Jabotinsky Wouldn't Have Consented

The Revisionist Zionist leader argued that all of Israel's institutions – and its methods of agriculture, industry and commerce – would be marked by the stamp of the Jewish majority.

Jacob Tubi
Jacob Tubi
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Jacob Tubi
Jacob Tubi

The national status of the Palestinian-Arab minority in the Jewish state is a charged issue with far-reaching implications for the future of the Zionist enterprise. Many people find it difficult to reconcile the oxymoron of a “Jewish and democratic state.” One of the proffered ways to reconcile this logical contradiction, from the left side of the political map, is contained within the idea of a binational state. That is, a state that through its identity and substance will give adequate expression to the national aspirations of both nations living within it.

Dmitry Shumsky even seeks to recruit the founder and creator of the Revisionist movement, the progenitor of today's Likud movement, to this cause (“In rejecting Arab MK, Yair Lapid also rejects Jewish values,” February 3). To do so he makes use of two articles written by Ze'ev Jabotinsky on the issue, summing up the Revisionist leader's stance with a sentence from one of these articles that ostensibly argues that the future Jewish state “should be constructed legally as a ‘binational’ state.” From this sentence, especially in an age in which the judiciary determines the national character, it is a small leap to concluding that Jabotinsky was willing to have a binational, Arab-Jewish state in which both national identities were equal.

But anyone who is deeply acquainted with Jabotinsky's thought and who studies these two articles knows that this Zionist leader certainly did not envision the “binational state” imagined by the contemporary proponents of the idea. Although Jabotinsky does declare, in his 1926 article, “On the Land of Israel as a ‘Binational’ State,” that the law of the future Jewish state “must guarantee national equality." That is, it must grant collective national rights to the minority. In his view, the Arab minority at most deserved “inner autonomy,” for example in matters of education, religion and welfare, and that is fully realized in the State of Israel.

Later in the same article, Jabotinsky makes it clear that the Jewish demographic majority – a majority that the Jewish state will endeavor to establish and to maintain at all costs – will guarantee that the binational state will in effect be a “national state of the Jews.” This, because “the entire spirit of legislation, which tempers the lives of the inhabitants beyond the narrow preserves of school, religion, family and charity; the state's social discipline …all of the methods of agriculture, industry and commerce shall be marked by the stamp of the Jewish majority.” In this he included even the art created in the state. The Jewish character of the state will be so strong, wrote Jabotinsky, that non-Jewish characteristics will play only the tiniest role. He even went as far as to hope, or imagine, that the Arab majority, despite all the rights extended to it, would eventually assimilate within the Jewish majority, that is, to adopt the perspectives and habits characteristic of Jews and even to incorporate Hebrew into their daily language.

Here is proof that Jabotinsky's binational state was in effect a code for civil and judicial equality for the Arab minority, but certainly not an action plan for the establishment of a single Jewish-Arab political entity.

The writer is a scholar of the Revisionist movement and of Ze'ev Jabotinsky.

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