London 1934 — two of the great Zionist leaders, Ben Gurion and Jabotinsky — meet to discuss the character of the future Jewish State
...Ben Gurion: What about Uri Zvi Greenberg? He may have defected from my labour movement but I still admire his poetry.
Jabotinsky: Uri Zvi Greenberg isn’t a moral or a spiritual authority. He’s a hysterical, humourless man still haunted by the trauma of the trenches. And I’ll let you in to a secret – unlike you, I’m not keen on his poetry. As a rule I don’t think poets and authors are useful in public life, in the end their concern is for books and poems and scholarship. Take care of Berl, he’s a precious asset. He was in the Jewish Brigade I founded, in the Great War. We had our disagreements, but I’ll always value him as a man of truth worth.
...Ben Gurion: (pensive) You return to Paris tomorrow?
Jabotinsky: Yes. Where will you be heading?
Ben Gurion: Home, to Tel Aviv.
Jabotinsky: Alas, Tel Aviv…Jerusalem…they haunt my dreams.
...Jabotinsky: So I have a question for you. Let’s assume we have our Jewish State and its Prime Minister, whomever he is, invites you to join the Cabinet. Which Ministry would attract you the most?
Ben Gurion: I’d start a Ministry for Identity.
Jabotinsky: Is there such a thing?
Ben Gurion: No, but it will be essential. We need a Ministry to straighten out our poor old Jewish identity that’s been crippled by centuries of exile. At the heart of it I would plant the words of the Prophets.
Jabotinsky: What a bold idea. It would tempt me too, although I might straighten out the warped Jewish identity in a rather different way. So if I were to join this cabinet I’d choose an easier role.
Ben Gurion: That being?
Jabotinsky: Secretary for Defence, Minister of War.
Ben Gurion: Minister of War? You, Jabotinsky? The poet, the author, the orator…
Steam is rising from the stove and there is a scorching smell.
Jabotinsky: Yes, because my wars would be shorter and more efficient than any waged by you Socialists. Fewer dead, fewer injured, less destruction on both sides.
Ben Gurion: How?
Jabotinsky: Because I wouldn’t let a single Jew or Arab harbour false illusions. I wouldn’t offer the Arabs a compromise that they won’t accept. I would speak to them clearly and honestly, without guile. They’re neither wicked nor foolish, as your friends in the Brotherhood of Nations might fancy. From the minute our feet touched the ground of Eretz Yisrael, they’ve known what our intentions are. Like some posturing virgin we persist in denying the fact that from its inception the Zionist Movement has carried in its womb the embryonic Jewish state. But the Arabs spotted this long ago and as they awake from four hundred years of Ottoman-induced slumber they will ensure that this embryo dies, along with its mother. If we don’t rush to deliver the Jewish state, this baby will die in the womb or be delivered stillborn to the English. Or it will be born a monster.
Ben Gurion: A monster???
Jabotinsky: Ambivalence, procrastination, religious extremists from all sides and enemies of Zionism will turn it into a monster. That’s why we need a state as soon as possible. An independent sovereign state with clearly charted borders and a wall of steel before its enemies. But within in: generosity, equality and respect for all. An outward wall of steel but from the inside, velvet-covered marble, embellished with images of hope...
...Ben Gurion: There’s no such thing as steel on the outside and velvet on the inside! You’ve been away from Eretz Yisrael for so long you’ve lost touch with reality. We in the workers’ parties are trying, slowly and carefully, to separate the Arabs and ourselves by securing Jewish labour in Jewish enterprises and building separate Jewish settlements in uninhabited areas. Yes, Sir, another acre and another goat, but the time is not yet ripe for the Jewish State. If we induce this premature infant of yours, the Arabs will destroy it and the English will let them, because then they won’t be responsible for our security. You’ve have been gone too long, you don’t know the situation.
Jabotinsky: And you are completely alienated from European Jewry! You have no concept of the new nationalistic anti-Semitism that’s poisoning the air. When you and your friends finally decide the time is right to bring the Jewish state into the world you’ll be too late – not enough Jews will survive.
Ben Gurion: You speak with such cruel pessimism.
Jabotinsky: It’s reality....
I left this comment there:
This is such an ideological anachronistic warping of history to suit Yehoshua's viewpoint. Of course, the entire play is unavailable to me but this: "to produce another attack on me" by DBG, when he was the one calling VJ "Hitler" and "Fuehrer" and when the Labour factions of the Histadrut were attacking VJ from 1923 on, is outlandish. To put these words in VJ's mouth on Uri Tzvi: "Uri Zvi Greenberg isn’t a moral or a spiritual authority. He’s a hysterical, humourless man still haunted by the trauma of the trenches. And I’ll let you in to a secret – unlike you, I’m not keen on his poetry." is a bit sacrilegious. In 1934, Atzag was already working for the Revisionist movement in Poland, editing journals and newspapers. Oh, and if the translator wants to be faithful, this term "a wall of steel" is mistranslated. And since it's one of Jabo's most well-known phrases, thanks to Shlaim, it should be Iron Wall - קיר הברזל, from his 1923 two-part article. But if this is sponsored by the NIF, I can understand Yehoshua's moblized literature.
And here is Yehoshua on the play:
I always had reservations about Jabotinsky, except for the saying 'if not eliminate the Diaspora - Diaspora will surely eliminate you'. Jabotinsky did not interest me - until I read the book by Dan Miron" (and see here in Hebrew)..."I felt through a literary analysis the man's tragedy and loneliness that as he was a foundation stone of his movement, so was Ben-Gurion in his".
(k/t=PG)...the Zionist movement was created by founding fathers who had an affinity for literature. A leader with the vision for the future is really a writer. Through recognition of Jabotinsky's literary personality, using the book by Dan Miron, I returned his political persona...my play turned the meeting of Ben - Gurion and Jabotinsky in 1934, part fantasy, part documentation...There is a conflict between right and left, but between two traditions, and traditions of Jabotinsky was not acceptable. Jabotinsky says' Learn to laugh, take your life like a game, and it is a spiritual testament for all of us".