Monday, May 12, 2008

The Wattenberg Radio Interview with Shmuel Katz

Transcript for:
Revisionism Revisited


MR. BEN WATTENBERG: Hello, I'm Ben Wattenberg. Political power in Israel has passed from Shimon Peres and the Labor Party to Benjamin Netanyahu and the Likud Party. Some observers say Likud places peace in peril, but supporters of Likud say hard-liners can be the best peacemakers: Nixon to China, Begin to Egypt. To better understand how Likud and its new leader might act, we examine the roots of the party and the mythic founder of Zionist Revisionism, the highly controversial, Vladimir Jabotinsky.

Also on this program, an interview in Israel with Shmuel Katz,author of 'Lone Wolf,' a new two-volume biography of VladimirJabotinsky.

Shmuel Katz in Tel Aviv, welcome. You joined with and for Jabotinsky and were a great admirer of his. When you see and hear Bebe Netanyahu today and the Likud Party, do you hear echoes of Jabotinsky?

MR. KATZ: I would say yes. The battlefield was a different battlefield then, but the spirit I think is there. My impression is, by the way, that the basic principle of Jabotinsky's activities, and that is to face up to facts, I think that this has been inherited by Bebe.

MR. WATTENBERG: Could you give us a brief history of Jabotinsky's life?

MR. KATZ: He was born in Odessa in 1880, and he became famous as a young man as a Russian writer. But after he had some experience of Russian and semitic pogroms, he became one of the greatest agitators, or shall we call it propagandists, of the Zionist movement in Russia. Subsequently, he became a foreign correspondent of a Russian newspaper just before World War I, and as soon as Turkey entered thewar, he decided that the Jews must form an army in order to help drive the Turks out of Palestine, and thereby establish a stake for the Jewish people in that country.

He subsequently became a leader, a formal leader in the Zionist organization, but he broke with Weizmann and their differences constituted the main element in Zionist history between the early '20s and the late '30s.

MR. WATTENBERG: How did Jabotinsky's opponents characterize him at that time?

MR. KATZ: They characterized him as a fascist, as a militarist and as, consequently, an enemy of the workers. Now, none of this was true, of course.

MR. WATTENBERG: What was Jabotinsky's influence in the Palestine of that day?

MR. KATZ: You know as well as I do how many people used to regard Jews as cowards and they wouldn't fight and so on, and Jabotinsky proved to the world that this was an archaic idea, that it wasn't true, that Jews fought as well and perhaps sometimes better even than many of the non-Jewish people among whom they fought.

When he started his career as a young man, one of the first phenomena that he encountered was in the Kishinev pogrom, where Jews young and old allowed the pogromists to murder and rape without lifting a finger to resist them. Jabotinsky at that time started the first self-defense movement in Russia, and the idea of defending yourself, of standing up straight and not bowing the knee to attacks on you and to fight for your rights and to fight for yourself andyour family, that was something that was foreign to the whole ghetto spirit. Now, Jabotinsky made it one of his life's works to change that. He had a tremendous, I think a unique influence on the youth of perhaps two generations.

MR. WATTENBERG: Thank you, Shmuel Katz, in Tel Aviv.

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