“Revisionist Zionists” by Emanuel Melzer

Reference: The YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe

Written by Emanuel Melzer

Translated from Hebrew by David Fachler

Political party, also known in Hebrew as Berit ha-Zohar; formally called the Union of Zionist Revisionists. The inaugural conference of the Revisionist Zionist party took place in Paris in April 1925, headed by Vladimir Jabotinsky. Though most of the delegates were local Zionists of Russian extraction who had been involved in Jabotinsky’s struggle to set up a Jewish Legion during World War I, a minority came from other countries.

 

The conference’s resolutions emphasized the need to revise the policies of official Zionism in order to realize the movement’s ultimate goal: a state with a Jewish majority in the ancient Land of Israel, on both sides of the Jordan River. This would come about, the resolutions maintained, through massive Jewish settlement, the promotion of private enterprise, and the establishment of a Jewish army in Palestine.

 

The idea of creating a new political party had taken shape during Jabotinsky’s visit to the Baltic States in 1923, especially after his meeting with Jews in Riga, the capital of Latvia. That same year, a Zionist youth organization named for the militant Jewish nationalist Yosef Trumpeldor was set up in Riga, and in 1926 it changed its name to Berit Yosef Trumpeldor (Joseph Trumpeldor Alliance), more commonly referred to by its Hebrew acronym, Betar. Though officially aligned with Berit ha-Zohar, the party maintained its independence. Two of its delegates from Latvia and two from Lithuania attended the Revisionist Party’s first conference in Paris.

 

Other groups of young Jews in Poland had similarly been drawn to Jabotinsky’s struggle to establish a Jewish Legion during World War I, and in 1922 they set up Ha-Shaḥar (The Dawn), a Zionist activist organization. In December 1926, Ha-Shaḥar was responsible for staging the first Central Conference of Polish Revisionists, which adopted the platform of the Paris inaugural conference.

 

The Polish branch of the Revisionists grew stronger each year, especially after Jabotinsky’s first visit in 1927. In addition, the party had many petty bourgeois members, along with members of the intelligentsia. Poland soon became the Revisionist Party’s primary source of strength, and it was this country that provided the bulk of Revisionist immigration to Palestine.

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