Shmuel Katz


The Jewish Chronicle - - OBITUARIES -

ONE OF the last sur­viv­ing dis­ci­ples of Vladimir Ze’ev Jabotin­sky, the prophet of right-wing Re­vi­sion­ist Zion­ism, writer Shmuel Katz re­mained to the end an un­com­pro­mis­ing ad­vo­cate of the com­plete Land of Is­rael, writes Eric Sil­ver.

He saw it as im­per­a­tive to re­tain the whole of the bib­li­cal home­land un­der Jewish sovereignty. But in a long life of pol­i­tics and polemic he was dis­ap­pointed by the fail­ure, as he saw it, of suc­ces­sive Likud lead­ers, Jabotin­sky’s po­lit­i­cal heirs, to keep the faith.

He broke with Me­nachem Be­gin in 1978 when the first Likud prime min­is­ter ceded Si­nai, cap­tured in 1967, in re­turn for peace with Egypt. For Katz the only valid for­mula was “Peace for Peace”, not “Ter­ri­tory for Peace”.

In a re­cent in­ter­view he re­vealed his de­spair that his old Ir­gun Zvai Leumi com­man­der, Be­gin, turned out to be weak. (Known also by its ini­tials as Etzel, stand­ing for Na­tional Mil­i­tary Or­gan­i­sa­tion, the Ir­gun was founded by Jabotin­sky in 1931 and led by Be­gin from 1943-48.) “He [Be­gin] couldn’t stand up to the Amer­i­cans.”

He was equally scathing of Binyamin Ne­tanyahu as a man who “broke down un­der Amer­i­can pres­sure” to be­come “just an­other fat, third-rate politi­cian”.

Katz joined the Ir­gun in 1936, when he left South Africa, af­ter study­ing at Wit­wa­ter­srand Univer­sity and com­mer­cial school, for Bri­tish man­date Pales­tine.

He had been cap­ti­vated by Jabotin­sky’s or­a­tory in Jo­han­nes­burg in 1930, with its vi­sion of a Jewish state es­tab­lished and pre­served through armed con­quest. “Right then and there,” he re­called, “I de­cided that build­ing a Jewish state would be my life’s work.”

On ar­rival he started writ­ing, echo­ing Jabotin­sky’s warn­ings about the grow­ing Nazi threat to Euro­pean Jew- ry. He trav­elled to Egypt on a five-day trip as Jabotin­sky’s sec­re­tary. When the Sec­ond World War broke out in 1939, the Re­vi­sion­ist leader sent him to Lon­don to lobby for the cre­ation of a Jewish army and res­cue of the Jews.

Katz was one of the first writ­ers to ex­pose the al­lies’ fail­ure to bomb Auschwitz. Us­ing doc­u­ments from Bri­tish and Zion­ist archives for his 1966 book, Days of Fire, he de­nounced For­eign Sec­re­tary An­thony Eden for ig­nor­ing Jewish Agency ap­peals in July, 1944, to bomb the camp and its rail­way lines.

“It was 57 days be­fore the Bri­tish For­eign Of­fice sent its re­ply,” he wrote, “a pe­riod dur­ing which the ma­jor­ity of the Jews of Hun­gary were ex­ter­mi­nated.”

Jabotin­sky’s sud­den death in 1940 left Katz stranded in Lon­don. He wrote ar­ti­cles for a liv­ing and founded a Re­vi­sion­ist weekly, the Jewish Stan­dard, be­fore re­turn­ing to Pales­tine in 1946 and join­ing the Ir­gun high com­mand as spokesman and pro­pa­gan­dist. He also helped or­gan­ise Be­gin’s con­tro­ver­sial 1948 arms shipment on the Al­tal­ena.

A co-founder in 1948 of Be­gin’s po­lit­i­cal party, Herut (later merged into Likud), he was elected to the first Knes­set (1949-51) but, weary­ing of par­lia­men­tary pol­i­tics, set up a pub­lish­ing house. Af­ter the 1967 Six-Day War, he co­founded the Land of Is­rael move­ment.

When Be­gin won the 1977 elec­tion, he in­vited Katz to serve as ad­viser — which led to his dis­en­chant­ment. He was ex­pect­ing to be ap­pointed Min­is­ter for Pub­lic Diplo­macy, with a brief to cor­rect Is­rael’s per­ceived fail­ure to get across its mes­sage and an­swer its crit­ics. For­eign Min­is­ter Moshe Dayan ve­toed the idea, and Katz re­signed.

For the next two decades he con­trib­uted a tren­chant weekly col­umn to Ma’ariv and the Jerusalem Post. His many books in­cluded Bat­tle­ground (1973), his ide­o­log­i­cal tes­ta­ment; Lone Wolf (1993), a two-vol­ume bi­og­ra­phy of Jabotin­sky; and The Aaron­sohn Saga (2007), a study of the Nili spy ring which worked for Bri­tish intelligence against the Turks in the First World War.

He is sur­vived by a son.

Shmuel Katz: un­com­pro­mis­ing ad­vo­cate of bib­li­cal Is­rael

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