Saturday, November 29, 2014

Begin's Greatness and Errors

Menachem Begin: Moments of greatness, moments of error 

Is a great person great in everything he or she does? Menachem Begin was a political leader, or to use a blunter word, a politician. Even to have become commander of the Betar youth movement in Poland must have involved competition and garnering support. But politicians can rise to moments of greatness and statesmanship.

His greatest moment, in my opinion, is not the peace treaty with Egypt. That is a great accomplishment, and marks his entry onto the world stage as a recognized statesman. The first moment of greatness came in June 1948. Etzel (the Irgun Zvai Leumi) had sent a small ship from France to Israel. Named the Altalena, which was a pen name of Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s, it was loaded with over 900 fighters, and a large quantity of arms.

By the time it arrived off Israel’s shores, a UN-supervised cease-fire was in force between the fledgling state and the invading Arab armies, according to which no arms were to be introduced into the area. The Altalena was beached at the foot of Tel Aviv’s Frishman Street. Prime minister Ben-Gurion feared, beyond trouble with the UN, that the arms would bolster Irgun units in the unified IDF, and insisted that no separate “militias” should exist. (He later also disbanded the left-wing Palmah separate command.) Begin made every effort to reach an agreement, but once the ship beached at Tel Aviv, B-G was convinced this was a possible putsch against the government. He ordered the IDF to open fire on the Altalena. At that point, with casualties on both sides, there was danger that fighting would continue between Irgun members and supporters and the original large component of Hagana soldiers making up the new IDF.

Menachem Begin gave the order: No! No more shooting. “My greatest accomplishment,” he later said,” was not retaliating and causing civil war.”

If that was indeed his greatest accomplishment, what was his greatest moment of weakness, of error? Begin was not only a product of religious Jewish/Hebrew education and of Jabotinsky’s teachings. In many ways, as a Polish-trained lawyer, he adopted customs of the Polish gentry and influences of European politics in general.

For reasons beyond the scope of this article, Jabotinsky, Betar and eventually Begin himself had been described by their anti-rightist opponents as “fascists.” One reason was that Jabotinsky’s use of the word “tzvaiyut” – military-like – as an ideal for Jewish youth could easily be understood as “militarism,” a point seemingly underlined in that Betar members wore military-type brown uniforms. Later Mussolini’s fascists and Hitler’s SA wore brown as well. (Remember, I have described both Jabotinsky and Begin as liberal democrats.) In one of the early elections, Begin would ride to his campaign meetings with a motorcycle escort of Herut party members. This lapse into the lowest European political fashion simply played into the “fascist” stereotype. But a much greater flaw appeared surrounding the 1952 debate on whether Israel should sign a reparations agreement with West Germany.

The background: State-building versus ‘forgiving the Nazis’

In 1952, Israel was barely able to make ends meet. It had doubled its population in the first three years of statehood, resulting in rationing, austerity, leaky ma’barot huts replacing the tent cities of the new immigrants, rampant unemployment.

There were barely enough exports to register against Israel’s need for capital. The income from Keren Hayesod-UIA combined with that from the sale of Israel Bonds was nowhere near what was needed to sustain the state.

Ben-Gurion, foreign minister Moshe Sharett and finance minister Levi Eshkol were pragmatists.

The Germans owed the Jewish people and Israel as their successor state payment for material claims: the cost of absorbing displaced persons, and reparations for heirless Jewish property amassed by Nazis at all levels.

Begin’s Herut led a fiery opposition, which was augmented by the General Zionists on the Right and Mapam on the Left. Their argument was that material reparations would help Germany rid itself of the indelible stain of its murderous Nazi past in the eyes of the world.

Here Ben-Gurion showed the statesmanship of a pragmatist who put sustaining the existence of Israel together with the prophetic statement to an evil ruler “Would you both murder and inherit?” Begin, who felt the loss of his family and Polish and other European Jewry keenly, let emotion lead.

As the agreement was being debated in the Knesset, he gave a passionate speech at a demonstration attended by about 15,000 participants including many Holocaust survivors. Dramatically, he attacked the government and even called for its overthrow. Begin said: “When you fired at me with cannon, I gave the order; ‘No! [Do not return fire]!’ Today I will give the order, “Yes!” The demonstrators then moved on toward the Knesset (then at the Frumin Building on King George Street near Ben-Yehuda Street). A large police force cordoned them off. The enraged crowd threw stones at the Knesset windows, and at police. “After five hours of rioting, police managed to suppress the riots using water cannons and tear gas. Hundreds were arrested, while some 200 rioters, 140 police officers, and several Knesset members were injured,” according to Wikipedia.

Begin was seen as personally responsible for the violence, and barred from the Knesset for several months.

Viewed in hindsight, indeed this was the image of a demagogue. It took him many years to shed it.

In the next article, more on his human side.

Avraham Avi-hai, author of the novel A Tale of Two Avrahams, served at the Rothberg International School with the late Professor Hillel Dalesky. He was a volunteer from South Africa who, against his will, was ordered to fire on the Altalena.

When Begin Was A Lebanese's Hero

Saeed Akl, Lebanon’s leading poet whose fame spread throughout the Arab world, has died, state media and officials said Friday. He was 102. The ultra-nationalist Akl wrote his poems in classical Arabic as well as the Lebanese dialect, which he referred to as “the Lebanese language.”  Some of his most famous poems were sung by Lebanon’s top singer, Fayrouz...

...He also wrote a song about the Palestinian struggle, “Now, and not tomorrow, the bells of return shall ring,” written after Israel seized east Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in 1967.  But during the 1975-1990 civil war, Akl was known for his anti-Palestinian statements, and once praised the late Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin for invading Lebanon.

The hero Begin should continue cleansing Lebanon to the last Palestinian,” he said in an interview in 1982, the year the Jewish State began an 18-year occupation of Lebanon.



Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Begin Filmatography

Did you know Begin has a filmatography listing?

Biographical movies
Begin (1998)

Portrayed in
Sadat (1983) (TV)
Raid on Entebbe (1976) (TV)

Magazine cover photo
Time (USA) 20 September 1982
Time (USA) 11 September 1978
Time (USA) 30 May 1977

And there's one in the works.

Maybe you'd like to assist?


The Revolt Sizzle Reel from The Revolt - The Movie on Vimeo.


Monday, September 22, 2014

Why Jews Deserve a State

Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin never loosened his tie, nor did his mind stray from the horror of the Holocaust, where Jewish ash would convince the world that Jews deserved land of their own. 

that was a description in the new Camp David book.

Menachem Begin believed that the Jewish people deserved a homeland so as to avoid that ash the first time because it was the natural right of the Jews to reconstitute the ancient homeland.  That was his conviction, even of no anti-Semitism even existed.


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Reviewing a Book Review

NYT Book Review Provides Platform for Joe Klein's Bias

Few topics arouse the ire of Time Magazine's political columnist Joe Klein more than Israeli or American Jewish conservatives or traditionalists. When he writes about them, historicity and facts become secondary to his own personal animus.

Such is the case with the journalist's book review of Lawrence Wright's “Thirteen Days in September,” published in the Sept. 14, 2014 New York Times Sunday Book Review supplement. Mr. Klein uses his review of a book about the 1978 Camp David negotiations as an opportunity to vent his own hostility against former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, who was a major player in the negotiations and resulting accords, as well as a traditionalist and a conservative.

It is informative to contrast Klein's review of the book in the New York Times with one in the Wall Street Journal two days earlier by Elliot Abrams, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and former senior director for Near East Affairs at the National Security Council. According to Abrams:
In Mr. Wright's version, Mr. Carter and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat come across far better than Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, who is presented mostly as an obstacle to peace....Begin's life story is told far less sympathetically than are those of Mr. Carter and Sadat... [He] is presented as "the man who embodied the most wounded and aggressive qualities in the Israeli psyche. Obstruction, not leadership, was his nature. (Wall Street Journal, Sept. 12, 2014)
Klein, on the other hand, sees the author's somewhat negative characterization of Begin as “almost sympathetic.” He writes:
It is a measure of Wright's fairness and subtlety that Begin comes across as an almost-sympathetic character.
Klein himself characterizes Begin as a clearly unsympathetic character. “He isn't dashing; he isn't eloquent; he doesn't smile,” writes Klein, who brands him a “sourpuss extremist.”

As to Begin's approach to his religion, Klein is similarly denigrating:
His Judaism was litigious, drawn from the Talmudic tradition of worrying the law to distraction, fighting over every codicil.
The book reviewer is certainly entitled to his own negative opinion of Begin, and even to his misinformed characterization of Talmudic tradition. But it is his double standards in categorizing terrorism and terrorists that are most disturbing.

As leader of the Irgun (Etzel), an armed underground organization in Mandate Palestine that encouraged illegal immigration and carried out attacks against the British, Menachem Begin was labeled a terrorist by the British and competing Zionist groups. That designation, as well as the manner and type of attacks that Etzel carried out, has been and continues to be debated.

There is far less debate about the infamous 1978 PLO-perpetrated slaughter that came to be known as the “Coastal Road Massacre.” That attack killed 38 Israeli civilians, including 13 children, and wounded 71 others. Time Magazine called it “the worst terrorist attack in Israel's history.”

But while Klein categorically labels Begin “a former terrorist,” he refrains from using that term to characterize the Palestinian perpetrators of the 1978 massacre. He blandly calls them “militants.”

Their intention, as two surviving terrorists confessed, was to seize hostages at a luxury hotel, as well as to take UN representatives and international ambassadors hostages who could be exchanged for Palestinian prisoners in Israel, but that plan was aborted after the boats carrying the terrorists landed 40 miles away from their destination. Instead, the terrorists hijacked a bus, shot and threw grenades at passing cars, and eventually tried to kill the passengers on the bus and others who crossed their path. The timing of the attack was meant to destroy the Israeli-Egyptian peace negotiation and to damage tourism, according to a Fatah planner

None of these motives, however, serve to blame Israel, and so Klein insidiously attributes a different intention to the terrorists– one turns the story away from Palestinian terrorism to an indictment of Israel under Menachem Begin's leadership. He writes:
The massacre was intended as a provocation; a disproportionate Israeli response was assumed. And three days later, Israel invaded southern Lebanon, which was then controlled by the Palestine Liberation Organization led by Yasir Arafat. “Those who killed Jews in our times cannot enjoy impunity,” the Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin said. More than a thousand Palestinian civilians were killed; more than 100,000 were left homeless. The world, including President Jimmy Carter, was horrified. Following another invasion in 1982, Israel would occupy parts of southern Lebanon until May 2000.

It is hard to trust a book review about historical characters that is imbued with so much apparent personal hostility that the "facts" are shaped to support the reviewer's feelings. It is not surprising, however, that the New York Times entrusted such a review to Joe Klein, who would reliably bash Israel.


If you read the article, you will catch this sentence of Klein
Begin didn’t cave on anything except giving up the Sinai Peninsula
as if that meant nothing.

And this is important:

When Carter proposed that Israel allow a Jordanian flag to fly over the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, Begin responded, “Never. . . . What will happen when the Messiah comes?” He agreed to participate in the negotiations because “President Carter knows the Bible by heart, so he knows to whom this land by right belongs.”

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The 13 Days of September 1978

New book is out on the Camp David Conference.

From a review:

The agreement Carter brokered between Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin was the crowning achievement of his otherwise disappointing presidency. Sadat and Begin later were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. But Wright's book is no paean to the leaders.
Instead, he casts a critical and honest eye upon the three men.

Much of "Thirteen Days" details the fractured personal and public histories that brought Carter, Begin and Sadat to power and eventually to Camp David. And it portrays the negotiations themselves as a tense series of meetings between powerful men who whined, pouted and screamed to get their way...

...Sadat had helped set a peace process in motion with a surprise visit to Jerusalem in 1977. By agreeing to Carter's Camp David gambit, he hoped that Egypt might displace Israel as the Americans' key ally in the region. Begin was convinced the talks would fail — he was the only one of the three leaders to arrive at the summit without any proposals...

...As a condition for recognizing Israel, Sadat demanded that Begin return the Sinai Peninsula. Begin said such a deal would mean giving away a buffer zone of deserts and mountains in exchange for a mere written promise. Given Begin's own experiences with loss and betrayal, it was a difficult bargain to make.  "There was only one thing standing in the way, and that was Begin's entire history," Wright says.

and there is this:

On the surface, Begin and Sadat had little in common. But earlier in their careers both had been prisoners of the British colonial authorities. Both had fought — often viciously — for the independence of their countries. Wright doesn't spare showing us the blood they had on their hands.

As a young Egyptian nationalist during World War II, Sadat joined a "murder society" that assassinated isolated British soldiers and later targeted Egyptian leaders who collaborated with British colonial authorities.

Begin was a Zionist from a young age. In 1929, he joined a paramilitary Jewish youth group in Poland. He lost most of his family in the Holocaust. In Palestine, he became among the fiercest of the rebels fighting the British for the creation of a Jewish state. He used tactics that would later come to be branded "terrorism."

"The transformation of terrorism as a primarily local phenomenon into a global one came about in large part because of the success of his tactics," Wright writes of Begin. "He proved that, under the right circumstances, terror works."

Of course, Sadat saw Hitler as an idol; Begin didn't.


Thursday, September 4, 2014

When They Called Begin "Murderer"

I moved to Israel from New York in 1982, during another summer of fighting, and Israeli society was tearing itself apart. The Palestinian Liberation Organization was firing Katyusha rockets into residential areas of the Galilee; the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) had invaded Lebanon, in Israel's first asymmetrical war against terrorists in urban neighborhoods. As civilian casualties in Beirut mounted, Israelis raged at each other in the streets. On Rosh Hashanah, I saw then-Prime Minister Menachem Begin emerge from a Jerusalem synagogue, to be greeted by left-wing demonstrators shouting, "Murderer!"

Yossi Klein Halevi
New Republic, August 29, 2014


Saturday, May 10, 2014

Against Begin Then, And Netanyahu Now

From Dan Margalit:-

Digging in his heels
Former Director-General of the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission Brig. Gen. (ret.) Uzi Eilam's interview with Dr. Ronen Bergman in Yedioth Ahronoth raised two claims: the first that former Prime Minister Menachem Begin erred when he ordered the bombing of the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq 33 years ago, and the second that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is "using the Iranian threat to score political points."

While heading the Atomic Energy Commission, Eilam had opposed bombing the Iraqi reactor. It was the height of the 1981 election campaign and Begin, who feared he would lose the elections, quoted Hillel to Eilam, saying, "If I am not for myself, who is for me?" -- meaning that a Shimon Peres-led government would not bomb the reactor. Peres, on his part, was vocal about his objections to the operation.

In the decades that have passed, it has become clear that the 1981 strike was a great strategic achievement. A decade on, it stopped Saddam Hussein in his tracks when he threatened to invade Persian Gulf states and possibly Saudi Arabia. Years later, Ehud Barak asked a senior American official if the United States would have gone to war against a nuclear Iraq, and was told that would have been unlikely.

With the exception of Peres and Eilam, every Israeli Jew has lauded Begin for ordering the strike. It is impossible that the two are oblivious to how crucial the strike was, especially knowing what Hussein did to restore his nuclear capabilities. Why is it then, that this distinguished defense official is unable to simply admit he was wrong? If you cannot do so when you are 80, when can you?Eilam's argument about Netanyahu is equally puzzling...


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Another Review of the Gordis Begin Biography

From David Isaac's review of the Daniel Gordis Begin biography:

...The one subject where Gordis fails to depart from the conventional wisdom, and as a result comes up short, is the treaty with Egypt. Today, there exists an almost universal belief that this was Begin’s greatest achievement. While Gordis avoids waxing lyrical about the treaty, he does not analyze its glaring failings. As Moshe Sharon, who was Begin’s adviser on Arab affairs and took part in the Egypt-Israel negotiations, put it recently, “The peace with Egypt is nothing more than a prolonged armistice with ambassadors.”

Gordis writes of the contrast that President Jimmy Carter and his administration made between Sadat the visionary and Begin the pettifogging legalist. But he fails to point out that, ironically, it was Begin who was the true visionary, determined to create friendly and normal relationships between Israel and Egypt. He was anxious to dot every “i” and cross every “t” to make sure the new era of relations would have a firm legal foundation. Gordis omits all reference to the 50 detailed agreements Egypt signed on everything from joint agricultural research to cultural programs and exchanges, agreements Begin saw as the nuts and bolts of the new era of relations he believed he was establishing.

Sadat had a simple goal: Get back the Sinai “to the last grain of sand.” He did not need to worry about legalistic details because he had no intention of transforming relations. Those 50 agreements (outside of eight, which were published in the 1980s), gather dust in the archives of the Israeli foreign office. Central to Begin was ending the “teaching of contempt.” The promise “to abstain from hostile propaganda” was put into the text of the peace treaty itself. Yet Egypt continued to be a hotbed for inciting hatred for Israel and Jews.

Gordis does point out Carter’s cluelessness about what made Begin tick. “His public protestation of Christian piety notwithstanding, Carter had none of the biblical sensibilities or knowledge that were central to who Begin was,” Gordis says. This ignorance continues today. Kerry blames Israel for the failure in negotiations without any idea of Jewish history, of the difficulties Israel faces, and of the nature of the enmity against it, rooted in Islam and the absolute refusal to accept a Jewish state in the heart of the Islamic world...

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

On the Gordis Begin Biography in Commentary

Daniel Gordis has established himself as one of today’s most vibrant thinkers on the Jewish people with his books Saving Israel and The Promise of Israel. What sets him apart from so many other observers is his facility for exploring large and important ideas in a way that the general reader can understand. The achievement of Menachem Begin is twofold: The illumination of a complex but pivotal figure in Jewish history and, in its execution, the guiding of the Jewish people towards a better understanding of themselves.

...While Gordis perhaps overeggs the pudding in suggesting that for Begin “Zionism was but the Jewish expression of a universal yearning,” it is true that Begin the Zionist and Begin the humanitarian, though sometimes in conflict, were never that far apart. He navigated the age-old Jewish tension between tribalism and liberalism by recognizing that the noblest tenets of universalism—human dignity, liberty, the rule of law—were secular descendants of the mitzvot, and that faith and observance could lead one towards rather than away from them.


Sunday, March 30, 2014

Begin on 'Legitimate Rights'

Gen. ( res. ) Shlomo Gazit attended the Cabinet meeting that was held when PM Menachem Begin returned from Camp David.

At the meetings, Minister of Transport Haim Landau asked PM Begin how he agreed that Israel would sign a document in which Israel recognized "the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people."

In his column this week, Gazit shared PM Begin's reply:

"We had with us at Camp David an expert of international law, one of the best and finest in the world [AL: Barak]....And what did this great expert in international law tell me?

He said: Mr. Prime Minister, yourself are an attorney. Would it be conceivable to you not to recognize the "legitimate" rights? What is the meaning of the word "legitimate"? Yes, simply "legal" rights. And is it conceivable not to recognize legal rights? The dispute between us and the Palestinians is on their demand for rights that at not legitimate.'"


Sunday, March 9, 2014

Haaretz's Review of the New Gordis Begin Biography (As Expected)


Daniel Gordis' Begin biography teaches liberals and leftists can't be trusted
In portraying a saint-like Begin, Gordis is attempting to silence contemporary critics of today's Likud-led government.

Climbing out of the mouth of hell, Dante and Virgil, the poet heroes of the “Divine Comedy,” stand facing Mount Purgatory, home of souls punished for sins of love perverted...I don’t know if Menachem Begin deserves to be among these sinners (in any case, as Jews, both he and I would have been sent to hell by Dante), but Daniel Gordis’ new biography of him, “Menachem Begin: The Battle for Israel’s Soul” certainly does. The book is a paragon of overweening pride: smug, self-satisfied, convinced of its own conclusions, and disdainful of its presumed critics...Begin, Israel’s sixth prime minister and one of the most charismatic, complex and polarizing political figures in the country’s history, is portrayed one-dimensionally as a Jewish saint, motivated, from the very beginning of his political career to its end, exclusively by his “unabashed, utter devotion to the Jewish people.” At the book’s end, the reader has no more insight into Begin’s character and drives than he or she did at the beginning, and would do well to turn to the many other more rounded accounts of Begin and his political career.

...though the biography’s ostensible subject is Begin’s life, its real object is, quite transparently, to convince American Jews of the rightness of Gordis’ own particular pro-Israel position. Gordis uses Begin’s life as a parable to defend and justify many of the controversial positions of Israel’s current Likud-led government: on the Iranian nuclear issue, settlement construction, negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, disloyal Israeli leftists, American Jewish liberals, and Israel’s character as a Jewish state.

A combination of support from Jewish immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa, and public outrage at the debacle of Israel’s near-loss in the 1973 Yom Kippur War swept Begin into power in 1977. [no mention of the Labour party scandals? - YM]...Gordis’ narrative of Menachem Begin’s life does not stray far from the standard biographies. The difference, which makes possible the allegory to contemporary politics, lies in how he tells the story.

The book’s most glaring example of using Begin’s life to take a stand in support of Benjamin Netanyahu’s policies is the chapter devoted to the Israel Air Force’s 1981 strike that destroyed Iraq’s uncompleted Osirak nuclear reactor. Though he does not say so explicitly, Gordis’ effusive and dramatic telling of this successful mission serves as a model and a justification for a threatened similar attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Gordis praises Begin’s resolve in preventing “Saddam’s developing genocidal capability” and his unwillingness to bow to American opposition and international censure, and, moreover, provides proof that Begin was right all along. Gordis quotes a message written by then-U.S. Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney in 1991 just after the first Gulf War, thanking the commander of the Israeli air force for destroying the reactor, “which made our job much easier in Desert Storm!” The lesson here is clear: Whatever it might say now, if Israel takes out Iran’s nukes, the United States will thank us later.

Similarly, the book’s derision of Begin’s opponents on the left has direct implications for Israeli politics today. While Begin is portrayed as an ideal type – faithful, resolute and uncompromisingly devoted to the Jewish people – David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, is depicted as deceitful, mendacious and paranoid. In a final chapter that compares Begin to the founding fathers of the American Revolution, Gordis states that, while Ben-Gurion was certainly a great Jewish leader, he was also a British “Loyalist,” who needed reminding from Begin’s Irgun that “it wasn’t enough to want a Jewish state; one had to actually do something in order to achieve it.”

...Gordis’ black-and-white picture of the two is a caricature that does not do justice to either figure. But, again, the point here is not to paint a complex portrait of characters and motives. As with his disdain for American Jewish liberals like Hannah Arendt and Albert Einstein, who signed a public letter protesting Begin’s first visit to the United States in 1948 on account of his association with the Deir Yassin massacre – the lesson of Gordis' portraits is that liberals and leftists, in Israel and America, are naive and not to be trusted...Gordis’ defense of Begin is meant to silence contemporary critics.

...Gordis’ discussion of the Camp David negotiations is unintentionally illuminating regarding his own perspective on today’s talks. He presents Sadat and Carter as willfully obtuse, misunderstanding the political challenges Begin might face at home, and “tacking on” the Palestinian issue and the fate of the West Bank and Gaza to negotiations – an issue which for the Egyptian and American leaders was quite germane – and claims that, “intentionally or not, both Sadat and Carter were creating the impression that what animated them was simply hostility to Israel.”

Begin, on the other hand, is pictured as resolute, steadfast and heroically uncompromising, unwilling to violate his core conviction that Israel must maintain total control over and retain all the settlements in the biblical territories captured in the Six-Day War.

Gordis’ praise of Begin’s negotiating strategy, coupled with his enthusiasm for Begin’s commitment to Jewish dignity above all else, translates pretty straightforwardly into support for the current government’s negotiating strategy. Netanyahu has demanded that the PA recognize Israel as a Jewish state as a precondition for the negotiations. PA President Mahmoud Abbas and others have quite reasonably questioned what that designation might mean for Israel’s many non-Jewish citizens, especially the Arabs who make up some 20 percent of the population. The dubious lesson of Gordis’ portrayal, never explicitly acknowledged but obvious to any knowledgeable reader, seems to be: Hunker down, sacrifice nothing, and eventually the goyim will give in. 

Samuel Thrope is a Martin Buber Postdoctoral Fellow at the Hebrew University or Jerusalem. He has written for the Christian Science Monitor, Tablet and other publications, and is the translator of Jalal Al-e Ahmad’s “The Israeli Republic.”

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Camp David Theater Soon-to-be-Seen

I've learned that the first preproduction photos of the soon-to-be world premiere of Camp David have been released.  The play will run from March 21-May 4.

Camp David centers on the 1978 peace summit between President Jimmy Carter, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.

(© Tony Powell)

The cast features Emmy Award winner Richard Thomas (The Waltons) as Carter, Tony winner Ron Rifkin (Cabaret) as Begin, Tony nominee Hallie Foote (Dividing the Estate) as Rosalynn Carter, and Egyptian actor and activist Khaled Nabawy (Kingdom of Heaven) as Sadat in his U.S. stage debut.

For tickets and more information, click here.



Halkin on Gordis' New Begin Biography

From a book review of 'Menachem Begin' by Daniel Gordis by HILLEL HALKIN

In his thoughtful and well-written new biography of Begin, the American-born Daniel Gordis, who moved to Israel in 1998 and has become one of its most articulate explainers and defenders to English-speaking audiences, addresses the question of what, at its deepest level, this change [between 1967 and 1977] was about...

What interests Mr. Gordis most, however, is Begin's Jewishness...his restoration to Israeli public life of a fundamental sense of Jewish purpose that was missing from it during the long years of Labor hegemony...

...Gordis is right that Begin "was different." One of the features of the Labor Zionism that dominated Israel politics before 1977 was its revolt against, and often hostility to, Jewish religious tradition...Begin shared none of this. Neither Revisionism, Betar nor the Irgun had ever been anti-religious, and Begin related to Zionism as a historical movement that was in harmony with the religious past rather than at odds with it. He had, as Mr. Gordis puts it, "a finely honed appreciation for the rhythms and priorities of Jewish life and tradition, which had never yet been represented in the prime minister's office." What was more, he was intent on expressing it, whether this took the form of a quasi-religious devotion to the land of Israel (which, ironically, enabled him psychologically to surrender all of Sinai, a territory that was not, for Judaism, sacred)...

Begin's love and respect for Jewish tradition were a significant factor in the love and respect that much of Israel felt for him...If secular Zionism was a revolution in Jewish life, perhaps the greatest ever, Begin belonged to the counterrevolution that all revolutions produce in their wake—one that saw the old secular elite lose much of its cultural and political power and a more stridently nationalistic society, more dominated by religious discourse, emerge. How much Begin propelled this development, and how much it propelled him, is debatable;...If there is one assertion of Mr. Gordis's that I find it difficult to agree with, therefore, it is his characterization of Begin as an ideal balance between the two halves of the "Jewish soul," a man who harbored in equal proportions "both deeply humanist convictions and a passionate allegiance to [his] own people."

That Begin was a decent and humanly sensitive man there can be no doubt, but his allegiance to his people, it seems to me, was far stronger than any humanist convictions he may have had...Menachem Begin had an exacting conscience, far more than did most other political leaders of the age, Israel's included.

— Mr. Halkin's life of Vladimir Jabotinsky will be published in May.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Former President Carter Is Playing

President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, plan to join the premiere of the new play "Camp David" by Lawrence Wright...a fundraising event scheduled for April 3 to support programs at the theater.
"Camp David" follows the pursuit of peace in the Middle East for 13 days during Carter's presidency, when he hosted Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat at the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland. It will feature Tony Award winner Ron Rifkin

as Begin and actor Richard Thomas as Carter.


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Begin: Judaism is both national and universal

M. Begin: Judaism is both national and universal by nature....That is why the vision of the end of days speaks of all the nations streaming to the mountain of the Lord. That is why the philosopher and historian, Professor Klausner, spoke of Judaism and humanism. We cannot remain on the sideline; nothing human is alien to us.

Session 442 of the Ninth Knesset
11 May 1981

-     -     -     -    -

I thank all those who shouted out interjections. They have helped me overcome my tiredness....

Session 206 of the Ninth Knesset
20 March 1979