Thursday, May 26, 2011

Begin Mobilized On Behalf of A Palestinian State

By Begin's logic, the Palestinians should have a state

Those rejecting a future independent Palestinian state as an Iranian proxy must have missed the history lesson of the establishment of a strikingly similar small country not far away.

By Ron Ben-Tovim

In "The Revolt," his seminal depiction of the Jewish resistance against British rule in Palestine, Irgun chief and future Prime Minister Menachem Begin often returns to his interrogation at the hands of the Soviets. These references apparently are intended to counter a contemporary communist argument raised during these interrogations, that the Zionist movement was a hoax, a "puppet show," meant to divert attention from the Jews' revolutionary role in Europe and turn them into a tool for British imperialism in the Middle East.

"This talk of a State conceals the true purpose of Zionism - which is to divert the Jewish youth from the ranks of the revolution in Europe and put them at the disposal of British imperialism in the Middle East. This is the kernel of Zionism. All the rest is artificial shell, deliberately made to deceive."

Begin, of course, repeatedly balks at these claims, referencing centuries of Jewish craving to return to their historical homeland and flee from the kind of persecution and massacre made manifest at that time by the camps and furnaces of Europe.

Later, Begin repeatedly cites the deep chasm running between British imperialist objectives – for which, he said, they were more than willing to sacrifice the Jews – and the very real, heartfelt Jewish desire for freedom from both persecution and foreign rule.

In one famous metaphor, Begin tells his Soviet interrogator that the need to establish a Jewish state was not a purely theoretical ambition, one motivated by either a revolutionary or a counter-revolutionary movement, but was like saving a family from a burning house. In other words, urgent and real.

Begin is asking his Soviet interrogator to disregard for a moment the political powers at play, undoubtedly necessary for the creation of Israel, and look the hopes and dreams of real people: People that care for their children, that cry out against injustice, that find life hard, if not sometimes impossible, when lived under the specter of constant foreign occupation, exile, and persecution.

Real people that crave real self-determination.

Yet as convincing as Begin's arguments were, the tendency (typified here by the Soviets) to subjugate human needs with purely geopolitical considerations have far from disappeared from the Middle East. Indeed, they have become the official line of the State of Israel.

Objections to the creation of an independent, viable Palestinian state often run the gamut of the kind of conspiracy theories realized by Begin's interrogator, opinions made strikingly evident since peace talks with the Palestinian Authority lost momentum (if indeed such momentum ever existed) late last year.

"A Palestinian state would function as an Iranian proxy," one version of this argument goes. In another: "A Palestinian state would in effect act as a place holder, allowing weapons and terrorist groups to flow uninterrupted, putting larger cities such as Tel Aviv in range of rocket fire and closing crucial buffer zones protecting central Israel from bombing attacks."

These arguments have been instrumental in the creation of several hardened positions, such as those lamenting the "indefensible" 1967 borders, a demilitarized Palestine, or "the need to retain an Israeli military presence in the Jordan Valley" (the latter two ostensibly to prevent the flow of weapons into the newly formed Palestine), and so on. But most importantly, they have served to delegitimize the entire Palestinian quest for self-determination.

The actual argument, similar to the Communist claim, is that the Palestinian desire for a state is not genuine, that the Palestinians do not truly seek self-determination, and, in some cases, might not even mind Israeli occupation that much. And let's not forget those who insist the Palestinian population is now "better off." (Whatever that might mean).

The Palestinians, they say, seek a stronghold - one erected by faceless Arabs. And once completed, one which could be filled with the kind of faceless Arabs that seek Israel's destruction, if not the annihilation of the entire Jewish people.

The beauty of Begin's nuanced commentary on the criticism of Zionism, what I would term his turn toward the human, seems completely lost on proponents of the aforementioned positions. The consequence of this blindness to a facet of nationhood so close to our own is - as the unshakable leader of the dream of an Israel on both sides of the Jordan River must have understood - tantamount to a loss of humanity. It is a faceless doctrine that crushes individual lives.

What proponents of such anti-human stances also apparently fail to see is that while it is possible that certain political powers have nefarious intentions regarding a Palestinian state, it is nevertheless true that the establishment of Israel may not have been endorsed solely by those with the Jews' best interests in mind. In fact, Western imperialism, expansionism, trade, religion and, perhaps above all, racism, played a significant part in the establishment of the State of Israel.
The dangers of foreign influence, whether Iranian or other, are of course real. They are, however, as real to us as the fear of Western imperialism and exploitation was real to every other country in our region over Israel's creation.

To understand that, finally, is to let go of the fears of an Iranian outpost. Not because those fears are unfounded, but because they are not what should determine how Israel treats its neighbors. To mistrust those who, in good times and bad, live alongside Israel and share its fate is to perpetuate those nefarious motivations for Israel's foundation, to prefer blind dogma over the real and the human.

This is something Begin understood, and his nearsighted followers of today do not. We must live with those who share our fate, not rely on a culture that while instrumental in establishing Israel, should have been discarded immediately after. And that is why the former prime minister remains the only Israeli leader to sign a peace deal that actually had substance, both in terms of Israel's integration in the region and its security.

Begin's vision should help us understand that as long as we refuse to come to terms with both our own desires and those of the people around us and among us, we shall never be fully here. That to be fully here is to sever the umbilical cord of dogma and start - as Begin himself did in 1979 - to live with our neighbors, whether they are truly the proxies of the Islamic Republic of Iran or not.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Tom Segev of Haaretz on the New Begin Center Map of Jerusalem

In the footsteps of terror

Menachem Begin regularly rejected any comparison between the terrorist acts carried out by members of the Irgun (pre-state underground militia) and the actions of Palestinian terrorists; he claimed that in contrast to the Arabs, the Irgun - his organization - spared civilians' lives. Begin was even more angered when Irgun members were called "dissenters" and cast out from the pantheon of Israeli heroism. After he became prime minister, he frequently took the trouble to correct the historical narrative, and after his death, the Menachem Begin Heritage Center was founded, which operates by force of a special law, at the state's expense.

The center has just put out a map for travelers. The Begin Center takes pride in the terrorist acts that Irgun and Lehi (another pre-state militia) members carried out; the map it published leads travelers along a route of those attacks in Jerusalem.

It is a large and eye-opening map, lavishly printed on glossy paper. There are a total of 165 flag markers on it, the vast majority of them denoting terror attacks perpetrated by members of Irgun and Lehi, and a minority marking acts by members of the Haganah and Palmach. Contrary to Begin's claims, the map enumerates a long series of outright terror attacks, including bombings of places where civilians tended to congregate, such as buses, cafes, markets, a cinema, a post office and the like. The terror attacks are termed "acts of retaliation."

The chronology of terror attacks that accompanies the map strengthens the thesis that no less than they were intended to hurt the Arabs and the British, the actions of the various organizations were designed to bolster their standing, in anticipation of the struggle over the governing of the state about to be established, and it's hard not to get the impression from the map that this competition continues to this day.

As expected, the map shows that the Irgun did much more for the country than the Haganah. The number of Arabs the Irgun killed is almost quadruple the number of Arabs the Haganah killed (according to the map a total of around 250. In actuality there were more ). Some 60 British were also eliminated, nearly all of them by the Irgun and Lehi. The Haganah mainly ran interference: According to the map, one in every four actions it carried out was aimed at hurting the Irgun, by abducting its members and disrupting its activities. There is no mention of the Haganah's efforts to defend the Jewish Quarter, or of the Hish, the secretive field corps of the Haganah, or of the convoys that brought supplies to the besieged city, or of the Convoy of 35 ("Lamed Heh" ), or of other actions. On Mount Scopus a traveler relying on the map will find a marker for "the Haganah's failed attempt to conquer Augusta Victoria." The truly significant event that occurred nearby is not referenced on the map at all: the attack on the doctors' convoy in April 1948, in which 78 people, mostly personnel from Hadassah Hospital and the Hebrew University, were killed. One may speculate as to why this incident has no place in Begin's heritage. Perhaps it is because the convoy was traveling under the Haganah's protection; perhaps because Irgun and Lehi members did not rush to its defense; and perhaps because the attack came just a few days after the conquest of Deir Yassin by Irgun and Lehi members.

The Deir Yassin affair is described on the map at length; as expected, the text portrays the conquest of the village as a military operation in every way, and does not mention the death of more than 110 Palestinians, and states: "About a third of the Irgun's and Lehi's fighting force was hurt by the gunfire and sustained many dead and wounded." The map does not note the numbers: 35 wounded and five dead.

Our response will be forthcoming.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

On The Altalena

Prof. Jerry Auerbach conducted research at the Begin Center Library and Archives for his forthcoming book on the Altalena arms ship of June 1948. Here is his recent article from The Jewish Press:

Why should anyone remember a notorious pariah ship from Israel's war for independence? If for no other reason (and there are many), because it is likely to resurface from the depths of memory should Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, if and when they ever begin, focus on Jewish settlements.

The prospect of expelling thousands of Jews from the biblical homeland of the Jewish people will surely widen, perhaps violently and irreparably, the deep chasm that already separates secular from religious Israelis. Such a dangerously polarizing conflict has not roiled Israel for more than sixty years. When it did, in 1948, it brought the fledgling Jewish state to the precipice of civil war.

During its first weeks of independence, Israel confronted a military invasion from five Arab nations that were determined to annihilate it. The new state was already battered from months of Palestinian Arab violence within its porously unstable borders, climaxing with the fall of the Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem. Israel was desperate for an infusion of weapons and fighters to prevent its annihilation.

Enter the Altalena, with more than nine hundred Holocaust survivors, war refugees and fighters, and tons of desperately needed military supplies. It sailed for Israel from Port-du-Bouc in southern France on June 11, the day when a month-long United Nations ceasefire began. Inspired, funded, and provisioned by loyalists of Menachem Begin's Irgun, it would join the roster of ill-fated ships that had exemplified the Zionist struggle to rescue Jews from annihilation and return them to their homeland.

If the Exodus - popularized in the romantic novel by Leon Uris that became an iconic Hollywood movie - is still revered as the valiant ship, the Altalena instantly became the reviled pariah ship. It arrived with the permission of the Israeli government - meaning Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion - at Kfar Vitkin, north of Netanya, on June 21. While weapons were unloaded on the beach, fighters were taken to a nearby immigrant camp to prepare for induction into the army.

But Ben-Gurion, fearing a right-wing insurrection, ordered the beach surrounded. Altalena passenger Dov Shilansky encountered an Israeli soldier in a command car. "I spoke to him in Hebrew," he recalled. "It was my first speech in Israel." Shilansky (who, forty years later, became Speaker of the Knesset) told him: "We've just arrived. We survived the Holocaust. We've come here to fight by your side. The homeland is in danger. We will join the army."

The soldier instructed him to go no farther. Shilansky replied: "We have no other way. I won't go back to Dachau. If we can't come to Israel, we'll go back to the sea." The soldier replied: "I don't care. Go back to the sea."

Later that afternoon, Begin - disregarding a ten-minute ultimatum to surrender all weapons - spoke to his assembled fighters. Suddenly, Israeli soldiers raked the beach with machine-gun bullets. Yaacov Meridor, Begin's second in command, ordered: "Don't shoot back." An Irgun fighter realized: "I couldn't shoot. My brother was on the other side."

Another newcomer was uncomprehending: "Instead of welcoming us they were killing and wounding many of our men whose only purpose was to help." Six Irgun men died in the fighting.

The Altalena sailed south, running aground off the Tel Aviv shore. After a battle erupted on the beach, Ben-Gurion ordered the Israel Defense Forces to destroy it. Some IDF soldiers refused to obey.

An officer protested: "I'm here to fight the enemy. I won't fight another Jew." He instructed the soldiers in his squad: "Do what your conscience tells you." (He became one of eight soldiers to be court-martialed for their disobedience that day.)

An Irgun fighter remembered: "If Begin had told us to fight we would have, but he did not want war between brothers and we accepted his leadership." Irgun fighters obeyed his command not to return fire.

Ben-Gurion was convinced - without a shred of supporting evidence (then or since) - that the Irgun was launching a putsch to overthrow his government. Late that afternoon, he ordered cannons to open fire on the ship. Hilary Dilesky, a volunteer from South Africa who had arrived in Israel only two months earlier, commanded the battery that was chosen to fire the first shot. Receiving his orders, he recalled, "I suddenly was struck with a heavy, deep feeling that I didn't want to shoot."

Dilesky approached his corps commander, telling him - in English, for he could not yet speak Hebrew: "I hadn't come to Israel to fight Jews." The commander yelled back that his job was to obey orders. It was, Dilesky recalled, "a fateful moment" when he realized that "following orders was the right thing to do." But "my heart was broken when we began firing," he confessed nearly fifty years later. "This has been a burden all my life," he recalled, "and still is."

With the Altalena ablaze from a direct hit, and the explosion of its munitions imminent, Irgun leaders (including Begin) and members of the crew jumped overboard, filling lifeboats and swimming ashore. An astonished American crew member observed that "continuous small arms fire from shore ... was directed at everyone in the water."

A 17-year-old Haganah soldier on the beach never forgot that "there were people on our side who waited until they saw heads above water, and then they fired at them."

A Palmach soldier recalled, "Firing on each other: it seemed illogical, unbelievable." He confessed: "I had many doubts, when I pointed the gun at the approaching boat filled with Jews." But he overcame them. "You tell yourself, you are guarding Israeli democracy. And with this belief, you shoot."

Another Palmach soldier was stunned by what he saw: "Before my eyes was waged a war between brothers. Jews are shooting Jews - in order to kill!"

Ben-Gurion enthusiastically blessed the "holy cannon" that destroyed the Altalena. He denied as false rumors the eyewitness reports from soldiers and journalists at the site of the Tel Aviv battle that Israeli soldiers on the beach had fired on desperate swimmers. That day, ten more Irgun men were killed. In the months that followed, eighteen Altalena fighters died for their country during the War of Independence.

* * * * *

The Altalena marked a tragic climax to fifteen years of bitter acrimony between Zionists on the left and right that had plagued the Yishuv during the years of British Mandatory rule. To some, it was a sorrowful reminder of the groundless hatred (sinat chinam) that was said to have plunged Jews into their devastating civil war in 1st century Jerusalem.

By now, however, most Israelis have long since repressed any memory of the Altalena, while few Jews outside of Israel have even heard of it.

But within the past decade, members of the Israeli left, taking Ben-Gurion's order to sink the Altalena as a model for the proper treatment of political opponents, proposed it as the solution to Yasir Arafat's internal conflict with Hamas.

The Arafat-Altalena analogy quickly caught on as a teachable moment. A Palestinian Authority official told the Jerusalem Post that in confronting Hamas and Islamic Jihad, "we have to act like Ben-Gurion in 1948."

Not long after proposals for an Arafat-style Altalena had receded, a far more volatile analogy erupted. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's decision to remove 9,000 Jewish settlers from Gaza provoked wrenching and acrimonious debate over the future of Jewish settlements. The Israeli press, which enthusiastically supported the Gaza expulsion, vigorously defended Ben-Gurion's action in 1948 as a model to emulate.

To exercise its "sovereign duty," Yaron London wrote in Yediot Aharonot, Israel must once again use its "muscles" against those who violently opposed its decisions.

Moshe Negbi, legal commentator for the Israel Broadcasting Authority, complained (in Haaretz) that "Ben-Gurion's successors have demonstrated total limpness in imposing law and order on extremists.... It is this limpness that has brought down upon us the malignancy of the Jewish settlements" and their "fanatics."

On the political left, Ben-Gurion remained the inspirational leader who certainly could not be accused of "limpness."

The barrage of encouragement for an Altalena reprise roused 91-year-old Shmuel Katz, who had been a member of the Irgun high command at the time, and then a founder of the Herut party and Member of the Knesset.

These "pundits," Katz wrote in the Jerusalem Post, were "conjuring up the Altalena myth of a revolt that was never planned and never took place, a fiction woven by an unscrupulous politician at the cost of a score of innocent young lives and the loss of a valuable ship and an invaluable store of arms."

He claimed: "The memory of the Altalena is being manipulated for political purposes to facilitate the expulsion of the Jews from Gush Katif [Gaza]."

That same year, during the bitter Knesset debate over the expulsion of Orthodox settlers from the outpost of Yitzhar, Prime Minister Sharon was accused of wanting "a second Altalena" so that he, too, could "fire the 'holy cannon.' "

He was warned by settler groups: "You will not get a second Altalena from us. You will not get a civil war from us, because we - the citizens whom you wish to go to war against - will not fight against our brothers."

As national debate over settlements became increasingly acrimonious, some Israelis urged soldiers to refuse to obey orders for the forced evacuation of settlers. They cited the precedent of Palmach soldiers who had disobeyed orders to fire on the Altalena: "Refuse to obey the transfer order against your brothers, just as ... soldiers refused to shoot at their brothers in Ben-Gurion's day."

Recalling the tragic war between brothers in 1948, 82-year-old Yosef Nachmias, then a company commander on board the Altalena, recounted the refusal of his own brother, a Palmach fighter, to shoot at the ship because he knew that his sibling was on board. For Nachmias, killing brothers was not merely a metaphor.

During a military ceremony at the Western Wall in October 2009, two religious soldiers displayed a sign protesting settler expulsions. They served time in jail for their misbehavior; one of them was discharged from the army after refusing to express regret for his protest. Then, when Israeli security forces destroyed two Jewish homes in the settlement of Har Bracha, two religious soldiers displayed a banner from the roof of their military base opposing the expulsion of its residents. Sentenced to thirty days in military jail, they were demoted in rank and dismissed from command and combat duties.

Amid this simmering political and religious confrontation, Altalena parallels proliferated. Writing in Haaretz, Hebrew University political scientist Shlomo Avineri accused settlement defenders of attempting to undermine the "historic achievement of Zionism," the creation of "a single binding [national] authority" for the Jewish state.

Ben-Gurion's decision to attack the Altalena, he suggested, may have displayed "ruthless determination," but it assured to the Israel Defense Forces "a monopoly on the legitimate use of force." The pain and distress of settlement supporters was understandable, Avneri conceded, but "in the Jewish state only one legitimate body is authorized to enforce political decisions."

When six infantry soldiers refused to participate in demolitions in the settlement outpost of Negohot, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu - sounding very much like Ben-Gurion in 1948 - asserted ominously: "If you support this refusal, it will bring about the collapse of the state." Israeli leaders, claimed Defense Minister Ehud Barak, were confronting "the same fateful decision that David Ben-Gurion faced in the first days of the state."
* * * * *

Should Israel and the Palestinian Authority ever reach agreement on the terms of peace between peoples who have engaged in bitter conflict over the same land for nearly a century, it will likely require the forcible removal of many tens of thousands of Jewish settlers from their homes.

Yet few Israelis who argue passionately for this outcome are likely to realize that soldiers who refuse to force settlers from their homes would be responding precisely as did the Haganah and Palmach soldiers in 1948 who refused to shoot their Irgun "brothers."

Such a confrontation would expose the core of Israel's still unresolved national identity struggle: Jewish state, secular state, democratic Jewish state? It has the ominous potential to reduce the Altalena to historical insignificance by comparison.

At a crucial moment in 1948, David Ben-Gurion faced the urgent necessity to protect the fledgling Jewish state and defend its sovereignty. But did he decide wisely when he issued the command to shoot Jews on the Altalena who wanted only to fight for the independence of Israel?

In his unrelenting determination to concentrate authority in his hands, did Ben-Gurion undermine, rather than strengthen, legitimacy in the new nation? Did he set a dangerous precedent for battles between brothers that has haunted Israel ever since and may yet explode into a far more volatile internecine conflagration than anything that happened in 1948?

The confrontation over the Altalena, and the tragic killing of Jews by Jews that accompanied it, remains a lingering, self-inflicted, wound from Israel's desperate fight for independence. It cuts to the very core of the enduring Israeli struggle over political legitimacy - then, now, and in the foreseeable future.

It also braids themes that are woven into the biblical narrative. In the beginning, after Creation went awry, Noah's ark - the first ship to be mentioned in a Jewish text - transported a righteous man and his family from impending disaster to safety.

There is also the recurrent tragedy of sibling rivalry, even fratricide. Cain and Abel. Isaac and Ishmael. Jacob and Esau. Joseph and his brothers. And in 1st century Jerusalem, Zealots ruthlessly slaughtered their fellow Jews in a civil war that shattered national sovereignty for two thousand years.

Whether secular and religious Jews can live together in Israel without the groundless hatredthat retains the potential to destroy their nation from within remains an open question. If not, the Altalena may finally - but disastrously - be supplanted by a far more devastating Jewish tragedy.

Jerold S. Auerbach is the author of "Brothers at War: Israel and the Tragedy of the Altalena," from which this essay is adapted, to be published later this month by Quid Pro Books.

Copyright ©2011

Sunday, May 15, 2011

An Academic Conference on Ethiopian Jewry

But the Begin Center was not invited:-

Symposium: Ethiopia and Ethiopians, Yesterday to Today – 1991 to 2011

A two-day symposium ' Ethiopia and Ethiopians, Yesterday to Today – 1991 to 2011: Regime Change and Operation Solomon' will take place this week on Tuesday May 17 and Wednesday, May 18 at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

The first day, which will be conducted in English, will include sessions on 'Ethiopia: Economics and ethnicity', 'Aspects of Ethiopian culture at home and abroad', 'Islam in Ethiopia and Israeli-Ethiopia Relations', 'How Operation Solomon came to life' delivered by former Israeli ambassador to Ethiopia and coordinator of Operation Solomon, Uri Lubrani, 'The Zionism of Ethiopian Jewry and its influence on our sense of mission' and 'Aliyah through Addis Ababa: Legal but complex'. The first day will be held in Room 502, Maiersdorf Faculty Club, Mount Scopus campus.

The second day, which will be conducted in Hebrew, will include sessions on 'A comparative look at Jewish Ethiopian Aliyah', 'Health in the Israeli Ethiopian community', 'Learning Amharic in Israel', 'Containment and exclusion of Ethiopians in the education system', and 'Media and its accessibility in the Ethiopian Community'. The second day will take place n the Abba Eban Conference Hall, Truman Institute, Mount Scopus campus.

Speakers over the two days include Ethiopian ambassador to Israel, H.E. Helaw Yosef; former Israeli ambassador to Ethiopia and coordinator of Operation Solomon, Uri Lubrani; Deputy Director General, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs and head of the Mashav Center for International Cooperation, Haim Divon; head Jewish Agency representative, Israeli Consul during Operation Solomon, Micha Feldman; Member of Knesset Shlomo Molla; executive director, Association for Ethiopian Microfinance Institutions, Ethiopia, Wolday Amha; former editor, Yediot Negat, Batia Makover; CEO, Israeli-Ethiopian Television Channel, Fasil Legassa; and national coordinator for the promotion of Ethiopian public health, Isaac Seffefe.

The symposium is being run under the auspices of the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace and the Avraham Harman Institute for Contemporary Jewry.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

New Historical Map Published

The Begin Center announces the publication of a map of Jerusalem that marks places where Underground actions took place. The map contains 170 actions and operations conducted by the Hagana, Betar, Brit HaBiryonim, Irgun. Palmah and Lechi in Jerusalem between 1920-1948.

These actions include defense measures and reprisals against Arabs, attacks again st institutions and officials of the British Mandatory authority as well as against each other.

Each location is marked by number and has a correlating guide with a concise description of the event. This will allow history enthusiasts to go on self-guided tours through Jerusalem exploring the history of the Underground movements. At this time, the map is only available in Hebrew, but we hope to publish it in the future in English and possibly other languages. The map will be available for sale soon. The research of the historical material was done by Yisrael Medad, director of Information Resources at the Center.

The cover:

A section of the map:


When Begin Was Ill

Yossi Sarid, leftist head of Meretz, writes following Ezriel Nevo's recollections in Maariv (here, in Hebrew) from when Menachem Begin became ill during the period of the Fist Lebanon War:-

In those days, there was no prime minister in Israel and the defense minister did what he felt was right. For the first time, one of the close aides has admitted his guilt: “[Begin aide Yehiel] Kadishai, [former cabinet minister Yaakov] Meridor and I spoke a great deal about it.

It is impossible to act as if there is a prime minister when there is not,” said the former military aide, Azriel Nevo, in an interview with Ben Caspit this week. “We should have been put on trial for hiding [Menachem] Begin’s condition and the public didn’t know that.”

Perhaps I have already recounted how one time another Begin aide came to me, locked the door, and confessed that Begin was ill and not functioning, Arik [Sharon] was going berserk, and the state was in danger. You are the only one who can break the conspiracy of silence, he said.

I did not. Were I to have raised the curtain then the other players would have acted dumb and recited: What do you mean sick and depressed? That’s just a wicked fabrication by someone opposed to the prime minister and his war.

nd the feelings of the public would have gone out to the tortured Begin, who was being forced to wage two wars at once, an internal and an external one. Who would have believed me?

This is the first time that a central insider has described the conspiracy. How Sharon was “purposely exhausting and killing Begin,” how “ministers and officers were dead scared of him,” how “information was hidden from the prime minister and the government,” and how the border of the war was being stealthily expanded. Even 29 years later, I was filled with dread and fury when I read this.

In those days of the shadow of death, I was a member of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. We too were taken for a ride. Arik did not lie, he merely spun misleading cobwebs around us. He left the dirty work of deception to people who were less sophisticated than he was, like Raful [former chief of staff Rafael Eitan], who lied without being aware of it. Nevo also testified to this.


Monday, May 9, 2011

Begin's Opinion on Jerusalem Recalled

The Supreme Court and the Jerusalem Debate

Former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin used to warn against deciding the political status of Jerusalem in the U.S. Congress. But what about at the Supreme Court? It's a pressing question because America's highest court might soon rule on whether, under American law, Jerusalem is or is not part of Israel.

The court has just agreed to hear a case in which Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is being sued by a 9-year-old American citizen named Menachem Binyamin Zivotofsky. M.B.Z., as the court refers to the youth, was born in Jerusalem and wants the American Embassy in Tel Aviv to issue him a certificate of birth abroad stating that he was born in Israel.

What makes the case so explosive is not only that it involves the question of Jerusalem, but that it also pits the executive branch against the Congress. In agreeing to hear the case, the court specifically ordered the lawyers to focus on whether the law "impermissibly infringes the President's power to recognize foreign sovereigns." The case also involves presidential signing statements. Can a president, in signing a piece of legislation, announce that he doesn't agree with part of it and doesn't intend to enforce the law?

Mrs. Clinton's lawyers argue that this case raises a political question of the kind that the Supreme Court has steered away from in the past. But it's not a dispute between, say, Democrats and Republicans. It involves a law passed in 2002, when the Senate was controlled by the Democrats and the House by the Republicans.

The relevant law is the part of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act of 2002 that deals with "United States policy with respect to Jerusalem as the capital of Israel." The Supreme Court will adjudicate the provision stating that, for "purposes of the registration of birth, certification of nationality, or issuance of a passport of a United States citizen born in the city of Jerusalem, the Secretary [of State] shall, upon the request of the citizen or the citizen's legal guardian, record the place of birth as Israel."

The bill passed the Senate, of which Mrs. Clinton was then a member, by unanimous consent. In other words, she's now refusing to carry out a law she helped pass. But when President George W. Bush signed the law, he issued a signing statement suggesting that he didn't intend to enforce that part of the law. The measure, he said, "impermissibly interferes with the President's constitutional authority to conduct the Nation's foreign affairs and to supervise the unitary executive branch."

Mr. Bush also complained that "the purported direction" would, "if construed as mandatory rather than advisory, impermissibly interfere with the President's constitutional authority to formulate the position of the United States, speak for the Nation in international affairs, and determine the terms on which recognition is given to foreign states."

Mr. Bush was challenged by the infant Mr. Zivotofsky—via his parents—not long after he was born. In the fight over whether the Supreme Court would take the case, Mrs. Clinton echoed Mr. Bush's concerns, citing her department's view that "any unilateral action by the United States that would signal, symbolically or concretely, that it recognizes that Jerusalem is a city that is located within the sovereign territory of Israel would critically compromise the ability of the United States to work with Israelis, Palestinians and others in the region to further the peace process."

So far, lower courts have agreed with Mrs. Clinton that this matter is a "political question" and not justiciable. But the young Mr. Zivotofsky's lawyer, Nathan Lewin, was able to convince the Supreme Court to hear the case by arguing, in part, that this matter is no longer a "political question" precisely because Congress has already acted.

Given all the other foreign affairs and political disputes in which Congress does act—from foreign aid to the United Nations to the Senate's ratification of treaties—it's illogical to suggest that the terms for issuing certificates of birth abroad are beyond the reach of the elected legislature.

Mr. Lipsky, editor of the New York Sun, is the author of "The Citizen's Constitution: An Annotated Guide" (Basic Books, 2009).

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Will We Find Out the Historical Truth?

Well, here's a new development:

Thousands of documents removed from former British colonies were regarded as a “guilty secret” and hidden, according to a damning internal review by the Foreign Office. The files were discovered earlier this year in connection with a legal case brought by four elderly Kenyans...After The Times revealed last month that 1,500 Mau Mau files had been discovered, William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, announced that 8,800 files from dozens of former colonies had been located. He ordered a full investigation into why such potentially incriminating material had not been released under the Public Records Act, and pledged to open it to the public. “It is my intention to release every part of every paper of interest subject only to legal exemptions,” Mr Hague said in a statement yesterday. The review was carried out by Anthony Cary, former British High Commissioner to Canada...

The “migrated archive” includes files secretly removed before independence from some 37 former colonies, including Cyprus, Aden, Palestine, Nigeria and Malaya because they “might embarrass HMG or other governments”.  The files, covering 700 feet of shelving, are in Hanslope Park, the closed Foreign Office archive near Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire.

...A tantalising glimpse of the kind of secrets the archive’s documents might reveal is offered by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s internal 2007, staff recorded the presence of five boxes containing “files on the bombing of the King David Hotel” in Palestine. The attack occurred in 1946 when the hotel was the headquarters of both the British Military Command and Criminal Investigation Division.

On July 22, members of the right-wing Zionist paramilitary group Irgun, led by Menachem Begin, who went on to be Prime Minister of Israel twice, planted a bomb in the basement of the main building. Telephone warnings were not heeded and 91 people were killed and 46 wounded.

If one waits long enough, truth will out.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Photos of a Recent Visit of Yehiel Kadishai

The Begin Center Archivesd are named in honor of Yehiel and Esther/Bambi Kadishai and Yehiel oftens visits.

Some photographs of a recent visit:


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Begin and The Falkland Islands

A new book has claimed that Menachem Begin's reason for authorizing a company to sell arms to Argentina had to do with a seemingly hatred of England and love for the hanged Dov Gruner.


New book claims late prime minister sent weapons to avenge death of Dov Gruner, who was hanged by British Mandatory Authorities in 1947..

...Begin agreed to cooperate against Britain fairly quickly, saying: "You've come to talk badly about the British. Is this going to be used to kill the English? Go ahead. Dov up there is going to be happy with the decision. Obviously, it must be all done perfectly."

Israel Lotersztain, a former salesman for Isrex Argentina who was present in the meeting, said: "He hated the British above anything else. Everyone had forgotten the British occupation, but not him."

While we are still researching the matter, we came across words spoken by Mr. Begin at a meeting of the Cabinet on June 5, 1982:

The United States is today supporting Mrs. Thatcher, who bases herself on Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, that is, the right of self-defense, 13,000 kilometers distance from England's shores and we cannot apply the right of self-defense against the bloodshedding when it happens on our doorstep?  This is anarchy, an abandonment of principle.  We shall not act?...

This was the meeting that authorized the commencement of Operation Peace Over the Galillee.