Thursday, December 13, 2007

On the Altalena - From Ireland

We received this email from friends in the UK:-

From Dublin to Tel Aviv - the role of an Irish veteran & politician in averting Israel's Civil War

At the Ireland-Israel Friendship League meeting tonight, Joe Briscoe [himself a 48-year veteran reserve officer of the Irish Defence Forces - enlisted under age at 15] recalled that his late father, Fianna Fail TD and Dublin Lord Mayor, Bob, 1894-1969, had probably positively influenced what I had just called in my talk on Irish-Israeli historical parallels, - the One-day Jewish Civil War.

In June, 1948, at a Tel Aviv beach, the new Israeli Defence Forces, in an echo of the new Irish Free State Army 26 years earlier, on June 28, 1922 at the Four Courts, had shelled the MV Altalena, loaded with arms for the dissident Irgun/Etzel, and commanded by the Irgun leader, Menchem Begin. 5,000 rifles, 5m rounds, 250 Bren Light Machine Guns, 50 bazookas, and over 900 Irgun Volunteers were on board. Begin choose the democratic, political path, did not retaliate, and so, unlike the similar Irish situation, did not precipitate a disastrous Civil War in the newly independent state, but bowed to the determination of Ben Gurion that there be one Army, accountable to one Government, in the new Jewish state.

Joe revealed that in 1947, or possibly early 1948, his father, Bob Briscoe, a veteran of the Irish Volunteers in the Irish War of Independence, and involved in weapons procurement for Collins, and a friend of Ze'ev Jabotinsky, had met Begin in Paris, reminded him of the savage Irish Civil War, of 1922-1923, and strongly advised him to avoid any such outcome in Israel. Begin, who it is known was very aware of the role of Mick Colllins in the Irish struggle, took this warning seriously.

Bob also told Begin that it might take 30 years to get into government - which is exactly what happened - in 1977, but Bob himself, who had died in 1969, did not live to see that. He did see his other son, Ben, 1934-, succeed him in parliament in 1965 where Ben served until 2002 - a remarkable combined father-son service in the one Dublin City constituency totalling 75 years. Ben was also Lord Mayor in 1988 as Bob had been in 1956 and again in 1962 - Dublin's first Jewish Lord Mayor. Ben was also a City Councilllor for 32 years - from 1967 to 1999, and Bob had become a City Councillor in 1930. It only took Bob and his Fianna Fail comrades under De Valera, 5 years from finally taking their seats in 1927, to become the Irish government in 1932, initially with Labour Party support, holding office to 1948, and also become [and remain] the largest political party on the Island.

If only the Arab world today, and not least Palestinian Arabs, especially Fatah, would also listen to the Irish story and its lessons, turn their swords into ploughshares, also remember how Sean Lemass broke the Irish stalemate by visiting the Northern Ireland Stormont Parliament in Jan 1965, and at last recognise the simple and unconditional right to existence of their democratic neighbour, Israel, and engage constructively with it on that basis, to their mutual enrichment and security.



Tom Carew said...

Any readers with any further information on this fascinating story can contact me at:



Tom Carew,
Dublin, Ireland.