From the Letters-to-the-Editor section of the Jerusalem Post:-
Sir, – In relating to an interview with Sarah Agassi, the Irgun fighter who participated in the 1946 King David Hotel operation, Larry Derfner seeks to draw a parallel to local Arab terror.
Derfner proposes an equivalency standard: Their violence today is the same as Jewish violence then.
To honor, for example, Menachem Begin would in his eyes be “glorifying terror,” since that is what we call it when the Palestinian Authority honors its “heroes.”
We Israelis, Derfner asserts, are acting at the height of hypocrisy, and he writes that “if you justify or even ‘understand’ Begin’s and [Yitzhak] Shamir’s violence, you also have to justify or at least understand the violence of Muhammad Oudeh and Dalal Mughrabi.” Moreover, if we do not condemn the Irgun and Lehi violence, he claims, “then [we] have no principles at all.”
Whereas in the war for liberation against the British Mandatory regime both the Irgun and Lehi avoided civilian casualties to the fullest extent possible, Arab terror – as it does today – exclusively targeted civilians.
Whereas the British refused to negotiate, Israel has been negotiating for the past 43 years, to no avail. Whereas Begin, as Irgun commander, always had his fighters warn the British about upcoming actions, the Arabs never do. As these and other elements make clear, there is no comparison.
One more point: The Hagana as well as the Palmach also engaged in violence similar to that of the Irgun and Lehi. The loss of lives in such actions was regrettable, but in the war for the establishment of Israel and its liberation from the Mandatory regime, exceptions to the rule occurred. Derfner, however, avoids any mention of this violence perpetrated by the Zionist Left. Was that a personal prejudice?
Head, Menachem Begin Heritage Center
Sir, – Larry Derfner (“One man’s terrorist...,” July 28) argues that anyone who condemns Palestinian terror (e.g., the 1978 Coastal Road massacre), must also condemn actions by the Jewish underground (e.g., the 1946 King David Hotel bombing).
Unfortunately, he totally ignores a critical point: Not all violence is terrorism.
Terrorism is the threat or use of violence against civilians in order to engender fear in the general population. The Coastal Road massacre, directed against a purely civilian target with no conceivable military value, exemplifies terrorism. By launching thousands of rockets toward Israeli towns with no strategic or military significance, Hamas pursues a campaign of unmitigated terror.
Attacks on legitimate military targets are not terrorism, even if they result in unintended civilian casualties. The King David Hotel housed the British military command and its Criminal Investigation Division. The purpose of the attack was to neither kill civilians nor cause generalized fear. The aim was to destroy the part of the hotel containing intelligence records about Jewish underground organizations. While the Irgun could not have hoped to stand toe-to-toe against the British army, its attack on the hotel was an effort to undermine Britain’s military capabilities.
Jewish tit-for-tat bombing of Arab markets and other public places was terrorism, but blowing up bridges and railroad tracks certainly was not. On the Palestinian side, kidnapping Gilad Schalit was an act of war, and his subsequent horrendous treatment violates the fundamental rules of war. But this is not terrorism.
By asserting that one must condemn all violence equally or else “you have no principles at all,” Derfner strips the term “terrorism” of all meaning and consequence.
Worse, he negates modern rules of war that limit the types and amounts of weapons that may be used in a conflict.
EFRAIM A. COHEN
The writer is a fellow at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism.
Sir, – Larry Derfner is way off base. First of all, Menachem Begin was fighting British soldiers who were hanging Jews fighting for their country. Second, he did not target civilians deliberately, which is the open polity of Arab suicide bombers.
Third, Begin was fighting to establish a Jewish state and save Jews.
If you want, you can claim that Samson, in pulling down the Philistine temple, was a suicide terrorist. Would Derfner not give him the right to avenge his blinding and humiliation?
Larry Derfner notes: As I wrote, the Etzel planted bombs in Arab markets and other public places, killing scores of civilians. It gave no warnings. Also, as everyone knows, Arab terrorists strike at both military and civilian targets.