Monday, December 20, 2010

Begin Bill Planned

Begin family opposes late PM's image on new Israeli bills

Benny Begin: The family expressed opposition to the new bills six months ago, and when hearings were convened, no one turned to us.

By Zvi Zrahiya

The family of the late Prime Minister Menachem Begin is opposed to Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer's decision to issue a bill with a portrait of the deceased leader.

Minister Benny Begin stated on Sunday evening that his family expressed their opposition to the new bills six months ago. He said that after months of discussions with the Bank of Israel, the family was not consulted in the final decision to issue the bills.

Legally, the bank does not have to consult with the Begin family ahead of issuing the bills.

Fischer had called the Begin family over the weekend and discussed the matter at hand with Benny Begin, who again voiced his objection. The Bank of Israel governor also decided to issue bills with portraits of Yitzhak Rabin, Shai Agnon, and the poet Rachel.

Officials at the Finance Ministry were surprised by Fischer's decision. They had lobbied for more women and intellectuals to appear on new bills.

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz (Likud) vowed to vote against the measure next week. Also, Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat (Likud) stated her opposition to the proposed bills and demanded that another woman be added to the list.

In response, Governor Fischer stated that it was important to highlight the nation's leaders for future generations. He also thanked members of the committee, headed by retired Supreme Court justice Jacob Turkel, who helped advise the governor regarding the new bills.


Begin, Rabin to appear on new Israeli bills
December 20, 2010

The images of the late Israeli Prime Ministers Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Rabin will appear on new Israeli currency.

The late writer S.Y. Agnon and poet Rachel Bluwstein Sela, who was known simply as Rachel, also have been chosen for the honor.

The Bank of Israel announced the new series of banknotes, and its honoring of the political and cultural history of Israel, on Sunday.

Begin and Rabin were chosen for signing peace treaties with Israel's neighbors -- Begin with Egypt and Rabin with Jordan and an interim agreement with the Palestinians -- Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer said.

The image choices require Cabinet approval.

The new currency, in the form of 20, 50, 100 and 200 shekel bills, is scheduled to be issued in 2012 and will include advanced anti-forgery methods.


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

New Menachem Begin Medal

The Israel Coins & Medals Corp., the ICMC, was established in 1961 by Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Gen Gurion, and belonged to the Government of Israel until the year 2008.  In 2008 the company was privatized and taken over by G.R.A.S. Design Combinations, Ltd., active and respected in Israel for over two decades in the field of fine jewelry design as well as of original Israeli art.

They now present a series of medals in honor of Menachem Begin such as this one for $988.00:-

The entire set can be viewed here.


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Begin Took Responsibility

The Washington Post's Richard Cohen, after reading George W. Bush's memoirs:

Reading Bush's book, seeing him in his various TV appearances, I keep thinking of Menachem Begin, the late Israeli prime minister. In 1982, Begin took Israel to war in Lebanon. It cost Israel as many as 675 dead, 4,000 wounded and its image as invincible on the battlefield. Begin took responsibility. He resigned and became a recluse, a depressed and beaten man.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

New Foyer Furniture

For our visitors' comfort:


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A Headcover Memory

This picture recalls to me an incident in my wife's life experience:

That is a British policeman in Mandate Palestine searching a Chasid for arms - perhaps hidden under his shtreimel.

And my wife?

Well, a good few years ago, my wife and I attended a World Likud Conference at the time of a Zionist Congress and with Bibi Netanyahu as guest, we all had to go through extremely stringent security checks.

We were searched and went through a metal detector and then my wife was requested to remove her head-covering for a further check.

I will ask her to comment on that with more details.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

An Appreciation of Menachem Begin

Aluf Benn on Menachem Begin:-

Menachem Begin had a well-developed sense of history. Before he became prime minister, his character on the satirical show "Nikui Rosh" used to mutter, "It's now 3:05 and it's a historic moment. It's now 3:06 and it's a historic moment." As prime minister, he always spoke in the name of the Jewish people, and at every opportunity he would preach morality to non-Jews, reminding them of the Bible and the Holocaust.

But as a practical statesman, Begin knew how to distinguish between preoccupation with the past and concern for the future. In the peace talks he conducted with Egypt, he did not waste time on pointless arguments over the question of who had been the aggressor and who the victim during the decades of conflict. The peace agreement he signed with Anwar Sadat focused on the future, not the past: It determined borders, security arrangements and mechanisms for normalization.

Begin understood that in order to attend to the future, it was necessary to close the files of the past and to set priorities. He opted to obtain quiet on the Egyptian front in order to focus on what he considered more important: building settlements in the West Bank and ending the Mapai party's domination of society and the economy.


Saturday, November 13, 2010

British View

From a reminisce about the author's father, DJ Taylor:

My father, to particularise, really did believe, or affect to believe, that the French were collaborators, that three ­Englishmen with a Bren gun could hold off the entire Italian army, that America could do no wrong.

‘Terrorist! Terrorist!’ he would yell in the early 1980s, whenever the face of the Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin appeared on the television screen, which seemed inexplicable until you realised that back in 1946, in Palestine, Begin was the commander of the Irgun, the direct-action Zionists who lobbed Molotov cocktails into caf├ęs frequented by British servicemen.


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Thirty-Three Years and Still Counting

From Alexander Yakobson:

"How can you not see that fascism is approaching?," someone wrote to me recently. The problem is that fascism has been approaching for 33 years now (at least ). Since the night of the election upset on May 17, 1977, when the Likud came to power, we have been hearing that fascism is loudly approaching.

Then, we were already on the edge of the fascist abyss, and since then we have taken a big step forward. But today, after decades of approaching fascism, it is clear that Israel is a far more democratic and free country than it was in 1977.


Pre-Publication Notice


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Walking Tours

Part of the Menachem Begin Heritage Center educational programs is one on the theme of leadership. Part of that program is a walking tour in the footsteps of Menachgem Begin.

Here, Yisrael Medad guides 25 graduates of the Haifa Military Cadet High School on the walking tour in Jerusalem today. They walked from Menachem Begin's first apartment in Jerusalem in 1942 at Alfasi 27 to the Prime Minister's Residence to the King David Hotel and to the Old Jerusalem Railway Station:

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Carter Making An Ass of Himself

Two quotes from Jimmy Carter's White House Diary book:

Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin: Carter recalls Begin "making an ass of himself."


Rabbi Alexander M. Schindler: A leader of the Reform movement of American Judaism whom the New York Times described in an obituary as a man of "grandfatherly warmth." Carter calls him a man who "always acts like an ass."

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Saturday, October 9, 2010

An Appreciation

From Colin Shindler in his The Triumph of Military Zionism on the debate between Ze'ev Jabotinsky and Menachem Begin on the technical issue of altering the wording of the 4th paragraph in Betar Oath at Third World Conference of Betar on September 15, 1938:

"Jabotinsky vehemently attacked Begin's advocacy of the policy of 'military Zionism'. While he likened Begin's rhetoric to the 'squeaking of a door', the delegates voted in favor of the policy.

The future course of Israeli history changed on that day."

The background:

[After the hanging of Shlomo Ben-Yosef in the summer of 1938, the Betar Movement convened for its Third World Conference] Menachem Begin, head of Betar Poland, was unsatisfied with [Jabotinsky's] words. He rose to the podium and began to address the congress.

“The important question that we must ask today in Betar is not what but how. In the last fifteen years that our movement has existed, we have taught ourselves and others to ask the first question. Betar wants a Jewish state. Betar wants to solve the Jewish problem. But when one arrives at this understanding, it creates the question of how. With what means will we succeed in achieving our aims? We were taught to use moral pressure on the Western powers, and that Britain will honor her commitments to our nation. But in reality, the British only need take the Arab demands into account. The Arabs receive 95% and do not agree. They fight with their blood. And we who receive only 5%, how are we fighting? It is obvious that the disproportion of strength and honor between Israel and the Arabs must force Britain to first of all consider the Arab demands over ours. Zionism is an eternal idea but its realization will be delayed by decades if we continue on this path. We must fight – to die or conquer the mountain! The Israeli national movement began with Practical Zionism. Then there was Political Zionism. And now we must create a new Zionism – Military Zionism. Our examples will be Camillo di Cavour and Giuseppe Garibaldi. Cavour would have never achieved victory for Italy without Garibaldi.”

Jabotinsky (interrupting Begin): “Do you know how many Italian soldiers there were? How will you bring all these Betarim to Israel without the approval of the nations?”

Begin: “I said we are at the beginning of Military Zionism, not in the middle. I want to begin to create this military force independent of the nations of the world. I am proposing an idea. To realize this idea, we must employ expert examination.”

Jabotinsky: “Do you understand the proportion between the Hebrew military forces in Palestine versus the military power of the Arabs?”

Begin: “We will win with our moral force. Without war, Zionism will be destroyed. I propose that we alter clause number four of the Betar Oath from ‘I will lift my arm to defend my nation’ to ‘I will lift my arm to defend my nation and conquer my homeland’. We must use the strength lying dormant in our people.”

The hall erupted in applause as Begin descended the podium and Jabotinsky took the floor to rebuke his longtime pupil.

“Permit me to say a few strong words. As your teacher it is my duty. There are many types of noises in this world. There is the whistle and the noise of heavy machines. But I cannot bear the squeak of an un-oiled door because that noise serves no purpose. You are implying that there is no conscience left in the world and there is no room for such useless chattering in Betar. It is pure despair. With a broom we must sweep away these futile ideas.”

Another young Betari from Poland, Israel Schieb (later Eldad), then rose to address the congress.

“As far as I am concerned, the squeaking of a door is a very important sound for it alerts us that thieves have entered the national movement. What you propose is surrender and appeasement. I do not understand diplomacy. Nor do I understand what right we in Betar have to speak in the name of Yehuda Maccabee and Shimon Bar Kochba if we do not understand the concept of the few against the many.”

Menachem Begin and Israel Schieb publicly challenged their mentor’s approach to diplomacy. Influenced behind the scenes by Yair Stern, the students won their debate with Jabotinsky and clause four of the Betar oath was altered. Until his death, Jabotinsky would never despair of Great Britain or the morality of the Western powers. He believed that by exerting moral pressure, civilized nations could be persuaded to honor their commitments to the Zionist endeavor. The problem, as he saw it, was that Jewish leaders refused to demand what was rightfully theirs, allowing Britain to behave with duplicity towards their national aspiration. While Jabotinsky differed from his counterparts in the Zionist establishment by openly demanding justice from the nations, his students would later take these demands a step further by initiating a violent war of liberation. Shlomo Ben-Yosef’s execution served as a catalyst to spread a new idea – in blood and fire the Hebrew state fell and in blood and fire it would soon be reborn. Both Begin and Schieb would soon migrate to Palestine and play active roles in the underground struggle against British occupation. Both would taste victory eight years after Jabotinsky’s death as the British flag would be lowered over the Land of Israel and a Hebrew commonwealth would arise in its stead.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Succot Events at the Begin Center


During Chol HaMoed Sukkot (September 26-28), the Begin Center will be offering special tours in honor of 150 years since the founding of Mishkenot Sha'ananim, the first Jewish neighborhood outside the walls of the Old City.

Tours will begin at the Begin Center and along the way, participants will meet Sir Moses Montefiore, who founded the neighborhood, and Avraham Kirshenbaum, a member of the Underground, who single-handedly defended the Yemin Moshe neighborhood and was killed by a British sniper. The tour will conclude with a conversation about life in Yemin Moshe with Pnina Kirshenbaum, Avraham's sister and life-time resident of Yemin Moshe.

These tours are in HEBREW, cost 35NIS and reservations are required: 02-565-2011.

On September 28th, a special Hoshana Raba evening program will take place. The evening will be four lectures by our most popular Parashat HaShavua lecturers followed by a musical performance. The order of events is as follows:

9:00pm Dr. Micha Goodman
10:00pm Dr. Shelly Goldberg
11:00pm Dr. Dror Eidar
12:00am Dr. Ya'acov Eliashiv
1:00am Musician Yonatan Razel

This evening will be in HEBREW and it is FREE.


Thursday, September 16, 2010


On Monday afternoon this week, members of the Hurwitz family, family friends and the staff of the Begin Center, went to Har HaMenuchot Cemetery to mark the second anniversary of Harry Hurwitz's passing. Yuval Bar-Or recited the psalms and sang El Maleh Rahamim and Kaddish was recited by Dr. Hillel Hurwitz, Harry and Freda Hurwitz's son. Dr. Hurwitz also said a few words in memory of his father and thanked everyone for attending.

Everyone then went to the Begin Center for light refreshments.

At the cemetery

From the right: Freda Hurwitz, Hillel Hurwitz, Yuval Bar Or
and Moshe Fuksman-Sha'al.

Picture by Yisrael Medad


Monday, September 13, 2010

Menachem Begin in the Reflections of Yossi Sarid

Yossi Sarid recalls Menachem Begin:-


"When I first entered the Knesset there were people around like Menachem Begin and [Yitzhak] Ben-Aharon. Suddenly [in my last term], I was surrounded by all sorts of types and didn't know what I was doing with them. Like my mother used to say: 'These are not friends for you.' Sitting there was the person who was the most terrible education minister ever, Limor Livnat; there had never been a catastrophe like that. And suddenly for the first time in my life, I was becoming bitter. I was a short-tempered and unpleasant person, even more than usual."


There is something of the nightmarish, of death and separation in the poems. In "Tip for the Loser," the politician-poet writes: "Who will eulogize Yossi Sarid" [in Hebrew, "eulogize" - yaspid - rhymes with "Sarid"]. However, there is also irony and humor in the book, as in the poem "Interest in Life." There, Sarid writes somewhat humorously about death, with whom he has been acquainted for many years: "He's the only one who hasn't criticized me for smoking." In the poem "In the Cellar," he writes: "My hand is cold / and I want to wrap myself in you / to escape the cellar that is like an attic / for a person with TB / Menachem Begin is waiting there for me / with a glazed look on his face."


On the subject of Menachem Begin, Sarid says: "My home is my castle. I sometimes go out for a day's work, but usually not. Sometimes this staying at home reminds me - of course, the difference is huge - of how Begin stayed at home. He did this because he was a broken man, and I am doing it because things are coming together. My need for the outside environment is minimal these days. Nevertheless, I am not completely exempt from thinking it is similar. Sometimes it seems to me that if I open the door, maybe I will find Begin waiting for me."

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Note on Begin's Peace Negotiations

From an article by Yoel Marcus:-

...the Camp David conference that generated the framework agreement for peace between Israel and Egypt also began in September (1978 ). It set out to deal with the core of the conflict between us and Egypt and draft a framework agreement for a peace treaty.

Menachem Begin came with a written list of 13 expressions that were not, under any circumstances, to appear in the peace agreement. They all pertained to the Palestinians and included "the just, legitimate rights of the Palestinian people," "all aspects of the problem," "the inadmissibility of seizing territories by force" etc. etc.

After 13 days of discussion, Begin agreed to include all the "forbidden" terms in the treaty. The White House mediators, headed by President Carter, presented 23 different drafts for framework agreements, one of which had all the forbidden expressions in it, masterfully disguised with verbal special effects. Anwar Sadat withdrew his demand to establish a Palestinian state and the Palestinian problem was swept under the carpet.

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Begin Center Head at Limmud FSU, Hamptons NY

Herzl Makov, Head of the Begin Center, participated in the Limmud Fest this summer in New York for Jews from the Former Soviet Union:

Limmud FSU Hamptons, NY
August 2010

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Recalling The 1981 Bombing

The boundaries of responsibility

By Eitan Ben Eliyahu

On May 10, 1981, the Israel Air Force was busy with last-minute preparations for an attack on Iraq's nuclear reactor. But then Menachem Begin, who was both prime minister and defense minister, decided to cancel the mission. Begin had received a letter from the head of the opposition, Shimon Peres, objecting to the operation. And if the news had leaked to Peres, Begin thought, it might also have reached the enemy.

Another possible strike date was May 31, but since Begin was due to meet with Egyptian president Anwar Sadat in Sharm al-Sheikh on June 4, the operation was postponed until June 7 to avoid undermining the summit. Thus Begin used his authority to decide whether or not a military operation that was about to be launched would actually be implemented.

In his recent testimony before the Turkel Committee investigating Israel's raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla, Defense Minister Ehud Barak distinguished between the "what," which is decided by the government, and the "how," which is the province of the army. But in truth, to this day, no formula has yet been found to properly define the relationship between these two bodies. Barak's definitions of "what" and "how" attempted to draw a clear line between the parties' respective authorities, but the most important question lurks in the area where they overlap.

Military action is supposed to complement diplomatic action, pave the way for it or, sometimes, substitute for it. Therefore, the first question that needs to be answered is "why" - in other words, is there any reason for the military action?

The next question is "what" to carry out: A reprisal operation? Taking control of territory? Then comes the "how" - the best way for the military to carry out this operation.

Finally, once the type of action (the "what" ) and the method of implementation (the "how" ) have been determined, a decision must be made on "whether" to actually go through with it. That process involves an ongoing dialogue in which political and military decision-makers feed off each other, with the center of gravity and the degree of influence moving between the two sides.

At the "why" stage, the center of gravity rests with the government; the only question is whether or not to take the process a step further. The "what" stage amounts to a balanced dialogue between the parties: Even if it is based on prepared operational plans, there is always room for changes and adjustments.

While the joint forum continues to debate the "what," the military is already working on the "how." This is when it gathers information, delves into details and discusses alternatives. The more the army's preparations for the "how" advance, the larger the data pool on which they are based grows - which is why it can then go back and influence the discussion on the "what."

The "whether" is not decided until the last minute. At that stage, both the government and the military have responsibility and authority over the question of whether to go ahead. The military's stance is determined by the operational conditions on the ground at that moment, while the government is influenced by diplomatic and other considerations.

At such a decisive moment, however, the center of gravity shifts to the government. It always has the last word.

In the American system, there is no doubt about where the boundaries of the respective bodies' authority lies. Nevertheless, they are aware of the overlap that exists between the government and the military.

The authority of the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, for instance, consists mainly of doing staff work and offering advice to the government, with which it works closely. This means it is more involved in the "what." The regional commanders, in contrast, are the ones who prepare and seek approval for the "how." But above them all, according to the U.S. constitution, is the president, who is the army's commander in chief.

There are many areas where the government's responsibility and that of the military overlap; to a great extent, the responsibility is collective. Still, there are cases in which one member of this collective bears responsibility for a failure and should not be allowed to continue in his post.

It would be better if the division of responsibility, definitions of authority and working procedures between Israel's government and army were not made clear only when the shadow of an investigative committee leads both parties to search for someone to blame.

Maj. Gen. (res. ) Eitan Ben Eliyahu is a former commander of the air force.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Report on The Begin Center

The Long Island's "The Jewish Star" published this account of the Begin Center:

Remembering Menachem Begin

by Malka Eisenberg, its Travel Reporter.

On a hill overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem, a smooth white stone museum off of Derech Hevron houses a moving commemoration of the life and accomplishments of Menachem Begin, Israel’s sixth prime minister.

The Menachem Begin Heritage Center offers extensive audiovisual displays of Begin’s experiences and times, with reenactments of pivotal events including his interrogation by the NKVD (the precursor of the KGB) and planning sessions of the Irgun. Visitors sit in a reconstruction of his spare, book-lined living room and on benches at a flier-strewn election rally as they are guided through various stages of his story...

...As a reporter, I do not put myself into my stories. However, walking through the imposing entrance way and following the guide through each stage of Begin’s life, I realized that I was a child of this time. I recognized the faces and know the names of many in the photographs. I was learning in Jerusalem the year Egyptian President Anwar Sadat came to Israel; only I and one friend from my school refused to join the crowds lining Rechov Yaffa to cheer his motorcade.

I felt the pain of those displaced from the destroyed city of Yamit in Sinai; I had camped in that beautiful rugged desert and felt the sand in my teeth. I stood next to a blown out Egyptian cannon at Sharm-el-Sheikh. I marched in rallies and Solidarity Sundays to push for the release of Soviet Jews — Jews whom Begin then welcomed to Israel. But above all, I felt the pride in Begin’s fierce love of the nation, the Torah, and the people and land of Israel. Begin went to the Kotel following his election and all his life he stood up for Israel against all odds; the pride when he bombed Osirak, when he brought in the Ethiopian Jews and when he saved the Vietnamese boat people. And the sadness when the death of his wife left him a crushed man.

Begin wanted to be remembered as a man who prevented civil war by pledging allegiance to the government when the state was declared and by calling on his forces not to return fire when the arms-laden Irgun ship, the Altalena, was fired upon by the Haganah. Begin was also a humble man: he asked to be buried not with the Israeli dignitaries on Mount Hertzl but on Har Hazaytim next to his wife Aliza and beside two martyrs of the British occupation who blew themselves up with a smuggled hand grenade rather than be hanged by the British.

When asked after his election what he wanted to be known for, he said, “Yehudi tov”: a good Jew.

One other thing: the museum is on the Hinnom Shoulder, an ancient crossroad of the Refaim and Ben-Hinnom Valleys. There are burial caves in an archaeological garden behind the museum dating to Bayit Rishon, the time of kings in Israel, about 2600 years ago. A silver pendant engraved with Birkat Cohanim and 95 skeletons and other artifacts were found there. After touring the museum, ask to see the garden.

By reservation only: The Menachem Begin Museum, 6 Nachon Street. Sunday-Thursday 9-4:30, Tuesday 9-7, Friday 9-12:30. Telephone 02-565-2020.

"Sounds and Prayers": An Exciting Unique Cultural Event

On August 22, 2010, a unique cultural event will take place at the Begin Center when outstanding entertainment star, and Eurovision contender, Kobi Oz, will appear together with Rabbi Dr. Micha Goodman as our poster announces below:-

The evening, entitled "Psalms for the Perplexed" will combine Oz's special music character and Rabbi Goodman's incisive and lively interpretations in a link-up of sounds and prayers.

Reservations obligatory: 02-5652011. 50 NIS entrance.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Month of Selichot at the Begin Center

The IDF runs a special program during the Hebrew month of Ellul, introducing the pratice and custms of Selichot to the soldiers:

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

On The Issue Of "Glorification" of Terrorism

From the Letters-to-the-Editor section of the Jerusalem Post:-

No comparison

Sir, – In relating to an interview with Sarah Agassi, the Irgun fighter who participated in the 1946 King David Hotel operation, Larry Derfner seeks to draw a parallel to local Arab terror.

Derfner proposes an equivalency standard: Their violence today is the same as Jewish violence then.

To honor, for example, Menachem Begin would in his eyes be “glorifying terror,” since that is what we call it when the Palestinian Authority honors its “heroes.”

We Israelis, Derfner asserts, are acting at the height of hypocrisy, and he writes that “if you justify or even ‘understand’ Begin’s and [Yitzhak] Shamir’s violence, you also have to justify or at least understand the violence of Muhammad Oudeh and Dalal Mughrabi.” Moreover, if we do not condemn the Irgun and Lehi violence, he claims, “then [we] have no principles at all.”

Whereas in the war for liberation against the British Mandatory regime both the Irgun and Lehi avoided civilian casualties to the fullest extent possible, Arab terror – as it does today – exclusively targeted civilians.

Whereas the British refused to negotiate, Israel has been negotiating for the past 43 years, to no avail. Whereas Begin, as Irgun commander, always had his fighters warn the British about upcoming actions, the Arabs never do. As these and other elements make clear, there is no comparison.

One more point: The Hagana as well as the Palmach also engaged in violence similar to that of the Irgun and Lehi. The loss of lives in such actions was regrettable, but in the war for the establishment of Israel and its liberation from the Mandatory regime, exceptions to the rule occurred. Derfner, however, avoids any mention of this violence perpetrated by the Zionist Left. Was that a personal prejudice?

Head, Menachem Begin Heritage Center

Sir, – Larry Derfner (“One man’s terrorist...,” July 28) argues that anyone who condemns Palestinian terror (e.g., the 1978 Coastal Road massacre), must also condemn actions by the Jewish underground (e.g., the 1946 King David Hotel bombing).

Unfortunately, he totally ignores a critical point: Not all violence is terrorism.

Terrorism is the threat or use of violence against civilians in order to engender fear in the general population. The Coastal Road massacre, directed against a purely civilian target with no conceivable military value, exemplifies terrorism. By launching thousands of rockets toward Israeli towns with no strategic or military significance, Hamas pursues a campaign of unmitigated terror.

Attacks on legitimate military targets are not terrorism, even if they result in unintended civilian casualties. The King David Hotel housed the British military command and its Criminal Investigation Division. The purpose of the attack was to neither kill civilians nor cause generalized fear. The aim was to destroy the part of the hotel containing intelligence records about Jewish underground organizations. While the Irgun could not have hoped to stand toe-to-toe against the British army, its attack on the hotel was an effort to undermine Britain’s military capabilities.

Jewish tit-for-tat bombing of Arab markets and other public places was terrorism, but blowing up bridges and railroad tracks certainly was not. On the Palestinian side, kidnapping Gilad Schalit was an act of war, and his subsequent horrendous treatment violates the fundamental rules of war. But this is not terrorism.

By asserting that one must condemn all violence equally or else “you have no principles at all,” Derfner strips the term “terrorism” of all meaning and consequence.

Worse, he negates modern rules of war that limit the types and amounts of weapons that may be used in a conflict.

Zichron Ya’akov
The writer is a fellow at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism.

Sir, – Larry Derfner is way off base. First of all, Menachem Begin was fighting British soldiers who were hanging Jews fighting for their country. Second, he did not target civilians deliberately, which is the open polity of Arab suicide bombers.

Third, Begin was fighting to establish a Jewish state and save Jews.

If you want, you can claim that Samson, in pulling down the Philistine temple, was a suicide terrorist. Would Derfner not give him the right to avenge his blinding and humiliation?


Larry Derfner notes: As I wrote, the Etzel planted bombs in Arab markets and other public places, killing scores of civilians. It gave no warnings. Also, as everyone knows, Arab terrorists strike at both military and civilian targets.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

On The King David Hotel Operation

Former Irgun fighter recalls bombing of British headquarters in Jerusalem's King David Hotel, which left more than 90 people dead. Sarah Agassi says armed Jewish group warned occupants to evacuate building. 'My conscience is clear,' she says 64 years after the operation, 'it was war'


The British have claimed that the warning was not received on time.

"What are they going to say? That they were warned but failed to act? We informed them on time. Two minutes after 12:30. Everything happened so quickly. They had a half-hour. Had they evacuated the building at 12:35, things would never have developed as they did."

Jews were also killed in the hotel.

"So, what could I have done? We gave the warning. My conscience is clear. And when they killed Jews over nothing – for hanging posters – was that not also painful? It was war. We operated like soldiers. We did not hesitate. I merely carried out orders. That's all."

..."After I gave birth I remained in the hospital for a month due to a fever. (Deceased Irgun commander and prime minister) Menachem Begin attended the circumcision ceremony and congratulated me," she says.

"To us (Begin) was a god, but I became disappointed in him later on. While in London in 1972, journalists called him a terrorist and a murderer. He told them that upon his return to Israel he would gather testimonies from the people who were there (King David operation). When he returned he summoned me to Metzudat Zeev (Likud headquarters in Tel Aviv) to talk about the explosion. He wanted me to speak at a special press conference he had organized," Agassi says.

"I told him, 'Mr. Begin, I work for the Histadrut's executive committee. If they see me in Metzudat Zeev with you tomorrow, I'll surely lose my job.' He said, 'Don't worry; I'll take care of you. You'll work for us.' I appeared on television and was fired the next day. I told him I was out of a job, but he said, 'The party doesn't have any money.'

"I was very angry, but we stayed in touch. He was a very nice man," says Agassi, who agreed to speak of the incident to promote a 13-minute film about her life, which is being produced as part of the international project, which documents the lives of Jews and Arabs.

Agassi, whose husband died a few years ago, is carrying on her family's legacy with pride.

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Scenes of the Third Floor

and one from the second floor:-

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The Event Marking Begin's 97th Birthday

Photographs from the event held at the Etzel Museum - Beit Gidi in Jaffa last Thursday marking Menachem Begin's 97th birthdya with the participation of over 700 (!) persons:

a) & b) the crowds:

c) Galila Ron-Feder Meshulam, author of the newest Begin biography:-

d) singer Raquellya:

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Recalling Begin In Connection With Israel's Political Culture

From an op-ed by Yoel Marcus:-

...One of the characteristics of Israeli politics today is that the nation's leaders hate or love their colleagues less. They're more focused on public opinion polls and back-room deals than political relationships.

Looking back, you see that political bonds were deeply rooted in love-hate relationships, both emotional and ideological. Until the Six-Day War, David Ben-Gurion hated Menachem Begin. He never mentioned his name in the Knesset, referring to him as "the man sitting to the right of MK Bader." Their hatred stemmed from a rift over Ze'ev Jabotinsky, the Revisionist Zionist leader. Ben-Gurion refused to reinter his remains in Israel, as Jabotinsky had requested in his will. His remains were moved only when Levi Eshkol became prime minister, when the admiration between Eshkol and Ben-Gurion turned into hostility.

Paula Ben-Gurion actually liked Begin. When he would meet her, he would kiss her hand with Polish grace. She did not miss an opportunity to irritate her husband by praising Begin's gentlemanliness. The hatred between Begin and Ben-Gurion became friendship when Begin proposed making Ben-Gurion prime minister again on the eve of the Six-Day War. But Eshkol and Golda Meir adamantly opposed the move - the hatred for the founder of the state was absolute among his followers, of all people.

Golda, who was no beauty, was the most admired woman in her party. Though she was called the only man in the government, the truth is that she was very feminine. She loved like a woman and hated like a woman. When the national unity government was formed in 1967, she asked Begin not to include "those neofascists Dayan and Peres" in the cabinet. Begin replied that without them he would not join the government himself, and Golda retreated...

...The relations between Allon and Dayan were relations of jealousy and mutual contempt. The relationship between Shimon Peres and Dayan, both of whom were Ben-Gurion's favorite pair, cooled over time. When Dayan suddenly joined Begin's government as foreign minister, Peres considered it a betrayal.

In the betrayal department, Dayan surpassed Peres both in the political realm and in his relations with women. Dayan paved his way to Begin by saying, "I'm closer to Begin than to Ya'ari." With that he both rebuffed the left and won over Begin. He succeeded more so than attorney Shmuel Tamir, who tried to topple Begin with a putsch. He never dreamed that the day would come when Begin would be prime minister.

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Russian-Language Limmud Conference Taking Place At Begin Center

One Thousand Young Russian-Speaking Israelis Expected at Limmud FSU Jerusalem

A unique event for Russian-speaking Israelis will take place this week in Jerusalem at the Kiryat Moriah Campus of the Jewish Agency, the Menachem Begin Heritage Center and the Shai Agnon House.

Opening on Wednesday, Limmud FSU is an intensive three-day program that includes dynamic events, workshops, panels, interviews, lectures, cultural presentations, seminars and round-table discussions on a vast range of topics, given by many of Israel’s leading academics, journalists, public figures and politicians. Sessions will be presented either in Russian or in Hebrew with Russian translation.

This year’s Limmud FSU is being held around the theme of Nobel prizewinners born in the Russian Empire, the Soviet Union and in Israel. There are 26 such people among the 180 who have won the Nobel Prize, including Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres – all Nobel laureates for peace. This year’s event will be attended by several of the prizewinners, as well as family members of Begin, Rabin, Peres and Shai Agnon.

The Jerusalem program include lectures by Tzipi Livni on Israel’s society, Yossi Bachar, General Manager of Israel Discount Bank on macroeconomics in Israel, Nina Popova from St Petersburg on the poets Anna Ahmatova and Joseph Brodsky, Anton Nossik, an Internet genius, and master classes by Leonid Ptashka and Evgenya Dodina. Some of the most popular and interesting sessions and interviews will be live-streamed on the Internet.

The Gala Opening Event will be held in the presence of President Shimon Peres, together with Minister of Foreign Affairs, Avigdor Lieberman, Minister of Education, Gideon Sa’ar, Minister of Information and the Diaspora, Yuli Edelstein, Minister of Science and Technology, Daniel Hershkowitz, Leader of the Opposition, Tzipi Livni, Natan Sharansky, Chair of the Jewish Agency, Matthew Bronfman, the US businessman who is among Limmud FSUs principal supporters and Chair of its International Steering Committee, Carolyn Bogush, Chair of Limmud UK, members of the Knesset and many other prominent public figures and personalities. The Co-Chairs of Limmud FSU Jerusalem are the noted actress Evgenya Dodina and the television and radio commentator, Yaron Deckel, who together will be conducting the festive event. The three honorary Chairs of Limmud Nobel Jerusalem, philanthropists Aharon Frenkel, Diana Wohl and Dr. Nona Kuchina will also be present. Artists performing include jazz musician Leonid Ptashka, Yonatan Raziel and an IDF entertainment group.

The following day, a Salute to Russian Immigrants in Israel will be held to mark 20 years since the mass immigration of the late 1980s and 1990s. Among the participants will be Minister of Culture and Sport, Limor Livnat, Deputy Minister of Defense, Matan Vilnai, IDF Chief Education Officer, Brig. Gen. Eli Shermeister, Sharansky and Bronfman and other distinguished guests. Artists performing at the event include Arkady Duchin and Los Caparos.

Inaugurated in the United Kingdom nearly 30 years ago, Limmud has become the most significant and widely attended cultural event on the world Jewish stage. Limmud festivals take place today across the globe attended by tens of thousands of people in virtually every country with a significant Jewish population and in many languages. Limmud FSU is part of that international movement. Not only are all Limmud programs – regardless of locale – planned by volunteers, all presenters volunteer their time.

Limmud FSU brings together young Jewish adults who are reviving and revitalizing Jewish communities and Jewish culture and identity throughout the former Soviet Union, in the USA and in Israel. Limmud FSU was founded in 2005 by Chaim Chesler of Israel, together with Sandra Cahn of New York and Mikhail Chlenov of Russia.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Begin and Irgun in a Washington Post Blog

In a Washington Post blog, we found this:-

(a) Menachem Begin, before become prime minister of the State of Israel, was the commander of the most powerful Jewish insurgent-terrorist group in Palestine, the Irgun Zwei Leume, which by increasing violence discouraged the British from continuing their protectorate. (Killing tourism was one aspect of Begin's terrorism. I remember looking out from a huge hole blown into a tourist haven, Jerusalem's King David Hotel.) That terrorism's result: a democracy.

This comment was left there:

On Menachem Begin, Elliot writes: "[the Irgun] violence discouraged the British from continuing their protectorate."

They were charged with a Mandate to reconstitute the Jewish national home by the League of Nations in 1922. Big difference. This wasn't a matter of British colonialism but a betrayal of international trust.

and also he writes of "(Killing tourism was one aspect of Begin's terrorism. I remember looking out from a huge hole blown into a tourist haven, Jerusalem's King David Hotel.)"

While tourism surely would have been affected byt the attack, it was solely the southern wing of the hotel which was targeted, which had been for the previous seven (7!) years expropriated by the Brisih Mandatory government and the British Army to be used as offices. The section attacked was not a "civilian" target directed against "tourists" as could be inferred.

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Monday, July 5, 2010

Menachem Begin and The Late Rebbe of Chabad

Dan Patir is just above Rabbi Schneerson's head

Here you can read a letter of Rabbi Schneerson, which reads, in part:-

...I have in mind the visit of Prime Minister Menachem Begin, and no doubt you also had an opportunity of meeting him and have evaluated the results of his visit to the USA.

One of the obvious elements of the Prime Minister’s visit is that it has demonstrated once again how vitally important it is for our people in the Holy Land to have strong and viable Jewish communities in the outside world. For, however important aliyah is, it would be a mixed blessing if it were to erode the Jewish voice and influence in such strategically important countries as the USA and others....

...Such identification is not limited to the home and synagogue or when one is in the society of fellow Jews, but it must be evident everywhere, even among non-Jews, and even in the White House, with truly Jewish self-respect and avowed trust in G-d, the Guardian of Israel, and with pride in our Jewish heritage and traditions—as was so eminently expressed in word and deed by Prime Minister Begin. It is the general consensus that this worthy deportment of the Jewish representative during his first encounter with the President of the USA had an immensely favorable impact and has established a personal rapport between the two leaders which will hopefully have far-reaching beneficial results also in terms of American support.

I trust you have followed closely the highlights and details of this visit and compared it with those of his predecessors. Here, for the first time, came a Jewish Prime Minister who declared in a loud and clear voice that he comes strengthened by the prayers of his fellow Jews at home and abroad and trusts in G-d and the security of his people that his mission will be successful. And, as you surely know, when he sat down to break bread with President Carter, he made sure that it would be a kosher meal, and as he put on a yarmulke and made a bracha and explained to the President the meaning of it. All of which has earned him the respect and admiration of the President and of all others who came in contact with him...


Saturday, July 3, 2010

Begin, Israel TV and Haim Yavin

In a book review of Haim Yavin's "Over Masakh (Mr. Television)", literally: "Screen Presence", Yedioth Ahronoth Books (Hebrew), 408 pages, Yossi Sarid notes this:-

Yavin's autobiography is characterized above all by personal honesty. Though he recognizes his own worth, he doesn't let himself off easy. Yavin sees himself as merely a public servant who wants to return home every day with a clear conscience. Referring to the predecessor of the Labor Party, he writes: "I'm a Mapainik, a bit of a sabra, a bit European, I believe in compromise as a way of life, I'm in favor of mediation." Elsewhere in the book he adds: "By nature I'm not a real leftist."

"Mr. Television" is the story of a man from the political center who eventually became a reluctant leftist and gradually got used to being labeled as such. It didn't happen to Yavin alone. It happened to quite a number of people who underwent a metamorphosis when they could no longer "stand on the sidelines in light of the injustice that we caused" the Palestinians, "that we are causing them." At a given moment they decide to shed the "objectivity" that they have held on to all their lives, "to go out into the world without concealing my opinions and emotions, and with an unequivocal statement in favor of freedom, justice, equality, peace."

...When exactly did Yavin's sobering-up process begin? It seems that even the author has a hard time determining that. Perhaps it was with the well-known raised-eyebrow incident. Yavin explains that during a broadcast of Channel 1's "Mabat" nightly news program, which he anchored for 40 years until retiring in 2008, "I raised an eyebrow at the end of a speech by [prime minister Menachem] Begin. Some time later, Yoram Ronen came to interview the prime minister. Begin posited a condition: The interview would be broadcast in full, without editing, and if Mr. Yavin made a funny face, his face would stay that way."

'Would I hurt you, Mr. Yavin?'

Then a hue and cry arose. The Labor Alignment denounced "the violent Begin," Yavin writes, "and Yossi Sarid asked a question in the Knesset: 'Will Begin knock Mr. Yavin's face out of joint by himself, or will he send the Likud thugs?'" Look, even I am suddenly part of Yavin's memories.

Begin later regretted his statement, and when he next ran into Yavin, he patted his head and told him in a conciliatory tone: "What happened to them, Mr. Yavin? They totally lost their sense of humor. Would I hurt you? After all, I like you."

Irgun Operation Documented in Photograph

The damage done to Police H.Q. at the Russian Compound in Jerusalem by an Irgun attack on Dec. 27, 1945

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Color-blind Because of Revisionism and Begin

Amnon Rubinstein, Professor of law at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, former minister of education and MK and the recipient of the 2006 Israel Prize in Law, expresses his pride in the heritage of the Revisionist movement and the approach of Menachem Begin:

Born a color-blind Ashkenazi

The recent exclusion of Sephardi girls from a Beit Ya'acov school in Emmanuel raises afresh the issue of equality between Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews in Israel. Whenever this issue rears its head, I feel that I am on the wrong side. I am an Ashkenazi. Furthermore, I am an Ashkenazi born to a bourgeois Polish-Jewish family. However, I was born color-blind.

The color, or ethnic origin of human beings never meant a thing to me. Perhaps my color-blindness was caused by my childhood in a right-wing Revisionist family.

The national strife against the British rulers, the fight for independence united all ethnic groups within the Irgun.

One of my most memorable memories was the joint suicide of Meir Feinstein, an Ashkenazi, and Moshe Barazami, an Iraqi Jew, a short time before they were due to be hanged by the British Mandatory regime. A hand grenade was smuggled into their cell by the Irgun and both of them blew themselves up hugging each other. When Menachem Begin mentioned their self-sacrifice in an election rally in 1981, my old Revisionist blood rushed to my head. I was a Shinui man then, but remembering these two martyrs, my Revisionist childhood woke up inside me.

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Mazal Tov to Al Reich! 85 Years Old!

Alfred H. Reich, philanthropist, celebrated his 85th birthday this month.

Surrounded by friends and former colleagues, Al shared his pride in his major contribution to the Museum in the Menachem Begin Heritage Center – a gift to Jewish people in the land of Israel.

Herzl Makov, chairman, sent a Mazal Tov letter joining virtually the Jewish community in Al’s native town of Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Mazal Tov Al – may you be blessed with many years of good health and joy with a hope to see you soon in Jerusalem!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Ten Fingers vs. One Mouth

One More Rubinstein Story . . . [Jay Nordlinger]

. . . and one I just learned yesterday, as it happens. I was talking to Yehuda Avner, not about Rubinstein, but about Menachem Begin. Avner is a British-born Israeli who has counseled a slew of prime ministers — including Begin. In the ’80s — the Thatcher ’80s — Avner served as ambassador to the Court of St. James’s.

Anyway, we got on the subject of Rubinstein. He and Begin were friends — they certainly knew each other. In fact, Rubinstein was at the Begins’ the day the prime minister won the Nobel Peace Prize, with Sadat. Begin asked him to played [sic] something in celebration — which he did. Anyway, here’s the story that Avner related:

The politician says to the pianist, “Mr. Rubinstein, you have ten fingers, I have ten fingers. And when I place my ten fingers on the keyboard, I just make noise. When you place your ten fingers on the keyboard, you produce celestial sounds.” Pianist to politician: “Mr. Begin, I have a mouth, you have a mouth. When I open my mouth, I talk drivel. When you open your mouth, you produce celestial words.”

You may not remember Begin as much of an orator or an arguer, probably because his international reputation — shaped by the Left — is negative. But he was very good, believe me.

Anyway, I think I’m done with Rubinstein stories for the day. I may be back with Heifetz . . .

Report On the Lechi Commemoration Anniversary Event

Lehi vets celebrate 70th anniversary


Former soldiers of the "Stern gang" gather in Jerusalem.

Most of the people who crowded into the auditorium of the Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem last week were in their eighties and nineties. All of them, some with bent backs, others in wheel chairs or walking with the aid of canes were former heroes and heroines recruited by the charismatic Avraham Stern, whose nom de guerre was Yair, to join the Lehi, an acronym for Lohamei Herut Israel (the Israel Freedom Fighters).

They had been anonymous soldiers without uniforms and they had passionately believed in Stern’s credo, the foundation of which was redeeming the land of Israel in accordance with the boundaries set down in the Bible, reestablishing its sovereignty and driving out any foreign occupier.

Following the Arab riots of 1929, Stern joined the Haganah, but found it be too moderate in its policy. He joined the breakaway movement known as the Irgun, or Etzel, an acronym for Tzva Hagana L’Israel (the Israel Defense Army). The Irgun split over ideological issues. Some of its members returned to the Haganah.

Others followed Stern, who unlike Irgun leader David Raziel, who regarded the Arab front as the confrontation line, saw the British as the principal enemy. Stern and his anonymous soldiers were dedicated to getting rid of the British one way or another.

The Irgun was willing to suspend anti- British activities and to even join the British in battling the Nazis, but Stern was convinced that sovereign statehood could be achieved only by continuing the struggle against the British.

While every speaker referred to this, none mentioned that he was even prepared to collaborate with the Nazis in his bid to repel the British who regarded him as a terrorist.

This was however mentioned by Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who noted that the British referred to Stern’s followers as The Stern Gang.

The group’s dedication to the cause is expressed in the Lehi hymn penned by Stern. Two lines in the first verse state: “We are recruited for life to be released only by death.” Addressing the veterans, Stern’s son, veteran broadcaster Yair Stern, who bears a remarkable resemblance to the father he never knew who was killed by the British in 1942, reminded them: “You embraced Yair’s vision because you believed in the liberation of the nation.” He noted that the Lehi’s ranks included Sephardim and Ashkenazim, religious and secular, haredim from Mea Shearim and Arabs from Abu Ghosh whose common denominator was the desire to be rid of foreign rule.

Begin Center director Herzl Makov termed Lehi “the pillar of fire that went before the camp.”

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin noted that the time had come to give the much maligned Lehi and its soldiers their due recognition and to correct the errors of history. It was important to reexamine the events and values of those days, he said. There were differences between all the clandestine groups, but their common ambition was much greater than what divided them.

It was not easy to explain to today’s youth that have grown up in Israel that they take for granted what induced the establishment of the Etzel and the Lehi, said Rivlin, who underscored that Israel still faces an existential threat. “The world is still the same world.”

Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat’s parents Shulamit and Azriel Weiss- Livnat were prominent figures in the Lehi, and Shulamit Livnat, a well-known singer, was the Etzel and the Lehi singer. Livnat said that she had passed the torch onto the third generation and had named her son Yair. All three generations were seated together in the front row of the auditorium.

Israel still has to contend with anti- Semitism, enemies and “people who hate us,” Livnat said, emphasizing that it was too early to disband the IDF.

Alluding to evader of IDF service, Livnat said that young people today do not fall short of those of yesteryear, “they just need direction.” What distinguished the Lehi, she continued, is that no one saw themselves as exempt from the battle.

“They were recruited for life, and today we have to take the same attitude.”

Ya’alon, who was not raised upon the ideology of the Etzel or the Lehi, admitted that he had grown up with very negative perceptions of the Lehi, whose fighters were described as extremists and were sometimes compared to terrorists.

In later life he had studied the history and ideology of the Lehi, and reached the conclusion that attitudes towards it followed the Bolshevik system of delegitimizing the enemy.

Ya’alon concurred with the Rivlin that history must be re-examined and that Israeli students must study precisely what it was that motivated the Lehi leaders. Like speakers before and after him, Ya’alon spelled out the message that “the existential war is not yet over, and we have no-one to rely on but ourselves. The situation today is no different to what it was then.” Almost everyone who spoke drew a parallel with the past. The approval of the audience was palpable, especially during the address of MK Arieh Eldad, whose father Israel Eldad, an ultra right-wing nationalist, had been the Lehi ideologue and editor of its publications.

Echoing Livnat’s statement that the time has not yet come to disband the IDF, Eldad added: “I have bad news for you. The time has not yet come to disband the Lehi.” Zionism was born as a solution to anti-Semitism in the diaspora, said Eldad, with the understanding that the problem could not be solved in the diaspora. “Yair understood that Zionism was not the panacea for anti- Semitism, and he didn’t want the Land of Israel to be a haven. He wanted a return of sovereign rule in the Jewish homeland.” Eldad questioned whether Israel was indeed a haven, pointing out that more than 22,000 soldiers have paid the supreme sacrifice, “and even now nuclear weapons are being produced for the purpose of eradicating the Jews.”

Eldad who is opposed to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, declared: “We can never come to terms with any foreign power ruling on our land, ruling us, supervising us, fighting for us, or treating us as victims.

Allowing the Palestinians to establish a state is tantamount to saying that the land does not belong to us. Anyone who agrees to a Palestinian state cannot be considered a fighter for the freedom of Israel.”

Eldad justified the assassination by Lehi in September 1948 of Swedish diplomat Count Folk Bernadotte, the United Nations mediator between the Arabs and the Jews saying, “Count Bernadotte wanted to internationalize Jerusalem. In response the Lehi killed him. With his death, the concept of taking Jerusalem away from the Jewish people died with him.”

The heroism of the Lehi is not just a myth or a legend, he continued. “It’s a vision which we have yet to complete.”

Sunday, June 13, 2010

More On The Iraqi Bombing

Letter responding to Richard Allen's piece:

June 11, 2010

An Earlier Israeli Raid, When Reagan Was President

To the Editor:

While “Reagan’s Secure Line,” by Richard V. Allen (Op-Ed, June 7), presents an interesting and useful insight into President Ronald Reagan’s attitude toward the Israeli air raid in June 1981 that destroyed the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq, it calls for several comments.

First, Mr. Allen said that the raid “dealt a fatal blow to Saddam Hussein’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon.” This was not the case at all; it drove the Iraqi program underground, causing Iraq to enhance and conceal its nuclear weapon program.
Indeed, Shimon Peres, who was then opposition leader and is now Israel’s president, was critical of the strike then and for years afterward for just this reason. After the first Persian Gulf war, it was determined that the Iraqi regime was perhaps only two years away from a nuclear weapon.

Second, Mr. Allen notes that Secretary of State Alexander Haig, against his inclination, authorized “criticism” of Israel as a result of pressure from inside the bureaucracy of the State Department and from other countries. But the United States did more than simply criticize Israel; it joined in a unanimous Security Council resolution that condemned Israel, calling its actions a violation of the United Nations Charter and the norms of international conduct. President Reagan was the head of the United States government when this happened.

This event ultimately did not disturb United States-Israeli relations, and given the nature of the Iraqi regime, Israel’s actions may well have been justified by history. Nevertheless, what was involved was a significant military assault on the territory of a sovereign state on the one hand, and on the other hand, the real possibility of nuclear weapons in the hands of Saddam Hussein.

Thus, the 1981 event should not be suggested as a precedent in either direction for the current incidents related to the blockade of Gaza.

Thomas Graham Jr.
McLean, Va., June 8, 2010

The writer is a former special representative of President Clinton for arms control, nonproliferation and disarmament, 1994-97.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Osirak Recalled

Reagan’s Secure Line

WITH a controversial Israeli attack in the news, I have thought back to another controversial Israeli attack, one that took place 29 years ago today: the strike on the Osirak nuclear reactor under construction in Iraq. The daring, risky bombing dealt a fatal blow to Saddam Hussein’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon. I was then President Ronald Reagan’s national security adviser, after having been his chief foreign policy adviser for several years.

That Sunday afternoon, I was on my back porch in Arlington, Va., wading through a small mountain of staff memorandums, reports, diplomatic cables and the rest of my perpetually mounting paperwork. My progress was interrupted by a call on the “drop line” direct link from the communications center next to the White House Situation Room; the duty officer was requesting that I go to the special secure line, kept in a safe in my basement.

After a few fumbles with the rotary dial, I opened the safe, inserted the current secure chip and connected to the comm center. On the scratchy connection, the duty officer reported that Israeli warplanes were returning from their mission in Iraq, and were by then over Saudi airspace. Oddly, the aircraft, F-16’s and F-15’s, were thought to be unable to make a round trip to Iraq: Israel couldn’t refuel its planes in the air and landing between the two countries was considered unthinkable.

Equipped with this fragmentary information, I requested constant updates, then hastily connected to the White House switchboard and asked to be put through to President Reagan. Within seconds, an officer at Camp David answered; I directed him to get the president on the line immediately. He hesitated, then said, “Sorry, sir, he is just boarding the chopper here.”

I ordered the officer to get the president off the helicopter and to the phone without delay, but he demurred, indicating that the president might not like to be recalled. I suggested that if he wasn’t immediately brought to the phone, there would be consequences. I could hear the whirring of the helicopter blades in the background.

In what seemed an eternity but was only two minutes or so, President Reagan was on the line, a slight note of irritation in his voice: “Yes, Dick, what is it?” I quickly recited what happened, and he asked me to repeat the message. After pausing for a few seconds, he asked, “Why do you suppose they did that?” My answer was something to the effect that the Israelis clearly did not want that reactor to become operational.

He went silent, and the phone line again filled with the churning of the copter. With characteristic aplomb, he suddenly asked: “Well, you know what?” I said, “What, Mr. President?” His retort was classic: “Boys will be boys!”

This was typical Reagan. He could simultaneously recognize the long-range strategic consequences and appreciate the seriousness of the situation — then cut to the chase with a pithy comment. I said I would have a report by the time the helicopter landed back at the White House.

The next day, with all hell breaking loose in the newspapers and on TV, cabinet members and senior staff members held a long, animated Oval Office meeting and tried to assess the impact of the sensational strike from every angle.

The vigorous discussion provided some surprises, including the opinions presented by Vice President George H. W. Bush; the chief of staff, James Baker; and the president’s omnipresent aide, Michael Deaver. They argued strongly for punitive actions against Israel, including taking back aircraft and delaying or canceling scheduled deliveries. There also came the unexpected news that several important Middle East countries, while publicly professing outrage and dismay, were privately pleased.

Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger was angry, but measured, while Secretary of State Alexander Haig carefully presented the diplomatic concerns. As he explained to me before the meeting, Haig was inclined to stand by Israel, but great pressure from within the State Department and from other countries prompted him to be less vocal and ultimately to authorize official American criticism of Israel. The C.I.A. director, William J. Casey, was circumspect; like Haig, he understood the president’s views well. I said nothing. The president himself said little, listening patiently.

Even today, few people realize that in the years before his presidency, Reagan devoted himself to foreign-policy study, filling his hours with reading, correspondence, travel abroad and briefings with experts. There were actually disagreements among advisers about the wisdom of his devoting so much time to these substantive tasks, some considering this work marginal to political or other considerations. But as a result of his extensive preparation, Reagan developed deeply held principles on foreign policy, and while he was always willing to listen to opposing perspectives, he was not easily persuaded to yield.

When the session concluded, I lingered behind. The president looked up from the papers on his desk. “Well, what did you think of all that?” he asked. I suggested that he had basically heard all points of view — and that I had heard his comment the day before. He smiled, and returned to the papers on his desk.

By the end of the year, the United States and Israel had signed a strategic cooperation agreement.

Richard V. Allen, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, was the national security adviser to President Ronald Reagan from 1981 to 1982.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Quandt Memo

From Daniel Pipes' Blog:-

William Quandt's Embarrassing Memo
by Daniel Pipes
May 24, 2010

While working on documents at the Carter Center, a researcher from the Menachem Begin Heritage Center came across a declassified action memorandum from William Quandt, Middle East specialist on the National Security Council, to his boss, Zbigniew Brzezinski. (Click here for the document in full.) Dated May 18, 1977, it was written just one day after Begin's breakthrough victory over Labor, the first time any other party had beaten Labor since the State of Israel had been founded 29 years earlier.

The memo makes for deliciously instructive reading. Count the mistakes in Quandt's opening analysis:

Much of our strategy toward the Arab-Israeli conflict has been predicated on the assumption that a strong and moderate Israeli government would at some point be able to make difficult decisions on territory and on the Palestinians. Now we face the prospect of a very weak coalition, a prolonged period of uncertainty, and an Israeli leadership which may be significantly more assertive in its policies concerning the West Bank, Palestinians, settlements, and nuclear weapons.

The Arabs will no doubt read the Israeli election results as signifying an end to the chance of getting to Geneva this year, and possibly the end of any hope for a political settlement, and we may see them begin to take out insurance by patching up quarrels with the Soviets, digging in their heels on peace terms, and acting more belligerently on oil prices.

In fact, Begin's government made the difficult decisions Labor had not taken, his coalition endured, the Egyptians became more forthcoming, their rift from the Soviets deepened, and oil prices were not affected (until the fall of the shah shot them up).

The rest of the memo consists mainly of five bullet points in which Quandt outlines tactics by which to weaken Begin, with this passage the key to the approach:

Begin should be allowed to make his own mistakes. If he takes positions in his talks with us that preclude the continuation of our peace initiative, we should not hesitate to explain what has happened. Israelis can then draw their own conclusions, and perhaps the next election in 1978 or 1979 will produce different results.

In fact, Begin won reelection in June 1981 and his successors went on to dominate Israeli politics for 27 out of the next 33 years. But by 1981, of course, American voters had thrown Jimmy Carter out of office, meaning that Brzezinski no longer needed Quandt's sage advice.


(1) Asked to comment on these documents, the director-general of the Begin Heritage Center, Herzl Makov, noted their relevance to current U.S.-Israel relations: "It's interesting to see history repeat itself. Just like now, we see that the Carter administration made every mistake possible about the political situation in Israel, I think that in 30 years, studies will show that the Obama administration made the same mistakes. History will tell which administration was worse for Israel."

(2) In this memo, Quandt – who has a Ph.D. in political science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and went on to become president of the Middle East Studies Association as well as the Edward R. Stettinius, Jr. professor of politics at the University of Virginia – neatly encapsulates the incompetence of academically trained Middle East specialists. (May 24, 2010)

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Begin's "White Nights' in Polish Translation

Menachem Begin's classic prisoner diary, "White Nights", has just been published in a Polish language translation.

The Begin Center was a major facilatator in this project.

The cover:

Monday, May 24, 2010

Begin Didn't Fall

Carter thought Begin would fall fast, new documents show

US president Jimmy Carter’s administration tried to undermine prime minister Menachem Begin’s government from the moment he got elected in 1977, documents published by Yediot Aharonot over the weekend reveal.

The newspaper published a letter written to Carter’s national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski by the head of the Mideast desk on the council, William Quandt, the day after Begin’s landmark first election victory, whose 33rd anniversary was marked by the Likud last week.

In the letter, Quandt suggests not putting too much pressure on Begin at first and “allowing him to make his own mistakes” that would encourage Israelis to elect a more dovish prime minister in a year or two. It shows how the Carter administration interpreted the transfer of power from Left to Right as temporary when, in hindsight, the Center-Right has been in power for all but six of the last 33 years.

“Much of our strategy toward the Arab-Israeli conflict has been predicated on the assumption that a strong and moderate Israeli government would at some point be able to make difficult decisions on territory and on the Palestinians,” Quandt wrote Brzezinski. “Now we face the prospect of a very weak coalition, a prolonged period of uncertainty, and an Israeli leadership which may be significantly more assertive in its policies concerning the West Bank, Palestinians, settlements and nuclear weapons.”

Quandt said that due to Begin’s election victory, chances for Middle East peace looked bleak. He cautioned against appearing to interfere in Israeli politics, but suggested doing just that.

“We should do nothing in public to indicate disappointment with the Likud victory,” he wrote. “Instead, we should continue to talk of the importance of [the peace process], the requirements of a comprehensive peace, and the need for flexibility.

“By our actions, we do not want to increase support for Begin, which might occur if we reassess our policy too quickly,” Quandt wrote.

“At the same time, Israeli voters should know that a hard-line government will not find it easy to manage the US-Israel relationship.

“Intransigence must be seen to carry a price tag, but we should not be seen as the bully. Begin should be allowed to make his own mistakes. If he takes positions in his talks with us that preclude the continuation of our peace initiative, we should not hesitate to explain what has happened. Israelis can then draw their own conclusions, and perhaps the next election in 1978 or 1979 will produce different results.”

Quandt suggested that American support for Begin’s government would be less than it was for its predecessors and expressed hope that this could allow the Carter administration to make contacts with Palestinians and sell arms to Egypt, who were both in a state of war with Israel at the time.

“We should not rush in these directions, but at the right time we may be able to act without fear of a serious domestic backlash,” he wrote.

The Carter administration even sponsored polls in Israel, a month after the election, that found that support for the Likud was already falling.

While the Carter administration was actively trying to undermine Begin, Brzezinski sent Begin a letter calling him “His Excellency,” praising his modesty and candor, and recalling past meetings “with pleasure.”

Herzl Makov, director-general of the capital’s Menachem Begin Heritage Center, whose researchers discovered the documents at the Carter Center in Atlanta, said they provided important lessons for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in his current dealings with US President Barack Obama.

“It’s interesting to see history repeat itself,” Makov told The Jerusalem Post. “Just like we see now that the Carter administration made every mistake possible about the political situation in Israel, I think that in 30 years, studies will show that the Obama administration made the same mistakes. History will tell which administration was worse for Israel."

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Will Deir Yassin Documentation Become Available?

Army may release all Deir Yassin docs

Are the events that took place in Deir Yassin so sensitive that 62 years later, the state still refuses to release all of the documents and photos stored in the IDF archive to the public?

That is the question facing Supreme Court Deputy President Eliezer Rivlin and Justices Edna Arbel and Neal Hendel in the wake of a petition heard earlier this week.

The petition was filed by Haaretz, its reporter Gidi Weitz, and Neta Shoshani, a student at the Bezalel Art School in Jerusalem.

The battle of Deir Yassin, a village on the western outskirts of Jerusalem, was one of the most controversial of the War of Independence. It took place in April 1948, one month before the State of Israel was declared. There have been charges that units of the Etzel (Irgun) and Lehi (Stern Group) undergrounds massacred dozens of Palestinian civilians in the village and forced the survivors to flee.

According to the current Archive Law, the state may withhold publication of state documents for 50 years if the material is regarded as endangering Israel’s security or foreign relations or for other reasons determined by the state archivist.

If, at the end of 50 years, the material is still regarded as too problematic to be revealed, the state archivist may ask a ministerial committee responsible for this matter to extend the publication ban.

In 2006, Shoshani asked to see the material on Deir Yassin that she wanted to use for her art school final project. The moratorium on the disclosure of the material related to Deir Yassin had ended in 1998.

Nevertheless, Shoshani was allowed to see only some of the material in the archive and was refused access to other documents and photos she had requested. She was told the ministerial committee had extended the ban beyond the 50 year-limit.

Shoshani then turned to a lawyer who wrote several letters to the Ministry of Defense asking it to explain why she had been refused. The last letter was sent on September 10, 2007.

On September 19, 2007, the secretary of the ministerial committee wrote to the lawyer, informing him that 10 days earlier, the committee had extended the ban on publication of some of the documents and photos pertaining to Deir Yassin for five more years, until 2012. It seemed obvious to the petitioners that when Shoshani had first asked for the photos, some time between March and June 2007, the publication ban had expired and not yet been extended.

Haaretz took up Shoshani’s cause and petitioned the High Court of Justice.

In addition to the photos sought by the student, the paper demanded to see reports on the conquest of Deir Yassin written by military historian Meir Pa’il, at the time an intelligence officer in the Hagana, and several other documents and photos.

The state told the court that publication of these documents could harm Israel’s foreign relations, especially in view of the peace negotiations with the Palestinians, and could exacerbate tensions with the Israeli-Arab community.

Attorney Paz Mozer, representing the petitioners, argued that not only had the state extended the ban only after Shoshani had asked to see the documents, the public had a right to obtain more information about the battle, whose details have been in dispute all these years.

“Many stories have been published about Deir Yassin and the importance of the event is obvious,” he argued. “There is no reason that after 60 years, not all of the material found in the archive should be available to the public.”

After the attorneys for both sides
completed their pleas, Shirman presented the censored documents and photos to the panel of three High Court justices, Rivlin, Arbel and Hendler. The justices briefly cleared the courtroom and began studying the material, but after a few minutes called the parties back and told them they would hand down their decision at a later date.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Menachem Begin - Conspicuously Missing

In the infamous speech made by General James Jones, President Barack Obama's National Security Advisor, at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy at the Ritz-Carlton, Washington, DC on April 21, - although the White House transcript avoids the rather unseemly "Jewish" joke he told, - he mentionedf peacemakers.

It is time for all leaders in the region—Israeli, Palestinian, and Arab—to support efforts for peace. It is time for today’s leader to demonstrate the courage and leadership of Anwar Sadat, King Hussein, and Yitzhak Rabin.

Menachem Begin is too conspicuously missing.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Wreath-Laying for Feinstein and Barazani

Yisrael Medad laying a wreath at the Gallows Chamber on the Remembrance Day for Israel's War Fallen to commemorate the deaths of Meir Feinstein and Moshe Barazani: