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Jabotinsky, who had already resigned that year from the Zionist Executive in protest against what he considered its insufficiently militant policies, disagreed. Although he still believed at that point in the good intentions of the British, he was convinced that the Arabs would never peacefully allow a Jewish state to be created in Palestine and that they would take up arms to fight this if they felt forced to do so. There was not a case in human history, he wrote in his 1923 essay, of a native population voluntarily ceding its land to foreigners. It was a form of contempt for the Arabs of Palestine to think that they would behave any less patriotically or courageously than other peoples — and a dangerous illusion for Zionists to cultivate. Only an “iron wall” of armed strength that the Arabs could never hope to break down might overcome their resistance.
This wall, Jabotinsky wrote, might be built out of “British bayonets” or “Jewish bayonets” (he himself preferred them to be Jewish ones), but without it, the Jewish community of Palestine stood no chance. “I don’t believe,” he declared in conclusion, “that an agreement with Palestine’s Arabs is impossible. But what is impossible is for them to agree to anything as long as they have the shadow of a hope of getting rid of us. The only road to an agreement in the future is to give up trying to reach one in the present.”
“The Iron Wall” eventually became the best known of all of Jabotinsky’s many dozens of essays. In the course of the 1920s and ’30s, it was translated into Yiddish, French, Spanish, Romanian, Dutch and Serbo-Croatian, as well as into English in 1937. By then, a view that had seemed overly pessimistic to most Zionists in 1923 was obvious to nearly all, but “The Iron Wall” remained the most succinct and powerful statement of it. And I’d be willing to bet that whoever came up with “Iron Dome” as the name of Rafael’s surface-to-air anti-missile system was thinking of Jabotinsky’s phrase, too.
This doesn’t mean that whoever it was had necessarily read the essay or even knew that the phrase was Jabotinsky’s. Yet though a great deal has changed in the 80 years since the phrase was coined, some things have not, one of them being Arab and Muslim attitudes toward a Jewish state. The Arab and Muslim worlds know that their missiles, and the conventional or nuclear explosives that they carry, are their best hope for badly or mortally wounding this state — and only an iron dome stretching over its skies can make a lasting peace with them possible.
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