Did Menachem Begin Err? - Part II

Uri Elitzur did not recommend Begin's policy of restraint - with the consequent shock and outrage at his statement. In my humble opinion, Menachem Begin's policy of restraint has resulted in the formation of an image of the nationalist camp as a poor, unfortunate nebech....

Nadia Matar,

OpEds Nadia Matar
Nadia Matar
Arutz 7
[Part one of this article can be read at http://www.israelnationalnews.com/article.php3?id=3896.]

Ariel Sharon and the "Season": It is fascinating to read about this episode in Ariel Sharon's autobiography, Warrior. On page 35, Sharon writes that he informed his father of his desire to join the Palmach:

"But it turned out that my father had other ideas. One day as we were working together in the orange groves, I glanced up and saw him looking at me, his face framed by the branches of a tree. With an expression full of concern he said: 'Arik, I want to tell you, anything you decide to do with your life is all right with me. But you have to promise me one thing. Never, never participate in turning Jews over to non-Jews. You must promise me that you will never do that.' He did not mention the Palmach directly; he didn't have to. What he meant was clear enough. The 'season' had started up again. And what my father thought of this campaign of Jew against Jew can hardly be described. As the Hagana's strike force, it had been the Palmach that had carried out the hunt. Palmach men had arrested the militants, and Palmach men had turned them over to the British. My father could not stomach the thought of my being connected with that, and though I badly wanted to join, I understood his feelings exactly, and I accepted them."

Instead of joining the Palmach, Ariel Sharon enlisted in the Jewish Settlement Police, which was a police force protecting the Jewish settlements. It would be interesting to know what Sharon's father would have said about his son's willingness to forcibly deport Jews from Eretz Israel and to give over extensive parts of our homeland to the enemy.

The second time that Menachem Begin ordered his men to refrain at all costs from civil war was during the episode of the Altalena arms ship, about a month after the declaration of war by the Arabs. David Ben-Gurion ordered the sinking of the Altalena ship, on which hundreds of IZL members had brought thousands of rifles and mortar shells, dozens of machine guns and mortars, three million bullets for the rifles and machine guns, and a large quantity of explosives. This tremendous quantity of arms was sorely needed by the new Jewish State. But Ben-Gurion decided to sink the ship.

The official reason, that is repeated to the present, was Ben-Gurion's fear that Menachem Begin would use these weapons in order to overthrow the government. Obviously, this was just an excuse. The real reason was unquestionably the fear that Menachem Begin, thanks to the weapons that were brought, would receive such great sympathy among the public as to threaten the political future of Ben-Gurion and those of his camp. In order to ensure that Begin and his followers would not gain power, it would be preferable to kill and eliminate them, even at the cost of sinking arms that were so essential to the new state. And so Ben-Gurion, Yitzhak Rabin and others sank the ship from the shore, using the "holy cannon." (Interestingly, the air force pilots - who were mainly foreign volunteers - refused to carry out the order to fire upon the ship while it was on the open seas: "We did not join the struggle to fire on fellow-Jews.") After the ship was sunk, The Palmach soldiers fired from the shore at the IZL fighters swimming in the sea trying to save themselves. Sixteen IZL fighters were murdered in this manner, in cold blood, by their brothers from the Left.

Menachem Rahat quotes the editor of Maariv at the time, Dr. Azriel Carlebach, who wrote on the day following the massacre: "And I stood among the great crowd down below, on the sea shore, and together with them I saw with my own eyes. ...I saw Jewish young men jumping out of large vehicles, with steel helmets on their heads and machine guns in their hand, ready to fire. They were armed from head to toe, and they were two by two, three, tens, many hundreds, running to shoot the Jews. And down below, in the sea, on the mast of the ship, and on its deck, Jews stand, waving a white flag, and shouting: 'Don't fire!'"

On a broadcast on the underground radio after the massacre, Begin called to his people: "We shall continue to love the people of Israel, and we shall continue to fight for the people of Israel. ...Help me to persuade my people that it is forbidden for brother to raise a hand against brother, that it is forbidden that a Hebrew weapon be used against Hebrew fighters."

Rahat continues: "Tears choked Begin's throat during the speech. His opponents jeeringly called this the 'speech of tears'. Begin responded to this description in his book The Revolt: '...as the Altalena taught us, it is essential that tears should take the place of blood. ...sometimes it is better that one man should pour tears from his heart over an abomination committed in Israel, than that many, many should weep over its consequences.' He also wrote: 'And so it came to pass that there was no fratricidal war in Israel to destroy the Jewish State before it was properly born.'

Uri Elitzur did not recommend Begin's policy of restraint - with the consequent shock and outrage at his statement. In my humble opinion, Menachem Begin's policy of restraint has resulted in the formation of an image of the nationalist camp as a poor, unfortunate nebech, of someone who will always restrain himself, who will always offer the other cheek, who will never raise his hand to defend himself against attacks by Jews - not even if they kidnap him and hand him over to the non-Jewish enemy, not even if they shoot him and murder him as he is swimming in the sea towards the shore. Begin's policy of restraint castrated the nationalist camp, and the leftists have felt, ever since the establishment of the State of Israel, that they can do as they please with them. No matter what the leftists do, the national camp will always be acting with mamlakhtiyut [the term coined by Ben-Gurion to express the essence of statehood], like "good little boys."

And so, there is shock and outrage when someone like Uri Elitzur dares to suggest that this time we will not restrain ourselves. How dare he? Why, his task, as a member of the nationalist camp, is to swallow everything. And if it is decided to uproot him from his home - he must accept this. He is permitted to organize a quiet demonstration with the reading of Psalms, but no more!

This leads to my question: wasn't Begin's policy of restraint a mistake? I spoke with different people and I posed the question to them. I heard different opinions. Some say that in those days, at the time of the establishment of the state, Menachem Begin's policy of restraint was essential. Who knows what would have happened if a bilateral civil war had actually erupted? Others, like myself, think that if, during the "Season", Begin had permitted his men to forcefully respond to the attacks by the Left, the latter would have immediately ceased their war against the IZL. If the IZL fighters had - like many of them wanted to - properly "taken care" of one or two little informers from the Palmach, the rest of the leftists would have been scared off, and would no longer have dared to continue their war against Begin and his followers. In this manner, Begin would have earned for himself and his camp respect and awe, instead of scorn and derision, which has continued to the present day.

One can agree or not with Begin's policy of restraint. This discussion belongs to the past. But we must learn the lesson. Today, in 2004, the entire nationalist camp must unite and declare: the period of restraint is over! We shall not curb ourselves if we are attacked! The leftists who masqueraded as members of the nationalist camp and were planted in the Likud, such as Ariel Sharon, Ehud Olmert, Tzippi Livni, and others, together with obvious leftists such as Shimon Peres, are planning a new "Season" and Altalena. The uprooting of settlements, the forcible deportation of Jews, the handing over of parts of Eretz Israel to the Arab enemy are a new form of the persecution of the nationalist camp by the Left, with the goal, as then, of breaking it and ensuring the continued rule of the Left. And all this, despite the knowledge that the "disengagement" plan will cause irreversible damage to the State of Israel, and even threaten its very existence.

Today, the leaders of the nationalist camp must stop trying to be "beautiful people", stop trying to curry favor in the eyes of the leftists in the State Attorney's Office and the media, and begin taking action to save Israel from the Left. They must start acting like proud Jews, who are willing to fight against the wicked anti-Semitic plans of Sharon and Peres for the uprooting and deportation of Jews from Eretz Israel, and against the transformation of the Jewish state into a state of all its citizens, bereft of Judaism. This is especially the case when it is common knowledge that Sharon's plan does not represent the will of the majority of the people. The majority thirsts for proud Jewish-Zionist leadership, which is not afraid to shout to the entire world: "The Land of Israel belongs to the people of Israel, according to the Torah of Israel!"

We in the nationalist camp are not violent, and do not seek confrontation with anyone. Our sons serve in the army. Refusing to obey orders is foreign to us. We obey every order and perform every mission against the Arab enemy, for it is the task of the IDF to fight the enemy and defend Israel. But the role of the IDF is not to expel Jews from their Biblical land and to make possible the handing over of portions of the homeland to the enemy. Accordingly, if, God forbid, the order to uproot settlements should be given, we already now say to all the advocates of transfer what Yossi Sarid said in 1990: "Let there be no misunderstandings amongst us, and let it not be said that you were not warned in advance: We shall not obey the transfer order, nor will our children and those we have educated obey it. The day that the transfer order - that is a patently illegal order - will be given, shall be the day of refusal to obey an order." I hope, and expect, that every Jewish mother will transmit this clear message to her children serving in the army and the police: a real Jew does not uproot and deport his fellow Jew from the Land of Israel.

And if, as was reported in the media, the government is actually training special "transfer units" with leftists and non-Jews who are only too eager to attack and uproot Jews - they should not think that we shall wait for them with restraint, passively, while reciting Psalms.

The nationalist camp does not want a civil war. Yet if Ariel Sharon should give the patently illegal order for the expulsion of Jews from Eretz Israel, this will be tantamount to a declaration calling for a civil war.

We pray that we will not come to such a state of affairs. The horrible nightmare of civil war can be prevented if we succeed in burying the "disengagement" plan, by putting the prime minister out to pasture, and sending him back to the Shikmim farm, where he can take care of his sheep. One thing must be clear: we, the members of the nationalist camp, have stopped acting like nice sheep.