You are now entering the Jewish Currents archive.
The militant right-wing Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky was born in Odessa on this date in 1880. He became a Zionist after the Kishinev pogrom and helped to create the Jewish Self-Defense Organization, which worked to safeguard Jewish communities by arming their youth (his slogans included, “Better to have a gun and not need it than to need it and not have it!” and “Jewish youth, learn to shoot!”). Shortly after, he became the leader of the right-wing Zionists and an arch opponent of the Jewish Labor Bund. During World War I, he worked with Joseph Trumpeldor to create the Jewish Legion of the British army, and fought in battles in Palestine. He then undertook armed struggle in Palestine — Jabotinsky was a major force in the creation of the Irgun and other Jewish paramilitaries — and when the British interfered with him, he sought an alliance with Mussolini’s fascists. Jabotinsky himself was widely viewed as a fascist by the leftwing of the Zionist movement and the leftists of the larger Jewish world (ideologically, he was anti-socialist and both individualistic and nationalistic), yet he was prescient about the suffering of the Jews under fascist rule in Europe and actually created an international evacuation plan, which the British vetoed and the World Zionist Organization dismissed. Jabotinsky also wrote several novels and non-fiction books before his death from a heart attack in 1940. “Tell them [the Jewish People] three things in my name, and not two: they must get iron [i.e. weapons]; they must choose a king; and they must learn to laugh.” —Ze’ev Jabotinsky