Vladimir Evgenevich Jabotinsky

Vladimir Evgenevich Jabotinsky (1880-1940) led the Revisionist Zionist party. He fought for a Jewish state extending on both sides of the Jordan River.

Vladimir Jabotinsky was born on Oct. 18, 1880, in Odessa, the Jewish cultural center of southern Russia. He received his elementary and secondary education in Russian schools and showed special gifts in languages and literature. He learned Russian, English, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Polish, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and Yiddish. He started his literary career at the age of 18 as a foreign correspondent of Odessky Listok in Bern and Rome. In 1901 he returned to Russia and, after the 1903 pogrom in Kishinev, became an active member of the Zionist movement. Under his influence Jewish defense groups started to organize in Russia to avoid repetition of the earlier pogroms. In 1904 he was a delegate to the Sixth Zionist Congress, and in 1906 he was active in the conference of Russian Jewry at Helsinki. In 1909 he represented the Executive of the World Zionist Organization in Constantinople to establish contact with a new Turkish regime. With his mission completed in 1910, he returned to Russia and devoted himself to the fight against assimilation and for Hebrew as the language of instruction in Jewish schools.

When World War I started, Jabotinsky was in western Europe as a correspondent of Russkiya Vyedomosti. In opposition to the official Zionist leaders, who remained neutral, he insisted on active Jewish participation in the Allied conquest of Palestine. As a result of his agitation, the first Jewish military unit, the Zion Mule Corps, was accepted by the British and sent to the Gallipoli front. In 1917 Jabotinsky succeeded in forming three Jewish battalions, which were sent to Palestine and participated, as the Jewish Legion, in the conquest of Palestine.

With the establishment of the British administration in Palestine, in 1920 Jabotinsky directed underground Jewish activity against Arab rioters. He was sentenced by the British authorities to 15 years at hard labor; the sentence was commuted to a year, however, and he was banished from Palestine. In 1921 Jabotinsky joined the Executive of the World Zionist Organization. In opposition to Chaim Weizmann, Jabotinsky demanded a militant Jewish stand against the British policy in Palestine and the Churchill White Paper. He resigned in 1923 from the Executive and devoted himself entirely to the organization of the Union of the Revisionist Zionists, whose goal was transformation of Palestine, by unlimited immigration, into a Jewish state. Becoming convinced that the Executive was destroying Zionism, he later left the World Zionist Organization; the majority of the Revisionists followed him and organized the New Zionist Organization in 1935. He settled in London, where he fought against the partition plan of the Peel Commission of Palestine, against compromise with the mandatory authorities, and against the policy of self-restraint of the Haganah in the face of growing Arab violence.

At the beginning of World War II, Jabotinsky went to the United States, where he was active on behalf of the Jewish communities under Hitler. He died suddenly on Aug. 3, 1940. He was buried in New York but, according to his wishes, his body was later buried in Israel.

In addition to being a statesman, Jabotinsky was also a linguist, orator, editor, and journalist. He wrote several books, among them War and the Jew, in which he claimed that the only solution for the Jewish problem is the liquidation of the Jewish communities outside Palestine and mass immigration to Palestine.


Further Reading on Vladimir Evgenevich Jabotinsky

A full-length study of Jabotinsky is Joseph B. Schechtman, The Vladimir Jabotinsky Story (2 vols., 1956-1961).

Additional Biography Sources

Katz, Shmuel, Lone wolf: a biography of Vladimir Jabotinsky, New York: Barricade Books, 1995.

Nedava, Joseph, Vladimir Jabotinsky, the man and his struggles, Tel Aviv: Jabotinsky Institute of Israel, 1986.

Schechtman, Joseph B., The life and times of Vladimar Jabotinsky, Silver Spring, MD: Eshel Books, 1986.