Rabbi Prof. Dov Fischer
Rabbi Prof. Dov FischerCourtesy
Back in the1920’s, and also in the 1930’s and 1940’s, Arab Muslim murderers perpetrated pogroms in Jerusalem, Hevron, and throughout pre-independence Israel, murdering hundreds of Jews. The official Jewish agencies followed the rules and asked and waited for the British Mandatory occupation government to do their job and protect innocent Jewish civilians. The British acted half-heartedly, sometimes suppressing riots and pogroms after a while, sometimes a bit sooner, sometimes not at all.

Eventually, Jews got sick of the situation and decided that, if the British will not do their job, then the Jews will take the law into their own hands and stop Arab brazen terror one way or another. First they formed the Haganah and emphasized a posture of self-restraint in a defensive posture. That was one way. Others felt that havlagah (self-restraint) was not enough and formed an alternative enterprise, the Irgun Tzvai Leumi, which engaged in hatkafah (proactive offensive operations). That was another way. They believed the best defense was a good offense.

And you know the expression: Two Jews, Three Undergrounds. When the Irgun subdued its efforts during part of World War II, a third group formed, the Lechi (Freedom Fighters for Israel).

The British condemned the Haganah Jews for taking the law into their own hands and using arms. They hunted down Haganah youth, beat them on their kidneys with lead pipes, brutalized them. Later, the Haganah condemned the Irgun. And the Irgun believed and acted differently from the Lechi. At one point, after warning people to leave, the Irgun blew up an entire wing of the King David Hotel, where the British occupation efforts were centered. That was illegal. When British police publicly whipped Irgun fighters whom they arrested, the Irgun reciprocated and kidnaped British sergeants and publicly flogged them. Also illegal. The Lechi sent two young men to Cairo to assassinate the British government official who oversaw much of that empire’s entire Middle East policy, including the White Paper that barred shiploads of Jewish refugees from Hitler from entering the Land of Israel. So they killed him.

When the United Nations sent Count Folke Bernadotte to try imposing his despicable “peace plan” on the Jews, a plan that would have forced the Jews to take in over 300,000 Arabs and would have effectively stopped further Jewish immigration into Israel, a plan that would have handed the entire Negev to the Arabs and would have internationalized Israel’s critical harbor in Haifa and would have internationalized Israel’s airport in Lod — and would have handed all of Jerusalem, all of it, to the Arabs — the Lechi decided: Nope. Ain’t gonna happen.

So they assassinated him.

The world condemned all these Jews, these crazy and wild and barbaric Jews — perpetrators of “ah shonda fahr der Goyyim” — for taking the law into their own hands. The leaders of the Yishuv predicted these unauthorized acts would threaten the very existence of Israel, as it would turn world opinion against the Jews. The British? Don’t ask. The United Nations? They were livid: the barbaric Jews had murdered their envoy, the Count.

Turn the clock ahead 75 years. The country of Israel issued postage stamps in honor ot the two who assassinated Lord Moyne, those boys once condemned by the Jewish Agency, and there are monuments to them in Israel. Israel even traded live Arab prisoners to receive the bodies of the two Lechi fighters for national honor. The person who ordered the bombing of the King David Hotel eventually became prime minister of Israel. The one who ordered the assassinations of Lord Moyne and, three years later, of the Count also became prime minister of Israel.

OK, but what do the British think of them? And what does the United Nations think of Menachem Begin and Yitzchak Shamir?

Answer: Who cares?

What’s done is done. The British are out. All of Jerusalem is in Israel’s hands, even despite Ehud Barak’s efforts. For all we care, Ehud Barak can offer to give the Arabs and Bill Clinton his friend Jeffrey Epstein’s private islands, and together they can search for those 72 virgins the shaheeds dream of. The Negev — all of it — is in Jewish hands, and even Naftali Bennett’s and Yair Lapid’s governments that relied on Mansour Abbas’s Muslim Brotherhood Ra’am Party for their coalitions could not give it away to the Bedouin. Nowadays, the main historic significance of the street in Katamon where the Lechi confronted the Count is that it happened in the same neighborhood where TV’s “Srugim” later would be based. The show could be filmed there half a century later because the Count’s plan never survived the count.

It is absolutely illegal to take the law into one’s own hands. No responsible public person can ever — ever — endorse law-breaking, ultra-vires violence, and revenge attacks. It simply cannot be done because all of civilization breaks down when duly elected public officials and public opinion influencers endorse mob violence that unfolds when the people duly in charge of maintaining law and order fail in their basic role. So once there was a state, Prime Minister Begin would not endorse it, and Prime Minister Yitzchak Shamir would not endorse it. Not while in those roles.

Meanwhile, it happened when it did, and now Israel is sovereign in all the Negev, all Jerusalem, all of Haifa harbor and all of the airport in Lod. The 300,000 Arabs never were forcibly imported, Jewish immigration never was blocked by the U.N., and Israel now has a Jewish majority that consistently outnumbers the Arabs by approximately 7-2. Most people reading this never have heard of Bernadotte. The only Counts they know are Dracula and the Muppet. None today rue the reality that Jews took the law into their own hands back when no duly authorized police or military force protected Jews from Arab terror.

Thus, a simple history lesson: If the unruly Jewish violence in Judea and Samaria is to stop, all the condemnations in the world will not be as effective as a simple alternative approach:

The duly constituted authorities elected to govern Israel should stop acting as though they are the British in Mandatory Palestine, and instead should act decisively and mercilessly to crush those engaging in violence against Jews in Judea and especially in northern Samaria. If the duly elected leaders do their jobs, the jobs they were elected to do, they won’t need to worry about Jews who live in Judea and Samaria illegally taking the law into their own hands to protect their lives and those of their loved ones.

Until then, no one in fairness can condemn Israeli rioters unless he has been in their shoes, driven the same roads every day and night where Arabs wait to shoot Jews dead. It is so easy to sit comfortably in Tel Aviv or the Knesset or Washington, D.C., or in other international cities and condemn Jewish rioters who are beyond exasperated and desperate — and for good reason.

It is impossible to condemn Jewish rioters without condemning with even more intensity the governments of Likud that have failed repeatedly to crush Arab terror and that have left Jews there as sitting ducks, failing even to build the bypass highway on the drawing board.

But remember: the rioters did the wrong thing. They all should be given fair trials and, if convicted, should be given suspended sentences and promise not to do it again. A much more severe punishment than that of the anti-government rioters in Tel Aviv.

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