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Ze’ev Jabotinsky: Civil Rights Champion

Ze’ev Jabotinsky

Ze’ev Jabotinsky

“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.”


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 the founding director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies and coeditor of the Online Encyclopedia of America's Response to the Holocaust.

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