Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Begin Averted A Civil War Yet A Third Time

Many are aware that in two instances, Menachem, Begin, as Commander of the Irgun Tzavi Leumi, prevented internecine violence in the pre-state Yishuv on two occasions: the 'Saison' period and during the Altalena crisis.

We now know there was a thrid incident.

Yedidiyah Segal, columnist for the Makor Rishon newspaper has just published a book on the murder in Haifa of his uncle, Yedidya Segal, entitled "Rak Lo Milhemet Ahim" ("Just Not Civil War").

As Haaretz reports:

The murderer was never brought to trial but the affair led to a libel case, debates in the Knesset, and numerous investigative reports by journalists....Over the years, many people believed that Yedidya Segal was killed by members of the Haganah Underground, the Jewish pre-independence army, but had no proof. Segal did not find any conclusive evidence, but he did manage to cast a shadow on the Haganah's version of the event.

Following a series of kidnappings between the Hagana and Irgun, the

Haganah leadership decided to kidnap one of the senior Etzel members in Haifa, Moshe Levy. The Etzel retaliated by abducting a top Haganah member, Gedalya Kaminsky-Even (the father of future MK Prof. Uzi Even). Because the decision to kidnap Kaminsky was made quickly, the Etzel had not prepared a hideout to stash him.

After wandering around, they took him for a short while to the hut of a guard at a building site in the Hadar quarter of Haifa. The guard was an Etzel member, 21-year-old Yedidya Segal. Segal had been a student at the city's Reali School where some of his famous classmates included Eliahu Hakim (afterwards executed in Cairo), (ambassador) Uri Lubrani and Aharon Yadlin (later education minister).

Segal had no idea what had happened and who the abducted man was, and begged the kidnappers to leave the site, which they did. However, word had reached the Haganah that Kaminsky was being held in the hut and they sent a special force to the site to capture Segal and bring him in for questioning.

Segal was taken to the Haganah's interrogation facility in the Carmelia neighborhood. There they pressed him to reveal where Kaminsky was being held, but he refused to tell. Meanwhile an exchange of "prisoners" was worked out between the two organizations.

Etzel's Levy was set free, they freed Kaminsky, and only Yedidya Segal did not return home. His body was found close to the village of Tira (the area that is today Tirat Hacarmel)...Segal is convinced that his uncle was tortured by the Haganah but he did not find conclusive evidence that they had murdered him...

...Nevertheless, Segal managed to uncover two clues which he believes cast a dark shadow over the Haganah's version of events...Segal believes that the Haganah did not plan in advance to murder his uncle but rather that he was so badly tortured during the interrogation that he collapsed while fleeing and died in the area where his body was found.

Despite this terrible tragedy,

Former prime minister Menachem Begin wrote in his book, "The Revolt," that it was only the Segal family's strong stand against a civil war that prevented the kind of terrible bloodbath that had taken place during the Second Temple period.

"This was thanks to the general guidance of Begin," Segal said, "and thanks to the forceful position adopted by my grandfather and grandmother who ruled out revenge and did not raise their voices saying 'we will not forget and not forgive.' My grandfather, Yosef Segal, who is the hero of this story in my eyes, was a person who did not take sides and was fond of everyone. He greatly admired [David] Ben-Gurion, the commander in chief of the Haganah, and considered him almost a messiah; he corresponded with him (and this correspondence is published in the book). He and my grandmother prevented a civil war. They convinced my uncle, Benayahu Segal, to relinquish his plan to avenge his brother's blood."
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