Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Moshe Arens on the "Saison"

Add them to the Pantheon

By Moshe Arens

Sooner or later the truth will out. Although long suspected, it is now official. Teddy Kollek informed on fighters of the prestate Irgun underground to British intelligence during the waning years of the Mandate, and many of those Etzel fighters
who languished for months in British concentration camps in the wilds of Africa were there based on information provided by Kollek to the British. One of them was Yaakov Meridor, Menachem Begin's second in command, who eventually succeeded in escaping
from the Gilgil concentration camp in Kenya in March 1948.

Kollek did not act on his own. The leaders of the Labor movement, led by David Ben-Gurion, decided on cooperation with the British authorities toward the end of 1944 in an attempt to crush the underground movement that was fighting the British. The period that followed has been named the Saison, or the hunting season, when Etzel and Lehi members were hunted down and turned over to the British. Not everybody in the Labor movement was prepared to implement the decision of the Labor leadership.
A notable exception was Yigal Allon, then a senior commander in the Palmach.

Anita Shapiro writes in her book "Yigal Allon: Spring of His Life" that in October 1944, at the convention of the Ahdut Haavoda party, Yisrael Galili, one of the leaders of the Haganah, insisted that the need to act against Etzel and Lehi
fighters stemmed from the fascist nature of these organizations. The convention united around a declaration that the "the terrorist gangs are a Jewish transmigration of world Fascism."

Labeling Jabotinsky and his adherents as fascists was nothing new. What might seem surprising in retrospect is that this slander was still being used against a rival Zionist movement toward the end of World War II. As a matter of fact, under German occupation in the Warsaw Ghetto, the Socialist Zionist movements considered Betar, the Revisionist youth movement, as fascist. Mordechai Tenenbaum, one of the founders of the Jewish Fighting Organization in the ghetto, wrote in a publication of Dror, the Socialist Zionist youth movement, led by Antek Zuckerman and Tzivia Lubetkin, that both the Italian Socialist Giacomo Matteotti and Chaim Arlosoroff had been the victims of Fascism. "Matteotti was murdered by killers hired by Italian Fascism: Arlosoroff - by men sent by the Fascist organization that has arisen among Jews. The death of the martyrs, Matteotti and Arlosoroff, cries out for retribution." This was written when news of the mass murder of Jews by the Germans in Vilna, Lublin, and other places had already reached Warsaw, and only a month before the transport of Warsaw's Jews to the Treblinka gas chambers began.

It is little wonder that the Revisionists in the ghetto were not included in the ranks of the Jewish Fighting Organization, together with representatives of all other political groups, and that the two fighting organizations that led the uprising, the Jewish Fighting Organization, commanded by Mordechai Anielewicz, and the Revisionist-led Jewish Military Organization, commanded by Pawel Frenkel, did not fight the Germans as a united force.

Sadly, the story does not end here. The fact that Pawel Frenkel and his fighters fought the main battle of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising at Muranowski Square has been obscured for more than 60 years. A deliberate and effective effort has been made to
ignore, or at the very least minimize, the participation of Frenkel's fighters in the uprising, while adopting the Warsaw Ghetto uprising as a creation of the Labor movement.

The hunting season of underground fighters in Palestine occurred a year and a half after the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. The Labor party leadership at that time was not about to give credit to the comrades of Etzel who fought in the Warsaw Ghetto. As a
matter of fact, it took years before the contribution Etzel and Lehi made to the establishment of the State of Israel in fighting British rule in Palestine began to be recognized, and their fighters who went to the gallows were acclaimed as national heroes.

Today there is hardly a town in Israel that does not have a street named after the Etzel and Lehi. For that matter, there is hardly a town that does not have a street named after Mordechai Anielewicz. And rightly so. But Pawel Frenkel is still missing
from the national pantheon.

David Landau, one of Frenkel's fighters who survived the uprising, wrote in his book "Caged" that shortly before the uprising began, Frenkel, in an address to his fighters, said: "Comrades! We will die before our time but we are not doomed. We
will be alive as long as Jewish history lives." It is high time that Pawel Frenkel and his comrades become part of Jewish history.