Saturday, June 23, 2012

Tom Segev's Zionism

From here:

...Ben-Gurion even made an effort to put himself in the Arabs' shoes and stated: "A people doesn't forget so quickly that its country is being taken away from it." On more than one occasion, he said that if he were Arab, he too would fight the Zionists. Here is Ben-Gurion as a justifier of Arab patriotism. Ben-Gurion likened the heroic glory surrounding Izz ad-Din al-Qassam in the 1930s to Yosef Trumpeldor's fame. The terrorists that al-Qassam led and the intifada fighters, more recently, may also be likened to the terrorists that Menachem Begin led. Here is a basis for another riveting discussion about statesmanship and terror...Begin, too, plays a role in the Palestinians' national disaster.

At least some of the Arab students will be entitled to vote in the next elections, and in that context they ought to become acquainted with what Ben-Gurion promised the Arab citizens of Israel: complete equality, with the exception of the Law of Return. An Arab could even be elected president of the state, Ben-Gurion declared. But in the 1950s he imposed on the Arab populace the evils of military rule. Here is a basis for a conversation about the difference between what politicians say and what they do.
Menachem Begin adopted the liberalism of Ze'ev Jabotinsky, who sang about the sons of the land as though they were brethren - "The Arab, the Christian and the Jew." Begin was opposed to military rule, and subsequently returned Sinai to Egypt, in exchange for peace. That was the same Begin who dreamed of a "Greater Israel" and gave a major boost to the settler movement in the West Bank. During a certain period, Ben-Gurion also dreamed of a "Greater Israel."

So you see, there is no pair of politicians more relevant today than Ben-Gurion and Begin, and it still remains for students to explore the relationship between the two. They habitually compared each other to Hitler. Here is yet another subject highly worthy of being taught, in both Jewish and Arab schools: great statesmen also say silly and demagogic things on occasion.


Sunday, June 10, 2012

PM Netanyahu's Altalena Day Remarks

PM Netanyahu's Remarks at the Memorial Ceremony for the Fallen of the Altalena
(Communicated by the Prime Minister's Media Adviser)

Following are Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's remarks today (Sunday, 10 June 2012), at the memorial ceremony for the fallen of the Altalena, at the Nachalat Yitzhak cemetery:

"My friends; Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, former Defense Minister and my teacher Moshe Arens, MKs Ofir Akunis and Tzipi Hotovely, Irgun Soldiers Alliance Chairman Yair Osiskovitz and Deputy Chairman Eli Shetrit, World Zionist Organization Israel Department Chairman Yaakov Hagoel, bereaved families, members of the Irgun, Betar Movement members, students and youth, and honored guests.

We gather here every year and bow our heads in memory of the fallen of the Altalena. We gather here every year and salute those members of the Irgun who have passed on. They were dear people, pure of heart, who loved the Land of Israel to the end, who were prepared to sacrifice body and spirit for our homeland and for the independence of our people.

More than a few of you were on the Mt. of Olives. I stood with you four months ago, at the memorial ceremony for the commander of the Irgun and one of Israel's great prime ministers – the late Menachem Begin. During the tragedy of the Altalena, at the worst of the tragedy, Begin determined a clear and simple principle: There would be no civil war. He knew that civil war would be the end of the State of Israel. I hear the pain and feel it; for over 60 years, the pain still cuts. Think of what justification Begin had to act differently – the death of dear fighters who only wanted to defend the homeland, a ship laden with weapons that could have helped in the defense of the homeland, in liberating the homeland, in defending Jerusalem, in defending the Jewish communities – today we would say "the settlement movement', what justification he had! But Begin did not think twice. He did not hesitate for a moment.  He determined a clear principle: There would be no civil war. And this principle that he determined at the dawn of our independence has stood for 64 years.  It is valid today. It will always be valid.

We have one state, one government, one army.  In the State of Israel, the Government, and only the Government, sets policy. In the State of Israel, all are bound by the law, including the Government and the Prime Minister. The Government's policy is clear – we maintain the settlement movement while upholding the law. We maintain the settlement movement against a wave of pressures from at home and abroad. We maintain the settlement movement and we do so while upholding the law and I tell you my dear friends – there is no contradiction between the two. On the contrary – undermining the rule of law will hurt and weaken the settlement movement while upholding the rule of law strengthens it. Menachem Begin understood this at the time of the Altalena and we understand it very well today.

May the memory of the fallen of the Altalena be blessed and enshrined in the hearts of the people forever."

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Begin Commanded the...Hagana?

It is always amazing how much misinformation or simple ignorance is out there in cyberspace.

Here is one example:

Hazem al-Amin, June 1, 2012

In November 1948, my father’s uncle was killed in a massacre also known as the “Houla massacre.” Yet Houla, in this case, is not the Syrian town of al-Houla where a massacre occurred about a week ago. Rather, it is a Lebanese village along the border with Israel where the Zionist Haganah militia committed a massacre that led to the death of 90 townsfolk. According to stories, my great-uncle Jawad al-Amin was one of the first men in town to have been executed by the Haganah.

The massacre, it seemed, was a punitive measure carried out by the Haganah against the townsfolk to punish them for cooperating with the troops of the Arab Salvation Army who were sent in by their respective states to assist the Palestinians during what we call “Al-Nakba” and what the Israelis refer to as the “Liberation War.”

This Houla massacre – and once again I repeat that this Houla is located in Lebanon and is different from Syria’s al-Houla, since the definite article “Al” is not enough to highlight the difference between these two towns that have both witnessed massacres separated by 64 years of hardship – has had a permanent function, namely to feed our conscience as its grandchildren.
I was born a little less than 20 years after the massacre, which means I am its grandchild rather than its child. Houla, which lies right next to my hometown, never ceased throughout all these decades to be the town where that massacre occurred. We were children, and that village opposite ours was the village of the massacre. It remained so throughout our teenage years and is still the village of the massacre in my imagination today.

Furthermore, Houla, where my great-uncle was killed, has created a silent internal intuition that stirs in me a shy wish to imagine and recall images of a massacre that occurred 20 years before I was born.

The victims and the perpetrators both have an image in my memory. Rumors have it that Menachem Begin was at the helm of the Haganah group that attacked the village. He went on to become Israel’s prime minister during the first Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1978. Begin’s mention enlists memories of the massacre every time I see a man from Houla. The weirdest thing is that I subsequently ruled out Begin’s having participated in the raid on the village because Israeli historian Benny Morris, who rewrote the story of the Israelis’ Transfer, said that the Houla massacre was committed by the “left-wing Zionist” Haganah militia, whereas Begin was at the head of the right-wing Irgun militia. Still, this did nothing to remove Begin’s face from the story of the massacre as I told it to myself.

How could those rumours have been believed for so long, as Morris' book on the birth of the Palestian refugee history came out in 1988.