Eliav (Lubotzky), Binyamin

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ELIAV (Lubotzky ), BINYAMIN (1909–1974), Israeli public figure and editor. Born in Riga, Latvia, he finished his secondary education in Haifa. Returning to Europe for his higher studies, he soon became one of the outstanding figures in the Betar movement, led by Vladimir Jabotinsky, whose personality profoundly influenced him. From 1932 to 1935, he lived in Paris where he served as general secretary of Betar. In 1935 he returned to Palestine, where his political activities against the policies of the British Mandatory government earned him repeated terms of imprisonment, principally in the Acre Prison. In between, he edited the movement's newspapers Hamashkif and Hayarden.

In 1938 he was released from Acre due to ill health, on condition that he leave the country until the termination of martial law, and was in Riga until 1940. After his return he championed the cause of conciliation between the Revisionist movement and the Zionist Organization. A tentative agreement that was to be the basis of the reconciliation was vetoed by Ben-Gurion.

Eliav left Betar and formed his own political party, Tenuat Ha'am, and edited its daily newspaper, Mivrak. This small party attracted a wide variety of supporters. In June 1947 Eliav was again arrested, and placed in a detention camp in Latrun together with other leading figures of the yishuv.

After the establishment of the State of Israel he underwent a certain metamorphosis. He disbanded his party and never again played an active political role. He worked as a journalist, editor, and translator (editing the Labor Party's afternoon daily Ha-Dor, and translating Isaac Deutscher's biography of Stalin). From 1953 he was in the Israel Foreign Ministry, serving in South America and later as consul-general in New York.

Gradually he devoted himself exclusively to the cause of Soviet Jewry, which in the mid- to late-1950s, was a tabula rasa. To Eliav the fate of this last great Jewish community to survive in Europe was crucial to the future of the Jewish people. At the same time, he saw it as a universal human problem of minority rights.

For the next 12 years he traveled all over the world and established a veritable network of influential connections. He won the support of outstanding personalities such as Bertrand Russell, Jean-Paul Sartre, Aya de la Torre of Peru, and Senator Terracini of Italy.

After retiring from the Foreign Ministry, he served for a while as Prime Minister Eshkol's adviser on information and as acting chairman of the Broadcasting Corporation. From 1969 Eliav worked on the Encyclopaedia Judaica, of which he was associate editor with particular responsibility for the section dealing with Israel, Zionism, and contemporary Jewish history. Sifriat Keter, a series of original monographs in Hebrew on various aspects of Jewish culture and history, was launched by him, and he edited its first volumes.

[Aryeh Eliav (2nd ed.)]