Jabotinsky: A Life

by Hillel Halkin

Book, 2014



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New Haven, Connecticut : Yale University Press, 2014


Vladimir Jabotinsky (1880 1940) was a man of huge paradoxes and contradictions and has been the most misunderstood of all Zionist politicians--a first-rate novelist, a celebrated Russian journalist, and the founder of the branch of Zionism now headed by Benjamin Netanyahu. This biography, the first in English in nearly two decades, undertakes to answer central questions about Jabotinsky as a writer, a political thinker, and a leader. Hillel Halkin sets aside the stereotypes to which Jabotinsky has been reduced by his would-be followers and detractors alike. Halkin explains the importance of Odessa, Jabotinsky s native city, in molding his character and outlook; discusses his novels and short stories, showing the sometimes hidden connections between them and Jabotinsky s political thought, and studies a political career that ended in tragic failure. Halkin also addresses Jabotinsky s position, unique among the great figures of Zionist history, as both a territorial maximalist and a principled believer in democracy. The author inquires why Jabotinsky was often accused of fascist tendencies though he abhorred authoritarian and totalitarian politics, and investigates the many opposed aspects of his personality and conduct while asking whether or not they had an ultimate coherence. Few figures in twentieth-century Jewish life were quite so admired and loathed, and Halkin s splendid, subtle book explores him with empathy and lucidity. "… (more)

User reviews

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A superb short bio that finally makes me feel I understand Jabotinsky and the Revisionist Zionism he founded. I agree with the author that Jabotinsky probably should have stuck to literature; as a politician he was far-sighted but in practical terms a failure, and he made his own life and those of
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his wife and son much more difficult than they need have been. A sad life, well told.
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