Friday, October 24, 2008

Begin and Economic Theory

To call the monopoly-ridden, tightly government controlled Israeli economy a "free market economy" is an insult to their readers' intelligence, let alone to the facts. To refer to the plunder of public and former Histadrut assets after they went bankrupt "privatization" is a sad joke. These former government and Histadrut assets, that wastefully dominated the economy in its "social democracy" phase, went bankrupt when Menachem Begin's government refused to continue massively subsidizing them.

Daniel Doron

Menachem Begin Figures in a New Theater Presentation

'Good acting always hurts'

Keren Tsur feels freedom, genuine freedom. She is liberated, freed from being pretty, in the role of Anda in Hillel Mittelpunkt's new play.

...Anda, the fictional heroine of Mittelpunkt's play, is a survivor of Bloc 10 in Auschwitz, which was part of the Nazi experimentation with mass sterilization by injecting poison into the ovaries. She wants to testify at the Eichmann trial, which is underway when the play's action takes place. She wants to tell the world about the crimes done to her. But the Ben-Gurion-controlled political establishment disqualifies her from testifying.

Anda had been a member of Herut for a few months and protested outside the Knesset against the reparations from Germany in a demonstration organized by Menachem Begin. Secondly, she was from Hungary. Some people sought to limit the number of witnesses from there because of the Kastner trial several years earlier. So 110 witnesses testified at the Eichmann trial, and Anda was not among them.

Anda powers the plot of the play that bears her name, which depicts a judicial system that capitulates to the intervention of the political branch, which draws comparisons between then and now. No wonder the play is sparking public debate in the media. There was heated debate at the play's premiere.

Tsur says that even on stage she sensed the opposition: "I felt the vibes of opposition from the politicians in the auditorium. They weren't interested in the personal human story, in which a Holocaust survivor leaves the country with a slam of the door, but only in what is being said about them, what they did or did not do. That is what the play is about actually."

How do you prepare for such a powerful role? Tsur: "I read this moving play and realized that for me it would be the closing of a circle, and that it was the role of a lifetime. Four years ago, I started interviewing my grandmother, Yona Weinberger, a Holocaust survivor, who is now 91, who was born in Hungary, was in Auschwitz and was taken from there to work in an airplane factory in a village in Germany. I videotaped her over a period of months; every session started with a protest on her part - why is this necessary? The video I recorded became part of my preparation for the role.

"I also read books, including "Judgment in Jerusalem" (Yisrael Bemishpat) by Pnina Lahav, "The State of Israel Vs. Adolf Eichmann" by Hanna Yablonka and "Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil" by Hannah Arendt. There is also a lot of material to be found on the Internet. Of course, Anda is a figment of Hillel's imagination, but that's his job as a playwright, he must tell the human story without which it is impossible to put on the play. These things took place; there was intervention. Mapai was the state, and the state was Mapai."

Do you think a playwright is obligated to the historical truth?

"As I see it, the basis of the historical truth must be there, but a performance or a play is not a documentary film."

Monday, October 13, 2008

Book Review of Two New Books

Israel Affairs / Keeping the faith
By Yechiam Weitz

Kisela eitan (As Solid as a Rock), edited by Yossi Achimeir
Yedioth Ahronoth and the Jabotinsky Institute (Hebrew), 272 pages, NIS 148

Ein li koakh lehiyot ayefa (No Strength to be Tired), by Geulah Cohen
Reuven Mass Books (Hebrew), 192 pages, NIS 82

Yitzhak Shamir and Geulah Cohen were both members of the Lehi (Stern Gang) pre-state underground militia who went on to play central roles in Israeli politics. And both are now the subject of new books.

In terms of personality, one could hardly find two people more different. Shamir (who turns 93 this month) is close-mouthed and introverted, whereas Cohen is passionate and outspoken. They do, however, share one major trait that we have begun to miss: They have always been motivated not by ratings or fleeting political considerations, but by their own inner truth. Words like "zigzag" do not exist in their political and intellectual world. What Hebrew writer Amos Oz observed about the founders of the Greater Israel movement, in his 1996 book "Under This Blazing Light," applies to both of them: They were "pure of heart and believed in what they did." They hailed "not from scum but from the aristocracy of the Jewish people."

Shamir's belief in a Greater Israel (one that would include both the sovereign state and the territories conquered in 1967) led him to sabotage the peace process. He blocked the London accord signed by Shimon Peres and King Hussein in 1987, an agreement that might have prevented the first intifada, which erupted later that year. He refused to acknowledge the political aspect of the uprising, something that even the army chief of staff, Dan Shomron understood. In short, Shamir (who served as prime minister 1983-84 and 1986-92) was very much afraid that the political process would lead to withdrawal from "our homeland."

Unlike similar albums, which often end up being hagiographic, this Yitzhak Shamir anthology is interesting. The articles in "As Solid as a Rock" portray Shamir not as a caricature but as a flesh-and-blood human being. Take, for example, the article by Yaakov Perry, whom Shamir appointed head of the Shin Bet in 1988. Perry describes the intolerable tension between Shamir's fierce opposition to territorial concessions and the constraints of diplomatic reality: "He went to the [1991] Madrid Conference unwillingly. It was clear to anyone watching from the sidelines that he accepted the initiative as a kind of default option, bowing to the political reality, and not out of any hope or belief that it would succeed."

Another example is the article by Avi Pazner, who was Shamir's media adviser when he was foreign minister and later prime minister. Their first meeting attests to one of the more admirable facets of Shamir's personality: When he was visiting the United States as foreign minister, Pazner, then a media affairs consultant at the Israeli Embassy, organized a major press conference for him. Shamir walked in, briefly answered a few questions and beat a hasty retreat. Pazner made so bold as to tell him what he thought of his performance: It was lousy. Shamir looked at him in silence and, after a few minutes, which felt like an eternity to Pazner, he invited him to sit down and talk.

In the course of that conversation, Shamir told the stunned Pazner that his criticism was justified. He was not used to the media, he said, and certainly not the American media. "Most of my life I've lived in the shadows - in the underground, and then the Mossad," said Shamir. "I've never mastered the art of talking to journalists or appearing in the media. Your honesty is much appreciated, and I would be happy to work with you."

So began their collaboration, which lasted for 10 years. Over time, Shamir learned to work with the press. He realized what a vital and indispensable tool it was, but always remembered that it was a means and not an end - in contrast to many politicians today, for whom the media is everything. "After many years of hesitation and mutual distrust," writes Pazner, "Yitzhak Shamir made his peace with the media. Hopefully, there were also times when he enjoyed himself."

Meeting adjourned!

One subject that comes up often in the book is the Gulf War of 1991, which took place while Shamir was prime minister. Many contributors see his decision not to respond to the Iraqi missile attacks on Israeli cities as a historic decision. At the time, Shamir stood up to pressure from the defense establishment, headed by defense minister Moshe Arens, and in so doing blocked a reckless move that might have been catastrophic. Ronny Milo, then police minister, describes how Shamir dismissed the idea of reprisal. At the end of a long, tense government debate, he thumped on the table and announced: "At the moment, we have a majority against military action! Meeting adjourned!"

Dan Meridor, then justice minister, writes that Shamir "set an extraordinary example of how to manage a military crisis in a cool, calm and sensible way, in stark contrast to the warmongering label people liked to pin on him." Shabtai Shavit, who headed the Mossad at the time, writes that Shamir "deserves a medal for his leadership in this difficult and complex chapter in Israeli history." What nobody mentions is that there was more than a pinch of irony in his decision, considering that restraint was such a dirty word in the Revisionist lexicon. "Silence is despicable," goes the Betar anthem.

Two people loom large in this book. One is Menachem Begin. Some of the contributors explore the tension between Begin and Shamir, and write about their complicated relationship. Ze'ev Eviansky, who had been a member of the Lehi pre-state underground together with Shamir, cites some intriguing observations by Shamir himself on this charged topic: While "Begin was very much preoccupied with form, pomp and circumstance, and ceremonial gestures," Shamir did not attribute much importance to such things. Neither was he impressed by Begin's speeches. His oratory was "overwrought and dripping with pathos," Shamir wrote mockingly.

In many important respects, Begin far outshone Shamir - in vision, charisma, rhetorical skills and political acumen. But Shamir had attributes that Begin lacked, and that are hard to sneer at. One of them was: Shamir had clear limits. Not so for Begin, for whom red lines did not exist. That is clear from his oratory. One cannot even begin to imagine Shamir delivering a Begin-style speech - for example, the one he gave at Zion Square in Jerusalem on January 7, 1952, the day German reparations came up for debate in the Knesset: "Even if it is my fate to die and never see my children again, I would choose death over ignominy." Or the speeches he delivered at mass rallies in 1981, when he was prime minister: "Assad! Raful [IDF chief of staff Rafael Eitan] and Yanush [GOC Northern Command Avigdor Ben-Gal] are waiting for you!"

Shamir, too, would never have dared to link the bombing of the atomic reactor in Iraq to his party's election campaign, as Begin did in the elections for the 10th Knesset, which took place three weeks after the operation. Immediately after the attack, Begin officially announced that Israel had knocked out the reactor, breaking the taboo of silence adopted by all previous governments. For the party, it was a gift worth its weight in gold, but Begin was fiercely criticized for this announcement. Shmuel Segev, a journalist who belonged to the intelligence community for many years, wrote in Maariv at the time: "Menachem Begin's actions violate the policy of all Israeli governments to date. Until now, no one in the government has ever said a word about impressive feats of this kind. With all the awe such deeds may inspire, Israel's national interest has always taken precedence over immediate political profit."

Shamir was totally different in this respect. Ehud Barak, who was chief of staff toward the end of Shamir's tenure as premier, describes how Shamir made decisions about "secret military operations that could have brought him personal glory and political gain if he had gone public. For Shamir, this was not even a consideration. The possibility never even crossed his mind."

The other figure whose presence is very much felt is Ehud Olmert, even if his name is never mentioned. Shamir is depicted by many of the contributors as the antithesis of the current prime minister, both personally and professionally. They portray him as humble, ascetic and straight as an arrow, a man who did all he could to guard the public purse. Shabtai Shavit calls him "a remarkably modest man." Ruby Rivlin writes that he was an "honest politician who performed his duties with utter integrity." The journalist Shlomo Nakdimon describes how Shamir ran the Mossad in Paris: "He traveled all over the city to meet his agents, but was extremely frugal, using only the Metro or buses." Ammunition was treated the same way. One of the agents writes: "He told me to keep a careful list of all the bullets fired in target practice. It was a carryover from his Lehi days: No wasting bullets, no shooting unless you have to. Some people made fun of him for that." How far we have come since his day.

Cohen and Ben-Gurion

Geulah Cohen's book is a whole other kettle of fish. It is, in many ways, an eclectic composition, a collection of anecdotes and episodes from her long and full life. Some are interesting, others less so. I have chosen two topics for discussion here. One is her relationship with the state's founding father, David Ben-Gurion. In 1962, Cohen, who was born in 1925, published her book "The Story of a Fighter," about her work as an announcer for Lehi's clandestine radio station. She sent a copy to Ben-Gurion, who was then in his twilight years in power, and a few days later she received a letter of thanks.

This letter is quite well known and has been published before. It is very long (eight pages), and only a small part of it appears in this book. Cohen has left out all the criticism. She does not mention Ben-Gurion's remarks about Lehi leader Yair Stern's attempt to contact the German Embassy in Ankara in 1940 for the purpose of collaborating with the Nazi regime - a mortifying incident that Lehi members have tried their hardest to ignore until today.

Wrote Ben-Gurion: "I have nothing but censure for [Yair Stern's] international endeavors and political approach to establishing a Jewish state. When Yehoshua [Ben-Gurion's closest friend, Yehoshua Cohen, a former member of Lehi who lived in Sde Boker] told me that Yair had given orders back in 1940 or 1941 to cooperate with Hitler in the war on Britain, I would never have believed it if it had not been Yehoshua who told me... Only those who are struck blind and believe in the dangerous principle of "all or nothing" would fail to rejoice on hearing of Hitler's defeat. A person would need an even worse case of blindness to join up with Hitler against England in World War II."

What Cohen does include is Ben-Gurion's enthusiastic admiration and praise. He did indeed have warm words for the heroism of the Lehi fighters - things he would never have written about (Begin's) Etzel: "As I read your book my heart welled up with emotion, with excitement, with infinite esteem. In some chapters, I felt as if I were there, a partner to the acts and events described - I bowed my head in respect to the two Eliyahus who died heroes' deaths in Cairo, to Moshe Barazani, Meir Feinstein and the others."

Ben-Gurion's letter is evidence of his complex relationship with the Revisionists in those days, as his hostility toward Menachem Begin was reaching a peak (in May 1963, he described Begin as an out-and-out 'Hitler type').

As for Geulah Cohen's attitude toward Begin, his decision to give up all of Sinai in exchange for peace with Egypt in 1982 was a source of bitter disappointment for her: "In my darkest dreams, I would not have believed that my battle from then on would be with the head of my own movement, the man I fought for with all my might to make my prime minister." Cohen argues that with this act, Begin was emulating a historic agreement that he had flatly denounced - the Munich accord. She said things in the Knesset debate that must have been very painful for him: "In 1938, after the agreement, Jabotinsky was wrong to believe in the conscience of the world, and Begin was right not to believe in it - a conscience that went up in flames along with six million of our people." And now Begin himself was wrong in agreeing to hand over all of Sinai to Anwar Sadat in exchange for an empty piece of paper.

Indeed, a large part of the Herut leadership disagreed with Begin's move, but Cohen was the only one who did something about it, quitting the Likud to form the new party that became Tehiya: She left the fleshpots of power for the political desert to fight for a "minor" principle - listening to her conscience. Today, of course, it is clear that she was wrong: Begin took a decisive step that radically improved Israel's strategic standing. But even so, she deserves our respect. She followed the dictates of her conscience - a rarity then, and even more so now.

Yechiam Weitz is a professor in the Land of Israel studies department at the University of Haifa. His book "The First Step to Power: The Herut Movement, 1949-1955" was published by Yad Ben-Zvi (Hebrew) last year.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

A Questionable Recall by Bernard Avishai

Could Israel have developed along similar lines if it had been based around the Yiddish language?

The answer is probably yes but it’s just hard to play these historical games. The Yiddish language was more than just a raft of vocabulary. It was nuanced, it has an ironic sense of humor. When I read -- and I can only read them in translation -- Yiddish writers, I feel like I’m being transported into a world which is a little like the world of blacks singing the blues. Could blacks who sing the blues create a tough national movement? We know that it’s possible. Look at the Black Panthers. People who sing the blues can be after some generations in a different space and a different experience and could use that language to reflect that different experience. But the Zionists always thought the Yiddish language would not lend itself to this.

It was the language of weakness.

Exactly. I remember Menachem Begin was filmed in an unscripted moment after he came to power in 1977. He was sitting around with a bunch of friends. I don’t know if he realized he was being filmed but I don’t know if he would be embarrassed if he knew he was. He was explaining how you could never run an army in Yiddish. “Could you imagine even if we had the Hebrew phrase Amod Dom (‘Stand at attention’) in the Ashkenazi pronunciation: Amoid Doim.” And he burst out laughing at the idea that these bent-over Ashkenazi, religious Yiddish types could ever conduct war in Yiddish. We know from the Warsaw Ghetto uprising that of course they could have done so. So what Begin was reflecting was the whole supercilious attitude of the Zionists toward the whole Yiddishkeit. Because they saw themselves as the solution to Yiddishkeit. So you are asking me could a national life have evolved around Yiddish? Yes. Could it have been a tough national life? We know that it could under certain conditions. Was Yiddishkeit likely to produce the kind of national movement Zionism became? Well the answer is that it didn’t. It created the Bund and it created left-wing organizations, because it was a language that embodied the Jews as this sort of pushed-around minority culture around this larger framework.


May we point out that Ze'ev Jabotisnky formulated the first military words of command in Hebrew for the Jewish Legion in World War I. Perhaps Avishai misunderstood Begin's humor, if indeed, the incident occurred as he recalls.

Recalling Menachem Begin

From an article of remembrance by Yael Lotan, now a raidcal leftist but the daughter of a former Revisionist:-

House of dreams

...When Begin arrived in Mandate Palestine, he was a veteran in the Beitar Movement, and it was only natural for him to be in contact with my father, Binyamin (Benno) Lubotsky, a central figure in the movement at the time.

The commander of the Etzel underground then was Yaakov Meridor, but he didn't do well in the post and wanted to step down. One night, the heads of the movement met at our house in order to choose whom to appoint in his place. (About 30 years later, my father described the event in his memoirs, which were recorded by the Institute of Contemporary Jewry and eventually compiled in a pamphlet entitled "Memories from the Right Wing," published by Am Oved in 1990). I was almost seven years old, and accustomed to gatherings in our apartment. Incidentally, the apartment was in a house that was built in the 19th century as an inn near Jaffa Road, when there was not yet a city outside Jerusalem's walls. The two-story house, known as the Shiber House after its Arab owner, who owned a good deal of property in western Jerusalem and lived in an attractive villa in Talbieh - was long and as massive as a fortress. The large staircase that led to the top floor was outdoors, and there were only a dozen or so stairs inside the building. Downstairs, in the spacious yard, which was paved with stones, were two wells. Underneath the yard were two curved spaces, which had in the past housed camels and donkeys.

That night (in August 1942, according to my father's memoirs), they decided to appoint Menachem Begin as commander of Etzel, in place of Meridor. At the end of the meeting, my father accompanied the members as they left. Once outside, someone suggested they go raise a glass (perhaps at Fink's, the legendary bar?), and my father asked them to wait while he went to tell my mother he was going with them. But he didn't get back to them. Nor did he go home. The members thought he had decided to stay home, and my mother thought he had gone out with his friends. But in reality, he fell on the dark stairs inside the building. It was at the height of World War II and the darkness was complete. My father lay there almost unconscious, and almost an hour passed before one of the neighbors saw him and called for help.

...the ambulance came and took him to Hadassah Hospital on Mount Scopus. Once there, they discovered that he had broken his hip - a particularly difficult and problematic break...He suffered a lot from heat and itching, and my mother would drip eau de cologne underneath the cast and scratch the skin with a long knitting needle.

When they removed the cast, it turned out that his leg had shortened by seven centimeters, and my father remained handicapped for the rest of his life. He was 33 years old. Naturally, he never forgot the night they appointed Begin Etzel commander - a decision he says he regretted soon thereafter.

Incidentally, the person who cared for my father most loyally and was a big help to my mother was an old friend, a Beitar member named Yaakov Hilvitch. He would eventually turn most of his friends over to the British, who smuggled him to the United States. He didn't inform on my father, however, a fact my parents attributed to his personal affection for them, especially for my mother (she claimed he just loved her soup).

Menachem Begin and his wife, Aliza, Binyamin and Beba Lubotzky,

and the children Eldad Bukspan and Yale Lotan

The photograph is of Menachem Begin, still in a Polish Army uniform, with his wife, Aliza, my parents and I. The boy was the son of members of the movement - his mother probably took the picture. It was taken on Bezalel Street, which would become Hillel Street, across from the Eden Hotel...There's no trace left of it - just as there's no trace of the impressive Shiber House, which was demolished not long after the 1967 war. In its place rose an ugly 14-story monster called the Rasko Passage.

For the sake of historical justice, I am obliged to note that my father quit Beitar a few years later and established a party called "The Nation's Movement for a Hebrew State," which joined the Histadrut Labor Federation. After the establishment of the state, the party dissolved and my father joined Mapai, precursor of the Labor Party. He always seemed a little foreign and unusual there, but his talents led him to several interesting posts. He continued to move leftward, objected strongly to the occupation after 1967, and in the last elections before his death, voted for the left-wing Moked party...

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

When Washington bridled and Begin fumed

When Washington bridled and Begin fumed
Oct. 6, 2008

Shoulders stooped, dark shadows under his eyes, Menachem Begin sat slumped in a wheelchair, steeped in morose musings. Pain, physical and mental, swayed through his mind and body as he contemplated the diabolical happenings swirling around him in the closing months of 1981.

For one, he had slipped and broken his hip - hence the wheelchair and the physical pain. Second, his peace partner, Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, had been assassinated. Third, his incessant efforts to reach an agreement on an autonomy plan for the Palestinians had stalled. Fourth, Syria had all but taken over Lebanon, and Yasser Arafat's PLO its southern reaches. Fifth, the Israeli-US relationship was souring, president Ronald Reagan warning against an Israeli invasion of Lebanon. Sixth, the national economy was in the doldrums. And seventh, his beloved wife, Aliza, was sick.

So, there he sat in the simply furnished apartment of his official Jerusalem residence, and brooded. The room was as quiet as a crypt, but for the purr of the radio broadcasting the evening news, to which he was hardly listening. But, suddenly, his ears prickled at the sound of the announcer quoting Syrian president Hafez Assad as saying he "would not make peace with Israel even in a hundred years." The premier picked up the phone to his longtime and most trusted aide, Yehiel Kadishai, and asked him to find out the current population of the Golan Heights, and call him straight back. This he did - 10,000-12,000 Druse were living on the Golan, and a few thousand Israeli settlers.

Begin closed his eyes and forced himself to think through his pain: The Golan Heights rose 300 meters over the farm-rich Hula Valley. Were it governed by a friendly neighbor, the escarpment would be of little military value, but in enemy hands it was a strategic nightmare. Its capture in the Six Day War put an end to years of Syrian harassment and bombardment of the villages and towns below. Now, Assad, the most intractable and intransigent of all the Arab leaders, was saying for the umpteenth time that Syria would never recognize the Jewish state. So why wait? Why leave this sparsely populated critically strategic plateau in a state of legal limbo under military administration when, by a simple act of legislation, it could be incorporated into Israel's sovereign law?

This is precisely what Begin did the following day: He pushed through a unanimous cabinet decision in the morning, a two-thirds Knesset majority in the afternoon and ignited a firestorm in Washington in the evening. "You know, Al," said president Reagan to his secretary of state, Alexander Haig, "this Golan business makes me mad. It has complicated Middle East peace-making endlessly."

"I agree," concurred an angry Haig, "particularly after we've recently signed a strategic cooperation agreement with the Israelis, which Begin pressed for. I assumed that that agreement would put paid to the Israeli penchant for taking us by surprise, and that they would fully consult with us before taking such a drastic unilateral action."

"Does the agreement oblige them to consult with us?" asked the president.

Haig shrugged, and his sharp eyes, set in a high strong-boned face, narrowed when he answered, "Well, nowhere does it say so specifically. The Israelis never actually promised to consult us, but we had every reason to understand that as strategic allies we would be consulted on matters which clearly affect our interests as well as theirs."

"So what do you propose?" The president popped a few jelly beans into his mouth.

Haig took his time answering, and when he did, his voice was pensive and measured: "Well, Mr. President, we have to convey to Mr. Begin a message sharp enough so that he'll sit up and take note, and not surprise us again."

"Such as what?"

"Such as suspending the strategic cooperation agreement until we conduct a serious review about our interpretations of it."

The president mulled and chewed and said, "You're right, Al. That's the way to go. Let's do it."

"I'll instruct our ambassador, Mr. President," said the secretary of state.

NEXT DAY the prime minister received ambassador Samuel Lewis in his private apartment. He was sitting in a chair, with one foot propped on a stool and, by him, a table covered with papers.

The men liked each other. Begin respected the 51-year-old, ebullient Texan's urbane and well-honed diplomatic skills. In the eight years he was to spend at his Tel Aviv posting, which spanned the Carter and the Reagan administrations, Lewis became so well connected and was so well trusted that frustrated politicians would occasionally unburden their souls to him and dole out confidences that were properly the preserve of hush-hush forums.

"Come on in, Sam," called Begin when Lewis appeared at the door accompanied by a note taker.

"How are you feeling, Mr. Prime Minister?" asked the ambassador solicitously, shaking him by the hand. He noted that the premier's cheekbones and chin were more pronounced than ever, and there was pain in his eyes.

"Much better, thank you," answered the premier, vainly trying to pump a bit of cheer into his voice. "The trouble is, I can't bend my leg. But you know me by now, Sam - a Jew bends his knee to no one but to God."

Whether this was a bit of banter or a declaration of defiance was hard to tell.

The prime minister invited Lewis to take a seat, stiffened, sat up, reached for the stack of papers on the table by his side, put them on his lap and in a face like stone and a voice like steel, resorted to histrionics as a vehicle of diplomacy by speaking nonstop for almost an hour, never once pausing to look at his notes, and beginning with a thunderous recitation of the perfidies perpetrated by Syria over the decades, and ending with: "Therefore, Mr. Ambassador" - that's what he called him whenever he was blasting off - "I have a very personal and urgent message to president Reagan which I want you to transmit immediately."

"Of course," said Lewis, having been through this sort of ritual before where everybody knew their roles and recited their lines.

"Mr. Ambassador, during the last six months the US government punished Israel thrice. On June 7 we destroyed the atomic reactor near Baghdad. It was an act of salvation in the highest sense but, nevertheless, you announced you were punishing us by breaching a written and signed contract for the delivery of F-16 aircraft."

"Not punishing you, Mr. Prime Minister, merely suspending..."

Begin galloped on in a tone that told Lewis this was no fleeting squall: "Not long passed and we, in self-defense - after a PLO massacre of our people, one of them an Auschwitz survivor - bombed the headquarters of the PLO in Beirut. Regretfully, there were civilian casualties, and again you punished us. You suspended delivery of F-15 aircraft."

"Excuse me, Mr. Prime Minister, it was not..."

"By what right do you lecture us on civilian casualties? We rack our brains to avoid civilian casualties. We sometimes risk the lives of our soldiers to avoid civilian casualties."

"Mr. Prime Minister, I must correct you..."

"A week ago, on the recommendation of the government, the Knesset adopted the Golan Law, and again you declare you are punishing us. What kind of language is this - punishing Israel? Are we a vassal state? Are we a banana republic? Are we 14-year-old boys that have to have knuckles slapped if they misbehave?"

"This is not a punishment, Mr. Prime Minister, it's merely a suspension until..."

"You cannot and will not frighten us with punishments, Mr. Ambassador. Threats will fall on deaf ears."

"But we've not used the term. The intention is to..."

"Excuse me, Mr. Ambassador, you announced that you are suspending the deliberations on the memorandum of understanding on strategic cooperation."

"We simply have to..."

"I regard your announcement as a renunciation of the agreement on the part of the American government. We shall not allow a sword of Damocles to hang over our heads. The people of Israel have lived for 3,700 years without a strategic agreement with America, and it will continue to live without it for another 3,700 years!"

"Please allow me to explain..."

"Moreover, in imposing upon us pecuniary sanctions you have broken the word of the president who said the United States intends to purchase from Israel military hardware to an amount of $200 million. Now you are saying this commitment will not be honored. Is this proper, Mr. Ambassador? Is it done? What are you trying to do, hit us in our pockets?"

"If only you'd allow me to..."

"In 1946 there lived in this house a British general whose name was Barker. Today I live in this house. After we blew up his headquarters in the sequestered part of the King David Hotel, Barker said, 'You can punish this race only by hitting them in their pockets,' and he issued an order to his British troops that all Jewish coffee shops were to be out of bounds. That was the Barker philosophy. Well, I now understand why the whole great effort in the Senate to win a majority for the arms deal with Saudi Arabia [the sale of highly sophisticated equipment] was accompanied by such an ugly anti-Semitic campaign."

"Not so..."

"Yes so. First came the slogan, 'Begin or Reagan!' - the inference being that to oppose the deal with Saudi Arabia was tantamount to supporting a foreign prime minister while being disloyal to the president of the United States. Are such eminent senators as Kennedy, Jackson, Moynihan, Packwood and, of course, Boschwitz [a Jew], who expressed opposition to the deal, disloyal citizens? Are they? Then came another slogan: 'We will not allow the Jews to determine the foreign policy of the United States.' Well, let me tell you something, Mr. Ambassador: No one will frighten the great and free Jewish community of the United States. No one will succeed in intimidating them with anti-Semitic propaganda. They will stand by us. This is the land of their forefathers, and they have a right and a duty to support it."

"Mr. Prime Minister, you surely don't believe that..."

"We are being told the Golan Law adopted by the Knesset has to be rescinded. The word 'rescind,' Mr. Ambassador, is a concept from the time of the Inquisition. Our forefathers went to the stake rather than rescind their faith. We are not going to the stake, Mr. Ambassador."

"We are merely suggesting a review..."

"It is my firm belief there is not a man alive who can convince the Knesset to annul the Golan Law. So please tell the president that nothing and nobody can bring about its abrogation."

Ambassador Lewis clearly had had enough. Dispensing with even the pretense of nicety, he shot back: "Mr. Prime Minister, you have not allowed me to explain what I have to say. I shall certainly deliver your urgent and private message to the president. But in the meantime I have a message for you: Between friends and allies there should be no surprises. There should be consultations by either party on issues which affect the other's interests."

"Correct, but the surprise on this occasion was because we did not want to embarrass you by putting you in a predicament vis-a-vis the Arab capitals with which you have ties. Had we told you beforehand what we intended to do, you would have said no. We did not want you to have to say no and then proceed with the legislation, which is what we would have done under all circumstances."

Faced with this unyielding barrage, which to the ambassador seemed somewhat hyperbolic and, in part, even paranoid, he saw no point in carrying on, so he took his leave and set out for the drive back to his Tel Aviv embassy, to cable off his report. On the way out of Jerusalem he switched on the car radio and what he heard flummoxed him totally. It was the voice of the cabinet secretary repeating almost word for word in English, for the benefit of the foreign correspondents assembled outside Begin's residence, the fieriest of the fieriest all the passages of the premier's harangue.

THE WHITE HOUSE was livid. It deemed the language of the premier's message intemperate. It deemed its tone improper. And it deemed the treatment of its envoy an affront to America itself. But Begin refused to retract a single word.

Shortly thereafter, Ambassador Lewis escorted a senior senator to meet Begin and assess the frozen situation. When the meeting was done, the ambassador said, "Mr. Prime Minister, there is something I wish to talk to you about. It concerns me personally."

Begin gave him an amiable look, and said, "Go ahead, Sam. What's on your mind?" There was not the slightest hint of guile in his voice.

"It has to do with the handling of the urgent and private message you asked me to deliver to the president - the fact that you authorized the release of that message to the media almost immediately was, to put it mildly, a violation of every diplomatic norm and practice. And the way you did it made me feel I was being treated like an idiot."

"But surely, you realize there was nothing personal in what I said or did," said the premier, surprised at Lewis's rancor. "I considered your government's act of such grave national consequence that I felt compelled to fully inform our people of our stand, there and then - that we, too, have red lines."

"Yes, but hardly had I left Jerusalem I heard your spokesman on the radio quoting what you'd said to me almost word for word, in what was supposed to be a personal message to the president."

Begin pursed his lips in thought, and said, "I simply never thought of it in that light, Sam. My one consideration was that, given the sharpest difference of views we had - and still have - on a matter so vital to our future as the Golan Heights, I felt our public had a right to know exactly what was said, and where we stood. I apologize if I embarrassed you personally. Please, forgive me."

The tone of contrition in the prime minister's voice filled Sam Lewis with a sense of uncommon bemusement. For never did he believe that this proudest of men, Menachem Begin, was capable of such humble apology. It was something he still remembered when talking to me not very long ago.

Center Bulletin, Vol. 4, No. 53

Volume 4, Issue 53
October 7, 2008

Total Number of Visitors Since October 2004: 441,046

Goodbye, Harry

The funeral of the founder of the Menachem Begin Heritage Center and the President of the Menachem Begin Heritage Foundation, Harry Hurwitz, took place on Friday, Oct. 3 at the Har Tamir section of the Har Menuchot Cemetery in the area reserved for members of the Irgun Tzvai Leumi.

In the presence of his family, his wife, Freda, son, Hillel, daughter-in-law Jennifer, grandchildren Nirit, Ilan and Sharon and her husband, Jay, together with hundreds of friends, comrades, admirers and fellow workers, the traditional Jewish service was conducted with decorum and respect.

The ceremony was introduced by Yosef Wittelson, a fomer Irgun fighter imprisoned at British detainee camps in Africa. He recalled Harry’s aid with others of the Revisionist Movement in South Africa on their behalf.

Former Defense Minister and Foreign Minister Moshe Arens, former Speaker of the Knesset MK Reuven Rivlin, Dr. Beny Begin, son of Menachem Begin and MK Benjamin Netanyahu, Likud Chairman and Herzl Makov, Chairman of the Menachem Begin Heritage Center eulogized Harry at the service. In addition, Dr. Hillel Hurwitz and Nirit Hurwitz spoke on behalf of the family. Moshe Arens said that in his work with Harry at the Israel Embassy in Washington DC, Harry was a tremendous he lp in public diplomacy efforts because of his broad knowledge and excellent speaking skills. MK Binyamin Netanyahu praised Harry's efforts in building the Begin Center and marveled at his fundraising ability.

MK Reuven Rivlin said that Harry's life effort was Zionism and the Begin Center was the crowning achievement. He mentioned a conversation they had regarding the fact that he came from a family that immigrated to Israel 200 years ago, but he felt that Harry had an advantage over him, because Harry had to make the decision to leave the land he grew up in—in essence living the dream of Zionism—whereas he was born here, never having had the experience of having to choose Zionist ideals. Dr. Beny Begin said that only a person who had a complete belief in the justice of his cause could speak so convincingly of his cause and that describes Harry's devotion to Zionism and the land of Israel.

Herzl Makov talked about his partnership of 10 years with Harry. He quoted the late Shmuel Katz, who wrote in a premature obituary, that "we lost a noble spirit." The Jerusalem Post published an obituary for Harry in 2001 by mistake and asked Shmuel Katz to write a few words. Makov said that the excellent tribute while premature at the time was true then, and is even more true today.

Dr. Hillel Hurwitz and Nirit Hurwitz spoke as representatives of the family. Dr. Hillel Hurwitz outlined Harry's life as a man and spoke of the loss of not only his father, but really of his best friend. Nirit Hurwitz said that as Harry's granddaughter, she knew very little about his work because when Harry was with the family, the family was the only thing that mattered and that today, she had lost the best grandfather.

All the speakers reminded everyone present that Harry lived a full life and gave himself totally to every endeavor. He was an active Zionist leader, a loyal supporter of Menachem Begin, a dynamic public speaker, a tireless fundraiser, a good friend, a devoted husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather. Each person that knew him had a special relationship with him feeling that Harry gave him or her the entirety of his attention. Each person counted himself or herself blessed to have known him.

After the traditional graveside ceremony, the members of Betar who were present sang the Betar Anthem.

Thank You to All who Sent Condolences

Thank you very much to all who sent condolences this week. They have been collected and will be presented to the family. Your kind wishes and thoughts are a tribute to Harry Hurwitz and his impact on many people around the world. May his memory be a blessing to us all.

Tributes and condolences can be sent to the Begin Center at 6 Nahon Street, Jerusalem, 94110, ISRAEL, or via email to . Condolences can be sent to the family at HaNachal 4/2, Givat Tzarfatit, Jerusalem.

Shana Tova and G'mar Hatima Tova

We wish all our readers a Shana Tova, a G'mar Hatima Tova and a meaningful fast over Yom Kippur—a year of success, health and happiness for all of us and for Israel.

We also remind our readers that due to the holiday season the Bulletin may not be published every week.

Events Continue at the Begin Center

Reverend Robert Stearns celebrated his birthday at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center. He was received by Herzl Makov, Chairman of the Begin Center. Rev. Stearns expressed his commitment to the heritage of Menachem Begin and the Menachem Begin Heritage Center and promised to send his Israel Experience students, as well as missions from the US to the Begin Center.

In Memoriam

The Begin Center extends its condolences to Dov Shilansky on the passing of his wife Rachel. Mr. Shilansky was a former speaker of the Knesset, an Irgun commander in Italy and Germany, and came to Israel on the Altalena.

A Mention of Begin in The New York Magazine

From the beginning, the Sun was an advocacy paper, its editorial position combining the economic leanings of Adam Smith with the hawkish foreign policy of Menachem Begin, whose portrait Lipsky painted and displayed in his office at the Forward. Its neocon politics aside, the Sun was renowned for its cultural coverage, book reviews in particular, as well as its sports pages, done with a much smaller staff than its competitors. The crossword was considered by many a rival to the Times’.


Sunday, October 5, 2008

Found in a Book Review


This is a bigger story than anyone can tell in one book, and the 600 pages of A Choice of Enemies cover only US foreign policy decisions from 1979, with the Islamic revolution in Iran and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Freedman is forced to skim some important details of the relationship between the US and Israel, whose continuing expansion into the occupied West Bank is probably the greatest source of the so-called Arab rage. The State Department in 1948 argued passionately against supporting a Jewish state in Palestine. The Eisenhower administration, which saw Israel as an irritant, undermining the US alliance with anti-Soviet regimes in the Middle East, ensured that the joint Anglo-French-Israeli attack on Egypt would fail. John F Kennedy sent feelers to Egypt's fiercely anti-Zionist president Gamal Abdel Nasser. Lyndon B Johnson was the first US president to manipulate foreign policy in order to bolster Jewish-American support for the Democratic party; but even he was not able to build his "special relationship" with Israel without encountering strong opposition from American diplomats.

"I could not believe what I was hearing," Jimmy Carter wrote in his diary after Menachem Begin confided in him his desire to reduce Palestinians on the West Bank to a minority. Even Ronald Reagan, who believed that God fixed the Middle East as the site of Armageddon, stuck to a cold war policy of close relations with reliably anti-Soviet and oil-rich Arab regimes. Friendly to Saudi Arabia, Bush Sr was actively hostile to Israeli expansionism. His secretary of state, James Baker, had only blunt wisdom ("Forswear annexation. Stop settlement activity. Reach out to Palestinians as neighbours who deserve political rights") to impart to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the powerful lobbying outfit for Israel, to which even Obama must now genuflect.

Israel played a very small role in the blunders US administrations made in the late 1970s: to support the Shah of Iran long after his rule became widely despised and unsustainable, and, more fatefully, to mobilise a global Islamic jihad against Soviet communism.

Wrong Person Identity

The Longmont Times-Call newspaper, in a story about one Charles "Mike" Beall, "Trees, politics, life passions for Beall" by Victoria A.F. Camron had this in it:

As a graduate student in Stockholm, Sweden, Mike Beall met Olaf Palme, who later was elected prime minister of Sweden in 1969.

Palme recruited 26 people, including Mike Beall, to fight Menachem Begin during the 1948 Israeli-Palestinian war. Palme wanted to avenge the Begin-led assassination of Count Folke Bernadotte, the Swedish United Nations mediator, Mike Beall told Flanders.

The war ended before the students could get to Israel, Mike Beall said.

The following letter was sent:

In the obituary of Charles “Mike” Beall ("Trees, politics, life passions for Beall", Oct. 3) it is stated that Olaf Palme recruited 26 people, including Mike Beall, to fight Menachem Begin during the 1948 Israeli-Palestinian war. Palme wanted to avenge the Begin-led assassination of Count Folke Bernadotte, the Swedish United Nations mediator.

Well, it is lucky that he didn't succeed.

Menachem Begin had nothing to do with that assassination. It was accomplished by the Stern Group, Lechi.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Jerusalem Post Article on Harry Hurwitz

Begin aide Harry Hurwitz dies

Harry Hurwitz, the founder of the Menachem Begin Heritage Center and a trusted adviser to the former prime minister, died Wednesday after suffering a heart attack on Monday evening.

Described as a "living Zionist" and a stalwart of the Anglo community in Israel, Hurwitz, 84, had worked at the center daily. Co-workers who wished him a happy New Year on Sunday could not imagine that they were seeing him for the last time.

"He gave a speech before Rosh Hashana at the gathering of the staff," his son Hillel told The Jerusalem Post.

"He worked a full day, every day. He continued to be involved in all of the activities of the Begin Center and its future planning," he said.

Hurwitz was already a member of the Betar movement when he arrived in South Africa in 1934, having heard its founder, Ze'ev Jabotinsky, speak the previous year in his native Latvia.

He once told The Jerusalem Post, "When I arrived in Johannesburg, there was very little Betar activity for the youngsters. This we set about remedying and by the time I was well into high school, I was head of Betar in Johannesburg and running new groups in the smaller satellite towns outside Johannesburg, where I used to travel by train each week."

For many years in Johannesburg, he edited the weekly Jewish Herald and was one of the pillars of the city's Jewish community.

But one of the most fateful meetings of his life occurred in 1946 in Basil, Switzerland, where he met Begin at a Zionist Congress [correction: Harry first met Begin in Tel Aviv in 1946 on his return from the Basle congress]

Begin made an indelible impression on him, and a visit by Begin to South Africa several years later deepened the relationship.

The two remained in contact and were so close that in 1977, when Begin became prime minister, he asked him to come to work as his adviser.

Hurwitz served as information attache at the Israel Embassy in Washington, under then-ambassador to the US Moshe Arens, during the years Israel bombed Iraq's nuclear reactor in Osirak (1981) and invaded Lebanon (1982).

He was called back to Israel two months before Begin's resignation and was appointed his adviser on world Jewish communities.

Hurwitz was in South Africa on a lecture tour when Begin died in 1992, and immediately pushed for the creation of the Menachem Begin Heritage Center to document the history and legacy of the sixth prime minister of Israel.

He also wrote a book called, Begin: A Portrait and served as an adviser to former prime minister Yitzhak Shamir.

But it is for his work at the Begin Center for which he has been most known in the last years.

In 2001, The Jerusalem Post mistakenly published his obituary, after confusing him with someone else who had died who had the same name. Upon reading the obituary, he quipped, "You can't remove me from the scene with the stroke of a pen."

"The first thing I did after reading my own obituary [yesterday] was call up my friend Shmuel Katz who wrote it [at the paper's request] and thank him for all the lovely things he said about me," said Hurwitz. "Not everyone has the privilege of reading their own obituary, and it was a lovely one."

Hurwitz said at the time he had heard that premature obituaries are considered a sign of a long life, and added, "I still have a lot of work to do."...

Center Bulletin, Vol. 4, No. 52

Volume 4, Issue 52
October 2, 2008

Total Number of Visitors Since October 2004: 440,625

Begin Center Founder Passes Away

Harry Zvi Hurwitz, Founder and President of the Menachem Begin Heritage Foundation, passed away on October 1. He worked a full day on Sunday and went to celebrate the Rosh Hashana holiday with his family. In the evening, he suffered a massive heart attack. Unfortunately, all attempts at resuscitation failed.

Harry Hurwitz was born in Latvia in 1924 and in 1934 his family arrived in South Africa. He grew up in the Betar Movement and assumed a leadership role having initiated many youth groups and activities, including Betar Camp. He became very active in the leadership of the Zionist Revisionist Organization and was for many years the editor of the Jewish Herald of Johannesburg. He was a well-known figure in the South African Jewish comm unity.

Harry met Menachem Begin in 1946 in Tel Aviv when Begin was still leader of the Irgun and they maintained their personal friendship as well as their professional relationship until Begin's death in 1992. Harry spoke with Menachem Begin about making aliyah, but Begin told him that he still had much work to do in South Africa and that when he would be Prime Minister, he would call Harry to his government. And that was indeed what happened. In 1977, Menachem Begin assumed the premiership and called Harry the same day. On May 18, 1978, Harry and Freda Hurwitz arrived in Israel and three days later, Harry was at the Prime Minister's Office starting work.

During his years of service in Israel's government, he worked in the Prime Minister's Office as an advisor to Begin in External Information and World Jewry and he was stationed in Israel's embassy in the United States as the Minister of Information. After Begin left office, Harry continued to work with Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir as the advisor on World Jewry.

Harry was in South Africa when he heard about Menachem Begin's death. He announced on that very day that there would be established a Menachem Begin Heritage Center to remember the life, words and deeds of Menachem Begin. His vision was to create an institution similar to an American Presidential Library in Israel and he worked no n-stop to fulfill that vision. In 1998, the Knesset passed the Begin Commemoration Law paving the way for the creation of a Heritage Center and the following year, the Foundation Stone was laid. The Menachem Begin Heritage Center was officially opened on June 16, 2004. Harry was at his desk every day working to ensure the Menachem Begin Heritage Center's continuation from generation to generation.

Apart from establishing the Menachem Begin Heritage Center, Harry also wrote a book about Menachem Begin, Begin: His Life, Words and Deeds, that is in its third edition.

He is survived by his wife Freda, his son Hillel and his daughter-in-law Jennifer, his grandchildren Nirit, Ilan and Sharon and her husband Jay, and his two great-grandsons, Boaz and Eitan.

The funeral will be in Jerusalem at Har Hamenuchot Cemetery at 11:00AM on Friday October 3. The shiva will be at the Hurwitz home at Hanachal 4/2 in Givat Tzarfatit in Jerusalem. Condolences may be sent there or to the Begin Center.

His guiding hand, his words of wisdom and his tireless work will be deeply missed by everyone at the Center. His generous spirit, his warm laugh and his dedication to his family and everyone he loved will be missed by all.

Herzl Makov
Menachem Begin Heritage Center