Orwell, Jabotinsky, Fascism and Islam - Part 5

I find it very hard to believe that Ze'ev Jabotinsky was not aware of the Führer's deference toward Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, especially after the end of WWI. The link between Islam and the predicament facing the Jews must have been coming at Jabotinsky from all sides.

Orwell, Jabotinsky, Fascism and Islam - Part 5
From Pale to Palestine

Significant about Odessa, where Jabotinsky grew up, Kishinev, where he witnessed the 1903 pogrom, Warsaw, where he studied, and where he earned the denunciation of his fellow Jews for daring to warn them about their pending destruction, Brest, birthplace of his precocious young follower, Menachem Begin, and Ruzhinoy, birthplace of Yitzhak Shamir, another follower, was that they were all located in a special zone of western imperial Russian, the Pale of Settlement, to which, with minor exceptions, Russian Jews had been restricted, though the zone was not exclusively Jewish. Extant between 1791 and 1915, "the Pale" encompassed a contiguous territory extending from Latvia in the north to Crimea in the south, containing the highest concentrations of Jews in Europe. Jews were also prohibited from residing in certain localities within the Pale.

According to the census of 1897, 4,899,300 Jews lived there, forming 94% of the total Jewish population of Russia and c. 11.6% of the general population of this area. ...In the townlets and many small towns all the inhabitants or the overwhelming majority were Jews. The 10 largest communities were Warsaw (219,149 persons); Odessa (138,915); Lodz (98,677); Vilna (64,000); Kishinev (50,237); Minsk (47,562); Bialystok (41,900); Berdichev (41,617); Yekaterinoslav (Dnepropetrovsk; 40,009); Vitebsk (34,470), and Kiev 31,800.[1]

Movement and settlement restrictions were not the only deprivations Jews suffered in the Pale. "Throughout the area, the urban ghetto system was imposed."[2] The laws were onerous in themselves, but in their application, their impact was often compounded with the zeal of bureaucratic anti-Semitism and arbitrariness. One 1904 account reads:

By the provisions of the new law, Jews were forbidden to settle anew outside of towns and townlets; and only those Jews were allowed to remain in the villages who had already lived there for many years. Yet the general conditions of the times led to the expulsion also of those who had the legal right to reside in villages. The senate was overwhelmed with complaints, and repeatedly declared that certain expulsions were illegal, explaining, for instance, that the removal of a Jew from one house to another in the same village could not be considered sufficient cause for his expulsion from the village itself; and that a Jew who had left a village for a term of service in the army did not thereby lose the right at the conclusion of such service to return to his old residence. The local authorities, however, continued and still continue to expel the outlawed Jews. In the reign of Alexander III, the Jews were energetically removed from the fifty-verst [53Km] boundary zone, where they had again settled during the milder reign of Alexander II.[3]

From very early on, the Pale included what is today the Ukrainian Black Sea coast and its littoral, areas formerly under Muslim control and hence subject to the Dhimma, an extremely oppressive "contract" of rules that Muslims imposed on non-Muslims, intended to erase their personhood and break their soul, in effect, the very opposite of Hadar. The Dhimma was designed, and enforced in such a manner, as to reduce Jews and Christians, the dhimmis, to such an unbearable condition that converting to Islam, repulsive as they might have found it to begin with, start seeming not so bad. But before conversion, or complete destruction, was reached, the dhimmis served as a source of revenue and broodmares for the Muslims.

Time does not allow for research into a link between the Pale of Settlement and Islam, but I would like to speculate on whether the rules imposed on Jews in the Pale retained the spirit, if not the letter, of the rules pre-existing in the Crimean Khanate (whose principal economic activity was slave-trading) and those conquered parts of the Ottoman Caliphate, or were inspired by them. This is not to deny or diminish Christian anti-Semitism; that record stands. I am merely wondering about another possible link between Ze'ev Jabotinsky and the Ottoman Caliphate. Both Odessa and Kishinev, places formative to Jabotinsky, had been part of the Ottoman Empire, till 1792 and 1812, respectively. It would be quite a circle, since the first dhimmis were the Jews and Christians of what, in Jabotinsky's time, was Palestine.[4]

Ze’ev Jabotinsky was not oblivious to what governs interaction between groups, including between minority groups, and generally appreciated the relationship between the abstract and the concrete. He despaired of Jews who support even those minorities out to kill them, because such Jews “considered it their duty to support the autonomist efforts of their enemy, on the ground that autonomy is a sacred cause.” One despairs of the readiness with which Israeli Jews took responsibility for "Palestinian" statehood upon themselves, "two states for two peoples," even while their own state remains in peril. They insist on coexisting, even though there is no one to coexist with. It is the very opposite of an iron wall. In The Ethics of the Iron Wall, Jabotinsky writes:

It is incredible what political simpletons Jews are. They shut their eyes to one of the most elementary rules of life, that you must not “meet halfway” those who do not want to meet you.[5]

In a particularly strong indication that Jabotinsky did not know Islam, he continues:

..Each man who passes my window in the street has a right to live only in so far as he recognises my right to live; but if he is determined to kill me, I cannot admit that he has any right to live. (My emphasis)

It is the Muslim's religious duty to kill the Jews, without which the "Last Hour" will not come and the Muslim will be unable to reach the Ahira, the Hereafter or Afterlife. "I cannot admit that he has any right to live," applies directly to the people Jabotinsky hoped to one day make agreements with. He could not see this because he had mischaracterised them as Arabs, rather than as Muslims.

Jabotinsky would not “meet halfway those who do not want to meet you." He called those Jews who wished to do so "political simpletons." However, he did not appreciate that not meeting the Muslim at all is meeting him halfway, for the Muslim's jihad propels him towards the Jew, whether with knife, gun, car or strap-on bomb, or to provide information on which house, which car, or which child, is Jewish. To merely not meet the Muslim halfway is not enough to secure your life. An impenetrable barrier must stand between the Muslim and the Jew, for both their sakes. Anything less than an impenetrable barrier will be breached, and repeatedly so, until Allah wills them to win.

If the Jews fight merely to defend themselves, that, too, is a kind of meeting halfway. The Muslims do not wish to fight halfway; they wish to fight to the finish. Of course, they throw themselves into the fight with such a readiness to die that Allah might be pleased with them and this time, will them to win. If the Jews should fight to the finish, all fighting will be over, for good. But the Jews only ever fight halfway, putting the Muslims in the position of having to fight again, as soon as they are able, to finish the Jews. Whatever Allah wills, comes to pass. If Allah did not will them to win last time, he might will them to win next time. Just because Allah has willed the sun to rise in the East every day, does not mean he will not will the sun to rise in the West tomorrow. The insane imbalance of forces—incendiary balloons against laser cannons—is irrelevant. Such people do not fight for nationhood; they fight for the pleasure of Allah. In this case, the iron wall also means whatever weapons the Muslims have are effectively always no weapons at all. Ze'ev Jabotinsky's iron wall has a much deeper meaning, and greater relevance, than he himself realised.

The writing that I have read—and much remains that I have not yet read—suggests that Jabotinsky did not see the (Muslim) Arabs as determined to kill Jews, only as determined to keep the Jews out of Palestine. "If he is determined to kill me," looks like hyperbole for sake of argument, or at most, meaning a random contingency, not something inherent to the reality facing Jews and ubiquitous in Palestine. Jabotinsky wrote his essay "Islam" in 1923, in the aftermath of the Arab massacres of Jews in 1920-21. It is a crucial resource for confirming where Jabotinsky stood and what he advocated for vis-à-vis Islam. My search for this essay continues.

Jabotinsky's attitude towards the Arabs of Palestine clearly reflects the Jewish experience under Russian oppression and the then dominant concern for the right of nations to self-determination. In such terms, Jabotinsky saw the Zionist project as a simple colonial intrusion, albeit a just one. He went to great lengths to advocate that one people shall not oppress another. Where more than one nation shared a common nation-state, there shall be equality between them. Yet, further from the truth of what awaited the Jews in Palestine than Jabotinsky’s naïve formulation, was only the even more naïve formulation of the socialist Zionists, who dreamt of universal love with a people iron-cast to hate them, and sharing with a people doctrinally obligated to take everything from them. Jabotinsky stated his ideal as follows:

The world must be a place of co-operation and mutual goodwill. If we are to live we should all live in the same way, and if we are to die we should all die in the same way. But there is no morality, no ethics that concedes the right of a glutton to gorge, while more tempered people die of starvation. There is only one possible morality, that of humanity, and in practice it amounts in our particular instance to this: if besides the Helsingfors Programme we had our pocket full of concessions of every kind, including our willingness to participate in some fantastic Arab Federation od morza do morza (from sea to sea) negotiations with regard to them would still be possible only if the Arabs would first consent to the creation of a Jewish Palestine. [6](My emphasis)

Zionism walked right into one of the most tangled webs of overlapping historical transformations current at the time: nation-states emerging into independence from collapsing empires at the same time as others were imposing or consolidating colonial rule. While nations were freeing themselves from the disintegrating Austro-Hungarian, German, Russian and Ottoman Empires, the Russian Empire, now in the form of Bolshevik Russia, swiftly reimposed its colonial rule over the Tzar’s subject peoples, while simultaneously proclaiming the right of nations to self-determination. Hence the forceful reincorporation into the Soviet Union of Jabotinsky's Ukraine, that had briefly attained national independence from the Russian Empire after the latter's collapse in October 1917. Turkey itself emerged from the Ottoman Empire as a secular state, while the Turks emerged from the Ottoman Caliphate into a thoroughly Muslim nation ruled by a secular elite displaying all the symbols of modernity, while remaining Muslim in its psyche and propensity for killing.

When Ottoman rule in Palestine ended, Great Britain did not step in as a new colonial master, as many claim, but was appointed as the overseer of a process that would lead Palestine to statehood, a duty she was keen to swiftly discharge, but it was a duty repeatedly "reinterpreted" in light of rapidly-changing post-war geopolitical priorities, and always at Jewish expense. National self-determination in Palestine manifested variously as: Arabs emerging from the Ottoman Empire into Arab nation-states; Muslims emerging from the Ottoman Caliphate into rival Muslim Arab tribes; Muslims emerging from the Ottoman Caliphate determined to restore their lost caliphate, starting with destroying the Jews in Palestine; and Jews returning from exile to reclaim their homeland and re-establish their nationhood.

The first two developments, Arab nation-states, and Arab Muslim tribes, mutually undermined each other. Since the pan-Arab “Arab nation” could not be reconciled with, on the one side, diverging inchoate Arab nation-states, and on the other, the supposedly worldwide “Muslim ummah.” Ukraine and Palestine together offered Jabotinsky enough evidence of a dynamic situation that called for more than his static "right of nations to self-determination."

It must be remembered that it is the Arabs who were colonists. The clue is in the name. Were they to return to Arabia, they would not be colonists, but returnees, as would be the Jews who return to Judea, or the Israelites who return to Israel. The superior morality of the Jewish claim to Eretz Israel over the Arab claim to "Palestine" consists in the Jews having been expelled and the Arabs having invaded. The fact that these two events are historically unconnected does not eliminate the superiority of the former over the latter; it only lessens it. The Islamic imperative to kill all the Jews, and the Arab Muslim eagerness to carry out that imperative, boosts the already superior Jewish moral claim to their land.

I believe this to be a stronger moral argument than the one Jabotinsky puts forward in The Ethics of The Iron Wall, which can be summarised as simply: the haves must share with the have-nots.

The local Arab Muslims "shared with" the Turkish colonists to Palestine because they were Muslims. They did not share with Jewish colonisation not because they were colonists, but because they were not Muslims. Christian colonists were fought not because they were colonists, but because they were not Muslims. While this does not mean that Muslims always acquiesce in having Muslim overlords, a situation that began to change when a national consciousness started stirring amongst the Arabs in the mid-nineteenth century, they will always wage jihad on non-Muslims, whether outsiders or locals.

When the Muslims (Arabs and Turkic tribesmen) invaded and colonised India, it was not enough to rule over the Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, and later, Sikhs, they had to annihilate them, just as the Muslims near-annihilated the Middle Eastern Christians over the centuries, and are doing all they can to annihilate the Jews today. It also does not matter whether the Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, etc., colonise the Muslims or not, they will kill them wherever they find them, seeking them out in all lands, because Shari’a permits only Muslims to rule, anywhere, colony or not, including over non-Muslims.

Ze'ev Jabotinsky is perfectly clear about the insanity of placing the right to self-determination of a people who want to kill you on the same footing as that of the people they want to kill, except that he seems not to have examined this principle in the concrete context of Palestine. In The Ethics of the Iron Wall, he writes:

Human society is built up on the basis of mutual advantage. If you take away the mutual principle, right becomes a falsehood.

This would be a straightforward contradiction if Jabotinsky were aware of the Islamic imperative on Muslims to kill all the Jews; they have no mutual principle. Therefore, "right becomes a falsehood." Instead, they have Al-wala’ wal-Bara’, Loyalty and disavowal: A Muslim is commanded to like and be loyal to Muslims and everything about Muslims, and to hate the kufaar and everything about the kufaar. He must, by law, discriminate against the kufaar, and must never befriend them, except to deceive them. If a Muslim’s wife is not a Muslim, then his religion commands him to hate her.

Had Jabotinsky known that regardless of how many millennia may pass from the inception of Islam, this imperative will never change no matter which Muslims say or do what and in what numbers, and that it is incumbent on all Muslims to "enjoin the right and forbid the wrong" of any Muslims who go astray, or, failing that, to declare them apostates and kill him. Islam is future-proofed against moderation. As soon as Muslims learn enough about their religion, they learn of the compulsion on them to return it to its original, blood-soaked, barbaric state. ISIS was not the first to attempt this, and it will certainly not be the last. This attribute of Islam reduces The Iron Wall, with its hopes for eventual reconciliation, to just so much paper and ink.

Given the end of Ottoman rule over Palestine and the surfacing of the three-way conflict of Arab allegiances, Zionism would either unite the Arabs against the Jews or turn them against one another. In the event, it did both. It united the Palestinian Arabs as Muslims against the Jews, but set Arabs against one another as nations, the weakest of those prospective nations being the Palestinian Arabs, who, in order to see themselves as a nation, had to see a single Arab nation, which included themselves, emerge from Ottoman rule.

For the Palestinian Arabs, pan-Arabism came closest, conceptually, to the ummah, and Islam was to be the force behind their Pan-Arab ambitions. It was a pipe dream, because Arab tribalism and Arab nationalism conspired to set up Palestine as the golden calf that every neighbouring Arab despot coveted, ready to pounce and tear out his share of the carcass as soon as the British departed and they could kill all the Jews.

Not only did the Arab elites show little enthusiasm for salvaging or reviving the caliphate,[7] they knew that Britain was not a colonial power in Palestine, but a Mandatory one, and that she would vacate Palestine soon enough. It would then only be a question of which Arab leader would be first off the mark to seize Palestine and expand his dominions, hence the neighbouring Arab armies all invading Israel post-haste in 1948 and driving out of the country as many Palestinian Arabs as they could, on the pretext of ensuring the latter's own safety. They fell for it.

Pan-Arabism, the political ideology critical to the Palestinian Arabs' hopes of expelling the Jews, was doomed from the start, and Islam, as a great unifier against the Jews, had few prospects after aspiring Arab potentates left the caliphate to wither on the vine. To this day, Israelis have no idea how to deal with Islam. Even Jabotinsky's 1929 song, Two Banks has the Jordan (also known as The East Bank of the Jordan), opens the third stanza with:

From the wealth of our land there shall prosper
The Arab, the Christian, and the Jew,[8]

It is a song, and lyricists are entitled to artistic licence. But "the Arab" is not equivalent to "the Christian, and the Jew." Accurate would have been "The Muslim, the Christian, and the Jew." In a song it might be harmless, as national policy it is catastrophic.

I have left the most difficult part for last. My admiration for Ze'ev Jabotinsky will not have escaped the reader. I hope to have been critical and robust, but also sympathetic and generous. Yet, this last point that I wish to make unsettles me.

The instigator of the 1920-21 Arab massacres of Jews in Palestine was Amin Al-Husseini, who not only campaigned against Zionism, but campaigned for Islam. For his troubles, the British elevated him to Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, an Islamic clerical office. In 1937, in the middle of the next wave of Arab massacres of Jews, Al-Husseini fled to Mussolini's Italy, and on to Hitler's Germany, where he set himself up. This Palestinian Arab recruited Bosnian Muslims for the Muslim Waffen SS battalion. These events occurred during the final years of Jabotinsky's life while he was working himself to death to get the European Jews to save themselves. It is also a time when Arab nazis in Cairo, Beirut, Jerusalem, Damascus and Baghdad were hard at work propagandising for the Hitler. Although Hitler and Amin Al-Husseini had not yet met by the time Ze'ev Jabotinsky died, I find it very hard to believe that Jabotinsky was not aware of the Führer's admiration for Islam and deference toward Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, especially after the end of WWI. The link between Islam and the predicament facing the Jews must have been coming at Jabotinsky from all sides.

The synopsis of Stefan Ihrig's 2014 book, Atatürk in the Nazi Imagination, reads:

Early in his career, Adolf Hitler took inspiration from Benito Mussolini, his senior colleague in fascism—this fact is widely known. But an equally important role model for Hitler and the Nazis has been almost entirely neglected: Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey. Stefan Ihrig’s compelling presentation of this untold story promises to rewrite our understanding of the roots of Nazi ideology and strategy.

Hitler was deeply interested in Turkish affairs after 1919. He not only admired but also sought to imitate Atatürk’s radical construction of a new nation from the ashes of defeat in World War I. Hitler and the Nazis watched closely as Atatürk defied the Western powers to seize government, and they modeled the Munich Putsch to a large degree on Atatürk’s rebellion in Ankara. Hitler later remarked that in the political aftermath of the Great War, Atatürk was his master, he and Mussolini his students.

This was no fading fascination. As the Nazis struggled through the 1920s, Atatürk remained Hitler’s “star in the darkness,” his inspiration for remaking Germany along nationalist, secular, totalitarian, and ethnically exclusive lines. Nor did it escape Hitler’s notice how ruthlessly Turkish governments had dealt with Armenian and Greek minorities, whom influential Nazis directly compared with German Jews. The New Turkey, or at least those aspects of it that the Nazis chose to see, became a model for Hitler’s plans and dreams in the years leading up to the invasion of Poland."[9]

Ihrig's pioneering study appeared many decades after Jabotinsky had passed away. Yet it is not unreasonable to expect of a journalist of Jabotinsky stature to have intuited some kind of connection between the two men, something worthy of closer examination, especially given the genocides that Atatürk had perpetrated. I am not sure how it comes across for a writer to say this, but having been a Muslim in the early part of my life, as soon as I realised that Islam was one of antiquity's great barbarian revolutions, its likeness to the 20th century's totalitarian manifestation suggested itself. From there, it was not difficult to see that Mustafa Kemal Atatürk was one of history's leading fascists, on a par with Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini and Josef Stalin. I did not expect Atatürk to have been an actual role model for the Führer, let alone such a stellar one, but would expect a Jabotinsky to have picked up at least a hint of that.

Ze'ev Jabotinsky, who knew Nazism well enough to have anticipated the Holocaust, had lived in Constantinople where he interviewed various Young Turk figures, many of them fascist in their instincts, had fought the Ottomans in Palestine, including directly across the frontlines from Atatürk himself, and must have been aware, after the end of the war, of the latter's propensity for mass killing and genocide, something he expected from Hitler.

Earlier in the war, in late April 1915, Ze'ev Jabotinsky served in the Zionist Mule Corp at Cape Helles in the Gallipoli Campaign, a mere 25Km from where Mustafa Kemal was in command of the 19th Division of the Ottoman 5th Army. It is impossible for Jabotinsky not to have heard of Kemal's chilling order to his men on 25 April 1915:

I am not ordering you to attack. I am ordering you to die. In the time that it takes us to die, other forces and commanders can come and take our place.[10]

This is the stuff of fascism; it is also the stuff of Islam. At the very least, given the centrality of the Ottomans, the Turks, and Islam to the fate of both Palestine and the Jews, one would have expected more from Jabotinsky than throwing up his hands at people he could not negotiate with. Having said all that, I remain in two minds over whether Jabotinsky deserves this censure.

Part 6 looks at Jabotinsky, the Balfour Declaration, the Peel Commission, Amin Al-Husseini, and the split with Weizmann.


  1. "Modern Jewish History: The Pale of Settlement," in Jewish Virtual Library. https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/the-pale-of-settlement
  2. The Peel Commission Report, 1937, p9.
  3. Herman Rosenthal, "Pale of Settlement," Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906. https://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/11862-pale-of-settlement
  4. Killing "non-believers" are Islamic virtues of the highest morality and godliness, such as killing Hindus in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, killing Buddhists in Afghanistan, Thailand and Burma, killing Christians in Egypt, Nigeria, and Congo, or killing Jews Israel, both in Ottoman times, i.e., before any Jews had "stolen" any land, and since.
  5. Ze'ev Jabotinsky, The Ethics of The Iron Wall, 11 November 1923.
  6. The elites' Abraham Accords notwithstanding, the Arabs gave no consent for "the creation of a Jewish Palestine," yet proclamations of "some fantastic Arab Federation od morza do morza" abound. The Jewish News Syndicate, to its credit, recognises the jihad against Israel. Yet it cannot bring itself to acknowledge jihad as one of the defining doctrines of Islam. It must instead characterise the permanent war of Muslims against non-Muslims underway for over a thousand years, as merely an aspect of Iranian foreign policy since 1979. To be honest about jihad would burst its kumbaya multicultural bubble. Here is Dan Diker after talking about the IDF's 3 July 2023 raids on the terrorist city of Jenin:

    "It is our Middle East, all of us, Jews, Christians, Muslims, um, goodness, Alawites, Turkomens, Balochis – you name it – we have Druze, we have so many different communities across the Middle East. That's what we try to do on the show: is to really reveal the richness, the complexity of the entire Middle East. And Janin [where every young man is a trained terrorist and every mosque is an arsenal, AP] plays its little part in what we hope will be the security, stability and prosperity of the Middle East, and to really destroy the root of this evil [Iranian] regime that is killing its own people with the same fervour that it is attempting to kill off the nation-state of the Jewish people."
  7. It should be noted that Indian Muslims, still under British colonial rule, exceeded all other Muslims, including Arabs, in their efforts to salvage the Ottoman Caliphate.
  8. Ze'ev (Vladimir) Jabotinsky, Zionist Freedom Alliance, 2006, http://www.zfa.org.il/articles/jabotinsky.html
  9. Stefan Ihrig, Atatürk in the Nazi Imagination, Harvard University Press, 2014. The indignation and outrage of contemporary Turks at any suggestion of an Armenian genocide are sincere, not because they deny the events, but because they reject any charge of wrongdoing. With the erosion of Muslim ethics over the last century, the brazenness of 1919-20 has given way some introspection.
  10. Maj. Eric Venditti, "The Rock of Gallipoli: The Leadership of  Mustafa Kemal," Military Review, January-February 2021.

Picture credits:

Jewish Virtual Library, "Modern Jewish History: The Pale of Settlement." https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/the-pale-of-settlement

RickP 19:18, 15 August 2006 (UTC) - Own work (had been created with Sodipodi / Inkscape), CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1058172

"Dhimmi", Raymond Ibrahim, https://www.raymondibrahim.com/2020/01/27/the-racial-and-blood-superiority-of-muslims/dhimmi/

אינו ידוע - ארכיון מכון ז'בוטינסקי בישראל http://www.jabotinsky.org/hebsite/home/default.asp, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24720865