The following article is a comprehensive, authoritative statement of the Zionist-Revisionist viewpoint suggesting a method whereby the various Zionist parties can come to final agreement on the Palestine and other Jewish questions. It was written by Vladimir Jabotinsky, world leader of the Zionist-Revisionist Party, a former member of the World Zionist Executive, one of the founders of the Jewish Legion which fought in Palestine under General Allenby, and a noted publicist.
The Zionist organization is threatened with a split; there are some who think the split is already there. It would be idle to discuss whose fault it is; the only thing that matters-to those who set any value by the preservation of a Congress and an Executive representing the joint will of all the Zionist parties, as I do-is to try to establish those conditions upon which a united body of that character could be reborn, and reborn for permanence.
Such an attempt, of course, had better be made by somebody quite objective and impartial, which I do not claim to be. Still, the intelligent reader will himself judge in how far the remarks that follow can be accepted as cool sense or, on the contrary, as partisan outbursts.
It is a fashion with most Zionist writers and orators to endow the Zionist movement with all the dignity of a non-territorial “State.” And they conclude, accordingly, that every “citizen” of this State-like community should obey the decisions of its “Parliament” and “Government” the same as a citizen of, say, Sweden or Holland obeys. I am afraid this is a construction not only premature but totally erroneous.
ZIONISM NOT A STATE
I wish to goodness we Jews could possess a real State, and the sooner the better; but the Zionist movement is only a movement, not a State. The difference lies, above all, in the realm of ethics. A State can compel: therefore, a citizen who obeys its orders even against his own convictions and conscience, commits no moral transgression: he must, he is forced, he acts under duress, and if his acts are morally wrong in his own judgment, the responsibility is not his. But a “movement” is a community based on the free will and consent of each of its components. One is not only not “compelled”-one is not even supposed to remain a member if the actions demanded of him become irreconcilable with his conscience. For the moral responsibility, in the eye of his innermost tribunal, rests upon him, and him only. He has no excuse of outward compulsion, he was free to obey or disobey, and if he acted against his own ethical judgment, it was his own fault and sin.
A very common example can illustrate this difference. Thousands and thousands may abhor the very idea of killing their neighbors from across the frontier in the name of patriotism; or, even if not entirely pacifists, they may dislike a particular war, thinking it unjust. If compelled to fight, they will do so with the profoundest aversion. But they need not be ashamed before their own conscience: they are compelled. It would be quite another story if they took part, say, in some kind of Jameson raid, at the same time thinking it unjust. In that case, their action would be immoral.
TWO VIEWPOINTS CLASH
Today the Zionist movement comprises widely and deeply conflicting elements. There are those in its ranks who feel that it would be unworthy of our national traditions to seek domination even in Palestine; and there are those who believe that every nation is entitled to “dominate” in its own national home. The former, accordingly, cannot agree that the claim for a “Jewish majority on both sides of the Jordan” should be stated in the name of a body of which they, too, are a part. And the latter, equally, cannot agree that Zionism should be officially interpreted, in the name of a body which they, too, are a part, as an undertaking quite content with the prospects of a national minority.
The same can be said as to tactics. Some Zionists are entirely convinced that hammering radical demands upon the mandatory powers is harmful; and some, again, are entirely convinced that “hammering,” etc., is the only way to obtain the object. If the latter became the master of the Zionist Organization’s machinery, it would be quite natural for the former to say, not only to their fellow-Zionists, but also to the world at large: “Our conscience forbids us to support methods of action likely to destroy the Jewish hope; we want the world to know that there is also another kind of Zionists serving the same ideal but rejecting such tactics; so that when the day or wrath will come, it should not strike all the Zionists but a portion of them should be left to carry on.” And vice-versa.
So far it has been “vice-versa.” For many years Zionism has been officially presented to the mandatory power as a project which does not imply the claim for a Jewish majority in Palestine. But a section of Zionists were profoundly convinced that the “majority” claim is the only argument which can compel the mandatory power to change its immigration policy, and the only interpretation able to make Zionism adequate to the needs of the Jewish tragedy. Let it not matter, for the moment, whether that section’s view was right or wrong: but it was their profound conviction, the voice of their conscience, and they felt that, should they keep silent (for silence, to all the world, means acquiescence) they would harm the Zionist future.
ALWAYS TWO OPINIONS
It would be idle for anybody here to intervene with the well known objection: “Is it not still more harmful to confront the world with two interpretations of Zionism, thus promoting strangers to the role of judges in a Jewish dispute on things essentially Jewish?” The objection sounds plausible, but nobody really believes in it. There has always been, before the non-Jewish world, two Jewish opinions. When the Zionist movement was born, there were the “Protest-Rabbiner.” When, during the war, one group of the Jews in England fought for what ultimately took the form of the Balfour Declaration, another group of Jews (and by far the more “influential”) fought against it. One Jewish delegation went to the War Office to insist on the suppression of the Jewish Regiment. Another hurried to the rescue of the Legion. (And both included prominent Zionists.) This play of dualism goes on: some Jews are in favor of the anti-German boycott, some are against it. Yet, above all those divisions, there is evidently the voice of the objective truth, of life’s reality itself; and somehow, therefore, it is always the good cause that triumphs in the end. The Balfour Declaration became a fact; so did the Jewish Legion; and Germany’s exports dwindle. It is of course, very regrettable that Jews cannot talk in unison; but let us not overestimate the danger.
CAN’T ENFORCE “STATUTES”
In any case, it is idle and useless to dream that such differences can be settled by statutory paragraphs enjoining “discipline.” The paragraphs will simply be ignored. The ruling majority then may amuse itself by “expelling” the mutineers from the Zionist Organization: but everybody by now realizes that that will bring neither help nor solace. It is, on the contrary, the “mutineers” who always get the biggest headlines in the press, and the “expulsions” of the minority will only result in a confession that the Zionist Organization, once identified with “Zionism” as a whole, no longer even pretends to represent the totality of Zionist Jewery. If I spoke as a partisan, I should say: quoderat demonstrandum! But I speak in the name of cool common sense.
Common sense points to one solution only: the Zionist Organization can no longer exist on the basis of its present statutes: with parties fighting each other at Congress elections in order to conquer the majority (and, here in Europe at least, victory depends, to a very large extent, on the respective financial power of each-for Shekalim can be distributed free of charge): with the conquering majority trying to dictate and threatening the minority with dreadful executions. The very character of those dreadful executions is a tell-tale admission that gives away all the fallacy of that famous comparison of Zionism with a “State”: the ultimate, the final threat is “expulsion.” A State does not expel offenders against discipline: a State puts them in jail… I apologize for too familiar and slangy a term I am about to use, but I can find no other: all this is “bunkum.”
The Zionist Organization can not be preserved by such methods. It was all very well as long as the Z. O. was young, and there was accordingly but little differentiation between its component elements. Today it consists of deeply differentiated parties each one actually sovereign, independent, and unamenable to any compulsion. This fact has to be admitted; and more-this fact should become the base on which the new World Zionist Organization should be built.
ZIONISM A “FAMILY”
Since comparisons are the fashion, I offer a better one: Zionism is not a “State,” but a “family.” A long as the children were small, and “Daddy” alive, it kept together without difficulty. Now there is no longer any trace of a person or a party likely to be recognized as the equivalent of “Daddy”; and the “children are grown, long married, each one with his own line of business. Such a family can only be kept from disbanding by free mutual consent, none of the brothers ever attempting to Jominate.
Translated into the language of statute paragraphs this would mean:
The World Zionist Organization is a free confederacy of independent and sovereign Zionist parties.
At the World Zionist Congress each party is represented by an equal number of delegates, and resolutions require the free consent of all the delegations.
All these parties shall use their best efforts to work out, in so far as possible, joint objects and methods of action with regard to such matters as raising the necessary funds, spreading the Hebrew language, training chalutzim, financing Palestinian institutions or enterprises, facilitating and regulating immigration. For these purposes they may fix by mutual consent, from time to time, fair quotas of the benefits and advantages to be derived by each party from the joint activity of all.
They elect, at the Congress, a joint executive-the Jewish Agency- whose powers shall be strictly confined to the lines of action agreed upon mutually-including also the function of performing in the name of Zionists as a whole, such political steps as would be agreed upon by all.
The parties, moreover, undertake to consult each other on any separate action, political or otherwise, which they might stand individually to initiate, always endeavoring to achieve, at least some degree of coordination-while remaining, in the one, free to act as they like.
I think I can visualize an arrangement of this kind, and I feel sure that it would be quite a useful arrangement. But even pessimists should realize that that would be the only practicable form of comparative unity, simply because there can be no other.