Saturday, July 4, 2009

Ben-Gurion's "Hitlerist" Canard

Why did Ben Gurion call Begin a 'Hitlerist type'?

By Tom Segev

Budding friendship

Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, knew how to hate; from time to time he would transfer his hatred from one person to another. On May 15, 1963, he wrote to poet Haim Gouri: "[Menachem] Begin is clearly a Hitlerist type: a racist, willing to destroy all the Arabs for the sake of Greater Israel; he justifies any means for the sacred end - absolute rule ..."

A few years later, Ben-Gurion "transferred" his hatred to Levi Eshkol, and wanted to reconcile with Begin. "My [wife] Paula has always been an admirer of yours, for some reason," he wrote to Begin in February 1969: "I was strongly opposed to several of your viewpoints and actions ... and I don't regret that, because in my opinion I was right (anyone is capable of making a mistake without realizing it), but on a personal level, I have never had anything against you and the more I have gotten to know you in recent years - the more I have appreciated you, and my Paula is pleased about that."

In 1981, then-prime minister Begin sent Gouri a copy of Ben-Gurion's letter, and this week Gouri spoke about this document at the annual conference of the Zalman Shazar Center for Jewish History, in Jerusalem.

Begin wrote to Gouri: "I have copied the late Mr. Ben-Gurion's letter for you not in order to 'brag.' But from the moment I received this letter I have always asked myself: Maybe we would really have been spared many tragic and even terrible things had the late Ben-Gurion and I been 'better' acquainted with one another."

Begin pointed out that Ben-Gurion's letter to him was written a few years after the letter to Gouri. "So which letter is valid? The earlier one or the later one? In law, it is common practice that if a person willed his property on a certain date and later changed both his mind and his will, the later document is binding, not the earlier one."

The prime minister did not ask Gouri to make his letter public. "I am writing to you out of a human urge, nothing more," he said then.
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