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ZIONIST-REVISIONISM IN THE AGE OF MUSSOLINI AND HITLER
By Lenni Brenner
If you want to know what Benjamin Netanyahu really thinks about coexisting with Palestinians, Vladimir Jabotinsky’s 1923 article, The Iron Wall (We and the Arabs)is a must read. Benzion Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister’s father, was Jabotinsky’s secretary. It is one of six matrix pieces for the 51 documents dealing with Zionist collaboration with the fascist powers.
When the British Empire declared Palestine to be the future Jewish national home, Palestine included today’s Jordan. But in 1921 London separated it from Palestine and gave it to the son of Britain’s puppet Sharif of Mecca. As no Jews lived there, the World Zionist Organization’s leaders accepted the loss. But Jabotinsky insisted that the WZO had to “revise” its policy. Britain giving part of Palestine to an Arab would inspire Palestinians to struggle on until they got it all back.
The Iron Wall opens with a sweet “equality” flute tune:
“There will always be two nations in Palestine - which is good enough for me, provided the Jews become the majority.... I belong to the group that once drew up the Helsingfors Programme.... In drawing up that programme, we had in mind not only the Jews, but all nations everywhere, and its basis is equality of rights.”
But soon enough you hear his military trumpet:
“It is utterly impossible to obtain the voluntary consent of the Palestine Arabs for converting “Palestine" from an Arab country into a country with a Jewish majority.... Zionist colonization must either stop, or else proceed regardless of the native population. Which means that it can proceed and develop only under the protection of a power that is independent of the native population -- behind an iron wall, which the native population cannot breach. That is our Arab policy; not what we should be, but what it actually is, whether we admit it or not. What need, otherwise, of the Balfour Declaration? Or of the Mandate? Their value to us is that an outside Power has undertaken to create in the country such conditions of administration and security that if the native population should desire to hinder our work, they will find it impossible.”
The Zionist settlement was then too numerically weak to dominate the Palestinians, so Jabotinsky hoped Italy would replace the softie Brits as Zionism’s iron wall. He didn’t like dictatorship, in 1926 writing of Mussolini’s party title:
“They had to coin a new term - ‘Duce’ - which is a translation of that most absurd of all English words - ‘leader’ - Buffaloes follow a leader. Civilized men have no leaders.”
Nevertheless the head buffalo’s concentration camps and hanging of revolting Arabs in Italy’s Libyan colony pleased him. By the mid-1930s, in spite of cavils re Fascism, Jabotinsky openly orientated towards Italy. In 1934, Mussolini responded by establishing a squadron of Betar, the Revisionist youth group, at his maritime academy.
Jabotinsky became Fascism's defense attorney. He wrote an April 11, 1935 article, “Jews and Fascism: Some Remarks - and a Warning", for New York’s Jewish Daily Bulletin. Most Jews followed common usage and referred to the fight against Hitler as part of the “anti-Fascist struggle.” Jabotinsky tried to stop that. If Jews saw Hitler as a Fascist, they wouldn’t accept Revisionism’s move towards Mussolini. The brief for the Fascist regime shows how he put objections to buffalo herd politics well after his wish that Italy would replace Britain as Zionism's iron wall:
“Whatever any few think of Fascism’s other points, there is no doubt that the Italian brand of Fascist ideology is at least an ideology of racial equality. Let us not be so humble as to pretend that this does not matter - that racial equality is too insignificant an idea to outbalance the absence of civic freedom. For it is not true. I am a journalist who would choke without freedom of the press, but I affirm it is simply blasphemous to say that in the scale of civic rights, even the freedom of the press comes before the equality of all men. Equality comes first, always first, super first; and Jews should remember it, and hold that a regime maintaining that principle in a world turned cannibal does, partly, but considerably, atone for its other short-comings: it may be criticized, it should not be kicked at. There are enough other terms for cussing use - Nazism, Hitlerism, Polizeistaat, etc. - but the word “fascismo” is Italy’s copyright and should therefore be reserved only for the correct kind of discussion, not for exercises in Billingsgate. Especially as it may yet prove very harmful. That government of the copy right is a very powerful factor, whose sympathy may yet ward off many a blow, for instance in the League of Nations councils.
Incidentally,the Permanent Mandate Commission which supervises Palestinian affairs has an Italian chairman. In short - though I don’t expect street-urchins (irrespective of age) to follow advise of caution - responsible leaders ought to take care.”
The March, 1936 issue of L'Idea Sionistica, published during Mussolini’s conquest of Ethiopia (aka Abyssinia), describes a ceremony at Betar’s headquarters at the scuola marittima:
“The Order ‘Attention’ - A triple chant ordered by the squad’s commanding officer - ‘Viva L’Italia! Viva Il Re! Viva Il Duce!’ resounded, followed by the benediction which rabbi Aldo Lattes invoked in Italian and in Hebrew for God, for the King and for Il Duce.”
“Giovinezza,” the Fascist Party anthem, “was sung with much enthusiasm by the Betarim.”
The war ended in May and they marched in a victory parade. Revisionism’s attitude towards Mussolini’s war was best described in the June 12, 1936 issue of London’s World Jewry magazine. Wolfgang von Weisl, Revisionism’s Financial Director, “declared that, although opinions among the Revisionists varied, in general they sympathized with Fascism.... He, personally, was a supporter of Fascism, and he rejoiced at the victory of Fascist Italy in Abyssinia as a triumph of the White races against the Black.”
Their rejoicing ended a few weeks later afterGeneral Francisco Franco’s coup against the left-leaning Spanish Republic. Mussolini realized that a Spanish workers victory would inspire Italian workers to try to overthrow him. He had competed with Germany over domination of Austria, but realized that he had to unite with Hitler against the left. He knew that he couldn’t have an alliance with the Nazi and have Jews in his party, so he expelled them and put paid to his ties to Zionism.
War broke out in 1939. Jabotinsky and Benzion Netanyahu felt that they had to support Britain. But a Revisionist minority had become so ideologically fascist in the scuola marittima season that they wouldn’t fight Hitler. He was a persecutor, but Britain was the enemy because a 1939 London White Paper called off the solution to European anti-Semitism, i.e., establishing a Jewish state in Palestine. In 1940 they broke with Jabotinsky. In January 1941, their leader, Avraham Stern, sent a representative to Beirut, controlled by pro-Nazi Vichy France, to negotiate with a German diplomat. After the war, their
“Proposal of the National Military Organization (Irgun Zvai Leumi) Concerning the Solution of the Jewish Question in Europe and the Participation of the NMO in the War on the side of Germany” was found in the German Embassy in Turkey. They told the Nazis that “The evacuation of the Jewish masses from Europe is a precondition for solving the Jewish question; but this can only be made possible and complete through the settlement of these masses in the home of the Jewish people, Palestine, and through the establishment of a Jewish state in its historic boundaries....
The NMO, which is well-acquainted with the goodwill of the German Reich government and its authorities towards Zionist activity inside Germany and towards Zionist emigration plans, is of the opinion that:
Proceeding from these considerations, the NMO in Palestine, under the condition the above-mentioned national aspirations of the Israeli freedom movement are recognized on the side of the German Reich, offers to actively lake part in the war on Germany’s side.
This offer by the NMO ... would be connected to the military training and organizing of Jewish manpower in Europe, under the leadership and command of the NMO. These military units would take part in the fight to conquer Palestine, should such a front be decided upon.
The indirect participation of the Israeli freedom movement in the New Order in Europe, already in the preparatory stage, would be linked with a positive-radical solution of the European Jewish problem in conformity with the above-mentioned national aspirations of the Jewish people. This would extraordinarily strengthen the moral basis of the New Order in the eyes of all humanity.”
The Sternists declared that “The NMO is closely related to the totalitarian movements of Europe in its ideology and structure.”
The Nazis didn’t respond to the Proposal, but they didn’t lose hope. In December 1941 another agent was captured in Syria by the British, on his way to Germany’s Embassy in Turkey.
Until Menachem Begin’s l977 election victory, most Israeli historians dismissed Revisionism as Zionism’s fanatic fringe. The “Stern Gang”, as their enemies called Avraham Stern’s NMO (later renamed Lohamei Herut Yisrael, Fighters for the Freedom of Israel, acronym Lehi) was looked upon as of more interest to psychiatrists than political scientists. Nevertheless, Begin’s appointment of Yitzhak Shamir (birth name Yizernitsky) as Foreign Minister was quietly received, although Shamir was the Gang’s operations commander after the British killed Stern.
I was in Jerusalem in 1983, when Shamir became Prime Minister (1983-84/1986-92). I got an English-language Arab weekly to run the Sternist Proposal. Days later, in Britain for lectures on my first book, Zionism in the Age of the Dictators, I read that the new PM had been challenged about it. The October 21 London Times reported that Shamir “denied that he had any part in the efforts by Mr. Abraham Stern, the original commander of Lehi... to establish contact with the Nazis and Italian Fascists. ‘There was a plan to turn to Italy for help and to make contact with Germany on the assumption that these could bring about a massive Jewish immigration to Palestine. I opposed this... but I did join Lehi after the idea of contacts with the Axis countries was dropped.’”
I went to The Times with their Proposal, in German and English. After an editor read the surreal document, it ran my November 4 letter, sure that my claim of his membership, before 1941, was true.
“As an American, away from my files, I cannot be certain exactly when in 1940 Shamir joined the group. But in any case, isn’t he confessing that he knowingly joined an organization of traitors which had offered to ally itself to the arch-enemy of the Jews? Nor can there be any doubt that he joined up with Stern before December 1941, when the Sternists tried to send Nathan Yalin-Mor to Turkey to contact the German ambassador there with the same proposal: that they be allowed to ally themselves to the Third Reich.”
My source for 1940 membership was Gerold Frank’s 1963 book, The Deed, on the 1944 assassination of Lord Moyne, Britain’s Minister Resident in Cairo:
“In September Stern walked out of the Irgun and set up his own group.... Eliahu and David Danon... were summoned to a remote school-house.... the Irgun commander... made a brief speech.... He read Jabotinsky’s cable to Raziel... and the one sent to Stern: ‘Reappointing R’.... Itzhak Yizernitsky.... spoke tersely, summing up the reason behind Stern’s decision to walk out of the Irgun.... David, for his part, could not forget Yizernitsky’s ‘fire and powder’ remark in the days immediately following the Raziel-Stern split.”
Shamir’s lie re joining the Sternists only after they stopped trying to fight on Germany’s side, tells us why 51 Documents can be a powerful weapon against modern Zionism. Trying to ally with Hitler can’t be justified today, not to Jews nor anyone else. Some Revisionists try to get out from behind Shamir’s Nazi-philia by reminding us that most 1940s Revisionists supported Britain. But that Revisionist majority later voted for a Prime Minister who, “on a national and totalitarian basis,” wanted Adolf Hitler to win World War II.
Let’s go further. Were Jabotinsky and his secretary really much better than Stern and Shamir? Let’s ask Israel’s Prime Minister if von Weisl also spoke for his father when he cheered for Italy during the Ethiopian war? Did Il Duce break with Jabotinsky and Benjamin Netanyahu’s father? Or did they break with Il Duce? Training the founding admirals of Israel’s navy at Mussolini’s scuola marittima during the Ethiopian war can’t be justified today, not to Ethiopians or Italians nor anyone else.
So, dear reader,permit me to close by pointing out that even the few Zionist writings quoted above demonstrate that 51 Documents is required reading for putting today’s Israel in historical perspective. Study all the documents and let friends and colleagues know that the book is available.