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Writer and founder of Revisionist Zionism. He came from an assimilated Jewish family in Odessa, Russia. He studied law and Russian literature. As a student he won recognition as a Russian writer and orator. At the age of 25, he was already a leading figure among Russian Zionists. During the early part of World War I, he served as war correspondent in France for an important Moscow newspaper. When Turkey entered the war in 1915 and drove many Palestinian Jews into exile, Jabotinsky conceived the idea of a Jewish Legion that would fight on the side of the Allies and help capture Palestine from the Turks. In his efforts to establish such a legion he approached the British, Italian, and French authorities. Success came finally in June 1917 when the British officially announced the formation of Jewish battalions to serve with the British Royal Fusiliers in the Palestine campaign. Jabotinsky, who enlisted as a private, was the only foreigner to be made an honorary lieutenant by the British during World War I.

After the end of the war, Jabotinsky remained in Palestine, and in 1919, when the country was threatened with Arab riots, he joined Pinhas Rutenberg in organizing a Jewish self-defense corps. On April 4, 1920, Arab rioters attacked the Jewish quarter in old Jerusalem, and the self-defense corps tried to defend the area. The British arrested them and later tried them before a military court. Jabotinsky and twenty comrades were sentenced to twenty years’ imprisonment. There was great public protest, and after three and a half months in the Acre prison, Jabotinsky was freed. He returned to England and joined the Executive of the World Zionist Organization. On this body he differed sharply with its leader, Chaim Weizmann, whom he considered too conciliatory toward Britain, and he resigned in 1921. In 1925, he organized the Revisionist Zionist party. His program pressed for the speedy creation of a Jewish state on both sides of the Jordan. The last years of Jabotinsky’s life were shadowed by Hitler’s rise to power in Germany and the beginning of World War II. He who had fought the British for so long because they obstructed the realization of the Jewish homeland in Palestine now pleaded for a Jewish army to fight on the side of England against Hitler. He died in 1940 before the formation of the Jewish Brigade.

Jabotinsky was a brilliant, versatile writer in six languages. He wrote the novel Samson the Nazirite and translated voluminously from Hebrew into Russian and from English, French, and Italian into Hebrew. Jabotinsky was a master of prose in English, French, and Yiddish. As an orator he was dramatic and incisive with a magnetic personality.

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