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"The Iron Wall" by Vladimir Ze'ev Jabotisnky (November 4, 1923, originally in Russian)

It is an excellent rule to begin an article with the most important point, but this time, I find it necessary to begin with an introduction , and, moreover , with a personal introduction.I am reputed to be an enemy of the Arabs, who wants to have them ejected from Palestine, and so forth. It is not true. Emotionally, my attitude to the Arabs is the same as to all other nations – polite indifference. Politically, my attitude is determined by two principles. First of all, I consider it utterly impossible to eject the Arabs from Palestine. There will always be two nations in Palestine – which is good enough for me, provided the Jews become the majority. And secondly, I belong to the group that once drew up the Helsingfors Programme, the programme of national rights for all nationalities living in the same State. In drawing up that programme, we had in mind not only the Jews, but all nations everywhere, and its basis is equality of rights.

I am prepared to take an oath binding ourselves and our descendants that we shall never do anything contrary to the principle of equal rights, and that we shall never try to eject anyone. This seems to me a fairly peaceful credo. But it is quite another question whether it is always possible to realise a peaceful aim by peaceful means. For the answer to this question does not depend on our attitude to the Arabs, but entirely on the attitude of the Arabs to us and to Zionism. Now, after this introduction, we may proceed to the subject.

Voluntary Agreement Not Possible.There can be no voluntary agreement between ourselves and the Palestine Arabs. Not now, nor in the prospective future. I say this with such conviction, not because I want to hurt the moderate Zionists. I do not believe that they will be hurt. Except for those who were born blind, they realised long ago that it is utterly impossible to obtain the voluntary consent of the Palestine Arabs for converting "Palestine" from an Arab country into a country with a Jewish majority.

My readers have a general idea of the history of colonisation in other countries. I suggest that they consider all the precedents with which they are acquainted, and see whether there is one solitary instance of any colonisation being carried on with the consent of the native population. There is no such precedent. The native populations, civilised or uncivilised, have always stubbornly resisted the colonists, irrespective of whether they were civilised or savage. And it made no difference whatever whether the colonists behaved decently or not. The companions of Cortez and Pizzaro or (as some people will remind us) our own ancestors under Joshua Ben Nun, behaved like brigands; but the Pilgrim Fathers, the first real pioneers of North America, were people of the highest mortality, who did not want to do harm to anyone, least of all to the Red Indians, and they honestly believed that there was room enough in the prairies both for the Paleface and the Redskin. Yet the native population fought with the same ferocity against the good colonists as against the bad. Every native population, civilised or not, regards its lands as its national home, of which it is the sole master, and it wants to retain that mastery always; it will refuse to admit not only new masters but, even new partners or collaborators.

Arabs Not Fools. This is equally true of the Arabs. Our Peace-mongers are trying to persuade us that the Arabs are either fools, whom we can deceive by masking our real aims, or that they are corrupt and can be bribed to abandon to us their claim to priority in Palestine , in return for cultural and economic advantages. I repudiate this conception of the Palestinian Arabs. Culturally they are five hundred years behind us, they have neither our endurance nor our determination; but they are just as good psychologists as we are, and their minds have been sharpened like ours by centuries of fine-spun logomachy. We may tell them whatever we like about the innocence of our aims, watering them down and

sweetening them with honeyed words to make them palatable, but they know what we want, as well as we know what they do not want. They feel at least the same instinctive jealous love of Palestine, as the old Aztecs felt for ancient Mexico, and the Sioux for their rolling Prairies.

To imagine, as our Arabophiles do, that they will voluntarily consent to the realisation of Zionism, in return for the moral and material conveniences which the Jewish colonist brings with him, is a childish notion, which has at bottom a kind of contempt for the Arab people; it means that they despise the Arab race, which they regard as a corrupt mob that can be bought and sold, and are willing to give up their fatherland for a good railway system.

All Natives Resist Colonists. There is no justification for such a belief. It may be that some individual Arabs take bribes. But that does not mean that the Arab people of Palestine as a whole will sell that fervent patriotism that they guard so jealousy, and which even the Papuans will

never sell. Every native population in the world resists colonists as long as it has the slightest hope of being able to rid itself of the danger of being colonised. That is what the Arabs in Palestine are doing, and what they will persist in doing as long as there remains a solitary spark of

hope that they will be able to prevent the transformation of "Palestine" into the "Land of Israel."

it is that one thing that the Arabs do not want, for that is the way by which the Jews would gradually become the majority, and then a Jewish Government would follow automatically, and the future of the Arab minority would depend on the goodwill of the Jews; and a minority status is not a good thing, as the Jews themselves are never tired of pointing out. So there is no "misunderstanding".

is only one thing the Zionists want, and


The Iron Wall… We cannot offer any adequate compensation to the Palestinian Arabs in return for Palestine. And therefore, there is no likelihood of any voluntary agreement being reached. So that all those who regard such an agreement as a condition sine qua non for Zionism may as well say "non" and withdraw from Zionism. Zionist colonisation must either stop, or else pive population. Which means that it can proceed and develop only under the protection of a power that is independent of the native population – behind an iron wall, which the native population cannot breach.

Eventual Agreement

impossible is a voluntary agreement. As long as the Arabs feel that there is the least hope of getting rid of us, they will refuse to give up this hope in return for either kind words or for bread and butter, because they are not a rabble, but a living people. And when a living people yields in matters of such a vital character it is only when there is no longer any hope of getting rid of us, because they can make no breach in the iron wall. Not till then will they drop their extremist leaders, whose watchword is "Never!" Andrd is "Never!" And the leadership will pass to the moderate groups, who will approach us with a proposal that we should both agree to mutual concessions. Then we may expect them to discuss honestly practical questions, such as a guarantee against Arab displacement, or equal rights for Arab citizen, or Arab national integrity. And when that happens, I am convinced that we Jews will be found ready to give them satisfactory guarantees, so that both peoples can live together in peace, like good neighbours. But the only way to obtain such an agreement, is the iron wall, which is to say a strong power in Palestine that is not amenable to any Arab pressure.

In the second place, this does not mean that there cannot be any agreement with the Palestine Arabs. What is

Read more Jabotisnky’s works at the Jewish Virtual Library: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/quot-the-iron-wall-quot

Letters by Judah Leon Magnes (1937-1948, originally in Hebrew and English)

Jerusalem, January 7, 1937 Dear Professor Coupland (from Judah Leon Magnes),

Not nearly enough stress has been laid upon the fact that Palestine is a Holy Land for three great religions. No one should expect to have his maximalist aspirations fulfilled in such a land. The presence here of so many differing sects and peoples requires moderation, concession, compromise, so that they may live together in peace

Palestine is no place for the satisfaction of the maximum of British aspirations. In a recent number of Great Britain and the East one finds the statement that Britain is in Palestine primarily for strategic reasons. There are those who would have Britain rule in Palestine with the Arabs against the Jews, or with the Jews against the Arabs. However much the adoption of either of these policies might simplify the problem from the point of view of British imperialism, that is, from the point of view of the political, economic and strategic interests of the British Empire, it should nevertheless be the primary duty, so it seems to me, of Great Britain unselfishly to maintain Palestine as the Holy Land of three religions and to help create here a bi-national, a biracial state.

Palestine is no place for maximalist Jewish aspirations. That this is so, is also part of the Jewish tragedy. There are those who speak of a Jewish National Home containing many millions of Jews-present-day Palestine, Transjordan, the Hauran, and Sinai as far as the Suez Canal. Such aspirations are due in large measure to the pressure of Jewish life, the persecution to which Jews are being subjected in all too many parts of the world. When Israel Zangwill said: "Give the land without a people to the people without a land," neither he nor many other Jews realized that there was a people here. The Jews are justified in seeking the active support of Government for settlement possibilities for as large a number of Jews as is in any way possible; but this must always be compatible with the natural rights of the Arabs. If the Jews could come to a political understanding with the Arabs as to Palestine, there would doubtless be an opportunity for the settlement of large number of oppressed Jews in other Arab lands. These would not, to be sure, be part of the Jewish National Home, but they would be contiguous and helpful to it.

Palestine is no place for maximalist Arab aspirations. The whole world knows that Palestine is not just an Arab land. It belongs in the spiritual sense to millions of peoples scattered throughout the world; and in a real sense not only to the Arabs but also to those Jews and Christians who, coming here and living here, are trying through their devotion to make of it a land worthy of being called holy. Palestine may someday become a member of an Arab federation and/or of the League of Nations, but not just as an Arab land. Rather as a bi-national land, entrusted to the two peoples who are the sole actual descendants of the Semites of antiquity; a Holy Land, entrusted to these two peoples, from whom these religions are derived.

Palisades, California, April 12, 1948 To Thomas Mann (from Judah Leon Magnes),

It was good hearing from you, even though we seem, for the first time, to be on opposite sides of the fence. I do not wish further to deal with

Miss Schultz's misleading and vicious pamphlet. It was merely part of the enormous propaganda

feet. He almost rules the world, but not quite. He embellishes facts, threatens them, twists them, suborns them, he even creates facts. Yet one fine day he encounters reality, and his clay feet collapse. There are certain hard realities which no propaganda can subvert, actual things…


is a great god- but he has clay

The inescapable fact of the Palestine situation is that millions of Arabs live in Palestine and all around Palestine. No propaganda can change that, nor can any propaganda shut off the Palestine Arabs from the other Arabs, any more than propaganda can shut off the Palestine Jews from the rest of the Jews of the world. The question is, are the Jews to live here at war with the Arabs or at peace? If it is to be war, I, for one, do not see any chance of real development for the Jewish National Home. If it is to be peace, partition (two separate nations) is just the way to destroy peace.

To the Editor of Commentary (from Judah Leon Magnes), New York, October 1948

At the beginning of June, 1948, I drafted a paper, under the title of United States of Palestine - A Confederation of Two Independent StatesThe name United States of Palestine is proposed as being somewhat analogous to the name of the United States America. Here there are sovereign states who sovereignty is nevertheless limited by their adherence to the Federal Union

Defense. Similar considerations apply to the problem of defense. It might be dangerous to the peace of the Middle East if these two states were to arm against one another, or if they were to be armed by rival imperial powers. It should, therefore, be made mandatory upon them at least to consult on their defense policies and activities, and it would be better if working out a common defense policy were made imperative.

Federal Court.This might be constituted of three Jews and three Arabs and a United Nations appointee who is to be chairman… Any citizen or resident of either of the states is to be privileged to appeal to the Federal Court in cases where he contends that his religious or minority or civil rights are invaded.

City of Jerusalem. Jerusalem. Jerusalem is to be constituted as a corpus separatum, as an international, demilitarized, neutralized city. Yet at the same time it should serve as the capital of the Confederation. To this end a special enclave should be set aside in Jerusalem as the seat of the Confederation, of the Joint Economic Board, of the Federal Court, and of the authority, whatever it be, which is to be charged with the protection of holy places and religious sites, to which may be added historical monuments including archaeological excavations and cultural, artistic, and scientific collections.

From the Writings of Judah L. Magnesby the Harvard University Press (Published 1982)

BACKGROUND PROFILES ON JABOTINSKY AND MAGNES JABOTINSKY ZE’EV (1880-1940) was a Zionist activist, orator, and writer who founded the Betar Movement. He was also a soldier who founded the Jewish Legion during World War I. Jabotinsky was born as Vladimir into a middle-class Jewish family in the Russian city of Odessa. At the age of 18, he left Odessa to study law in Italy and Switzerland, where he also served as a foreign correspondent for several well known Russian newspapers. His reports and articles were widely read and soon became recognized as one of the brilliant exponents of Russian journalism. All his reports and articles were signed with his literary pseudonym “Altalena.”

Ze'ev returned to Odessa in 1901 where he worked on the editorial staff of Odesskiya Novosti, but the pogrom against the Jews of Kishinev in 1903 spurred Jabotinsky to undertake Zionist activity. Though he admitted that he "no inner contact with Judaism" and never "breathed the atmosphere of Jewish cultural tradition" during his youth, Jabotisnky took a leadership role in organizing selfdefense units and fought for Jewish minority rights in Russia. He then traveled the length and breadth of Russia urging self-defense on the Jewish communities.

Elected as a delegate to the 6th Zionist Congress, Jabotinsky became fascinated by Zionist leader Theodor Herzl and though he voted against Herzl's "Uganda Plan" for a Jewish national home, Ze'ev was totally taken by the fervor of Zionist activists. Over the next few years, Jabotinsky was active in spreading the Hebrew language and culture throughout Russia and soon became the foremost Zionist lecturer and journalist in the country.

Following the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Jabotinsky left for the war-front as a newspaper correspondent with the Moscow liberal daily Russkiya Vedomosti. While in Alexandria, where thousands of Jewish deportees from Palestine were concentrated, he met Joseph Trumpeldor and together they worked for the establishment of the Jewish Legion. Jabotinsky was not interested in the creation of an auxiliary unit, and, upon reaching London, took energetic steps until the final confirmation was received in August 1917 of the creation of the first Jewish Legion. Jabotinsky also served as a Lieutenant and participated in the assault of the Jordan River crossings and the conquest of Esalt in the campaign to free Eretz Israel (Palestine) from Turkish rule. During Passover in 1920, Jabotinsky stood at the head of the Haganah in Jerusalem against Arab riots and was condemned by the British Mandatory Government to 15 years hard labor. Following the public outcry against the verdict, he received amnesty and was released from Acre prison.

After 1921, Jabotinsky served as a member of the Zionist Executive and was one of the founders of “Keren Hayesod.” After a series of policy disagreement on the direction of the Zionist Movement, he seceded and, in 1925, established the Union of Zionist Revisionists (Hatzohar) which called for the immediate establishment of a Jewish State.

In 1923, the youth movement Betar (Brith Joseph Trumpeldor) was created. The new youth movement aimed at educating its members with a military and nationalistic spirit and Jabotinsky stood at its head. During the years 1928-1929, he resided in Palestine and edited the Hebrew daily Doar Hayom while, at the same time, undertaking increased political activity. In 1929, he left the country on a lecture tour after which the British administration denied him reentry into the country. From then onwards he lived in the Diaspora until his death. He was later reinterred in Jerusalem.

MAGNES, JUDAH LEON (1877–1948),U.S. rabbi and communal leader. He was chancellor and first president of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Magnes was born in San Francisco to parents who emigrated from Poland and Germany in 1863. He attended the Hebrew Union College (NYC), where he was ordained as a Reform rabbi in 1900. Magnes spent the years 1900–03 studying in Berlin and Heidelberg. During his years in Germany he traveled widely in Eastern Europe and was profoundly moved by the intensive Jewish life he found. It strengthened his earlier sympathetic feeling toward Zionism and brought him to the commitment to make Zionism and service to his people his mission in life.

On his return from Germany he became rabbi of Temple Israel in Brooklyn (1904–05) and afterward the assistant rabbi of Temple Emanu-El in New York (1906–10). At the same time he served as the secretary of the American Zionist Federation (1905–08) and later became the president of the Kehillah of NYC from its founding in 1908 until its demise in 1922; he left for Palestine in the same year. Founded to advance and coordinate Jewish life in NYC, the Kehillah dealt vigorously with such internal problems as religious life and Jewish education; in the latter area its Bureau of Jewish Education, directed by Samson Benderly, pioneered in the centralization and modernization of Jewish education in the U.S. It provided a nexus for cooperation between "uptown" and "downtown" Jews and a forum for Jewish public opinion.

In 1905 he participated in the Zionist Congress at Basle as a member of the U.S. delegation. It was there that he came face to face with the leaders of Russian Jewry and through them he reached a greater understanding of East European Jewry. Back in New York (after his first visit in Palestine) he headed the greatest Jewish demonstration against the Kishinev pogroms and established the Self-Defense Association which collected funds for the purchase of arms to be smuggled to the Jewish self-defense bodies in Russia. In 1904 he joined Solomon Schechter's inner circle and moved toward religious traditionalism. Magnes' shift toward religious traditionalism brought him to break with Temple Emanu-El. His unfulfilled demands for religious changes led him to resign in 1910. From 1911 to 1912 he was rabbi of B'nai Jeshurun, a leading Conservative congregation, after which he left congregational work altogether to devote himself to Jewish public service. However, Magnes' opposition to U.S. entry into World War I in 1917 out of pacifist convictions, and his activity in the peace movement during the war, undermined his leadership of a Jewish community firmly committed to the war and concerned over possible imputations of disloyalty.

In 1922 Magnes emigrated with his family to Palestine, where he continued his activities in establishing the Hebrew University of which he was the chancellor (1925–35) and first president (1935–48) until his death. During World War II he helped Jews who escaped to Turkey from Nazi-occupied countries, became responsible for the direction of relief work amongst the Jews throughout the Orient. Out of his pacifist convictions and the belief that the Jews are not like all nations, he sought an accord with the Palestinian Arabs and entered the political arena with the conviction that Jewish-Arab accord is of the greatest importance not only for the peaceful building of the country but also for the Jewish spirit. He started his political agitation immediately after the 1929 disturbances, stating, "One of the greatest cultural duties of the Jewish people is the attempt to enter the promised land, not by means of conquest as Joshua, but through peaceful and cultural means, through hard work, sacrifices, love and with a decision not to do anything which cannot be justified before the world conscience" (Opening Speech of the Hebrew University Academic Year 1929/30). Magnes renewed his activities after the riots in 1936 and opposed the Royal Commission's suggestion for the partitioning of Palestine, always believing in the policy of establishing Palestine as a binational state and feeling that it was his personal mission to bring the Arabs and Jews together. With this belief he carried on his political activities until his death in New York. He was later reinterred in Jerusalem. A Judah L. Magnes Memorial Museum was set up in Oakland, California, in 1961, and later moved to Berkeley.