Yonatan Ratosh was the mainspring behind the Canaanite idea. He was born in Poland in 1909 with the name Uriel Halprin. The name Ratosh was derived from the Hebrew verb “to rend.”
He came to Eretz Israel in 1920, and received a basic Hebrew education. He continued his studies in Paris where he came under the influence of A.G. Choron. In addition to political activity, the arts also attracted him in his youth. In Eretz Israel he devoted himself to the Zionist revisionist movement, and in 1929 discovered his ideological brethren in the militant wing of the Revisionist Party such as Abba Achimeir's violent
anti-British circle. Ratosh was one of the original leaders of the Irgun
and was well acquainted with Avraham Stern (Yair) the LEHI leader.
In 1943 Ratosh joined the staff of Yarden, the Revisionist Histadrut's newspaper. His editorials
blasted the Yishuv's policy of restraint toward the British. In a series of articles Ratosh demanded that a Jewish State must be immediately established.
The mainstream Revisionists were not ready to accept his radical anti-British activism; furthermore, they refused to swerve from Jabotinsky's line. Disappointed, Ratosh quit the movement and sailed for Paris in 1928 to study at the
Sorbonne. There he met Adolf Gourevitch (Choron) who helped him focus
his views and gain insight into an alternative historical perspective
of the Jewish People. Ratosh formulated a new cultural-nationalistic
outlook based on Gourevitch inspired Canaanite-Hebrew ideology.
Ratosh originated the Young Hebrews group whose members were mainly students and intellectuals from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. The group was later more
formally known as the “Committee for the Formation of Hebrew Youth”
and attracted poets and artists. In the beginning the group's activity
concentrated on the arts, but eventually it have entered the political
arena where Ratosh's ideas struggled to make headway. Ratosh became a
influence on a group of friends that included Eliahu Bet Zouri, who along
with Eliahu Hakim would assassinate Lord Moyne, the British Minister of
State in the Middle East, on November 6, 1944 in Cairo.
Ratosh was responsible for the monthly newspaper Alef. From 1948 to 1953 Alef was a weekly. He was a friend of
Eliahu Bet-Zouri, who was one of the two assassins who were responsible for the attack on Lord Moyne in Cairo. Later Ratosh took the name Uriel Shelah. Among his best known works is his 1937 “Our Eyes Are Lifted Up
to Domination: The Liberation Movement’s Front of Tomorrow.”