Wolfgang von Weisl

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Binyamin Ze'ev (Wolfgang) von Weisl (27 March 1896 – 24 February 1974) was one of the founders of the Revisionist movement and a leader in the Zionist struggle for establishing a Jewish state. He was writer and a journalist, a physician and medical researcher, a military man and an original military strategist, an Austrian noble and a world expert in Islam.

Dr. Wolfgang von Weisl was born in Vienna, Austria, in 1896. His father, Dr. Ernst Von Weisl, who received the ennobling predicate "von" from Emperor Franz Josef, was among the first Jews to join Theodor Herzl in his Zionist movement. For his son, Wolfgang, this was a call to the flag, and a cause to which he dedicated his life. For Weisl junior, Zionism meant living in what is now called the land of Israel (and then Palestine), participation in its building and defence, and the struggle to ensure its independence toward the Return of Zion. At the age of 11 (1907) Dr. Wolfgang von Weisl launched his Zionist path with his first political article with a call to transport Yemenite Jews to the land of Israel. The article was published in the Wiener Handelsblatt. In 1914, in the midst of his medical studies, he served as an artillery officer in the Austo-Hungary army, earned the Iron Cross Medal, distributed the Jewish national colors of blue and white to Jewish officers, and established a Jewish corps for the defense of the Jewish quarter. His work with the Jewish National Fund brought him in touch with Zeev Jabotinsky, then a leading man in Keren Hayesod. Weisl proposed to buy a whole Korpus' gear and armament for 60,000 Lira; to transport 30,000 pioneers and to conquer the Land of Israel. This proposal set Weisl's ideology and heritage: Weisl believed that Israel could survive on the condition that it had a strong army and kept to the historical borders – the only defensible borders. In 1922, right after he completed his medical studies in the University of Vienna, Weisl immigrated to the Holy Land and received a Palestine passport. When, four decades later, he was asked by the Austrian ambassador to Israel why he had not returned to the "beloved Vienna" after the war? Weisl answered: "When I was a medical student in Vienna graffiti on the walls and doors of the toilets called: "Jews out!". And I always read toilet literature seriously." In 1925, together with Yaakov and Abraham Weinschel, Rozof and several other, Weisl founded the Revisionist Party in Eretz Israel.

In 1924 Wolfgang von Weisl launched a career as the representative of Ullstein, the lucrative publication house, to the Near East and the Islamic countries. His articles are translated and published all over the world. He was considered a world specialist in Islam and was listed in The Statesman's Year Book year after year. Weisl was welcome at Kings' and Saahs' courts: He was received by the Khalif, Hussein, the Hedjazi king – when he was a king, and was the only European to have dined with the Khalif at his last royal meal, before his forced exiled. He was a guest of King Ibn Saud, stayed at the home of the Sultan El Atrash, the leader of the Druze's insurgency, was in the palace of the Emir Abdallah of Trans Jordan and his personal doctor, he was the personal and official guide and dragoman of King Fuad of Egypt during his state visit in Germany, and visited Jebel Druze during the rebellion. He could have made a great difference in what would later become the Israeli Palestinian conflict: He offered Feisal, King of Iraq, a transfer of Palestinian Arabs to cultivate his vast unpopulated lands, received the king's blessing but encountered British objections. In Egypt he befriended Zaglul Pasha who hoped that the Zionists would sit on the Eastern shore of the Suez Canal understanding what the British refused to understand … Sinai did not belong to Egypt then.

In 1929, at the time of the Feat of Purim, Dr. von Weisl was invited on the legendary Zeppelin trip from Berlin to the Mediterranean. On board were five German ministers, an Egyptian journalist, Graf Zeppelin's widow and other international public figures. Dr. Herman Badet, of the Prussian Interior Ministry, a religious Jew, read together with Weisl Ester Scroll while the Zeppelin hovered above the city of Tel Aviv to the excited cheers of the crowd below. Above the Dead Sea Weisl opened a Carmel Mizrahi bottle of wine and the travelers toasted the "People of Israel and their homeland". A few months later, during the bloody disturbances of August 1929, Weisl was stabbed by an Arab and was thought dead. Eulogies are published around the world and in one of them he is mentioned as the Mark Twain of the German language, postcards with his picture are sold, trees are planted in his honor and prayers are given for his recovery. He survived and testified in front of the Shaw committee.

In 1931 von Weisl called to prepare for world war and predicted the rise of Hitler, calling on the Jews to save themselves. During this time he was active against the partition of what was left of the land of Israel – after a great portion was separated and given to Hussein. In 1935 Weisl proposed illegal immigration to Palestine and, overruling Jabotinsky's opposition, raised the funds needed for the first "illegal" immigrants' ship "Af Al Pi" (Despite).

On 1 September 1946, jailed in Latrun, Weisl wrote to the British High commissioner: "… I have the honor to inform you that I shall abstain from taking food for a period of 28 days… I am well aware of the fact that neither my fasting nor that of anybody else will influence the attitude or the decisions of the men who rule today over Palestine and who, apparently, regard it as their duty to hinder by all means the return of Israel to its Home…" and turned from an unusual and controversial leader – even in his own party – to a national hero.

On 25 February 1974, a day after his death, and in March 1974 Weisl's last 2 articles were published, sealing his intellectual activity which encompassed thousands of articles and lectures and several books in different subjects: politics, military, medicine, theology, philosophy, psychology, travel… and even astrology. His series about Saint Theresia Neumann was published in a special edition and 800,000 copies were sold in a few days. "one of the most fascinating and picturesque characters", "the story of his life can fill a few volumes", "legends surrounded him", "the man with the golden pen", "a genius", "a prophet", but also "a charlatan", "Don Quixote", "an adventurer" and "a fascist". A man about whom it has been written: “There is only one ism that fits Dr. von Weisl – vonweislism”

Further reading[edit]

The Jewish Encyclopedia, Sefer Hahagana, Weisl, Skizze zu Einer Autobiographie