schoenbrunn palace vienna
Vienna's Schoenbrunn Palace. Photo by Reuters
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Ze’ev Jabotinsky
Ze’ev Jabotinsky.

On this day in 1935, the first congress of the New Zionist Organization ended in Vienna. Founded by Ze'ev Jabotinsky (1880-1940), the NZO had its organizational origins in the Union of Zionists-Revisionists, founded a decade earlier in Paris. But repeated procedural and ideological disagreements with the Chaim Weizmann-led World Zionist Organization (over such issues as the expansion of the Jewish Agency in 1929 to include 50 percent non-Zionist representatives), led Jabotinsky to form a separate, politically independent body. This first congress adopted a constitution that called for, among other things, the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine, “on both sides of the Jordan,” and the “liquidation of the Jewish Dispersion.”

Already in 1935, Jabotinsky’s organization adopted a 10-year plan for the resettlement of 1.5 million Jews from Europe’s “danger zone” in Palestine, an idea that gained the support of the Polish foreign minister, the Hungarian regent Miklos Horthy, and the prime minister of Romania, but was rejected by both the British government and the WZO. Nonetheless, Jabotinsky’s organization actively facilitated immigration to the Land of Israel, against British restrictions.

Despite his historical reputation as a “right-winger,” Jabotinsky wrote a draft of a constitution for the Jewish state in 1934 that imagined Jews and Arabs having equal rights and obligations. After the start of World War II, he called for a break in Jewish efforts to fight the British Mandatory powers and also proposed the creation of a Jewish army to fight alongside Allied forces. In 1946, the Revisionists rejoined the WZO, even though sharp divisions continued to exist between the Revisionists and the mainstream Zionist movement.