible to realise a peaceful aim by peaceful means. For the answer to this question does not depend on our attitude to the Arabs, but entirely on the attitude of the Arabs to us and to Zionism.

Now, after this introduction, we may proceed to the subject.

So, one could be, according to Jabotinsky anti-Arab in a political sense but need not be anti-Arab in a civic sense.

Are you not fully convinced about Jabotisnky's double level of concern and understanding - but rejecting - Arab claims to Eretz-Yisrael while asserting Jewish claims?

Here's another quotation:-

“there are no superior nor inferior ones, for every race has its own qualities, features and its own combination of characteristics .. In my eyes, all people are equal. Of course, I love my people above all but it isn't 'superior' to my mind.” [V. Jabotinsky, "An Exchange of Complaints" 1911 in Nation and Society (Hebrew), p. 147, 158.]

There is also his article, "The Arab Angle Undramatized" wherein he managed both to support an Arab becoming eventually even a Prime Minister as well as not opposing Arab migration out of the Palestine mandate (see "The War and the Jew", p. 216; 218-221).  So, it would seem that Jabotinsky was not a declared racist but was trying to make sure that Jewish rights were not trampled on nor done away with by...racist Arabs.

For it was the Arabs that claimed that Jews had no rights whatsoever in any area of their national homeland. Racist Arabs sought to promote a policy of ethnic cleansing, first killing and expelling Jews from Tel Hai in March 1920, then attempting the same in Jerusalem's Old City in April 1920, in Jaffa and Petah Tikva in May 1921, in Hebron, Safed, Tiberias, Be'er Tuviah, Hulda and other locations in 1929 and on and on. In 1948, they wiped out the Jewish communities of Kfar Etzion, Revadim, Masu'ot Yitzhak, Ein Tzurim, Atarot, Beit Ha'arava, Neveh Ya'akov and others, including the entire Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem's Old City (what they attempted 28 years earlier).  And they did much in-between.  The list is long.

And that supposedly 'high wall in concrete and steel runs along the occupied West Bank and around Gaza'.

In truth, in very few places is it very high. In most places, it is only a chain-linked fence. And what the reviewer terms the WB & G - those areas are not "occupied". They are liberated but if you want to call them "disputed", go ahead if it makes you feel better. And Israel has a better legal right to administer them than any other country.

We shouldn't need a wall.  But if one need be, whether physical, cultural or otherwise, it need be effective.

For if those racist Arabs keep firing Qassams, Grads and mortars, of what good is a wall, even if it be an iron one?