Sunday, September 30, 2012

Herut/Likud Book Launch


A book commemorating four decades of Likud-Herut party activity by the United Kingdom's Jewish community will be launched at a reception in Jerusalem on Wednesday, October 3. "Days of Action: Likud-Herut 1970-2010" was written by 77-year-old British immigrant and veteran Herut-Likud U.K. organizer and activist Joe Gellert. It is a 625-page compendium of correspondence, photographs and press clippings reconstructing the community's efforts on behalf of Soviet Jewry, and it also follows the events surrounding the visits of former Prime Minister Menachem Begin, according to a statement by the book's publisher, Tel-Hai Fund of Great Britain.

The two-hour midday reception, to be held at the Begin Heritage Center, will feature a number of Israeli dignitaries and guests from the United Kingdom, including Natan Sharansky, chairman of the Jewish Agency; Andrew Balcombe, former chairman of the Zionist Federation of Great Britain; MK and Minister Benny Begin; Danny Danon, MK and deputy Knesset speaker; Herzl Makov, director of the Menachem Begin Center; and Yisrael Medad, also of the Menachem Begin Center.

The event is by invitation only. People interested in attending may contact Mr. Gellert at (Mordechai I. Twersky )


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Begin's Imprisonment Commemorated in Vilna

Dror Eydar's report on

Lithuanians honor late former Prime Minister Menachem Begin

The day the Vilna ghetto was destroyed on Sept. 23, 1943, was declared Holocaust Day in Lithuania...This year, a new aspect was added to the ceremony. Seventy-two years after his arrest in Sept. 1940 by the Soviet Union's secret police, who were then known as the NKVD, a plaque was installed on the wall of the Lukiskes Prison commemorating Begin, who was sent to the prison for the "crimes" of leading the Zionist movement Betar in Poland and being a member of a "national bourgeois anti-revolutionary Zionist revisionist" party.

A dedication appears on the plaque in Hebrew, English and Lithuanian, saying: "Menahem Begin, the sixth Prime Minister of Israel (1977-1983), Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Litvak [Lithuanian], in 1940-1941 imprisoned by the NKVD in the Lukiskes Prison, where he was deported to the Pechora Forced Labour camp in north Russia."

Begin's interrogation at the prison, which included conceptual arguments between Begin and his Jewish interrogator, and his ordeal at the Pechora work camp afterwards, to which he was sent for "re-education," were recounted in a book he wrote and titled "White Nights," which he published in 1953.

After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Begin's investigation file was disclosed and was found to corroborate the account he gave in his book. The book was published again in 1995 with the original investigation documents.

At a ceremony held at the outer wall of the prison in Vilna, Lithuanian Justice Minister Remigijus Simasius said Begin was sent to the prison at a time when the justice system fought against people who tried to uphold justice. It was mostly Jews who suffered at the hands of that regime, he said.

Emanuelis Zingeris, head of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Lithuanian parliament and chairman of the Jewish-Lithuanian Committee, said the memory of Begin relates to the past Soviet rule in Lithuania and that it is important to deal with the country's Nazi past as well.

Representing Israel at the ceremony was Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Orit Noked and Ambassador Hagit Ben Yaakov.

Noked said that Begin inspired political prisoners throughout the world and that his legacy is a monument to liberalism, social justice and the struggle against tyranny and oppression. The minister thanked the Lithuanian government and pointed out the "excellent and courageous" relations between the two countries.

Herzl Makov, director of the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem, said Begin's story is part of the splendid and tragic past of Vilna's Jews and that the historical truth of that period must be the foundation of the countries' continuing good relations.

After the ceremony, the group made their way to the Ponary forest, where in the midst of the place where the massacre of Vilna's Jews occurred, another emotional ceremony was held in the presence of Lithuanian government leaders, Israeli diplomats and ambassadors from various countries.

...The ceremony ended with a song that became a partisan hymn during the war, which was sung...
Pictures from this Lithuanian report:


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

On The King David Bombing

From this academic research: "Britain and the Jewish Underground, 1944-46: Intelligence, Policy and Resistance" by Steven Wagner:

The King David Hotel Bombing

Through July, neither MI5 nor the DSO had good information on any illegal armed organizations. Lehi initially was believed to be responsible for the King David  Hotel bombing on 22 July 1946, when the attacker actually was Irgun.424

MI5 continued to believe that the Agency and Irgun were negotiating an agreement, when in fact Irgun, Lehi and Haganah were discussing how to respond to Operation Agatha, which they considered an act of war. Three days before the King David Hotel bombings ‘a most secret source’, which usually meant a form of signals intelligence, indicated that Irgun was believed to be planning an attack against the British of´Čücials in Beirut.

This threat was taken seriously and all relevant authorities were warned. Both Isham and Giles travelled to Beirut to consult, leaving Jerusalem without its two leading security intelligence officers. Later in life, Isham thought this was a deliberate move by the Irgun.

 Neither the government nor the Army had any sort of warning... on the Saturday two army trucks were stolen, and this was usually the prelude to some form of terrorist activity. Accordingly, I warned General Barker, yourself [John Shaw], and London. Of course we had no idea what was going to be attacked. On the Sunday Morning the High Commissioner was informed by the Colonial Office that it was possible there would be an attack made on [Terrance] Shone, at that time Minister to the Levant States. As a result Giles and myself were asked to go to Beirut to warn Mr. Shone and to see what we could do with the Lebanese police. We did know that a number of the members of the Irgun were in Beirut. I could not help feeling that the Foreign Office report was somehow inspired by Begin...426

It is impossible to say for certain whether or not the threat was real. Since Moyne’s assassination, terrorism abroad was considered a real threat, and was common. If British intelligence was deceived, then Cunningham and his administration were incompetent. Poor security at the King David Hotel was a condition for the bombing. The threat had been evident for years. Even on 29 June, MI5 received indications that Irgun would attack the military and government offices.427

Sherf warned the DSO point-blank that the Irgun “would not wait” to act on its plans.428

The destruction of government headquarters is inexplicable. With one warning after the next, how could it have happened? How many warnings are needed to put extra guards at the entrances? Perhaps it was due to the fact that Giles and Isham were not present to interpret those warnings.

TNA, DSO extract Jewish Affairs. 24.7.46. KV 5/30.101B.
TNA, FO to Beirut, 19.7.46. KV 5/36. 107?. Isham to Kellar and Oldfied. 19.7.46. KV 5/36. 107z. Philby to FO. [1]9.7.46. KV 5/36. 108b.
NRO, Isham to Shaw, 15.1.72. Isham Papers I 184.
TNA, SIME (Sales) to MI5 (Kellar), 29.6.46. KV 5/35. 103a.
TNA, Extract from conversations with Sherf 11 and 12 July. 13.7.46. KV 5/30. 100ab.


Quoting Begin on Evangelicals

From a review of
In God’s Shadow: Politics in the Hebrew Bible.
By Michael Walzer
Yale University Press, 256 pages

In the early 1980s, the late Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin was slugged by many American Jews for what some on the American Jewish center-left perceived as an unsavory embrace of Fundamentalist Christians, who had expressed warm support of Israel at a time when Israel was friendless. “Their messianist-apocalyptic theology is unfriendly toward us,” many American Jews asserted in effect. “They are conversionist, and they are bad news for Jews.”

Begin countered, “At the end of time, when the Messiah comes, we will ask him, ‘Have you been here before?’ And he will tell us. Until then, I can live with the evangelicals.”

American public intellectuals have been chewing on this story for decades, in their varied efforts aimed at understanding the tangled relationships between politics, power, history, religion, Scripture, community and — lest we forget — God.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Vadim Mikhaylov - In Begin's Footsteps, Literally

We have received this report from an amazing individual, Vadim Mikhaylov:


In August – September of 2012 the voluntary project ”PeaceMaker Oboz-2” was performed in connection with the future 100th anniversary (to be celebrated in 2013) for Menachem Begin, Israeli prime-minister in 1977 – 1983, Nobel Peace prize laureate (1978).

Two persons from two countries participated in the project as walkers:
from Russia - Vadim Mikhaylov (also organizer), born in the north of the European Russia, now living in the Moscow region;
from Belarus – Alexandr Korzhun, born and now living in Brest.

The route of the nowadays moving was arranged as an analogue repeating of the real moving of M. Begin in the 1930-1940-s as follows:

- by trains from his native town of Brest (now Belarus) to Warsaw (Poland) where M. Begin studied at the Warsaw University in 1931-1935;

- then in the walking format from Warsaw to Vilnius (Lithuania) where M. Begin was in 1939 -1941 – the distance of about 500 km was covered by two volunteers in turn for 11 days;

- afterwards again by trains from Vilnius – via Saint-Petersburg – Vologda – to the station of Kozhva (in the eastern part of the Republic of Komi in Russia) where Menachem Begin was in labor camps on the Pechora river in summer-autumn of1941.

The start of the project was made at the Memorial Ceremony on August 16, 2012 – on the day of the 99th anniversary - in Brest at the memorial plaque dedicated to M. Begin at 49, Kuybyshev street.

In Warsaw another memorial plaque dedicated to M. Begin was attended in the building where Auditorium Maximum is located at the Warsaw University.

Several places where informative meetings were held were attended on the route including:

- Jewish Museum, Museum of Genocide Victims and some places where M. Begin originally lived and stayed in Vilnius;

- Piskaryovskoye Memorial Cemetery in Saint-Petersburg dedicated mostly to the victims of the Siege of Leningrad in 1941-1944 – on the day, when the 73th anniversary of the break-up of World War II was remembered;

- some places at railways station of Kozhva and in Pechora town (Pechora district of the Republic of Komi) related to the original staying of M. Begin.

The finish of the project was made in early September in the village of Sizyabsk (Izhma district of the Republic of Komi) where the mother of the organizer of the project Vadim Mikhaylov – Mrs. Yelena Nafanovna Mikhaylova was born in 1929 and lived till 1934.

While visiting the local museum, archives and registry authorities in the district center of Izhma Vadim Mikhaylov learned that his grandfather – Mr. Nafanail Kharitonovich Mikhaylov, born in 1897, was sentenced in 1930 under notorious Criminal Code clause 58-10 to five years in labor camps.
After short staying in the Pechora district the organizer of the project returned to Moscow.

A lot of discussions were held on the route of the project while communicating with the people from Belarus, Poland, Lithuania and Russia about the future V. Begin’s anniversary and the volunteer project ”PeaceMaker Oboz-2”.

The on-line diary of the project was placed in Russian at

Within the post-project activities a number of PeaceMaker Lessons or PeaceMaker Games are scheduled to be given and arranged for children in Russian schools.

Some proposals will be also prepared concerning the eventual memorialization for Menachem Begin before his 100th anniversary.

 We would like express our gratitude to ALL who assisted us in our volunteer project!

Vadim Mikhaylov, organizer of voluntary projects as historical remakes
Contact details: e-mail: / phone: +7 (910) 484 61 46 (MTS, Moscow, Russia)

up-dated as of September 10, 2012


Friday, September 7, 2012

Sixty Years Since the Signing of the Reparations Accord

Yossi Beilin's op-ed:
Stones in the plenum: 60 years after the Reparations Agreement
On Sept. 10, 1952, 60 years ago, West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Sharet signed the Reparations Agreement in Luxembourg. The State of Israel, as the representative of the Jewish people, received three million West German marks (East Germany refused to pay its part), then about $1.5 billion and the equivalent of about $13 billion today, for the horrors inflicted upon those who survived the Holocaust. The reparations were granted to the state as the representative of the Holocaust victims and the executor of helping in survivors' recovery. 

Thus ended one of the most difficult processes yet endured by the young Israeli democracy, which had briefly questioned it's ability to absorb Holocaust survivors. It was a heart wrenching controversy.
The idea that postwar Germany should pay reparations to Jews, victims of the Nazis, arose while World War II was still happening. World Zionist Organization President Chaim Weizmann filed the claim for reparations to the Allies in 1945. Weizmann claimed, of course, that he was requesting for a people, not a country, but sought to start a dialogue about the possibility. 

Following the founding of the state, when the request was again made to the Allies still controlling Germany, the answer was of course negative. The Allies said they could not add compensation to Germany's already heavy financial burden. 

Even following the declaration of West and East Germany as independent and separate states, Israel had no intention to negotiate directly with either of them. The boycott against Germany was all-encompassing. On our parents' passports it was written that they could travel to "all countries except Germany."

The idea of compensation and reparations from Germany dropped off the agenda, until Israel's dire economic situation began to threaten its ability to survive. Large waves of immigration left the treasury empty and Israel could not repay its debts. 

In Feb. 1950, the government decided to begin direct talks with West Germany to negotiate personal compensation for Holocaust survivors. In September, a committee for national compensation was established. Within a short time the government had gone from complete denial of contact with Germany to representation by Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion with "the other Germany" and complete willingness for direct dialogue. 

Ben-Gurion's main arguments were that Israel desperately needed economic assistance and that there is no justification for giving Germany an exemption from paying compensation. He pointed to the Germans' cardinal biblical sin: "Hast thou killed, and also taken possessions?" (Kings I, 21:19) as proof. The young Germany needed international legitimacy. No country could grant it thus as much as poor little Israel. The convergence of interests was clear. 

At the end of 1951, Menachem Begin was a defeated leader. His Herut party, a precursor of the right-wing Likud, had lost six seats in the July 1951 elections; he led a party with only eight Knesset seats. Following the election he announced that he was abandoning political life. He probably would have done so if the subject of reparations had not popped up on the national agenda. 

The issue infuriated Begin, since almost all of his family perished in the Holocaust. He viewed it as an incredible act of acceptance for Germany, which he still viewed as being Nazi-controlled. Leading up to the Knesset discussion in Jan. 1952, he was filled with a renewed vigor; he sent extreme messages to the nation, saying things he had never said before. 

The hearing took place at Froumine House, better known as the Old Knesset, in Jerusalem and lasted for three days. Knesset members from the coalition and Holocaust survivors were allowed to vote. Mapam, the United Workers Party, and Herut strongly opposed it. The General Zionists, a centrist Zionist movement, opposed it much less. 

But on the second day of the discussions, a storm erupted: A demonstration 10,000 strong, organized by the Herut party, took place in Zion Square in Jerusalem. Begin delivered the speech of his life, though some may consider it the speech he would like to forget. 

He mentioned the Altalena affair, a naval conflict in 1948 between the newly formed IDF and the Irgun, a Jewish paramilitary group that refused to join the unified forces. Begin said that unlike his order to refrain from firing back at those who bombarded the Altalena, he would now give the command to attack.

He called Ben-Gurion "the little dictator and big maniac;" he called Adenauer a "murderer" and pledged to sacrifice his life to prevent negotiations with the Germans, all of whom are Nazis. Begin continued: "I say to Mr. Ben-Gurion, there will be no negotiations with Germany. For this, we are all willing to sacrifice our lives. It is unacceptable under any circumstances. Every victim will sacrifice his life to foil this plot ... it will be a life or death battle ... we will never pay taxes to a government that negotiates with the Germans." 

Begin continued sharply: "German or Jewish money – both cannot exist. Taxes will only come by force; [public] services will only come by force ... we will ban anyone who seeks peace with Germany. The government that enters negotiations with Germany is criminal. Ben-Gurion is a criminal. [Moshe] Sharet is a criminal. This thing will never happen, against our bodies, soul and blood." 

At 5:30 p.m., Begin began a march from Zion Square to the Knesset, and continued his speech at the Knesset podium in a similar vein. He called Ben-Gurion a fascist and a hooligan. He would not leave the podium. Some of the demonstrators threw stones from the street into the Knesset plenum. One of them broke a window and injured MK Hanan Rubin of Mapam, the pre-cursor of Labor. Two-hundred demonstrators and 140 policemen were wounded. 

The results of the speech were that Begin was removed from the Knesset for a few months. The results of the vote were in favor of the negotiations: 61 were for and 50 against (the exact same results of a much later controversy, the Oslo Accords). 

The agreement signed in September recognized Israel as the official representative of the Jewish people. Israel used the money to pay off debts, build infrastructure throughout the country and absorb immigrants. Survivors received monthly allowances to ease their plight in life and help them deal with daily struggles.

So what about Menachem Begin? He gave up the civil disobedience he called for on that winter evening in Zion Square. When he was elected prime minister, 25 years later, he left the agreement in place, as well as the diplomatic relations between Israel and Germany, which had never really changed, in his opinion.