The 'Fighting Jew'
I have begun re-reading Menachem Begin’s book “The Revolt—The Story of the Irgun.” It still makes fascinating reading some 60 to 70 years after its original publication. The book opens with Begin having a spirited discussion with his Soviet interrogator. Begin was imprisoned in Russia having been captured as a member of the Polish Army at the beginning of WWII.
The interrogator insists that Zionism is a fraud perpetrated by the British to have an excuse to remain in the Middle East. Begin, in what even then was a professorial manner, explains that no, Zionism is the desire of the Jews to return to their land after some 2,000 years of foreign occupation.
In these most interesting discussions, Begin offers the vision of the “Fighting Jew” as opposed to those who were being led to the killing chambers at Treblinka. Yes, as early as 1941there were those who knew.
The Fighting Jew. Not since the time of Bar Kochba had such an idea become a reality. But in the forests of Poland, Czechoslovakia and elsewhere, Jewish partisans did indeed take up arms and fight against the Nazis.
Of course, The Fighting Jew still exists. He exists out of necessity. As we say at Passover, “in each generation they have tried to destroy us.” Well, we are in Israel. It is the Third Jewish Commonwealth there in the land of our forefathers. Were there people there in the early 1900s when the JNF began to buy land in what was then Palestine? Of course. Much of the land was unclaimed desert inhabited by Bedouin nomads who neither knew nor cared about nation.
Much of the “developed” land was owned by absentee landlords, mostly in Turkey. Lawyers from the JNF went to Turkey, dug through thousands of deeds, land claims and other paper work to find the real owners of land in Eretz Israel. When they found the owners they negotiated to buy the land. No, the land was not attacked by an army as the United States was transplanted by Europeans taking land from the Native occupants. It was purchased, acre by acre.
Now of course, the Turkish landowners did not bother to inform their tenants in Palestine of the land transfers. So, when Jewish settlers came to claim land they had purchased, these tenants, some of whom had been on the land for generations, were not a welcoming group.
So, yes, in many cases, Jews had to fight for their land. First as designated “Watchmen” known as “Shomrim”—early Fighting Jews. As more Jews came, especially after Britain finally gave up what Churchill called “This dirty little war against the Jew,” it was time to declare the Third Jewish Commonwealth as a reality.
So now, as a nation, Israeli lawyers still go to court to bring their case for ownership to be litigated. Sometimes they win, sometimes they lose—but if the Israeli argument loses, they lose. Not a shot is fired.
Do Arabs still have the right to own land in greater Eretz Israel and to live there in peace? Of course. Is it a crime for fanatic “settlers” to simply charge in to land legally owned by Arabs and build homes there without the owners’ permission? Of course.
But of course, the Fighting Jew was still needed. The Arabs for the most part will still not accept this nation in the midst of their millions of acres of land; amidst all that oil, all that desert, this puny one percent of the Middle East is an abomination to them. So the Fighting Jew has had to take them on. First to win independence, then to prevent all the Arab Nations from destroying the dream.
This is not what the Fighting Jew was meant to do. The Fighting Jew has always lived by law and respect for his fellow human beings. A Two State Solution? For Two States you need two partners who agree that both have rights and are entitled to peace and prosperity. The Fighting Jew is necessary as long as Israel’s neighbors refuse to accept his existence.
But the Fighting Jew is not necessarily the IDF, Mossad or the Tel Aviv Police Force. The Fighting Jew is here in America. This Fighting Jew fights against anti-Semitism, takes action in word and deed against the cancer of BDS—in all its forms. This Fighting Jew does not carry arms. This fighting Jew does not, thank God, have to worry about Arab neighborhood teenagers sneaking into the house to kill children.
But, this Fighting Jew, this American Jew must fight against any type of tyranny. Any hint that people will be kept from these United States because of their religion - we know all about that. The Fighting Jew, here, in Paris or Safat or anywhere is a “Shomer” for his people or they should not be able to call themselves Jews.