Thursday, May 24, 2007

Irgun Jaffa Operation Mentioned in New Book

A new book has just been published, An Intimate History of Arabs and Jews in Jaffa.
By Adam LeBor, Illustrated, 424 pp., W. W. Norton & Company, Paper, $14.95 and in the New York Times review, we caught this:-

Reading Adam LeBor’s “City of Oranges,” I once again met Fakhri Geday, along with much displacement. LeBor writes Jaffa’s past as a sprawling family saga. At its center are a half-dozen or so clans, Jewish and Arab, whose lives intertwine from the 19th century till today, as the Mediterranean port flowers and then is torn apart by conflict.

The Gedays, a Christian Arab family in Jaffa for generations, are one thread in the chronicle. Unlike other wealthy Arabs, Fakhri’s father, Youssef, refused to sell land to the Jews who poured into British-ruled Palestine. Unlike his neighbors, he also rejected panic and flight when Menachem Begin’s right-wing Irgun underground overran Jaffa in April and May 1948.

Since the reviewer is Gershom Gorenberg, it is to be expected to find the following line:-

That era ended in 1921, when tension between Arab nationalists and Zionists erupted into riots in Jaffa.

One might get the impression that the riots were mutual. After all, there was "tension" and riots (plural) "erupted". But as we all know, Arabs exploited a May Day march by socialists and communists which had nothing to do with the Arab-Israel conflict and set about invading Jewish homes, pillaging and murdering, including Yosef Haim Brener, the famous author, who wasn't in Jaffa at the time but in an orange grove near Abu-Kabbir. Almost 50 Jews were killed by Arabs and no Arabs were killed by Jews rather by British security personnel.

See here, here too and here as well.

Friday, May 18, 2007

News Items


On Jerry Falwell

In the 1980s, Israel's Likud Party drew closer to the right wing in the U.S., and Falwell was a key figure in mobilizing conservative Christian voters. In her book "Spiritual Warfare: The Politics of the Christian Right", Sara Diamond notes that Falwell, often through his television broadcasts and his frequent trips to Israel, played a key role in "dr[awing] evangelicals to pay closer attention to Middle East politics."

In 1979, Israel rewarded Falwell with a private jet. Two years later, he received Israel's Jabotinsky Award for his support.

According to one account, "Jewish-evangelical relations had become so close by the early '80s that, immediately after Israel bombed Iraq's nuclear reactor in 1981, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin telephoned Moral Majority leader Rev. Jerry Falwell before calling President Ronald Reagan to ask Falwell to 'explain to the Christian public the reasons for the bombing'."


On the Darfur refugees

it is important that Israel take more far-reaching measures than simply designating resources for treating the refugees who found shelter in neighboring Chad. In such matters there is significance to symbolic measures – Menachem Begin demonstrated this with his first act as prime minister, when he permitted entry to Vietnamese refugees who were rescued by an Israeli ship after their boat had drowned at sea.


On Flying an Islkamic Flag over the Temple Mount

Another possibility raised by the teams of Achimeir and Lapidot - raising a religious flag - is likewise complex and unclear. This possibility was spoken of in the summer of 1978 during the first Camp David peace talks, and the talks almost broke down as a result. The Egyptian president, Anwar Saadat, proposed flying a Saudi Arabian flag above the holy places in Jerusalem, but Menachem Begin rejected the possibility out of hand. "There is no way that something of that kind will ever take place in Jerusalem," Begin stipulated. "The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Jerusalem. The Israelis also do not raise any flag there. If there is peace, the Arabs will be able to fly flags on every embassy that they open in Jerusalem."

Despite Begin's resolute response, then U.S. president Jimmy Carter once again raised the Egyptian demand. Without this, he said, Sadat would not sign a peace treaty. Carter proposed that Israel agree that a flag be raised without a decision being taken at that stage on whether this would be a religious flag or the flag of a state. Dayan made it clear to Carter that should any flag be flown, it would be flown over the mosque and not on any other place on the Temple Mount. But Begin angrily rejected this possibility as well. "Not on the Temple Mount," he fumed. "We are losing our conscience. Is it not enough that we have forbidden [Jews] to pray on the Temple Mount? We will not be able to agree to that also for too long a time. But the raising of a religious flag on the Temple Mount would be tantamount to recognition that it belongs to the Muslims."

Begin was so infuriated by the idea of a foreign flag over the Temple Mount that several years later he rejected an enticing Saudi proposal that was brought to him by businessmen Yaakov Nimrodi, Al Schwimmer and Hank Greenspan: $100 billion for developing a Middle East of Peace, in return for allowing the Saudi flag to be raised over the Temple Mount.

Yair Sheleg's Comments on the Upheaval Commemoration

'To benefit the people'

Besides the 40th anniversary of the unification of Jerusalem, these days also mark the 30th anniversary of the political upheaval that brought the Likud to power. Menachem Begin's personality played a dominant role in his government's decisions, especially during his first term. His influence can be seen as a common denominator that explained some of those salient decisions in completely different fields: economic liberalism (which began in the realm of foreign currency and became the basis of today's consumer economy); expansion of the settlements; and the sweeping exemption from military service granted to yeshiva students (until Begin, this exemption was granted to only an annual quota of young men).

It is true that each of these decisions can be explained separately - the settlements were part of Begin's political outlook; the exemption for the ultra-Orthodox was related to coalition demands; and the economic policy can be attributed to processes that were under way in the world and to the position of his coalition partners from the Liberal Party. But after all this, it seems Begin's personality played an important role, too, as epitomized in his famous slogan, "to benefit the people."

Begin was a good man who wanted very much to do well by everyone, to enable everyone to realize his or her wishes, and perhaps this is why he was so beloved. But this "good" sometimes came at the expense of the overall national interest. It is no coincidence that what began with "benefiting the people" in the name of principled arguments eventually evolved in the Likud Central Committee into the distribution of jobs and the plunder of the public coffers, in order to benefit those who saw themselves as "representatives of the people" who had been deprived in the past.

If there is today nostalgia for the maligned Mapai, it is precisely because of this point. It is not that Mapai was perfect; Mapai officials behaved in a shameful way in their persecution of political rivals, in distributing jobs only to their own people, in believing that their rule was essential for managing the state. But the longing derives from the belated recognition, after nearly three decades of the proliferation of sectoral interests, that Mapai's policies, denigrated in the past as overly centralized, were at least conducted on behalf of the national interest: Mapai officials also regarded Judea and Samaria as precious lands, but they were ready to relinquish them for the sake of what they viewed as a national interest. They imposed cold, rational considerations over deceptive emotions.

It is impossible, and unnecessary, to return to the strict, centralized policy that characterized Mapai, especially because it also had serious flaws, pushing away broad sectors of society. But there is a need to return to the principle of placing the national interest in the center of policy, rather than sectoral and private desires. This is true even in a privatized field like economics: There is certainly great importance in private entrepreneurship - which is far more efficient and agile than the public sector. (We impose many bureaucratic constraints on the public sector, seeking to make sure that the money that comes out of our pockets is well-supervised and is not spent arbitrarily.) This is the profound reason why the Gaydamaks of the world can come up with much quicker responses than the public system.

But the danger of private initiative is that its entire goal is ultimately to enrich its owners. Therefore, even if it has efficiency on its side, the bottom line is that this efficiency is channeled to benefit the owners rather than consumers. Therefore, every economic area perhaps needs the conditions of a free market, but also requires strong regulation to protect us from what is permissively called in retrospect "market failures" - that is, from situations in which the competitiveness and efficiency do not operate in the public interest, but against it.

And Yossi Sarid Has Something to Say

The upheaval that wasn't

Three days before the 1977 elections I ran into the foreign minister on the main street of Metula. I was then a young Knesset member at the end of his first term and he was - then as always - Yigal Allon. He was in high spirits, having just come out of a successful election meeting, whereas I was in a bad mood. I feel we've lost the elections, I told him. He laughed and tried to calm me: "We may lose a few seats, but if we weren't defeated four years ago, right after the Yom Kippur War, there's no chance we'd be beaten now."

I know he interpreted my defeatism at the time as end-of-campaign fatigue. I was then information chairman of the Labor Alignment (the alliance of Mapai, the largest left-wing party in the country with Achdut Ha'avoda) campaign. I saw his response as the obtuseness of being in power too long. It not only corrupts but also blinds the eyes of the wise.

A few months earlier I met the West German chancellor, Willy Brandt, who visited me in Kiryat Shmona during his visit in Israel. I made the same pessimistic forecast, but added that perhaps Labor, out of power, would rehabilitate and heal itself. The experienced chancellor shook his head and said: "I have been young, and now I am old; yet I have not ever seen a defeated party rehabilitate itself in opposition."

In retrospect, I daresay he was right. There are illnesses that only get worse in the political wilderness, and they attack mainly parties that have never been weaned from power.

Yesterday was the 30th anniversary of the upheaval - the Likud's rise to power. It's not good for a democracy to have a single ruling party. So 1977's turnabout should be seen positively, at least in principle. The Likud's beginning seemed promising. What the Alignment failed to do in its various incarnations in 30 years - make the first peace with a major Arab state - Menachem Begin pulled off in an amazingly short time. For a brief moment, it seemed to confound all the predictions of disaster. The land might after all overflow with milk and honey.

But the moment was brief indeed. Everything Mapai had spoiled, the Likud spoiled further. Under Begin's leadership the rifts and gaps in Israeli society widened. Granted, the Jews from Arab countries felt better, felt at home, but that feeling didn't pay their grocery bills. Poverty, for the most part, increased, while a few became hugely wealthy. The ultra-Orthodox draft dodging spread, and yeshiva pupils multiplied and increased and now fill the earth.

The occupation strengthened its grasp on the land, and the settlements expanded their boundaries. The seed of calamity planted by Golda, Galili and Dayan took hold and grew and sprouted all the wild growths.

Jerusalem, which was never united and never will be, received an annexation law that drove all the ambassadors from it.

At the end of Begin's term the first Lebanon War broke out. It was a preemptive war of choice, and it was obvious from the beginning that it was a mistake. In the 18 years we were in Lebanon, our presence exacted more than 1,000 victims and finally defeated Begin himself. The voice and hands were Begin's, but the legs that knocked over the bucket were Ariel Sharon's.

Begin was a decent, honest man, who would be horrified to find what happened here after his death. Mapai at the end of its hegemony was a corrupt party but its sins were like the driven snow compared to the Likud's era in power. Corruption lost all shame, and Begin's heritage was stained unrecognizably by the Diadochi.

A few weeks ago retired Judge Sara Sirota recalled in a newspaper report that a thief once explained why he broke into Pinhas Sapir's house. He was sure he said that in the treasurer's house there'd be a treasure. To his amazement all he found was an old watch. Today's thieves would not emerge empty-handed from the homes of prime ministers and ministers.

Thirty years since the Likud came to power, it's easy to be nostalgic for the good old Mapainiks and their culture, whatever their flaws.

After all that has happened since, one may well ask - was there an upheaval? And one should also answer - there was no upheaval.

More on Likud Faction Meeting at the Begin Center

Likud celebrates 30 years since first rise to power, honors Begin

The members of the Likud Knesset faction - then and now - who came together to mark the 30th anniversary of the Likud's first rise to power, took advantage of the occasion to express their longing for their founder, Menachem Begin.

MK Silvan Shalom said Begin was a prime example, in contrast to this government, that "leadership must come with clean hands, purity of standards and honesty."

"What characterized Begin and what is so lacking in this country," said MK Yuval Steinitz, "is leadership with backbone." MK Gideon Sa'ar said "today's leadership is not leadership." MK Michael Eitan said "Begin's greatness was that he tried to do the impossible and be both a good politician and a human being."

Thus, the group that might constitute the next leadership of Israel drew the outlines of the characteristics necessary for leadership. When they were asked why leadership is lacking, Steinitz answered, "Today it is more difficult."

Outstanding in its absence was a speech by former Knesset speaker MK Reuven Rivlin. He was present, but did not speak. The race for the presidency apparently requires him to exercise caution not to insult or anger anyone. Also missing (obviously) was the former Likud MK who is now prime minister, Ehud Olmert.

The meeting, which took place at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem, was also the opportunity to reminisce, especially about where those present were on May 17, 1977.

Limor Livnat said she volunteered to work the chalkboard that night so she would be allowed into headquarters. During the night, she chalked up the thrilling results that flowed in from the polls. Sa'ar said he remembered that night very well, though he was only 10 years old.

Yuval Steinitz, a former leftist, admitted that he had voted for the Democratic Movement for Change (Dash), but Likud chairman MK Benjamin Netanyahu granted him absolution since he had mended his ways.

Netanyahu discussed events in Sderot, proposing a varied menu of actions from "stopping services like electricity and water in a controlled manner to bringing in limited ground forces to areas of rocket launches, to a distance of four to five kilometers."

Netanyahu also said that "paralysis and helplessness must pass from the world." How is that connected to Begin? Begin, according to Netanyahu, understood that the prime obligation of the government to its citizens is to protect their lives.

The result of this understanding, the head of the opposition al so noted, was "first and foremost the blowing up of the nuclear reactor in Iraq.

Begin acted with great daring against international opinion and against the United States." Silvan Shalom said he thought blowing up the Iraqi nuclear reactor was Begin's most important act.

Was there a feeling around the table of missing the blowing up of nuclear plants?

Netanyahu: "No, but admiration for what was done."

That was Haaretz.

Here's the Jerusalem Post:-

Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu Thursday called upon Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to take serious steps to end rocket attacks on Sderot from the Gaza Strip.

Speaking at a Likud faction meeting at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center marking the 30th anniversary of the party's 1977 rise to power, Netanyahu said that Olmert should learn from Begin's 1981 attack on the Iraqi nuclear reactor that a government's primary responsibility is to protect its people.

"The government can do a lot to protect its people," Netanyahu said. "It could evacuate whomever necessary, enact a closure on the Gaza Strip, stop providing services like electricity and water, or decide on a limited invasion of four or five kilometers to distance the range of the Kassams. But the government isn't doing anything to protect the people of Sderot, because it is paralyzed," he said.

In an interview with Army Radio, Netanyahu compared the current situation to that prior to the 1977 race. He said that in both instances, Israel was governed by leaders who had failed in war and were out of touch with the sentiment of the people.

Comparing himself to Begin, Netanyahu said that "Begin was also seen as a danger to peace" and that the slogan "anyone but Begin" had been replaced by "anyone but Bibi." He downplayed criticism in the Likud that he was not doing enough to overthrow Olmert.

"I'm trying to convince people in the Knesset that this government cannot continue, but many of them are too interested in sticking to their jobs," Netanyahu said. "The reason Shas isn't leaving is not because I haven't met with Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. Overthrowing a government is a process that develops, and we're getting there."

Netanyahu's Likud rival, MK Silvan Shalom, met with Yosef earlier this week in an effort to persuade him to topple Olmert; he has also met with Israel Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman. Shalom said the rabbi told him that the Shas Council of Torah Sages would meet soon to consider the matter.

"Bibi is paralyzed and it's unexplainable," Shalom said earlier this week. "We needed to do something and he wasn't doing it, so I decided to do it myself. If he doesn't do anything, there won't be elections any time soon."

The faction, joined by Likud MKs from 1977, watched a broadcast of the coverage of Begin's victory. The MKs laughed when Begin said in his victory speech that he was waiting for a "telegram of congratulations" from vanquished Labor candidate Shimon Peres.

Netanyahu defined Begin's legacy as "remaining consistent with one's vision, fighting for it, knowing how to lose and keeping on fighting for it until it is achieved."

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Begin Center At Night

A Koby Harati Picture:-

Likud Knesset Faction Meets to Mark 30 Years to the Upheaval

Bibi slams gov’t inaction

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu accused the government of not doing enough to protect residents of Sderot and the western Negev.

“The government doesn’t understand that its ultimate obligation is to prevent the shelling of Sderot’s homes,” he said, “We can’t allow this situation to persist.”

During a speech at a Likud factional meeting on Thursday [conducted at the Begin Center to mark the 30 year anniversary since the election victory of Menachem Begin], Netanyahu also suggested several steps that the government could take in order to put an end to the Qassam rocket fire in the South.

“The government can do a lot of things to protect its citizens … It can impose a closure on the Gaza Strip, stop providing certain services to the Palestinian Authority such as electricity and water, and temporarily enter Gaza, four or five kilometers in,” Netanyahu said, prior to reports of several IDF tanks entering the city.

“At the moment, the government isn’t doing anything to protect Sderot residents. This silence, this omission, this helplessness has to go,” he added.

News of the Idf operation then reached the meeting, but MK Limor Livnat dismissed it, saying it was only done for the “appearance of a military operation”.

“If the government doesn’t give a real, serious response to the massive firing at Sderot over the past few days, it is not worthy of its place.”

MK Silvan Shalom said that a “ground assault is needed, and it is impossible to exterminate terror without it”.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Another Avner Article: "The great emancipator"

The great emancipator

May. 16, 2007

Every Israeli politician is familiar with the tipping point in Israel's political calendar: May 17, 1977. That was the day the Labor Party lost its grip on the nation's muscle. Rife with corruption and plagued with scandals, its ministers had grown flabby and arrogant, and there were bitter leadership feuds.

For decades Labor had but one idea of government - to preserve in tact its absolute grip on power. Every major public establishment was its padlocked fiefdom. The Labor Party constituted the natural ruling class of Israel and the body and soul of its socialist rule. Its leaders governed from duty, heritage, and habit - and, as they saw it, from right.

Laborites married into each other's families, supported each other, appointed each other, and kept outsiders outside. Climbing a career ladder was largely a matter of party allegiance, and the right connections - protekzia in the vernacular.

Labor was designed and built as a dreadnought, an all big-gun political battleship that would rule Israel forever. But Labor was caught off guard by a submarine named Likud and captained by a man called Menachem Begin.

Running silent, running deep, rising incrementally ever higher from election to election - it surfaced with a spectacular showing in the electoral battle of May 17 1977.

AT ELEVEN o'clock that evening, I sat cross-legged in front of the television listening to the station's chief anchorman, Haim Yavin, repeating for the umpteenth time that, according to the TV's own unofficial exit poll, Menachem Begin had roundly trounced Labor's Shimon Peres.

The screen showed the big hall at Likud Party headquarters in Tel Aviv where hundreds of loyalists were swirling about in paroxysms of incredulity and ecstasy, all bellowing in a single voice, "Be-gin! Be-gin! Be-gin!" The din was so ear-battering that the jostled TV reporter on the floor gave up trying to describe what the clamor was about.

Transfixed by the political theater filling the screen, I watched prime minister-elect Begin eventually enter the hall, his bespectacled, bony, and animated features lit by a dazzling smile as he moved into the shoe-stomping and raucous throng crushing in upon him on every side. And as he moved, the crammed assembly chorused his name ever louder: "Be-gin! Be-gin! Be-gin!"

Anxious guards, stewards, aides, and policemen pushed and elbowed the adoring crowd, cutting a channel in the crush to let the victor through. He, inching his way toward the stage, waved with both hands high, and when he finally mounted the platform the entire jamboree exploded into the thumping, hand-clapping patriotic chant, "Am Yisrael hai" [The people of Israel lives]. His figure was all aglow in camera flashes, and he led the throng along, clapping his hands and bending his knees up and down to the rhythm of the beat like a Hassidic rabbi, rhapsodized.

At this point the TV commentator bellowed to his viewers that Menachem Begin was 63, and he had been in the land 35 years.

The singing and the shouting settled into a deep hush when the champion raised his palms for silence. And there he stood, isolated in the stillness, a slender, semi-bald, bespectacled, middle-sized, frail-looking figure in a dark suit, his eyes bright, and his face pale from a recent heart attack.

With deep reverence, he drew from his pocket a black yarmulke and recited the famous shehecheyanu blessing, thanking the Almighty for enabling him to reach and celebrate this day. A resounding "Amen!" roared around the hall with such energy it caused the microphone to shriek in feed back.

NOW BEGIN recited a Psalm of gratitude and, after that, his conciliatory victory address. As the applause swelled again, he turned toward his wife, Aliza, a petite woman in a homely gray suit, with springy gray hair and thick glasses, who all this while had been standing modestly at his shoulder. He embraced her with his eyes and in a voice husky with emotion told her of his eternal love and his everlasting debt towards her for the way she had stood by him through thick and thin, in unbounded devotion and sacrifice for 40 years.

"I remember you, the kindness of your youth," he serenaded her, quoting the Prophet Jeremiah. "I remember you the love of your betrothal, when you followed me into the wilderness, into a land that was not sown." And then, paraphrasing, "I remember you when you followed me into a land that was strewn on every side with deadly minefields, and yet you followed me."

These publicly expressed personal feelings stood in such sharp contrast to the famed emotional austerity of the outgoing prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, they caused the assembly to roar their esteem without restraint. Indeed, the clapping and the whistles went on for so long many, presumably, missed Begin's invocation of the memory of his "master and teacher," Ze'ev Jabotinsky, the charismatic nationalist intellectual and ideologue, founder of the Revisionist Zionist Movement, in whose footsteps he devoutly walked.

ENDING WITH the promise to fulfill Jabotinsky's legacy, he bowed low and the whole assembly rose to chant the anthem. Whereupon, shielded once more by his cordon of security personnel and officials, Menachem Begin beamingly waved his way off the platform, shaking every palm he could reach, and kissing the knuckles of every woman who thrust her hand at him.

Soon, the television camera shifted to the floodlit street outside which had been closed off to traffic. Loudspeakers blared patriotic music, and devotees milled around singing and dancing under blue and white paper bunting.

Men and women of every sort and age were there, from teenagers to those bent-over, most of them olive-skinned. They originated from places like Morocco, Tunisia, Yemen, Iraq, Libya, Kurdistan, Algeria, Egypt, Iran, and India. Commentators would later explain it was they, these immigrants, who had catapulted Menachem Begin into power after almost 30 years in the political wilderness. They were mainly the impoverished and God-fearing Sephardic Jews who, having felt left out and passed by, and fed up of slum life and handouts, had flexed their muscles, put their energy behind Begin, and settled their score with the paternalistic and elitist European Labor old-timers of whom Shimon Peres was the epitome.

"Why did you vote for Begin?" asked a TV man who was surrounded by a group of swarthy enthusiasts.

"What makes him so different from Peres? Both are from Poland. Is not Begin as Ashkenazi as Peres?"

"Ashke-NAZI!" somebody yelled off-camera.

"Shtok!" [Shut up!] hollered a man with the sloped shoulders of a boxer, dressed in a waiter's jacket.

"You want to know why we voted Begin? We voted Begin because he's not a godless socialist like Peres and his lot. Begin never lined his pockets. He's humble and honest. Begin speaks like a Jew, the way a Jew should speak. He's not ashamed to say 'God.' He speaks with a Jewish heart. That's why Labor always ridiculed him, and treated him the way they always treated us - like scum."

"Are you saying that Peres and his crowd are not really Jews?" asked the interviewer provocatively.

The man spat. There was contempt in his eyes. "They may be Jews, but they behave like goyim. Have you ever seen one of them inside a synagogue? What's a Jew without a beit knesset? Where's their self-respect, their pride?"

"Ya, habibi," cut in someone else, sporting a thick crown of greased black hair, and also wearing a waiter's jacket. "Those Labor bigwigs duped us. They brought us here telling us this was the Geula, the Redemption. Cheap labor, that's what they brought us here for. In Casablanca my father was an honored member of the community. He was the patriarch of our family. He had kavod - respect."

"KAVOD!!" the crowd chorused in corroboration.

"Everybody gave him kavod because he ran his own spice shop in the Casbah. Now what does he do? He breaks his back on a building site. Who's going to give him kavod now? In Morocco only Arabs work on building sites. His kavod has been stolen."

Heads nodded in substantiation.

"What's your name?" asked the interviewer.


"So tell us Marcel, what did you do in Casablanca?"

"I was a bookkeeper. That's an occupation of kavod. Now I'm a waiter. In Morocco only Arabs are waiters. My kavod has been trampled upon. Menachem Begin has given me back my kavod."

He said this in such a triumphant tone that his companions burst forth into a rousing sing-song, chanting at the tops of their voices, "Begin, melech Yisrael" [Begin King of Israel.]

SO YES, what was for them a field day was to the shocked, defeated Laborites, an angst day. Like Rachel, they mourned for their children and would not be comforted. They drew up petitions, held meetings, organized protests, made speeches, wrote articles, convened conferences, and made provision for a new socialism that never ever arose.

He, Begin, the Jew from Warsaw, without sycophancy, or pretense, or obsequiousness, opened his Likud Party's gates to the Eastern Jews, won their hearts, and earned their trust. After decades of being preached to somebody, at last, was listening to them. Thus it was that these outcasts of the socialist establishment dumped the heirs of the nation's founders, slipped the national anchor from its familiar moorings, and pushed off on an untutored course into uncharted waters, with Menachem Begin at the helm. Under his watch the high walls of arrogance, sectarianism, and paternalism which had irrevocably separated Jew from Jew since Israel's inception were torn down.

He, the great emancipator, had an almost mystical appeal 30 years ago. In contrast to the scandal-ridden Labor, he pulled in voters of every hue, not least because his integrity shone through with such transparency that even his opponents had to acknowledge his modest, almost monastic life-style and strict personal honesty.

This is what made the man. Let every Knesset member lacking in integrity, intellect, honor, and training for the job, falling back of necessity on favorites, sycophants, whim, mulishness, spin, and other devices of the unprincipled occupant in the corridors of power remember the lesson of the election of 1977.

Monday, May 14, 2007

The Cabinet Decision Taken At the Begin Center

The Cabinet intends to strengthen Jerusalem on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the city's reunification 13-May-2007

(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)

The Cabinet today (Sunday), 13.5.07, discussed a series of measures to strengthen the city of Jerusalem on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of its reunification. Today's Cabinet meeting was held at the Menachem Begin Heritage Foundation in Jerusalem. Prime Minister Olmert said that the reason for this was the fact that the late former Prime Minister Menachem Begin, "had advanced Basic Law: Jerusalem – Capital of Israel, which expresses Jerusalem's special place for us as a state and a society."

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that the measures would, "advance and encourage Jerusalem. Their overall cost, including the grant that I have already decided on, will be NIS 5.75 billion over five years." Prime Minister's Office (PMO) Director-General Ra'anan Dinur said that, "We want to assure the economic strength of the city. These measures will greatly assist in achieving this goal."

The measures to be discussed include:

* Canceling the employer's tax in Jerusalem: The PMO and the Finance Ministry intend to enact an across-the-board cancellation of employer's tax, which is imposed on salaries paid by non-profit organizations (including social welfare organizations, educational and cultural institutions, hospitals and local councils). It is estimated that the aforesaid organizations will enjoy approximately NIS 320 million in benefits.

* Transferring various Government units to Jerusalem: The Cabinet will consider a proposal to transfer Government offices to Jerusalem. According to the proposal, rental contracts for Government offices outside Jerusalem will not be renewed beyond 2015. It is expected that this decision will substantially influence the city's growth and development by increasing employment and municipal revenues.

* Construction of first stage of new courts complex in Jerusalem: The construction of a courts complex will begin with the construction of a new Jerusalem Magistrates Court in the city center. This will be a significant step in a comprehensive program to allocate greater resources to the judicial system in order to assist it in dealing with an increased workload, shortening waiting times and strengthening its image. Financing will be from both Government and external sources.

* Establishing a central school for Jerusalem studies at the Yad Ben-Zvi Institute: The institute will be a leading body regarding Jerusalem studies, will operate on the highest professional level and will offer coordination, guidance and assistance to all bodies dealing with the issue. The institute will produce educational materials and programs, encourage research and cooperate with other bodies in the field of Jerusalem studies.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Cabinet Convenes at Center

Israel's government met today at the Menachem Begin Center in special session to mark the 40th anniversary of the liberation of all Jerusalem in the Six Days War four decades ago:

Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski warned Sunday of a demographic collapse that could cause the capital to lose its Jewish majority and transfer the city into the hands of Hamas.

Speaking at a special cabinet meeting at the Begin Heritage Center in [that should be near] Mishkenot Sha'ananim in honor of the 40th anniversary of the unification of Jerusalem, Lupolianski said that Hamas could gain demographic control of the capital within twelve years.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert promised at the meeting to allocate NIS 5.75 billion to the city and to cancel Jerusalem's employers' tax.

And Ynet reported it thus:

A demographic shift could lead to Hamas gaining control of Israel’s capital, Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski said during Sunday's cabinet meeting.

"Jerusalem may, God forbid, not be under Jewish sovereignty, but ruled by Hamas, which knows that it can conquer Jerusalem demographically within 12 years. We need a plan in order to ensure that Jerusalem remain Israel’s capital for all eternity,” Lupolianski said.

The government met for its weekly meeting at the Menahem Begin Heritage Center located opposite the Old City walls, in order to mark the 40-year anniversary of the city's reunification.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert clarified at the start of the meeting that the government would approve a series of decisions aimed at strengthening Jerusalem.

Olmert noted that the government would invest NIS 5.75 billion in activities aimed at strengthening Jerusalem by developing the Old City, transferring government units to the capital and encouraging economic growth through grants.

"We all need to take the mayor’s comments seriously,” Minister Jacob Edery said during the meeting. “The threat is sever and significant to the Jewish future of Jerusalem. We must act to strengthen the population of Israel’s capital for eternity,” Edry added.

The Middle East Times also reported on the event.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Center Bulletin, Vol. 3, Issue 30

Volume 3, Issue 30
May 9, 2007

Total Number of Visitors Since October 2004: 279,613

40 Years of a Unified Jerusalem:

Events Open with Songs of the Underground

Festivities to mark the 40th anniversary of the liberation and unification of Jerusalem were opened at the Begin Center at an evening of songs of Jerusalem and the Underground fighting units who were in the long struggle for Jerusalem from before 1948. The Reuben Hecht Auditorium was packed to absolute capacity.

Veterans and many younger people mingled and sang together under the direction of Yehuda Blecher.

The event also marked 25 years since the passing of the poet and songwriter Shlomo Skulski, whose daughter Edia initiated and organized this special occasion which started at 8:00pm and ended at 10:00pm. The participants wanted to go on longer and dispersed slowly and happily after the closing.

Many events will take place all over the city before and on Jerusalem Day with the Begin Center a very popular attraction for many visitors who will be here on this festive occasion.

30 Years after "The Upheaval"

As we indicated some weeks ago, this year, 2007, is connected with the political career and national leadership of Menachem Begin and next week a major event will be marked and celebrated in various parts of the country. It is 30 years after the "Mahapach—The Upheaval" that took place on May 17, 1977, the date of the election for the 9th Knesset. On that day, Menachem Begin and the Likud came to power for the first time, ending more than 40 years of socialist rule in the Yishuv and in Israel. All the dire predictions that a Likud victory would lead to an internal physical struggle were totally unfounded. The transfer from the socialists to the Likud was orderly, peaceful and democratic.

After the election, 43 Likud members entered the Knesset and after that election, there were altogether four Likud Prime Ministers—Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Shamir, Binyamin Netanyahu and Ariel Sharon. For a period, Likud was also part of a Unity government together with Labor.

To mark this milestone, the present Likud faction, headed by Chairman Gidon Sa'ar, will hold a special festive session at the Begin Center on Thursday, 17 May.

In addition, the Tel Aviv University's Chaim Weizman Research Center is holding a two-day (16-17 May) Symposium on the "Mahapach."

Reagan, Begin, Osirak

President Ronald Reagan was afraid that Israel's attack on the nuclear reactor at Osirak at Baghdad will "lead to the end of the world."

Thus wrote President Ronald Reagan in his diary which he kept for his two terms in office. It is now two years since he passed away and his wife has made some of the documents available to the public and especially to historians and writers. Reagan said that Israel's attack took the Americans completely by surprise. At the time, the American authorities were furious and Vice President George Bush (the father) called for immediate sanctions against Israel by stopping the delivery of arms.

However, after the dust settled, the Americans recognized the importance of this remarkable event and privately sent their congratulations. In fact, one month after the event the National Security Advisor to President Reagan came on a visit to Prime Minister Begin. They met at the Prime Minister's residence and after their formal discussion at which Yechiel Kadishai and Shlomo Nakdimon (Begin's media advisor) were present, the American told the Prime Minister that he had a personal message from the president and he had to do it "under four eyes," meaning only him and Begin. Begin told him to go ahead, that even with the two other people in the room, the conversation was as private as if they were alone. The American thought for a moment, nodded his head and said: "The President's message is "Well Done!"

Ten years later, of course, at the time of the first American War against Iraq, Desert Storm, scores of American Senators, Congressmen, newspaper editors and other public figures came to Israel, met with Prime Minister Shamir and proffered their gratitude for what Israel had done in 1981.

Junior Knesset in English

The Alexander Muss School in Hod HaSharon near Tel Aviv sent 130 American teenagers (juniors and seniors in high school) to participate in the Junior Knesset program of the Menachem Begin Heritage Center. As part of their eight week experience, students learn about their Jewish heritage, learn about Israel and, for the first time, had a hands-on, interactive workshop about how the Israeli Knesset works. The students spent the whole day in the Center divided into groups going through the museum, learning about history and working through issues in the Junior Knesset.

In Memoriam

We deeply regret to record the death of Dov Milman, who was a fighter in the Irgun Zvai Leumi, exiled to Gilgil in the group of 251 members of the Irgun and Lechi, where he began his studies in law. He was one of the founders of the Herut movement and a member of the Seventh Knesset. He was later appointed ambassador to Portugal and to the European Community. He was Chairman of the Association of Immigrants from Latvia.

His late wife, Sarah (Charney), came to Israel from South Africa as a Machal volunteer. A few years ago she died in a strange accident while swimming in the Gordon Street Pool, Tel Aviv.

We extend our heartfelt sympathy to Dov's daughter, Dina Milman, his son, Pinchas, and his daughter-in-law, Anat, and his grandchildren.

Dov Milman attended numerous functions of the Menachem Begin Heritage Center.


Rav Weinbach and Rabbi Geffen of Ohr Sameach visited the Begin Center and were most impressed by the museum, the Reuben Hecht Auditorium and the Beit Midrash Menachem and what they stand for. They would like to arrange tours for their groups from abroad to the Begin Center.

* * * * *

Members of the UIA Canada Prime Minister's Mission included a visit to the Begin Center in their program. They were received and addressed by the Director General Herzl Makov. Several days later a small group of visitors for the JDC Congress came to the Begin Center where they were met by Mr. and Mrs. Harry Hurwitz and were briefed about the Center and its many activities.

30 Years Since the Likud's Electoral Victory

To see the results of the May 17, 1977 elections to the Ninth Knesset which brought Menachem Begin and the Likud to power, click here.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Letter in Jerusalem Post Re: S. Katz's 'Saison' Op-ed

Trenchant reminder

Sir, - Congratulations to Shmuel Katz for his trenchant and necessary reminder to a new generation of how the heroes of Israel's struggle for independence were forced to battle not only British and Arabs, but the Jewish establishment ("They hunted us like animals," May 1). It served as a reminder of what Katz has noted elsewhere - that what is generally described as Israel's War of Independence was in fact a war of defense, or survival, against invasion by foreign Arab armies.

Israel's real War of Independence was waged against the British by the Jewish underground, sporadically, as Katz notes, by elements of the Haganah, but chiefly by the Irgun and even earlier by the Lehi or Fighters for the Freedom of Israel, which became better known, thanks to the hostile Jewish establishment, as the Stern Gang.

Irvington, Indiana

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Begin Recalled

From an article on state commissions of inquiry:-

By Uzi Benziman

When Prime Minister Menachem Begin and his aides discussed the demand for the establishment of a state commission of inquiry into the massacres at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Beirut, he told them that such a panel lacked any practical powers other than making recommendations to the government. However, Begin said, from an ethical standpoint, the government cannot avoid reaching the necessary conclusions from the commission's rulings. So he said, and so he did - forcing, among others, Ariel Sharon to accept the Kahan Commission's judgment and vacate the Defense Ministry. Over the past two days, Ehud Olmert has proven that ethical considerations are not part of his value system.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Center Bulletin, Volume 3, Issue 29

May 3, 2007

Total Number of Visitors Since October 2004: 277,945

Sins of Omission: Where Was Menachem Begin?

In a detailed letter to the Jerusalem Post the Head of the Begin Center, Harry Hurwitz, pointed out the almost total omission of Menachem Begin from the Jerusalem Post's Yom HaAtzmaut supplement to mark the State's 59 years. There was not a single picture of Begin in the 146 page supplement and very few mentions of his historic role in those 59 years. Hurwitz's letter was published on May 1, 2007 with the following footnote:

The editor responds: The content of the Independence Day 5767 magazine was drawn from articles that had appeared in the Post over the years on Independence Day. There was, of course, no deliberate attempt to downplay Menachem Begin's central role in the evolution of Israel, and we are happy to help redress the balance a little by publishing Begin's portrait, together with a historic "three-man" photo at the White House in 1978.

And this is the letter by Hurwitz which appeared in the paper:


When we received the Jerusalem Post special "Independence Day 5767" magazine we eagerly paged through it to see the kaleidoscope of our country's first 59 years. But imagine our dismay when there appears to have been an obvious attempt to downplay the role of Menachem Begin by the usual technique of ignoring his role in text and in pictures. It is difficult to believe that in all 146 pages there is not a single picture of Menachem Begin—even in a group. And even in events which he initiated, his name is excluded.

"1967 Time Line: Moshe Dayan joins Cabinet as Minister of Defense. Unity government formed." The dramatic entry of Menachem Begin into the Unity Government is ignored especially since he had much to do with its creation.

In the years 1977 and 1978, Begin won the Knesset election (reported but no photograph); Sadat paid his historic visit to Israel at Begin's invitation (this fact is not mentioned and no photograph); Begin and Sadat receive the Nobel Prize (mentioned but no photograph); Begin launches Project Renewal—Israel's important socio-economic program—not mentioned and no photograph.

1979—Signing of the Israel-Egypt peace treaty on the lawn of the White House, mentioned but no photograph, even though the whole world featured the famous three-man handshake, including the Jerusalem Post on its front page that day.

1981—Israel's attack on Iraq's nuclear reactor at Osirak near Baghdad which Abba Eban described as "one of the most remarkable decisions in the nuclear age." Mentioned, but no reference to Begin!

How are these sins of omission explained?

Kollek Revelation "Shocked Many" – S. Katz

"The recent revelation that during the revolt against British rule in Palestine Teddy Kollek was engaged in his younger life in having Jewish underground fighters handed over to the British police came as a shock to many people in the country." With these words Shmuel Katz opened a powerful article that appeared in the Jerusalem Post on May 1, 2007, under the headline "They hunted us like animals."

Katz, who was a member of the Irgun High Command at the time, denounced the role of Ben Gurion, Kollek and Chaim Weizman who were in touch with the British Authorities and handed over hundreds of Irgun and Lehi fighters. Many of them were exiled to prison camps in Africa for three or four years.

Songs from the Days of the Underground

An evening of songs from the days of the Underground will take place in the Menachem Begin Heritage Center on Monday 7 May at 7:30pm.

It is one of the events in the general festivities marking 40 years after the liberation and unification of Jerusalem.

It is also dedicated to the memory of the late Shlomo Skulski who wrote songs for the Underground movements. Up to the time of the release of this bulletin 174 persons have already reserved seats. The admission fee is 30 shekels.

Mark Your Calendars: Shavuot May 22-23

As in previous years, so now, the Begin Center will be the venue for an all-night Shavuot study session, discussion, songs and reminiscences. Many, many hundreds are expected to participate in this meaningful celebration which starts on the evening of Tuesday, 22 May.

In Memoriam

We deeply regret to record the death of Prof. Michael Blumenthal, husband of Naomi Blumenthal, who was for many years a member of the Knesset.

Prof. Blumenthal was a member of the State appointed Council of the Menachem Begin Heritage Center and served in that capacity for the first session since its establishment. He was one of the great innovators and developers in the field of medical specialization in eye surgery which has benefited thousands of people in Israel and from abroad.

Prof. Blumenthal is survived by his wife, children and grandchild.


Josh Hasten, son of Hart and Simona Hasten of Indianapolis and who is a resident of Jerusalem, came to the Begin Center for a discussion with the heads of the Begin Center.

* * * * *

Prof. Fredrick Krantz, Director of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research and the Vice Principal of the Liberal Arts College of Concordia University both of which are in Montreal, Canada, was at the Begin Center on Tuesday for a discussion with the Director General, Herzl Makov, who spent several years in Montreal as a representative of the Jewish Agency

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Shmuel Katz's article on Teddy Kollek

They hunted us like animals


The recent revelation that during the revolt against British rule in Palestine Teddy Kollek was engaged in his younger life in having Jewish underground fighters handed over to the British police came as a shock to many people in the country. The story, however, has a very much wider background than the early career of the man who became world-famous as the mayor of Jerusalem. It opens a long-shuttered window on the tragic scene of Jewish internal conflict in the middle 1940s - and the prelude to the birth of Israel.

The young Teddy Kollek must be viewed through that window not as a "loose cannon," but as one of the executors of the policy of the Zionist establishment to help the British government remain in control of Palestine - a policy that, if successful, would prevent the rise of a sovereign Jewish state.

Take this: On December 8, 1944, Chaim Weizmann, president of the World Zionist Organization, found it necessary and appropriate to send a dutiful, indeed ingratiating, telegram to the British prime minister reporting "how our co-operation with the authorities [in Palestine] in stamping out terrorism is proceeding satisfactorily. 500 names of suspects have already been supplied to the police, of whom 250 have been arrested." The 250, almost all members of the Irgun Zvai Leumi, were promptly exiled to British colonial internment camps in central Africa.

IN WEIZMANN'S telegram there is not a hint of the fact that at that moment masses of Weizmann's fellow Jews in Europe - men, women and children - who were being murdered by the Nazis, would still be alive if Britain had not closed the gates of Palestine against them.

The text of Weizmann's telegram became available to research only years later. But there was no secrecy attached to the speech delivered by the chairman of the Zionist Executive, David Ben-Gurion, at a Labour Conference some days before Weizmann's telegram. In that speech Ben-Gurion spoke of the underground fighters against Britain's oppressive regime as though they were criminals. He demanded that the public cooperate in expelling from his or her community anybody suspected of being in contact with the underground or in possession of its literature.

Nobody was to be spared. Clerks and farmers, lawyers and tradesmen, teachers and pupils, all were fair game. To the Hagana - the force that had been created for Jewish defense - Ben-Gurion's demand was transmitted as a direct order. The operation planned by Ben-Gurion was playfully called hasaizon - "the season" (a term borrowed from English fox hunting).

There were, however, many Hagana members who refused to comply. The order was consequently shelved. The job was then taken on by an ad-hoc body of volunteers from the movement, who created a three-tiered formation - for fingering suspects, for capturing them and for delivering them to the police.

The fruits of the "season" seem statistically meager - some 400 detainees landed in central Africa - but it had great impact morally and socially. The ordeal of these young detainees over the next years did not quench their patriotism or their creativeness, and their remarkably ingenious plans for escape from the British, some of them successful, created an epic chapter in modern Jewish history.

Many of those young men used the time in captivity for completing their education. Some of them later rose to distinction in the State. One became prime minister; another, president of the Supreme Court.

THE PRECISE context of the revolt was the British government's "White Paper" of 1939 - representing the last phase of calculated British retreat and betrayal of the Mandate for Palestine. The Mandate had been entrusted to Britain in 1922 for the specific purpose of helping to bring about a Jewish state by facilitating immigration and settlement. Britain had not easily achieved this trust for she was famously suspected, notably in the US, of colonialist ambitions; and Churchill, the British colonial minister, asked Weizmann to persuade the American president Harding that the Jewish people believed that the British were really and truly acting only to help the Jewish people.

Weizmann and his colleagues made a public campaign, succeeded in their assurances - and their trust turned out, from the beginning, to be gravely misplaced.

By 1939 British governments had gradually so downgraded their obligations under the Mandate that they now projected, in the White Paper, a final five-year trickle of Jewish immigrants (1,500 per annum) and then a complete stoppage of immigration - thus establishing an Arab majority, with a British "super"-government which would "protect" the Jewish minority! The Jewish nation would be thrown back to its state of homelessness. No less.

The White Paper evoked worldwide Jewish protests and uproar even in the British parliament, with a resulting severe drop in the Conservative government's majority. But the government ignored all protests. It could however not proceed to implement the White Paper.

THERE WAS one obstacle: the Palestine Mandate required that every change in British policy had to be approved by the League of Nations. When the British government thus submitted the White Paper for approval by the overseeing authority, the League's Mandates Commission, that approval was refused. The White Paper, the commission declared, did not conform to the Mandate. In consequence, the White Paper never became law.

That ruling by the commission was issued in summer 1939, a few weeks before World War II broke out. Thus the British plan for the deathblow of Zionism was blocked. Legally it had become a dead letter. Yet the government even ignored that rejection, and henceforth behaved until the very end of its rule as though the White Paper was a legal, enforceable document.

Why Winston Churchill, who had vigorously opposed the White Paper in parliament, did nothing to revoke it, or even mitigate its effects when he came to power, was never explained. Indeed the only seemingly positive, though enigmatic, statement he made, in conversation with Weizmann toward the end of the war, was that the Jews "would get the plum in the pudding." At war's end Weizmann was to discover that not only was there neither plum nor pudding, there was also no Churchill. His Conservative Party had been defeated in the general election that was held shortly after the war.

It did not take long for Weizmann and the official Zionist establishment to discover that the Labour Party - which in opposition had vigorously fought the White Paper policy - had turned completely around when they came to power. Indeed, the whips of the Conservatives were being replaced by the scorpions of Labour.

Prominent among the decisions of the new government, headed by Clement Attlee and with Ernest Bevin as foreign minister, was the refusal to allow the 100,000 survivors of the Holocaust to enter Palestine. They remained interned in British camps in Europe.

THE ZIONIST leaders and the Hagana responded by embarking on a campaign of "illegal" immigration such as they had opposed when organized by Jabotinsky before the Holocaust - this again in the face of British resistance, as we had known it in the days of that earlier campaign.

Ernest Bevin turned out to be the greatest practicing British anti-Semite of the century. One of his bright ideas was that survivors of the Holocaust should remain in a Europe soaked in the blood of their families. Some of the "illegal" boatloads of survivors captured by the Royal Navy were indeed returned to Europe, others were re-interned in Cyprus.

More significant was the Hagana's conversion to rebellious action inside Palestine. It was now ordered into the battle with the British. Unbelievably, in November 1945 the United Resistance Movement was formed by agreement between the three organizations: Hagana, Irgun and Lehi. They coordinated their separate plans, with overall monitoring by the leadership of the Hagana. The Hagana carried out a number of major operations, notably the destruction of bridges, demonstrating that the bulk of their members were of the same tough breed as the members of the Irgun.

THEN THE British, claiming collusion between the Zionist leadership and the Hagana, simply arrested all the available members of the World Zionist Executive. (Weizmann and Ben-Gurion both happened to be abroad at the time). The resistance leadership decided that this would not be tolerated - and an Irgun plan for a major attack was agreed upon, blowing up the King David Hotel, which had been chosen by the British to house their heavily-defended military headquarters. Though given due warning of the attack (a warning received also by the nearby French Consulate and The Palestine Post) the head of the British administration decided to ignore it ("Here I give the orders, not the Irgun!" he is said to have exclaimed) and some 80 people were killed in the building.

Zionism's left wing, where there had been persistent refusal to "justify" an armed struggle, was much emboldened by the shock of the King David Hotel disaster, and now urgently renewed its demand to dissolve the United Resistance. Weizmann openly opposed the resistance, and though Ben-Gurion at first blew hot and cold (which Weizmann described as a "hot frost") joined forces with him.

Under British pressure, then, and evident internal disunity, the Zionist Executive members, who had been detained at Latrun, signed a "good conduct" avowal and were released. At the subsequent World Zionist Congress in Switzerland, December 1946, the Weizmannist policy, supported fully by Ben-Gurion, won the day. The leader of the Hagana, Dr. Moshe Sneh, resigned in disgust at Ben-Gurion's betrayal of the agreement between them; and the United Resistance Movement came to an end.

Relations between the underground organizations resumed their former patterns, with the Irgun going on to ever more weighty attacks on the British, and the Zionist leadership and the Hagana (with much-lessened influence) trying unsuccessfully to prevent them.

But the Irgun's operations, and the British government's complete failure to find an answer to them, had by now created a climate of defeat in Britain, both in the press and in parliament, where Churchill kept repeating the slogan "Beat them or get out."

In September 1947, the British government, after bringing her problem to the United Nations, announced that it was leaving Palestine. Britain did so on May 15 1948, thus setting the date for the birth of the State of Israel.