Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Menachem Begin and Arabs 1944

From an article by Shelomo Nakdimon

In a document penned in 1944, titled "To our Arab neighbors," which was also presented to the UNSCOP officials in 1947, then-Etzel leader Menachem Begin portrayed a different possibility. 

In the letter, the future prime minister explained that the ongoing conflict is a war for the liberation of the land from the British. 

"This war is not against you," he explained to the Arabs. 

"We do not see you as an enemy. We want to see you as good neighbors. We did not come to destroy you or expel you from the lands you live on. The land of Israel has enough room for you, your sons and your grandsons and the millions of Jews that have no life but in this land. The Hebrew government will grant you full civil rights. Hebrew and Arabic will be the languages of the land. 

There will be no discrimination between Arabs and Jews for governmental or public work. 

"The Muslim holy sites will be overseen by your representatives. The Hebrew government will grant education to all and no more will there be illiteracy in the land of the Bible," Begin wrote. 

"No more will there be epidemics in our towns and villages. Work pay will be lifted to European standards. Agriculture will be developed. House will be built instead of tents. Water and electricity will reach every household. The Hebrew state will be a shared home for all, and peace and understanding will be between it and all independent Arab nations."  

This dramatic plea ends on a collective call. 

"It depends on you and your wisdom," wrote the man who would eventually sign a peace treaty with Israel's greatest foe, Egypt. "If you want, and do not give your ears to agitators, peace and friendship between our two people can be eternal. Together we shall build this holy land. Together we shall gain from its fruits and treasures. Together we will develop its agriculture and industry. Together we will forward our sovereign people into a world of justice, freedom, wealth and dignity. To our Arab neighbors, we reach our hand out to you in peace and fraternity, do not reject it!"