With chilling precision 100 years ago, on Nov. 4, 1923, Ze’ev Jabotinsky published his seminal article “The Iron Wall,” in which he claimed that the Arabs living in the Land of Israel will accept the Jewish state only when they understand that it cannot be won by war. He called this principle the “Iron wall.”
He wrote: “As long as the Arabs feel that there is the least hope of getting rid of us, they will refuse to give up this hope in return for either kind words or for bread and butter.”
This is as a response to the events when Arabs began to violently oppose the Zionist movement, large-scale immigration of Jews, and the political efforts to establish a Jewish state in its ancestral and indigenous homeland. Jabotinsky resigned from the executive of the Zionist Organization in protest of the lax policy towards the Arabs and British. He knew that only by force of arms can the establishment of a secure Jewish state in the Land of Israel be ensured.
This position was so opposed by the Zionist leadership Jabotinsky was forced to leave to form and publish the article in the Russian-language Zionist newspaper Razsvet (“The Dawn”), published in Germany. More than a year and a half later, in July 1925, the article was published in Hebrew in the Ha’aretz newspaper.
Even then, Jabotinsky understood the simple truth that many did not understand until recently—that only by force can a state be established and its existence ensured. Without power, anti-Semitic hatred will destroy Jews again and again.
How dreadful that he understood this even before the Holocaust and Israel’s wars. Nonetheless, even 80 years since the Holocaust, 75 years since the War of Independence, 56 years since the Six-Day War and 50 years since the Yom Kippur War, it is not self-evident to many.
Israel has tried to appease its enemies, improving their standard of living and providing them with financial benefits. The Jewish state has given up territories, tried to reach agreements with them, given them an independent authority and offered them a state. Israel hoped (and some were so certain) that the more satisfied the Palestinians were, the more they would leave Jews alone and even build a common future of justice, prosperity and peace with us.
For 2,000 years, we had justice. We have contributed more to the world than any other minority in science, philosophy, medicine, culture, economy, arts. In return, we received jealousy, hatred, expulsion and murder.
We have to leave the exile behind and stop being afraid to use force.
Yes, we want to explain ourselves, to prove ourselves, to be loved. There is no need because it just doesn’t work.
It didn’t work for us with anyone. Not with the Egyptians, the Persians, the Babylonians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Russians, the Spanish, the French, the Germans, the Arabs and many others for 2,000 years of exile.
There is no reason for that to change.
How painful it is that the eternal people—experienced and wise as we are—with the wisest book that has contributed so much to humanity does not learn from its own history.
We all hope that the terrible disaster that befell us on the Oc. 7 will wake us up, and we will understand the lessons of history—the simple truth that Jabotinsky understood and imparted to us even then.
We didn’t want to believe because we dreamed, and this dream exploded in our faces.
We must wake up and complete the construction of the Iron Wall—a victory over Israel’s enemies, such a victory that will make them lay down their weapons and stop hoping to throw us to the sea. To understand the simple truth that only with strength can we guarantee ourselves security.
Only by winning the war. Not with anything else. Not claims of justice or law or advocacy.
We must recite this truth and act on it. This is the only principle that should guide us. This is not a political matter any longer. It is an existential matter.