web analytics
August 21, 2014 / 25 Av, 5774
Israel at War: Operation Protective Edge
 
 
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat (L) visits the JewishPress.com booth at The Event. And the Winners of the JewishPress.com Raffle Are…

Congratulations to all the winners of the JewishPress.com raffle at The Event



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Ze’ev Jabotinsky: Civil Rights Champion

Ze’ev Jabotinsky

Ze’ev Jabotinsky

The popular image of the Jews who took part in battles for black civil rights is of liberal activists and idealistic college students. Yet several important early civil rights efforts in the United States and South Africa were undertaken by officers of the Irgun Zvai Leumi, the Jewish underground militia in British Mandatory Palestine.

Last week’s 70th anniversary of the passing of Ze’ev Jabotinsky, founder of Revisionist Zionism and the Irgun, is an occasion to reflect on Jabotinsky’s little-known legacy of anti-racism.

Jabotinsky was arguably was the most controversial Zionist leader of his era. He was dismissed as an alarmist when he predicted European Jews would be engulfed by anti-Semitism. Socialist Zionists bristled at his preference for free market economics over Marxism. Because he promoted weapons training, he was denounced as a militarist. And because he believed the Arabs would never accept a Jewish state, he was branded a racist.

Those familiar with Jabotinsky’s writings knew those labels did not do him justice. He envisioned a Jewish state that would have a large Arab minority alongside its Jewish majority. Arabs would have full civil, political, and cultural rights, including representation in parliament, and both Arabic and Hebrew would be official languages. Moreover, he argued that if there was a Jewish prime minister, there should be a deputy Arab prime minister (and vice versa).

Jabotinsky also had more than a passing interest in the question of American race relations. Following a wave of race riots that erupted in the U.S. after black boxer Jack Johnson defeated his white opponent in 1910, Jabotinsky wrote (in the Russian periodical Odesskie Novosti): “In the United States, the most free republic on earth, there are ten million citizens suffering a shocking lack of rights simply because of the color of their skin.… The political rights of the ‘free and equal’ black citizen are non-existent.”

Ten years later, on a visit to the U.S., Jabotinsky witnessed a Ku Klux Klan march in Texas. It reinforced his disgust at racism in America. In a letter to a friend at the time, he wrote that both Jews and blacks in the U.S. would soon find it necessary to physically defend themselves against their enemies. So perhaps it should be not be surprising that officers of the Irgun stood up for black civil rights.

In early 1940, Jabotinsky sent a number of young Irgun officers from Europe and Palestine to the United States to mobilize American support for the rescue of Jewish refugees and creation of a Jewish state. Led by Hillel Kook, using the pseudonym Peter Bergson, they organized rallies, sponsored newspaper ads, lobbied in Washington and, in 1946, staged a Broadway play to rouse support for Zionism.

The play, called “A Flag is Born,” served a surprising role in the fight against racial segregation. Starring a young Marlon Brando, “Flag” had a successful 10-week run at Manhattan’s Alvin Theater (today the Neil Simon Theater) and then hit the road. A planned performance at the National Theater in Washington, D.C. in early 1947 was relocated to Baltimore’s Maryland Theater because the play’s author, Ben Hecht, would not permit his works to be staged at theaters, such as the National, that barred blacks.

When Hecht discovered that the Maryland Theater restricted blacks to the balcony, Bergson’s group and the NAACP teamed up to protest: The NAACP threatened to picket and a Bergson official announced he would bring two black friends to sit with him at the play. The management gave in, allowing black patrons to sit wherever they chose. NAACP leaders hailed the “tradition-shattering victory” and used it facilitate the desegregation of other Baltimore theaters.

“I am proud,” Hecht declared in a statement afterward, “that my play has been the instrument to break down one of the most un-American and undemocratic practices that has disgraced our country.”

Meanwhile, Jabotinsky’s followers took an interest in the fight against racism in South Africa as well. Former Irgun commander Menachem Begin, leader of the opposition Herut Party, paid his first visit to South Africa in the autumn of 1953. Hertzel Katz, an Israeli attorney who was a leader of the local branch of the Revisionist youth movement Betar, recalls that Begin’s hosts arranged for a rickshaw, the customary form of local transportation, to take him to a speaking engagement.

“Begin was appalled at the thought of a black man undertaking such a degrading task,” Katz told JNS.org. “He refused to ride in the rickshaw.”

Harry Hurwitz, who organized Begin’s visit to South Africa and later became an aide to Begin as prime minister, once recounted to me another memorable incident from that visit. Shortly before one of his speeches in Johannesburg, Begin learned that blacks would not be permitted to sit in the same meeting hall as whites. Begin refused to take the stage unless blacks were admitted. After frantic last-minute discussions with Jewish leaders, the local authorities relented and allowed blacks to attend Begin’s lecture.

As for Katz, he divided his time between Betar and the struggle against apartheid. He and fellow Betar leader Kenny Gross were active in Helen Suzman’s anti-apartheid Progressive Party in the 1960s and ran for parliament as Progressive candidates in 1965.

From Baltimore to Johannesburg, Jabotinsky’s followers recognized that, as Ben Hecht put it, “to fight injustice to one group of human beings affords protection to every other group.”

(JNS.org)


Dr. Rafael Medoff is director of the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, and coauthor, with Prof. Sonja Schoepf Wentling, of the new book “Herbert Hoover and the Jews: The Origins of the ‘Jewish Vote’ and Bipartisan Support for Israel.”

About the Author: Dr. Rafael Medoff is founding director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, in Washington, D.C., and author of 14 books about the Holocaust, Zionism, and American Jewish history. His latest book is 'FDR and the Holocaust: A Breach of Faith,' available from Amazon.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Ze’ev Jabotinsky: Civil Rights Champion”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
US President Barack Obama speaking on the phone last month aboard Air Force One.
US Reveals Failed Summer Mission to Rescue Captured Journalist
Latest Indepth Stories
ZIM Piraeus in happier days. (Image: ShipSpotting.com user b47b56)

ZIM Piraeus isn’t Israeli-owned or flagged, incidentally, it is Greek operated.

PM Benjamin Netanyahu

Foolish me, thinking the goals were the destruction of Hamas thereby giving peace a real chance.

Sgt. Sean Carmeli, ZT"L

The free-spirted lifestyle didn’t hold your interest; the needs of your people did.

And why would the U.S. align itself on these issues with Turkey and Qatar, longtime advocates of Hamas’s interests?

Several years ago the city concluded that the metzitzah b’peh procedure created unacceptable risks for newborns in terms of the transmission of neo-natal herpes through contact with a mohel carrying the herpes virus.

The world wars caused unimaginable anguish for the Jews but God also scripted a great glory for our people.

Judging by history, every time Hamas rebuilds their infrastructure, they are stronger than before.

His father asked him to read Psalms from the Book of Tehilim every day.

(Reposted with permission from author’s website) Moderate truth-teller Daniel Pipes (Dream) has further moderated his stance on Islam by actually entertaining the idea of “Moderate Islamism”, with Andrew C. McCarthy- whom I’ve debated about this- giving it some credence. We’ve gone from Naming the Enemy -Nazism, Communism- to Renaming the Enemy – “Islamic Totalitarianism”, “Radical Islam”, “Islamism”, […]

Maimonides: “Your 1 mitzva may tip the scales and bring redemption to the entire world and creation”

Jerusalem has been aware of the importance of China to its growth and security.

In other words, how by any rational playbook can one even begin to explain anti-Semitism?

Israel has nine Iron Domes, but you Mr. Hannity are the tenth.

Entire movements within “orthodoxy” propagate a Judaism of outlandish folklore and Jewish mysticism

The Rebbetzin began campaigning to increase public awareness of the importance of saying Amen.

More Articles from Dr. Rafael Medoff
U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Henry Morgenthau Sr. pictured in Turkish-ruled Palestine.

With generous support from the Egyptian Jewish community, the exiled family built a new life for itself in the Mafruza and Gabbari refugee camps near Alexandria.

Jan de Hartog

While grateful not to be returned to Germany, the passengers understood they were still in the middle of a danger zone.

These “Jewish Amazons” were living proof of the failure of the enemies of the Jewish people.

Jewish soldiers in the Polish forces often encountered anti-Semitic prejudice.

Sulzberger, one of the most famous “religious Jews” who opposed Zionism did not change his mind even after the Holocaust.

Meryl Streep condemned Disney for associating with extremists while doing the very same thing.

In 1943, just before Yom Kippur, some 400 rabbis marched to the White House.

When Secretary of State John Kerry appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in September to make the case for U.S. intervention in Syria, he offered a historical analogy.

    Latest Poll

    Do you think the FAA ban on US flights to Israel is political?






    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/zeev-jabotinsky-civil-rights-champion/2012/08/01/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: