December 10, 2023

On Thursday evening, October 18, 1934, at 9:15 p.m., Dr. Wolfgang-Ze’ev von Weisl began to speak at the Maccabi Hall in Haifa on “The Status of the Jews in Europe and the Question of the Saar Region and the National Petition.” He was facing fewer than 100 listeners. Viennese-born, as was his father, an officer of the Austro-Hungarian Army, Von Weisl also served and was wounded in WW I. He arrived in Mandate Palestine in 1922 engaged in a construction site in Herzliya where some laborers were beaten up for strikebreaking. A heated labor clash began to develop in January 1934. Contractor David Shmuel-David was engaged in constructing an apartment building in the Herzliya neighborhood just west of Hadar Hacarmel. Clashes between rival early Zionist factions resulted in violent incidents. The immediate result was that the Betarim and Revisionists gained much sympathy within the religious and non-socialist parties. Many more Mapai leaders recalled the view of Berl Katznelson, who earlier had identified Mapai’s problem as the looming “fascisization of the labor movement.” Despite the gain, the Revisionists and the Betar members lost a larger battle. David Ben-Gurion’s talks with and tentative agreements with Jabotinsky in London mediated by Pinhas Rutenberg during 16 meetings that were held over a period of a month in 1934, first broached in mid-August, were put to the test in a vote of authorization by the members of a special Histadrut convention on March 24, 1935. Those who opposed inner Zionist peace numbered 11,522; and those who sought to continue the exclusionary and discriminatory policies garnered 16,474 votes. The socialist camp’s willingness to justify violence against its ideological rivals stemmed from the European tradition of the working class, who believed in using force to ensure the right to work on the one hand; and, on the other, identifying Revisionism with fascism on the background of events in Berlin, Rome, and, more recently, Vienna.