Thursday, May 29, 2008

From a book review on Henry Kissinger:-

An enduring peace in the Middle East was probably not attainable in the wartorn 1970s. What was attainable was a diminution in the power of the Soviet Union and a stabilization of Israel’s position relative to her Arab neighbours. These goals, as Suri points out, Kissinger was uniquely positioned to achieve. As a Jewish Secretary of State, he could credibly promise the Egyptian President Anwar Sadat to “get [Rabin] to move in the right direction . . . to work on him”. At the same time, he could withstand the bitter claims of Menachem Begin that he was one of those “Jews, who out of a complex feared non-Jews would charge them with acting for their people, and therefore did the opposite”.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Restaurant Under New Management

Golan Poll

Poll: More Israelis object to Golan accord than to Jerusalem deal

By Lily Galili

About two-thirds of Israelis object to withdrawing from the Golan Heights even for peace with Syria - more than those who object to dividing Jerusalem for ending the conflict with the Arab world, a recent survey finds.

The poll was conducted by the Maagar Mochot research institute headed by Professor Yitzhak Katz for the Menachem Begin Heritage Foundation. The survey, intended to assess Israel's sovereignty and independence in its 60th year, was initiated by Dr. Udi Lebel of Sapir and Ariel colleges.

The section referring to the state's borders shows two main tendencies. One is harsher positions - 68 percent of the people surveyed want to preserve the existing situation including keeping the West Bank and Golan. The other tendency is to prefer the Golan to any other region.

Only 4 percent of the interviewees chose the option of "the Green Line borders with the West Bank but without the Golan" compared with 18 percent - 4.5 times more - who preferred "the Green Line borders with the Golan but without the West Bank."

About a third - 35 percent - said they were "moderately or highly likely" to take illegal action to prevent the Golan's evacuation. About half of them - 18 percent - said they were prepared to take illegal action to prevent the evacuation of a large settlement such as Ariel.

MK Yossi Beilin (Meretz) told Haaretz that in his experience such public opinion polls influence state leaders. "I have no doubt that the intention of such a poll is to signal: 'Don't touch the Golan,' as Ehud Barak was told at the time, and it scared him," Beilin said. "Does it affect a leader? It certainly does. Should it affect him? Certainly not."

Beilin says this position will change the moment Israel's prime minister explains to the public the full significance of such an agreement - such as the possibility 'to get into a car in Israel and drive to Paris,' and the agreement's implications on an agreement with Syria and on Israel's position vis-a-vis Hamas and Iran.

Beilin suggests that all peace negotiations be accompanied by a public information campaign. He said he would support Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and vote for every move he makes toward peace. "In these situations the prime minister doesn't need moral backing but a Knesset majority," he said.

Center Bulletin, Vol. 4, No. 12

Volume 4, Issue 32
May 21, 2008

Total Number of Visitors Since October 2004: 400,861

More Than 400,000 Visitors

On Sunday of this week the attendance numbers at the Begin Center passed the 400,000 mark.

This is an extraordinary achievement for an institution of this sort in Jerusalem. The visitors have been young and old, religious and secular, people from abroad and Israelis—soldiers, sailors, airmen, police, students, school groups, community groups, retirees, etc.

The number in real terms is higher than most Presidential Libraries in the US and in relative terms is greater than all the Presidential Libraries.

President of Poland Visits Center

The President of Poland, Mr. Lech Kaczynski and his wife, accompanied by the Ambassador of Poland, Mrs. Agnieszka Magdziak-Miszewska and a large entourage visited the Menachem Begin Heritage Center on Thursday of last week at the President's request.

He said that Poland was proud of the fact that Menachem Begin, who was born in Poland, received the Nobel Prize for Peace (1978)—the only son of Poland thus far to have attained this honor.

He recalled that there is a plaque in front of the Warsaw University Law School which reads:






He was received by Harry Hurwitz, Founder and Head of the Menachem Begin Heritage Foundation, Herzl Makov, Chairman of the Menachem Begin Heritage Center and Prof. Moshe Arens, who recently headed a delegation to the Warsaw Ghetto, where a plaque was unveiled in Muranowska Square where the headquarters of the Betar-Irgun-Revisionist fighting force in the Ghetto Uprising had been located.

An exchange of ideas followed and it was agreed to continue to discussion about cooperation in the cultural field with the Ambassador and other on the President's staff.

The party entered the museum but could only see part of it because the President was due at another engagement in connection with Israel's 60th annual President's Conference taking place in Jerusalem.

Yom Yerushalayim תשס''ח

This year's Yom Yerushalayim on 2 June will, of course, highlight the most popular of Israel's songs in 60 years "Yerushalayim shel Zahav" (Jerusalem of Gold) by Naomi Shemer.

The Begin Center will have a special event in its synagogue and will recall the special role of Menachem Begin in the liberation and unification of the capital city. It will be recalled from his writings and speeches that, as was his custom, he rose early on the day of the liberation of Jerusalem and lis tened to the BBC news. There he heard that the UN Security Council was about to call for a truce in Jerusalem. Begin at once called Prime Minister Levy Eshkol and urged him to order the liberation of Jerusalem. Eshkol agreed but asked him to get also the agreement of Moshe Dayan. When that was done the order was given to Israel forces in the area to enter Jerusalem and enter the Temple Mount. It is now 41 years since the city was liberated and reunited.

Recalling Dr. Reuben Hecht

Dr. Reuben Hecht, for whom the auditorium of the Begin Center is named, was recalled at a seminar in Haifa to mark 15 years since his passing. He was a close friend and colleague of Menachem Begin and served as one of his advisors. The seminar was sponsored by Haifa University's Department of Humanities and was held on May 15. Among the lecturers were Mr. Stef W ertheimer, Gen. (Ret.) Amos Gilad, Prof. Rakefet Sela-Shefi, Dr. Yaakov Toubi and Prof. Esther Levinger. The Hecht Award for Academic Achievement was given to Prof. Aviva Chalamish for his book, In the Race Against Time: The Zionist Immigration Policy in the 1930s. Among the topics addressed were the Jabotinsky Movement's Pre-State Clandestine Immigration operations, the Sussita archeology finds and The Yekkish Culture Temperament in the Yishuv.

Mazal Tov

A family Bar Mitzvah of Yonatan Fishzon was celebrated in the Begin Center restaurant on Monday morning, 19 May. The Bar Mitzvah boy had read his portion at the Kotel and then the family and guests came across to the Begin Center for brunch where they were joined by members of the staf f. Yonatan is the son of Miriam and Yechiel Fishzon. His father is a librarian in the Hasten Family Library of the Begin Center.

Documentary About Shmuel "Moekie" Katz

Yuval, the son of the late Shmuel Katz, has informed the President of the Menachem Begin Heritage Foundation, Harry Hurwitz, that he is working on a documentary film about his late father's life and accomplishments. Hurwitz immediately offered him access to the archives at the Begin Center where there must be considerable material of interest to him.

The Begin Center also calls on readers of this bulletin and others who may have access to film footage to advise us as soon as possible.

Restaurant Under New Ownership

The restaurant in the Begin Center is now under new ownership and management and is attracting a large number of long-time clients and many news ones.

The new owners previously managed the Taverna at the Sherover Cultural Center. However, this is now being remodeled and rebuilt and so the owner, Tal Rosenzweig, who ran the Taverna, took over the contract from the original owners of the restaurant in the Begin Center and has called it Terasa.


Curt Lahti of Sweden, who was formerly a prominent leader in the World of Life movement, visited the Begin Center on Tuesday. He now heads a global television program –"God TV"—which is broadcast by satellite daily to close to 200 countries. He was delighted to learn of the success of the Begin Center.

* * * * *

Jonah and Anne Lerman of Palm Beach, Florida, veterans of the War of Independence, visited the Begin Center in the company of Benny Raphael, originally from South Africa, who guided them to various places of interest.

A New Addition to the Center's Main Entrance

Visitors approaching the Center are now greeted by a new addition. It is an artistic sillouhette of Menachem Begin with the quotation, in Hebrew:-

Not by virtue of might have we returned to the land of our fathers, we have returned through the might of our right...

And there within, all its inhabitants, the sojourner as the citizen, will live in freedom, justice, solidarity and peace"

However, on second thought, it was decided the darken the letters, the better that they should be seen.

So, does it look better now?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

On the Battle for Jaffa

How the battle for Jaffa lives on

By Ben Lynfield

Jaffa Jews and Arabs hold conflicting memories of the confrontation that lead to Israel's establishment. Despite flags everywhere and aerial acrobatics for Israel's 60th birthday, ghosts were still haunting Jaffa this week.

At Etzel House, a museum that commemorates the conquest of Jaffa in 1948 by Menachem Begin's underground fighters, also known as the Irgun, 82-year-old veteran Joseph Nachmias recalls how forces moved from house to house, hammering holes in the walls to enter. It was a turning point on the way to Israel's establishment and it removed the threat of Arab snipers who were shooting into Tel Aviv, he says. "We handed Jaffa to the new state on a platter of silver and blood," Mr. Nachmias insists. Mr Nachmias, who commanded 80 of the 600 Irgun troops, recalls how the future Israeli prime minister Mr Begin came out of hiding to address the fighters on the eve of the Jaffa battle. "It was the first time ever that Begin appeared in front of us. Many people fainted from excitement."

Mr Nachmias's fighters battled with snipers positioned at the top of the Hassan Bek mosque near Tel Aviv. During the battle, Arabs took flight amid heavy and, according to official British accounts, "indiscriminate" Irgun shelling over a wide area of Jaffa. After British forces withdrew at the close of the Palestine mandate, Irgun fighters entered Jaffa for a victory parade on May 14. Commanders had prepared buses and trucks in order to expel any remaining Arabs, Mr Nachmias recalls. Jaffa's pre-war population had been 80,000. After the fighting, 3,000 Arabs were left. "We were prepared to send them where their brothers went," Mr Nachmias says. "But Begin said, 'let them stay and live in peace with us.'"

Mr Nachmias says he regrets that decision. "Now the Arabs in Jaffa number 30,000 and we have a lot of problems with them but they are Israeli citizens and we can do nothing about it." Sami Abu Shehadi, whose grandfather was among the 3,000 who stayed, gives alternative tours to keep memories of pre-1948 Jaffa alive. Standing on David Raziel Street, named after an Irgun commander, Mr Abu Shehadi explains: "Before 1948 this was Iskander Awad Street. He was a Lebanese investor who built the first important modern streets in Jaffa." This area was the heart of Yafa," he continues, using the city's Arabic name. "Here was the British police station. In the market, you had people from Syria selling sweets and Egyptians selling cloth. "Over there were the offices of foreign companies that exported oranges, there were a few importers, a few banks, stores for expensive rugs and cloths and an office building for engineers, lawyers and doctors. Some of our mosques were destroyed in the fighting. One mosque is today a nice pub and restaurant."

He says a January 1948 bombing by the Lehi underground group was a main factor in spreading fear among Jaffa's Arabs. Mr Abu Shehadi took issue with authorities for hanging up flags in Arab parts of Jaffa. "They are raising the flag because they won the war but in this war there were victims," he says. " And these victims are my people."

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

New Signs

There are two new signs that can be seen at and near the Begin Center.

Here's the street notice directing people who are coming to the International Writers' Conference held at nearby Mishkenot Sha'ananim

and here's the new sign at the entrance of the Center:

Monday, May 12, 2008

William Kristol on Begin in NYTimes

The Jewish State at 60


This week marks the 60th anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel. There have already been many birthday greetings, some heartfelt, some perfunctory, along with numerous reflections on the meaning of the occasion, some profound, some commonplace. For me, however, a discordant voice broke through.

...I didn’t intend, in writing this column, to quote Ahmadinejad. I hate to dignify him by even taking note of his comments. I meant to pay tribute to the Zionists — men like Weizmann and Jabotinsky, Ben-Gurion and Begin — who made possible the almost miraculous redemption of the Jewish people in 1948. And I also intended to recognize the defenders of Israel at moments of crisis — men like Harry Truman and Richard Nixon and George W. Bush.

I thought I might even dwell on the amazing essay by the novelist George Eliot who made a case for Zionism in 1879 — 17 years before the publication of Theodor Herzl’s “The Jewish State.”

“The hinge of possibility,” Eliot wrote, is that among the Jews “there may arise some men of instruction and ardent public spirit, some new Ezras, some modern Maccabees, who will know how to use all favouring outward conditions, how to triumph by heroic example, over the indifference of their fellows and the scorn of their foes, and will steadfastly set their faces towards making their people once more one among the nations.”

The new Ezras and the modern Maccabees arose. But Jew hatred didn’t go away. And so, today, in light of Ahmadinejad’s remarks, in the face of the weakness of the West before the Iranian regime — I can’t avoid being reminded of the fact that this year is not only the 60th anniversary of Israel, but also the 75th anniversary of Hitler’s coming to power.

In 1933, in Germany, at the geographical and intellectual center of 20th-century Europe, the Weimar Republic was replaced, as the philosopher Leo Strauss put it, “by the only German regime — by the only regime that ever was anywhere — which had no other clear principle except murderous hatred of the Jews, for ‘Aryan’ had no clear meaning other than ‘non-Jewish.’ ”

The civilized world was helpless. Churchill’s pleas to act were ignored. The world was plunged into war. Two-fifths of world Jewry were murdered.

The founding of Israel promised a more hopeful future, not just for the Jews but for mankind. And, in fact, the last 60 years have perhaps been less horror filled and more humane than the preceding 60. But what of the future?

On Dec. 10, 1948, Winston Churchill, then leader of the opposition, took to the floor of the House of Commons to chastise the Labour government for its continuing refusal to recognize the state of Israel. In his remarks, Churchill commented:

“Whether the Right Honourable Gentleman likes it or not, and whether we like it or not, the coming into being of a Jewish state in Palestine is an event in world history to be viewed in the perspective, not of a generation or a century, but in the perspective of a thousand, two thousand or even three thousand years. This is a standard of temporal values or time values which seems very much out of accord with the perpetual click-clack of our rapidly-changing moods and of the age in which we live.”

In 2008, the defense of the state of Israel, and everything it stands for, requires a kind of courage and determination very much out of accord with the perpetual click-clack of our politics, and with the combination of irresponsibility and wishfulness that characterizes the age in which we live.

Still, even though the security of Israel is very much at risk, the good news is that, unlike in the 1930s, the Jews are able to defend themselves, and the United States is willing to fight for freedom. Americans grasp that Israel’s very existence to some degree embodies the defeat and repudiation of the genocidal totalitarianism of the 20th century. They understand that its defense today is the front line of resistance to the jihadist terror, and the suicidal nihilism, that threaten to deform the 21st.

What Eric Hoffer wrote in 1968 seems even truer today: “I have a premonition that will not leave me; as it goes with Israel, so will it go with all of us. Should Israel perish, the holocaust will be upon us.”

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

A Unique Altalena Picture

The lady in the above picture, taken on June 22, 1948 on Tel Aviv's beach, is Miriam Tzur. Like almost all of Tel Aviv's population that day, she also rushed to the beach to see what all the commotion was about.

She was 16 at the time and she requested a photographer to take her picture.

It appeared in a special Independence Day supplement of Haaretz.

Center Bulletin Vol. 4, No. 30

Volume 4, Issue 30
May 7, 2008

Total Number of Visitors Since October 2004: 397,147

South African Betar Reunion

This was Betar of Southern Africa week, also at the Begin Center. On Sunday night, May 4, between 700 and 800 former members of the Betar in Southern Africa who live in Israel and some still abroad and some young members of the organization who live in South Africa today and came specially for the occasion, assembled for a remarkable event at Shuni, Jabotinsky Park, Binyamina. In the following days some of them c ame to Jerusalem and visited the Begin Center in groups for the first time.

Some participated in a small ceremony at the Jabotinsky Institute where members of the Kolnick family presented a bust of Jabotinsky (sculpted by a well-known Dutch artist, Johan Oldert) to the Institute. It had belonged to Eli Kolnick, the dynamic Zionist Revisionist leader and highly respected patron of the Betar. Members of the Kolnick family subsequently visited the Begin Center in Jerus alem.

The celebratory event had three short speeches by Jewish Agency Chairman Ze'ev Bielsky, Yechiel Kadishai, who had been a shaliach in South Africa and Harry Hurwitz. The rest of the evening was taken up by nostalgic songs, slides, music and reminiscences.

The function was presided over by Dr. M. Strauss who for over a year chaired a committee of Southern African Betar who planned the reunion. The organizer of this major undertaking was Beryl Ratzer who received the acknowledgement and applause of the whole gathering for her efforts.

Yom HaZikharon—Yom HaAtzmaut תשס''ח

We bow our heads before the 22,437 soldiers of

all the generations that fell in the liberation

and the defense of the State of Israel and salute their memories.

We wish the nation of Israel and

the entire Jewish People a

Happy 60th Yom HaAtzmaut!

For Whom the Nation Longs? It Longs for Begin!

In the latest poll conducted by the Yediot Aharonot, the question was again asked, as it has been for a number of years: "Who is the political leader in Israel whom you would be happiest to see return to political life?"

The answer came back as follows: Menachem Begin 31%; Yitzhak Rabin 27%; David Ben Gurion 16%; Rachavim Ze'evi 7%; Moshe Dayan 5%; Levi Eshkol 3%; Ezer Weizman 2%; Raphael Eitan 2%.

Yom HaShoah תשס''ח

A tradition was established on Yom HaShoah—Holocaust Memorial Day—May 1, when the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in cooperation with the Jabotinsky Order, Betar and Jabotinsky Institute held a very moving memorial session. The Reuben Hecht Auditorium was packed to capacity by young and old. Herzl Makov opened the proceedings with a moving short address and he led the Kaddish.

During the evening, young cantors of the Tel Aviv Institute of Hazanut directed by Naftali Herztig intoned special prayers for the occasion and youths from the Betar movement read appropriate selections.

The main address was given by Prof. Moshe Arens who, together with the Deputy Director of the Begin Center, Moshe Fuksman-Sha'al led a group to Warsaw the previous week where they unveiled a plaque at Muranowska Square, where the ZZW had raised the banner of revolt against the Germans.

This ceremony was done in cooperation with the City of Warsaw and the government of Poland. President Shimon Peres, who in the same time period was a corner away at the ceremony honoring the ZOB, did not participate in the Muranowska ceremony. Prof. Arens gave a detailed accounting of his intensive research into the struggle in Warsaw and thanked the Begin Center for its efforts. He urged the Center to make it an annual custom to have such an event until this commemoration will be incorporated into the general commemoration of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

The Polish Ambassador Agnieszka Magdziak-Miszewska spoke of her involvement in the memorial events. Most moving of all was the video presentation of Zhuta Hartman, the last known ZZW fighter, who told of her experiences in the Warsaw Ghetto with her first-hand description of the Ghetto Uprising.

(L-R:) Herzl Makov, Matityahu Drobles and Harry Hurwitz


Congratulations to Ziv Rubinovitz, doctoral candidate at Haifa University and a member of the Begin Center's Research Unit, on his presentations at the Sixth Annual Conference of the Israel Association for International Studies on May 4 at Bar Ilan University.

Ziv, who previously worked at the Center in charge of the Museum operations and guides supervisor, spoke on The Stopping Power of Land: The Geopolitics of American Use of Force in the International Arena since 1898 as well as the subject of the United States and the Israel-Egypt Peace Process - Positive or Negative Contribution?


Mr. and Mrs. Syd Salmimis and Mr. and Mrs. Neville Sweiden of Johannesburg, South Africa, visited the Begin Center and were most impressed by the building and its features and were deeply moved by the museum.

* * * * *

Joe Dushansky, Alex Goldsmith (both of Ra'anana), Barry Spanger from Melbourne, and Jerry Spanger from New Jersey and visited the Begin Center and museum on Tuesday and were briefed by Harry Hurwitz who showed them the Beit Knesset and Auditorium. They were lucky to find a Junior Knesset workshop in session.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Menachem Begin and Mordechai Ronen

'I soon realized I had made the right decision'
An Auschwitz survivor recalls his turbulent welcome on the shores of the fledgling state, Matthew Fisher writes from Tel Aviv.

The Ottawa Citizen , May 03, 2008

Having endured the Nazi death camps, Mordechai Ronen arrived in Israel when the country was a few weeks old and fighting for its life. The diminutive Holocaust survivor is back with six family members to celebrate Israel's 60th anniversary on Thursday. It promises to be a much happier occasion than when, in 1948, he washed up in the Land of Israel, clad only his underwear.

Mr. Ronen, who had been known to the German SS as Moritz Markovich, was barely 16 when he sailed from Europe to Tel Aviv aboard the Altalena with former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and other members of the Irgun paramilitary. But in a story that was to become an immensely controversial part of Israel's history, the freighter, which was carrying weapons, was shelled and sunk by the newly formed Israel Defense Forces, whose troops were loyal to Begin's archrival, David Ben-Gurion.

When Mr. Ronen, now a 75-year-old Torontonian, and his brother, Shalom, swam ashore -- near where he and his family are staying at a posh beach hotel for this week's celebrations -- they were immediately taken prisoner.

"Having survived Auschwitz-Birkenau, I couldn't believe it," Mr. Ronen, who took that as his Hebrew name in 1954, vividly recalled. "Incredibly, my brother recognized one of the guys with the guns was from the town in Hungary where we had been raised. The guy looked at us, said, 'What are we doing?' and dropped his gun in disgust."

A short time later, Mr. Ronen and Shalom were freed and ordered by Menachem Begin to join the IDF, which quickly sent them to the Golan Heights to fight in the first Arab-Israeli War, which Israelis often call the War of Independence.

When the IDF discovered Mr. Ronen's age, he was kicked out of the army for being too young. As his parents, his two sisters and hundreds of other relatives had died in the camps, he was sent to live in a dormitory for youths without families south of Tel Aviv.

"I soon realized that I had made the right decision by coming to Israel," Mr. Ronen said. "I was not a Zionist, but I knew about Eretz Israel, of course, and ... my father always told me that we were going to meet one day in Jerusalem."

Two years after leaving the IDF, Mr. Ronen rejoined the army to train recruits. He subsequently joined the Golani Brigade and served in the anti-tank artillery for 16 years.

The still-dapper septuagenarian found time to fall in love with Ilana, a Jew from Poland whose family had escaped to Soviet Uzbekistan during the war. They met during the 1956 Arab-Israeli War when the school where she taught visited his unit.

"I was wearing two pistols at my side," he said blushing at the memory. "Ilana told me her name and that she lived in Ramat Gan. It was love at first sight ... but it took me two or three months before I finally found her again." They married two years later.

His other brother, David, who had settled in Canada, suggested after he left the army in 1966 that it was time for them to be reunited. Mr. Ronen, his wife and their two young sons emigrated to Toronto in 1968, where he established a wholesale silver-importing business.

But Mr. Ronen already had a good opinion of Canada before he got there. A few Canadian soldiers had been among the Americans who had, in May 1945, liberated the notorious Gunskirchen Lager near Mauthausen in Upper Austria where he had ended up as a slave labourer in a cement factory.

"From the first day we arrived in Canada, my wife and I agreed that we would always speak Hebrew at home," said Mr. Ronen, who also speaks Yiddish, Hungarian, Polish, Russian, Italian and English.

"Canada was very good to us. I have always felt that I could do anything that I wanted to there. They were willing to let us in and I thank them for it. We stay there now because that is where our children and grandchildren are."

Nevertheless, Mr. Ronen retains close ties to Israel and its politics. One of his sons, Moshe, heads the Canada-Israel Committee and is a frequent visitor to the corridors of power here. A few days ago, the family had a private 40-minute meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

"Olmert has proven he is one of the best politicians anywhere because he has been able to hold together a coalition government in Israel," Mr. Ronen said. "That's difficult here. Menachem Begin always said that he was not the prime minister of Israel, but the prime minister of three or four million other prime ministers!"

The limber, good-humoured Israeli-Canadian grew up in a strict Orthodox home in a part of Hungary that now belongs to Romania. He was only 11 when he was seized by the Nazis at the end of 1943, along with his parents and his four siblings. They were taken to Auschwitz, where his mother and sisters "were ordered to the right" and he, his father and his brothers were "ordered to the left."

Mr. Ronen will never be sure why he survived several of Hitler's most notorious death camps when millions of Jews didn't, but he had some theories.

"The Germans didn't give me a number," he said extending an arm that was not marked with one of the tattoos that became one of the most chilling symbols of the Holocaust. "If they had I given me one, I think that I would not be here today."

Monday, May 5, 2008

British Documents from Their Archives

U.K. papers shed light on plan to return Jews to postwar Germany in '47

The Associated Press
Monday, May 5, 2008

LONDON: Newly released documents at the British national archives show how the government tried to send thousands of Palestine-bound Jewish survivors of the Nazi genocide back to postwar Germany, where the "final solution" had been hatched, without inflaming world opinion.

Could it be done? The answer was no. The British decision to turn away more than 4,500 Jews on board the refugee ship Exodus turned into a humanitarian and public relations debacle.

Just two years after the end of the war, the world was outraged by the Nazis' systematic murder of six million Jews in what became known as the Holocaust. Despite the government's efforts to portray the decision in the most sympathetic light, the plan drew condemnation from many parts of the world.

The story detailed in more than 400 pages of formerly secret documents made available to the public Monday concerns Jewish refugees who were on board the Exodus and trying to enter Palestine illegally during the tumultuous months before the United Nations voted in 1947 to create a Jewish homeland on part of Palestine.

Britain was governing Palestine and the British government felt that it had to keep the would-be immigrants out to help preserve the demographic balance between Arabs and Jews. British forces turned away dozens of leaky immigrant ships carrying desperate refugees. But it did not have a safe place to send the Jews from the Exodus, who were placed on three smaller British steamers.

After much agonizing, the British concluded that the only place they could send them was to the British-controlled zone of postwar Germany, where they could be placed in camps and screened for extremists.

It made sound military sense. But the documents show that diplomats and military officers knew perfectly well that sending Jews back to Germany and putting them in camps would set off a firestorm.

"These documents show the British perspective for the first time," said Mark Dunton, a contemporary-history specialist at the archives. "It's obvious in the files the British were sensitive to the claim they were putting Jews into concentration camps. When you read the reports, the camps do sound pretty awful."

The British did not put the Jews in former concentration camps, despite rumors to that effect.

The first rumblings came from a British diplomat in France who sent a coded warning to the Foreign Office in London in August 1947. The diplomat said bluntly that a public relations scandal lay ahead.

"You will realize that an announcement of decision to send immigrants back to Germany will produce violent hostile outburst in the press," he wrote.

An unsigned cable from the Foreign Office on Aug. 19, 1947, stated that the decision to land the Jews in Germany had been made because it was the only suitable territory under British control that could handle so many people on short notice.

Three days later, a Foreign Office cable warned diplomats that they should be ready to "emphatically" deny that the refugees would be housed in former concentration camps after they reached Germany.

The Aug. 22 cable stated that German guards would not be used to keep the Jews in the "refugee camps" and added that British guards would be withdrawn once the refugees had been screened.

But security concerns were heightened on Aug. 30 when a secret telegram from the British Embassy in Washington warned of a possible terrorist attack by the Irgun and Stern gangs, two Zionist extremist groups determined to prevent the forced landing of the Jewish refugees in Germany.

They were taken off the vessels, though a number were injured in confrontations with British troops that involved the use of clubs and fire hoses to force some to disembark.

In a formerly secret report on the removal of the refugees, an officer identified as Lieutenant Colonel Gregson, praised his troops for handling a dangerous situation calmly. He said Jewish resisters had thrown "missiles" at his men.

"It is a very frightening thing to go into a hold full of yelling maniacs when outnumbered 6 or 8 to 1," he said in the report. Gregson said he had considered using tear gas to subdue the refugees but decided not to risk inflaming the situation. "The Jew is liable to panic," he said.

Security fears seemed justified after the refugees were removed when a large, crudely made bomb with a timed fuse was found on one of the three British ships. It was apparently rigged to detonate after the refugees had been removed, cable messages indicated.

The postscript on the operation came from the regional commander of the British military government in Hamburg, who said that the disembarkation could be regarded as successful because it had been carried out with minimal casualties. But he said Britain's reputation had been damaged by the highly critical press coverage of Oasis, as the operation was known in diplomatic and military circles.

With the end of the British mandate and creation of the state of Israel in May 1948, hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees from Europe streamed into the Jewish state. The Exodus commander, Yossi Harel, who died April 26 at the age of 90, led four expeditions that brought thousands of refugees to the shores of Palestine, his daughter said.

An Article on the Irgun

The Use of Force Beyond the Liberal Imagination: Terror and Empire in Palestine, 1947
Shai Lavi


The question of the use of force and its relation to political power has resurfaced in an era of terror attacks and wars against terror. The liberal conceptualization of this relation is limited by the bipolar understanding of force as either legitimate or illegitimate. Turning to the history of the Irgun, a Jewish underground movement, and its struggle against the British Empire in 1947 Palestine, this article seeks to expand the understanding of force beyond the liberal paradigm.

The article offers a new model for understanding the use of force by the liberal nation-state and distinguishes between four different modes of force: violence, legality, terror, and empire. Whereas the liberal paradigm is limited to a conception of force as either justified and, hence, just (legality), or unjustified and, hence, unjust (violence), one may think of two additional forms of force, which, at first, may seem paradoxical: the unjust but justified force of terror and the force of empire, which is just but not in need of justification. Rather than using these forms as stable categories, the article seeks to understand the ways in which the uses of force became destabilized in times of political contestation. The article concludes by pointing out the broader implications of this model for the political analysis of the liberal nation-state and its use of force.

Recommended Citation:

Lavi, Shai (2006) "The Use of Force Beyond the Liberal Imagination: Terror and Empire in Palestine, 1947," Theoretical Inquiries in Law: Vol. 7 : No. 1, Article 9.

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A British Memoir On Dov Gruner

Why Inspector Denley cried
By Tom Segev Haaretz, May 2, 2008

From the viewpoint of Inspector John Denley, it began on April 21, 1946. He was in charge of the Ramat Gan police force. On that particular day he was away from the station. When he learned that members of the Irgun - the underground organization led by Menachem Begin - were attacking it, only one thought raced through his mind: His wife and two children were in their apartment on the floor above the station.

The members of the gang, as Denley wrote years later, used a simple trick: They phoned the station to report a fight between Jews and Arabs. Most of the policemen rushed to the scene of the supposed fight, leaving the station almost empty. The assailants arrived in a stolen military vehicle. Half of them wore British uniforms and pretended to be taking in a group of Arab thieves. All of them burst into the station and started to clean out the arsenal, which was the reason for the operation.

The attackers did not immediately put the wireless operator out of commission, and he managed to summon Denley from the Petah Tikva police station. When Denley arrived he saw the truck laden with munitions driving off, but before all the Irgun men had boarded it. One of the assailants emerged from the station after the truck had already left. Denley shot him in the face. It was Dov Gruner.

About 30 years later, Denley wrote his memoirs, and his son recently gave them to the Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem. It is a singular document that describes the relations - almost of friendship - that developed between the British police officer and the Jewish terrorist.

They met a second time about nine months after the attack on the station. Gruner had in the meantime undergone a series of hospital treatments; Denley was sent to escort him to the military court in Jerusalem. He handcuffed himself to his prisoner. They were thus fated to spend long hours together, tied almost as with an umbilical cord, as Denley wrote. They could not help but engage in conversation.

Denley did not forgive Gruner and his friends for endangering his wife and children. You ought to be ashamed, he told him. Gruner assured him that he had not intended to hurt anyone, least of all the police, but had only wanted to steal the weapons in the station. In retrospect, Denley reflected that he should not have made up with Gruner so easily, but time did its work, tempers cooled, and the Irgun had also revoked its intention to kill Denley to prevent him from testifying in the trial, as one of the defense team told him.

He emphasized repeatedly that he was only a policeman and had not intervened in politics. He did not care for the court proceedings, describing them as a charade. While they were waiting for the judges to enter, Gruner told him about the Holocaust and, invoking II Samuel 7:10, said, "I have established a home for my people Israel."

Denley described Gruner as a slight, thin little Jewish fellow, but Gruner left a deep impression on him that would stay with him for the rest of his life. He also persuaded the British officer that his oath of allegiance to his monarch did not oblige him to serve in Palestine. "In fact, Dov Gruner pointed out to me that I was nothing more, and probably a bit less, than a mercenary soldier," Denley wrote.

When he took the stand as the first prosecution witness, Gruner gave him a big wink as though to say, "Quite correct, old boy." In the break Gruner and Denley were already good friends. They divided the police lunch between them, Gruner was given a soft drink, and then the judges returned to announce that they had sentenced him to death. Gruner shouted, "In blood and fire Judea fell, in blood and fire shall Judea arise."

Denley was badly shaken. He returned his prisoner to the police and left. Before he reached his car he was called back: Gruner wanted to tell him something more. He asked if Denley would be willing to shake his hand. Denley of course consented and took both his hands in his. Gruner said that in other circumstances they could have been "big pals," and asked Denley not to feel bad when he would hear that he had been hanged. He had only done his duty as he understood it, and Denley was doing his. "I turned away and walked toward the armored car. Tears ran down my cheeks," Denley wrote.

Denley hoped that Gruner would receive amnesty. At one stage Gruner agreed to submit a request, which would mean recognition that the British had the authority to try him; accordingly, it is likely that the British would have spared him. But the leaders of the Irgun suggested to him that his life was less important than his death. Gruner obeyed. He was hanged; the Irgun gained a hero.