How Vladimir Jabotinsky Went from Russian Intellectual to Zionism’s Loyal Opposition

Born to a relatively assimilated family in cosmopolitan Odessa, Vladimir Jabotinsky showed little interest in Jewish affairs when he set out to establish himself as a journalist and intellectual—writing a successful play for the Russian stage and producing influential pieces on literary criticism and current affairs. At some point around 1903, still in his twenties, Jabotinsky embraced Zionism, and went on to found the Revisionist movement, which is the forerunner of today’s Likud. A new work by Brian Horowitz explores the transitional period in this great Zionist leader’s life. Allan Arkush writes in his review:

The first verifiable trace of Zionism in Jabotinsky’s autobiography is an anti-anti-Zionist piece that he wrote in 1902, responding to a Jewish writer named Bickerman, who had ridiculed Zionism as utopian in a Russian-language journal. . . . Nevertheless, according to Horowitz, it was really the Kishinev pogrom, which broke out on April 19, [1903] and lasted three horrific days that was “the precipitating event” in Jabotinsky’s Zionist transformation. If he subsequently chose to obscure this fact, it was probably because he shied away from “acknowledging anti-Semitism as the stimulus for his Zionism.”

Horowitz has mined new material: . . . for example, Jabotinsky’s furious response to the prominent Russian liberal Pyotr Struve’s 1909 article, “Intelligentsia and the Face of the Nation,” which praised Jews who had integrated into Russian culture and who criticized those who did not. Jabotinsky, Horowitz tells us, did more than repudiate “Struve’s claims that the empire must have a Russian national character; he faulted the decent liberal Russians who ignored antisemitism,” and he did so in characteristically brutal bravura fashion.

Jabotinsky wasn’t always as single-mindedly concerned with Palestine as he later became, but he was never a pussycat. Horowitz’s portrait of him engaged in rough-and-tumble polemics on a long-gone intellectual battlefield is both entertaining and instructive.

In honor of Jabotinsky’s birthday tomorrow, Mosaic is offering a free copy of Hillel Halkin’s biography Jabotinsky, A Life to new subscribers. Take advantage of your offer here.

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: History of Zionism, Russian Jewry, Vladimir Jabotinsky

The IDF’s First Investigation of Its Conduct on October 7 Is Out

For several months, the Israel Defense Forces has been investigating its own actions on and preparedness for October 7, with an eye to understanding its failures. The first of what are expected to be many reports stemming from this investigation was released yesterday, and it showed a series of colossal strategic and tactical errors surrounding the battle at Kibbutz Be’eri, writes Emanuel Fabian. The probe, he reports, was led by Maj. Gen. (res.) Mickey Edelstein.

Edelstein and his team—none of whom had any involvement in the events themselves, according to the IDF—spent hundreds of hours investigating the onslaught and battle at Be’eri, reviewing every possible source of information, from residents’ WhatsApp messages to both Israeli and Hamas radio communications, as well as surveillance videos, aerial footage, interviews of survivors and those who fought, plus visits to the scene.

There will be a series of further reports issued this summer.

IDF chief Halevi in a statement issued alongside the probe said that while this was just the first investigation into the onslaught, which does not reflect the entire picture of October 7, it “clearly illustrates the magnitude of the failure and the dimensions of the disaster that befell the residents of the south who protected their families with their bodies for many hours, and the IDF was not there to protect them.” . . .

The IDF hopes to present all battle investigations by the end of August.

The IDF’s probes are strictly limited to its own conduct. For a broader look at what went wrong, Israel will have to wait for a formal state commission of inquiry to be appointed—which happens to be the subject of this month’s featured essay in Mosaic.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Gaza War 2023, IDF, Israel & Zionism, October 7