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'The Jews are heading to the polls in droves'

It turns out that one of Benjamin Netanyahu’s most notoriously divisive statements in recent years reflects, almost identically, an anti-Semitic election slogan exposed and decried by none other than the founding father of right-wing Zionism, Jabotinsky.

By Gilad Halpern

Benjamin Netanyahu gives a victory speech on election night, March 18, 2015. (Photo: +972 Magazine)

Benjamin Netanyahu gives a victory speech on election night, March 18, 2015. (Photo: +972 Magazine)

Ze’ev Vladimir Jabotinsky, the founding father of the Zionist right and forebear of Likud, has been said to turn in his grave so many times he could produce enough energy to electrify a few new settlements.

It is often said that Jabotinsky, a liberal nationalist who imbibed 19th century romanticism, would have had nothing but contempt for the lowbrow jingoism that has become so characteristic of his so-called disciples in Likud.

One particularly notorious example was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Election Day warning that “Arab voters are heading to the polling station in droves,” in a desperate attempt to prod his supporters to save his right-wing government. Which they did: Netanyahu’s divisive remark proved to be extremely effective, and it is credited with having clinched him a victory in what seemed until the very end to be a losing battle.

But as it emerged this week, when Netanyahu uttered his now-infamous remark, Jabotinsky must have completed a double somersault six feet under.

Zeev Jabotinsky

Zeev Jabotinsky

Prof. Yaacov Shavit, a historian of Judaism at Tel Aviv University, has dug up a century-old, obscure quote from one of Jabotinsky’s many volumes of writings.

It was written in 1911, when Jabotinsky, an extremely prolific journalist and essayist, covered the racially tense municipal elections in Warsaw, Poland.

In archaic Hebrew that has nonetheless survived the passage of time, he conveys to his readers the “pogrom atmosphere” that prevailed during the campaign. To prove his point, he quotes a few tracts handed out by Polish nationalists, including one that says: “Calling on our people: Look what is happening at the polling stations. The Jews are heading to them in droves, and the Poles are scattered… If you vote for the pseudo-progressive party, Warsaw will be represented by Jews. Poles, save your capital!”

He then concludes: “I rest my case.”

Did Netanyahu know about the uncanny similarity between the two? That’s very unlikely. The quote appears in a new book of Jabotinsky’s writings published just this week. But to put it in Mark Twain’s words, “History may not repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”

Gilad Halpern is a journalist and broadcaster, host of “The Tel Aviv Review – Ideas from Israel” podcast on TLV1 Radio.

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    1. Average American

      To “Zionism Unplugged” – The author is just trying to show that the shoe can be put on the other foot, that Mileikowsky’s racist remark can and should be used by the other side too. Jabotinsky taught that no matter what Jews do the Goyim will still denigrate them? We are being taught and learing for ourselves that no matter what Goyim do for the Jews they only want more. Maybe the Jews and the Goyim should separate? All Jews go live somewhere in one place. The ultimate self-inflicted Jewish Ghetto. Hey, how about in this “Israel” place? But I mean really separate; no touching each other’s wine, no talking to each other, no foreign aid, no trade, no political recognition.

      Reply to Comment
      • Rachamim Slonim Dwek

        In response to “Average American,” like an average American you have precious little understanding of the relationship between your nation and Israel. It is not Israel that needs America so much as the converse. While the Security Council Veto is pretty nifty Israel has more than earned it. Of the 134 nations that America finacially aids only Israel repays, and that has always been the case. As former- Commander of USAF Intel Major General
        George Keegan Jr. has noted (amongst others), Israel is worth 5 CIAs. For every $15.00 in US aid Israel returns $80.00 in R&D, training, intel and so on and so forth. If you tally up every penny America has ever given to Israel it equals about 40% of a single annual Israeli GDP. I mean really, the MiG-21 Israel handed America at the height of the Cold War would surpass the entire tab over the course of Israel’s 70-year existence. Then there are little things like America’s only operable small arm ammo manufacturer breaking down at the height of the Iraqi/Afghan/Philippine debacle. At 1.5 million rounds per neutralised enemy combatant America was dead in the water vis a vis 5.56, 7.62 and 9mm rounds…until Israel bailed the US out, but then these are things that “average Americans” have no clue about.

        Rachamim Slonim Dwek, “Zionism Unplugged”

        Reply to Comment
        • Ben

          ” It is not Israel that needs America so much as the converse…America was dead in the water…until Israel bailed the US out….”

          Israeli arrogance, narcissistic entitlement and ingratitude in flaming colors. Unbelievable.

          Reply to Comment
        • Average American

          I see. USA needs Israel more than Israel needs USA. Of course. Seriously, Israel “repays” but it’s in services not money? And the worth of those services is decided by Israel? Perfect. And Israel “bailed out” USA but didn’t make a nice profit on the ammunition? Further, no way should Israel be on the Security Council. Israel is an aggressor in the region, won’t let USA see what its nuclear arms are, insults USA in our own Congress, and its Zionist agenda is set on armed expansion to complete The Land Of Israel no matter what. Which is quite a bit of territory they want to take by force if necessary, which they delusionaly think is already theirs, and The Others that are already there should just get out of their way because they are more important.

          Reply to Comment
    2. Ben

      “…an effort to teach Jews that no matter what Jews do, Goyim will always denigrate us…”

      In fact, reality, in an important sense, is precisely reversed. The lesson right wing Israeli Jews have absorbed is that no matter what Jews do, Goyim abstain from denigrating us and in fact have given us a pass they give no one else. As Larry Derfner has shown, the bias runs the other way. The Europeans (and let’s not even mention the Americans) give Israel a pass they give nobody else:


      Reply to Comment
    3. Ben

      Lorenzo Kamel has also shown this. The EU is Israel’s best partner. And supports its army. Netanyahu has made sure to have himself photographed climbing out of a new German submarine, something like the sixth one Germany has recently given Israel. The EU provides funding that sustains the occupation and funds the PA that serves as Israel’s faithful security contractor, saving Israel enormous expense and allowing it to sustain its occupation. There is a blatant double-standard, but in Israel’s favor. And yet all the while the Israeli man in the street yells about how horrible, horrible those dastardly Europeans are–poor beleaguered Israel, Israel is all alone, the whole world is against us, blah blah blah. It’s kind of a farce if you ask me:

      Reply to Comment
    4. bella

      Winkie why you wasting your time on this inconsequential mag.
      Jabo is now appreciated as never before….with good cause

      Reply to Comment
    5. Average American

      To Zionism Unplugged – I see your point now. Jabotinsky would not hate Mileikowsky, they are one and the same. They are both Zionists to the core. All the Israeli prime ministers have been. Zionism is Israel’s founding, it is Israel’s vision and identity. Separation, superiority, fear of The Others as a motivator, conquest as a virtue, halacha as civil law, ultra-nationalism bordering on fascism, all the elements of Zionism.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Andrew Eden-Balfour

      I’m not honestly surprised, the founders of Israel are likely turning over in their graves as Netenyahu is undoing Israel’s long history as a democratic state for Jewish people, and instead turning it into a Jewish version of its neighbors.

      Reply to Comment