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July 29, 2015 / 13 Av, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Ben Gurion’

Israel Fighting Flytilla Battle with Commercial Muscle and Irony

Sunday, April 15th, 2012

Israeli security forces are preparing for a “fly-in” of as many as 2000 pro-Palestinian provocateurs, who will be trying to push their way in front of the cameras at Ben Gurion airport on Sunday.

Responding to Israeli demands, Air France, Jet2.com and Lufthansa have canceled seats which have been sold to activists on flights to Tel Aviv, without offering a refund.

Those activists who will make it through, coming in mostly from Europe, will be turned around and sent right back to their ports of origin, but not before being handed a leaflet expressing the sentiments of their brief hosts:

Dear activist,

We appreciate your choosing to make Israel the object of your humanitarian concerns.

We know there were many other worthy choices.

You could have chosen to protest the Syrian regime’s daily savagery against its own people, which has claimed thousands of lives.

You could have chosen to protest the Iranian regime’s brutal crackdown on dissent and support of terrorism throughout the world.

You could have chosen to protest Hamas rule in Gaza, where terror organizations commit a double war crime by firing rockets at civilians and hiding behind civilians.

But instead you chose to protest against Israel, the Middle East’s sole democracy, where women are equal, the press criticizes the government, human rights organizations can operate freely, religious freedom is protected for all and minorities do not live in fear.

We therefore suggest that you first solve the real problems of the region, and then come back and share with us your experience.

Have a nice flight.

Israeli Labor Strike Causes Closures, Delays

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

Israel’s main labor union, the Histadrut, declared a general strike on Wednesday impacting services across the country.

The Histadrut, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, and Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor Shalom Simhon were unable to come to an agreement over the conditions and contract terms for outsourced workers on Wednesday, with the failed talks leading to several closures, tie-ups, and delays.

The institutions which will be closed as a result of the strike include all government ministries, the National Insurance Institute, unemployment offices, Municipalities (meaning no parking tickets or garbage collection), religious councils, courts, the Chief Rabbinate, trains, ports, the Stock Exchange, and banks.  Ben Gurion International Airport will be on strike from 6AM to noon, and public hospitals are operating on reduced Sabbath schedules.

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz chastised the Histadrut for calling a strike which is expected to cost the economy $400 million a week.

On Tuesday, the High Court of Justice rejected a petition by the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce against the strike, sayingit did not see a reason to intervene at this time.

An agreement between the Histadrut and the Coordinating Bureau of Economic Organizations, which represents private employers, have reportedly come to an agreement on the same issues.  If signed, the agreement will obligate employers to hire full time outsourced workers who have been employed for at least one or two years, rather than maintaining them as outsourced workers through an employment agency.  Compensation of those workers would also be matched to that already given to workers at the hiring company.

Finance Minister Steinitz reportedly told Histadrut head Ofer Eini that a similar agreement could not be reached with the state, because hiring outsourced workers for ministries and agencies would end up costing too much.  Instead, he offered salary and benefit increases, and increased monitoring to ensure workers’ rights were upheld in government offices.

At a conference in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, Steinitz explained that obligating the state to hire all outsourced workers would ultimately force it to hire everyone who provided a long-term service to the state.  He also noted that Israel would be the only OECD country hiring outsourced employees and requiring the same of local councils and high-tech companies.

Preempt Iran — At All Costs!

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

The discussion about the cost of a pre-emptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities is valuable only if intended to advance the attack and neutralize the possible retaliation by Iran and its allies. However, such a discussion is harmful, ignores precedents, plays into Iran’s hands and threatens Israel’s existence, if it reflects hesitancy, skepticism and fatalism, aiming to preclude preemption, and assuming that Israel can co-exist with a nuclear-armed Iran.

On May 12, 1948, the pre-state Israeli Cabinet decided by a vote of six to four to declare independence and include Jerusalem within Israel’s boundaries, despite internal opposition and pressure by the U.S. and despite a terrible price: The U.S. withheld military aid, threatened economic sanctions and surmised that the declaration of independence would result in a second Holocaust, this time at the hands of the Arabs. Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion refused to abide by the American pressure to postpone the declaration of independence by a few years, knowing that such a delay would be tragic in the long run, and that independence exacts a painful price.

On Oct. 5, 1973, the eve of the Yom Kippur War, Prime Minister Golda Meir rejected the option of a pre-emptive strike to repel the clear and present danger of a joint Egyptian-Syrian attack. She was concerned about the cost of such a strike — namely appearing as the aggressor and severely damaging ties with the U.S. — and preferred to be portrayed as the victim. However, the terrible, long-term cost of that war has been far greater than pre-emptive action would have been. As expected, Israel was not viewed as a victim, but rather as a country that lost the “spirit of the Six-Day War,” eroding is own deterrent power, and undermining its position as a strategic asset for the U.S.

In June 1981, on the eve of the destruction of the nuclear reactor in Iraq, then Prime Minister Menachem Begin weighed the cost of a pre-emptive strike versus the cost of inaction. The heads of the Mossad and Military Intelligence, former Defense Minister Ezer Weizman, opposition leader Shimon Peres, Deputy Prime Minister Yigael Yadin, Israel’s national security adviser and the Head of the Atomic Energy Commission all opposed striking Iraq. They presented apocalyptic scenarios that would result from such action: an irreparable rift with the U.S., harsh sanctions, conflict with the Soviet Union and Western Europe, reconciliation between Muslim countries and a pan-Islamic attack, threats to the peace treaty with Egypt and other doomsday events. They underestimated the probability of a successful pre-emptive attack and overestimated Iraq’s military capabilities. Some claimed there was a greater chance of seeing Israeli pilots being dragged through the streets of Baghdad than being welcomed back to their bases. But, Begin decided in favor of a pre-emptive strike, determining that the cost of restraint could be far greater than that of a pre-emptive strike; that a nuclear threat would subordinate Israel both politically and militarily; that a nuclear attack could not be ruled out considering the violent, unpredictable and hateful nature of regimes in the region, and that the ratio of Israeli territory to that of surrounding Arab states (0.2%) did not allow for a Mutual Assured Destruction. Begin understood that the window of opportunity for a strike against Iraq’s nuclear reactor was about to close. The destruction of the reactor drew short-term isolation, which was promptly substituted by a long-term strategic esteem and cooperation.

In 2012, after a decade of failed attempts at engagement and sanctions, and in light of the assistance (in terms of development and acquisition) Iran has received from Pakistan, North Korea, Russia and China for its nuclear program, Israel must decide between launching a pre-emptive attack to eliminate that threat or facing it. Opponents of an attack warn that it could potentially result in a harsh response from Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas, and international anger directed at Israel over higher oil prices, a wave of terror and Persian Gulf turbulence. Yet, these pale in comparison to the lethal cost of a nuclear threat, which includes a withdrawal of overseas and Israeli investors from the country, a record number of Israeli emigrants and a sharp decline of Aliya (Jewish immigration), dwindling tourism, intensification of military-political-economic dependence on the U.S., a more powerful and influential Iranian regime that takes control of the Persian Gulf , and the transformation of Israel from a strategic asset to a strategic liability. Israel would wither without even one nuclear warhead needing to be launched.

The discussion about the cost of a pre-emptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities is valuable only if intended to advance the attack and neutralize the possible retaliation by Iran and its allies. However, such a discussion is harmful, ignores precedents, plays into Iran’s hands and threatens Israel’s existence, if it reflects hesitancy, skepticism and fatalism, aiming to preclude preemption, and assuming that Israel can co-exist with a nuclear-armed Iran.

Holocaust Museum Rebuffs FDR Backers

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

Defenders of President Franklin Roosevelt’s response to the Holocaust were dealt a blow last week when a study by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum rejected a claim they have made regarding the U.S. failure to bomb Auschwitz.

Officials and supporters of the Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelt Institute in Hyde Park, New York, have claimed for years that David Ben-Gurion opposed bombing Auschwitz, for fear of harming prisoners. Roosevelt supporters have made the claim to deflect criticism of FDR for the U.S. rejection of requests to bomb the death camp.

A newly-completed two-year study by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum has concluded, however, that Ben-Gurion opposed bombing the camp only for several weeks when he believed it was a slave labor camp, and then reversed himself when he learned more about the true nature of Auschwitz.

Ben-Gurion’s Jewish Agency colleagues in Europe and the United States then repeatedly pressed Allied officials to bomb the camp.

“There is now broad agreement among Holocaust historians regarding the question of David Ben-Gurion’s position on bombing Auschwitz,” said Dr. Rafael Medoff, director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, which had been urging the U.S. Holocaust Museum to review the subject in depth.

“Roosevelt’s apologists can no longer use Ben-Gurion to whitewash the Roosevelt administration’s refusal to bomb Auschwitz.”

The Wyman Insitute has issued a study of its own, “America’s Failure to Bomb Auschwitz: A New Consensus Among Historians,” which is available at www.WymanInstitute.org.

Among the Jewish leaders who called on the Allies to bomb Auschwitz in 1944 were World Zionist Organization president (and later president of Israel) Chaim Weizmann, senior Jewish Agency official (and later Israeli prime minister) Moshe Sharett, veteran Jewish leader Nahum Goldmann, and Palestine Labor Zionist leader (and future Israeli prime minister) Golda Meir.

52 New Immigrants Arrive in Israel

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

The State of Israel welcomed 52 new citizens from the United States on Thursday who made aliyah through the organization Nefesh b’Nefesh.

Among the new arrivals is Genna Brand, who is joining ASA Tel Aviv, Israel’s National Women’s Soccer Champion team.  Geoffrey Rogg, formerly of Great Britain and then New York, originally considered making aliyah in 1971, after a conversation with Prime Minister David Ben Gurion.  Rogg, who had organized an event to raise money for Negev development in London, was invited by Ben Gurion for a visit in Sde Boker.  After briefing the Prime Minister on fundraising efforts, Ben Gurion replied “Young man, all this is well and good but what really interests me is when will you make aliyah to Israel?”

To date, Nefesh B’Nefesh has assisted 29,000 olim, 97% of whom have remained in Israel.

The Best Thing JFK Ever Did For Israel

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

I have written about John F. Kennedy in several Media Monitor columns over the years, focusing primarily on the media myth of Camelot that attached itself to the man and his administration almost immediately following his assassination (the term “Camelot” was never once used to describe the Kennedy presidency while Kennedy was still alive).

A couple of those columns dealt specifically with Kennedy’s record on Israel and made the argument that he was not nearly as supportive of Israel as later legend or rose-colored memories made him out to be. Those columns, as might have been expected, drew an inordinate number of responses from readers, some of them supportive, others not nearly so.

With this week marking the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s election as president, and with last week’s front-page essay by Uri Kaufman briefly touching on Kennedy’s relationship with Israel and that of his successor, Lyndon Johnson, it seemed appropriate to cull the highlights of those earlier columns and revisit the issue in one longer essay.

In the 1960 presidential election, John Kennedy received better than 80 percent of the Jewish vote. The fact that his opponent that year was Dwight Eisenhower’s vice president certainly didn’t hurt: Not only had Richard Nixon served in an administration that was never very popular among Jews, but Nixon himself had always had problems connecting with Jewish voters.

Kennedy nevertheless was something of an unknown quantity to the American Jewish community, and his background hardly inspired confidence. His father, Joseph P. Kennedy, was one of the country’s most notorious anti-Semites, and it was no secret that he had been a major behind-the-scenes influence on his son’s political career.

Nor could liberal Jews find much solace in John Kennedy’s performance as a congressman and senator, the highlights of which were a relatively conservative voting record and solid support for the various investigations, by Joseph McCarthy and others, into Communist subversion in America.

About a month before election day, with polls showing Nixon and Kennedy running neck to neck, Kennedy told his friend Charlie Bartlett about an experience he claimed to have had at a meeting in New York the night before.

“I went to this party,” Kennedy said. “It was given by a group of people who were big money contributors and also Zionists and they said to me, ‘We know that your campaign is in terrible financial shape.’ The deal they offered me was that they would finance the rest of this campaign if I would agree to let them run the Middle Eastern policy of the United States for the next four years.”

What to make of this bizarre story (reported by, among others, Seymour Hersh in his 1991 book The Samson Option and Richard Reeves in his 1993 book President Kennedy: Profile of Power)? Were there actually Jews foolish enough to think they could buy American foreign policy – and brash enough to suggest it out loud? And if the incident occurred as Kennedy told it, why has no other American presidential candidate during the past 50 years come forward with a similar tale? After all, if certain individuals were willing to approach Kennedy with such an offer, would they not have tried it with someone else?

Or was the whole thing a gross exaggeration or even an outright fabrication – an attempt by a callow politician to impress a friend? And if it was a concoction, what does it say about a mind that would do such concocting? At the very least, the incident raises disturbing questions about how John Kennedy viewed Jews, as the story plays on some of the most familiar – and sinister – Jewish stereotypes: a cabal of rich Jews, operating in clandestine fashion, dishonest and disloyal and out to secretly take control of government policy. (Besides, could the Kennedy campaign, with Papa Joe’s checkbook on standby, really have been in such dire financial straits?)

* * * * *

The Kennedy administration made no attempt to change America’s longstanding policy of even-handedness in the Middle East. But Kennedy, who knew his razor-thin margin of victory in 1960 owed a great deal to Jewish votes in several key states, tended to speak of American support for Israel in a more public and forthright fashion than had either Eisenhower or, for that matter, Harry Truman. On a personal level, his knowledge of Israel was limited – surprisingly so in light of his visits to the country in 1939, when it was still called Palestine, and again in 1953.

Kennedy’s first encounter with Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion took place in a Manhattan hotel room in the spring of 1961. Ben-Gurion was in New York on a fund-raising mission and Kennedy happened to have been in the city on some other business, so an impromptu meeting was set up for the two men and several key aides. At one point during their get-together, the president pulled Ben-Gurion aside and said quietly, “You know, I was elected by the Jews. I have to do something for them.”

Ben-Gurion described himself as “shocked” by Kennedy’s crudely political approach: “I’m a foreigner. I represent a small state. I didn’t come to him as a Jew, as a voter.”

According to Reeves, the prime minister was more than just shocked. “Ben-Gurion was offended. He was the founder and leader of a nation, not a politician from Brooklyn.”

Whether or not Kennedy was sincere in his ham-handed attempt at ingratiating himself with Ben-Gurion, the Middle East was in fact relatively low on his list of priorities.

“I would have to play down the Middle East as a matter of deep concern to [him],’ Kennedy’s secretary of state, Dean Rusk, acknowledged years later. Rusk (who had adamantly opposed the creation of Israel when he headed the State Department’s UN desk in the late 1940s) added that he couldn’t “remember that Kennedy had any fresh ideas about the Middle East crisis.”

Former Commentary editor Norman Podhoretz agreed with Rusk’s assessment. “[Kennedy] had no original ideas; I am not sure he had any ideas at all,” Podhoretz told Gerald and Deborah Strober in Let Us Begin Anew, their oral history of the Kennedy presidency.

About Kennedy’s secretary of state, Podhoretz observed that “What we now know – what I was not aware of then – is that Dean Rusk was violently anti-Israel. I assume he always had those feelings.”

* * * * *

Fortunately for Kennedy, the Middle East at the time was going through a rare period of calm; even the Israeli front was quiet as Egypt and Syria were distracted by internal matters and inter-Arab politics. Unaffected by the placid state of affairs, however, was the American fascination with Gamal Abdel Nasser: Like their predecessors in the Eisenhower administration, Kennedy’s chief foreign policy aides were obsessed with befriending the Egyptian president.

Where Kennedy differed from Eisenhower in courting Nasser was in the assumption that Arab nationalism, far from being a breeding ground for Soviet influence and infiltration, might actually constitute a bulwark against Russian advances in the region.

“Only a few years ago,” said Undersecretary of State Chester Bowles in 1961, “all thoughtful observers were clearly concerned about Soviet penetration into the Middle East. Many thought that Egypt…was on the road to Soviet control. Yet today Nasser’s nationalism fiercely combats internal Communism and his relations with the U.S.S.R. grow increasingly cool.”

As part of his all-out effort to win Nasser’s affection, Kennedy pushed hard for large increases in aid to Egypt, and in early 1962, following an Israeli retaliatory strike in Syria, instructed his UN ambassador to vote to condemn Israel in the Security Council.

Nasser rewarded Kennedy a few months later by publicizing the contents of an extraordinarily craven letter he had received from the American president. The letter’s disclosure was a humiliation for Kennedy, not only for its tone of abject supplication, but also for its suggestion that Kennedy supported the tough measures Eisenhower had employed against Israel during the Suez crisis six years earlier.

“I am…proud of the real encouragement which my government and the American people have in the past given to your aspirations and those of your countrymen, especially in the critical days of 1956,” Kennedy wrote Nasser, directly contradicting his previous public statements on the matter, particularly those made during his campaign for the White House.

Nasser’s decision to go public with Kennedy’s letter was the beginning of the end for any hope of improved relations between the U.S. and Egypt. In October 1962 Nasser injected his army into a bloody civil war in Yemen, and in the spring of 1963 forces sympathetic to Nasser were attempting to undermine the pro-American government in Jordan. Kennedy, like Eisenhower before him, had come to the realization that the Egyptian leader was not someone to be depended on, and that any attempt at friendship was bound to end in frustration.

* * * * *

From his earliest days in the White House, Kennedy prodded Israel on the issue of Arab refugees (they weren’t called “Palestinians” yet). Secretary of State Rusk wanted Israel to agree to take back at least ten percent of the total number of Arabs who had left Israel since the creation of the state.

The issue would come up time and again in talks between American and Israeli officials all through the Kennedy presidency, and a special representative appointed by the White House to deal with the problem proved to be a constant irritant to the Israeli government. American proposals were seen as one-sided by Ben-Gurion and Foreign Minister Golda Meir, and the Kennedy administration in turn viewed the Israelis as unreasonable.

Another point of dispute between the U.S. and Israel involved the development of nuclear weapons. In the waning days of the Eisenhower presidency, the Americans had learned that a facility on the outskirts of the Negev town of Dimona was not, as the Israelis were claiming, a textile plant, but rather, in the words of CIA director Allen Dulles, “a nuclear complex [which] probably included a reactor capable of producing weapons-grade plutonium.”

Aware that the secret was out and that further prevarication would alienate the U.S., Ben Gurion publicly announced, on December 21, 1960, that Israel had indeed received a nuclear reactor from France, and vowed that it would not be used for military ends.

But the true scope of Israel’s nuclear program was far greater than Ben-Gurion was prepared to divulge, and the Israeli government had its hands full as it tried to allay the Kennedy administration’s growing unease. When, after much wrangling and delay, the White House finally agreed to sell Hawk anti-aircraft missiles to Israel – the first arms deal between the two countries – one of the conditions the U.S. insisted on was that it be allowed to inspect the Dimona facility. Ben-Gurion agreed, but an inspection of the actual plant was the last thing he had in mind.

As Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman wrote in Friends in Deed: Inside the U.S.-Israel Alliance, “Abba Eban recall[ed] that when a team of American inspectors arrived at Dimona, ‘it cost us…a lot of money to arrange it so their inspectors wouldn’t find out what was going on.’ False walls were erected, doorways and elevators hidden, and dummy installations were built to show the Americans, who found no evidence of the weapons program secreted underground.”

* * * * *

Kennedy’s presidency was cut short in November 1963 after just 34 months. While it would be stretching it to describe him as a great friend of Israel, there is no denying that American-Israeli relations during his time in office were better than they’d been under Eisenhower. Kennedy’s administration was the first to sell arms – albeit defensive arms only – to Israel, but it also maintained the policy of neutrality that had characterized the U.S. approach to the Middle East under both Truman and Eisenhower.

The U.S.-Israel relationship would really begin to bloom during the administration of Lyndon Baines Johnson – a man Kennedy despised and whom he chose as his vice-presidential running mate reluctantly and grudgingly. Johnson had been one of Israel’s staunchest supporters on Capitol Hill throughout the 1950s, and once the trauma of Kennedy’s assassination began to wear off and LBJ settled in as president, the relationship between the U.S. and Israel soared to new heights.

First off the table was the nuclear issue. In The Bomb in the Basement, his history of Israel’s procurement of nuclear weapons, Israeli author Michael Karpin wrote that “as soon as [Johnson] entered the White House the pressure on Israel on the Dimona issue ceased.”

And while Kennedy’s final budget, for fiscal year 1964, allocated $40 million in aid to Israel, Johnson’s first budget, for fiscal year 1965, set aside $71 million – an extraordinary increase of 75 percent. The amount nearly doubled in 1966, to $130 million.

Beyond the numbers, the nature and terms of the aid signaled a dramatic break with past American policy. Development loans and surplus food had constituted the extent of U.S. aid under Eisenhower and Kennedy, and the anti-aircraft missiles sold to Israel by the Kennedy administration required a cash payment. Johnson changed all that: Not only did he become the first American president to sell offensive weapons to Israel, but from now on the Israelis would be permitted to buy American arms with American aid money, which meant no funds would have to leave Israel’s hard-pressed government coffers.

As a result of the new arrangement, the percentage of American aid to Israel earmarked for military expenditures rose dramatically, more than tripling between 1965 and 1967. By the middle of 1966, the Israelis were purchasing military hardware the type of which would have been unthinkable under prior administrations, including four-dozen Skyhawk bomber attack planes and more than 200 M-48 tanks.

And while Johnson told Israel in June 1967 that the U.S. could not support a preemptive strike against Egypt and Syria, he would, in the aftermath of what came to be called the Six-Day War, refrain from pressing Israel to relinquish any of the territory it conquered.

Shortly after the war, during a summit meeting in Glassboro, New Jersey, Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin asked Johnson why he insisted on supporting a tiny, relatively poor country like Israel over the numerous oil-rich Arab states. “Because it’s right,” Johnson replied.

In the end, the best thing John Kennedy ever did for Israel – inadvertently, of course, and holding his nose all the way – was choosing Lyndon Johnson as his running mate.

Dust Settles on Bootlickers Too

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

I stood on the dusty road leading to one of the innumerable resting places of the pious people of Israel. Having said my prayers, though never enough, I waited somberly for a taxi to appear. I leaned against the palm tree to escape the sun’s enthusiasm. It was a Jewish palm tree, planted by Jewish hands in the Jewish land. I was on the left side of the sturdy bark. On the right, rested an elderly woman topped by a colorful kerchief. She was like many others I have walked beside in the Machaneh Yehudah marketplace, like many others I sat beside in the white plastic chairs before the Western Wall, like many others who minded their own humble business and worked hard for their share in life.

I’m not sure who spoke first, or how the conversation began, but before long, we were talking. She had finished her house chores for the day, a full hour ahead of schedule. I could imagine her modest apartment building with its peeling paint and chipped Jerusalem tiles, now gleaming after the sponja sluice. She was on her way to enjoy the end-of-the-week produce sales, foldable carry bag in hand, when she decided to spend this bit of extra time at the righteous man’s burial place. Although her feet were not kind to her lately, she still persisted with these treks because bus fares add up.

And who was I and what was I up to, she wondered conversationally with the unabashed inquisitiveness of a Sabra. I communicated in my not-too-polished Hebrew some information about myself, trying not to sound like the young, indulged American tourist that I was, taking a break between studies. It was not hard to realize that our commonality began with our Jewishness and ended with our brief moment of respite under the palm’s shade after sending prayers heavenward and before continuing with our day. I told her I was happy to be in Israel and content to find it the same holy, busy place I had left it on my last visit.

But much did change since many years before, she said pensively. The wrinkles suddenly stood out on her weathered face as she explained, with a hint of pride, that she had come to Israel by boat to sleep in a tent, walk on unpaved roads, stand in line for bread, and sweat in her beloved land of the Jewish nation. She arrived when Israeli civilization was in the making some seventy years ago, a little girl lucky to escape the carnage that would quickly overtake Europe.

Did she know how fortunate she was, considering the Zionist leadership’s quiet obedience to Britain’s White Paper policy which severely limited Jewish immigration when the burning Jews of Europe needed it most?

Did she know how fortunate she was considering Ben Gurion’s unabashed explanation at a meeting in Britain, “If I knew that it would be possible to save all the children in Germany by bringing them over to England and only half of them by transporting them to Eretz Israel, then I opt for the second alternative”?

Did she know how fortunate she was considering Dr. Chaim Weizmann’s dared utterance about the souls who were not wrestled out of Death’s grip by their brethren, “I was asked, ‘Can you bring two million Jews to Palestine?’ I replied, ‘No’…. From the depths of the tragedy I want to save two million young people…The old ones will pass. They will bear their fate or they will not. They were dust, economic and moral dust in a cruel world…Only the branch of the young shall survive…They have to accept it.”

Perhaps they would not have turned into ashes had the governing group of elitists, functioning under the British Empire, pulled heaven and earth in protest and insisted that the port of Israel remain open to the suffering Jews of Europe. For the likes of Ben-Gurion and Weizmann, however, political life was too filled with British bootlicking.

It was made clear that all Jews were not equal. The Jewish Agency made efforts to save “prominent Jews,” but the rest of the Jewish masses, people with their own dreams and skills, however simple, were left for the crematoriums. Yet it was “simple Jews,” and not only Ben-Gurion and Weizmann who built Israel, who fought ferociously in the Irgun and Lehi, and who demanded a Jewish state independent of Britain. It was the “simple Jews,” like the wrinkled, weathered woman I met under the palm tree who built Israel. There could have been scores more welcomed to the homeland, but they went up in flames as the leaders sat in near silence.

It is a painful part of recent Jewish history, but why is it better left unsaid? Bystanders share the guilt of perpetrators. Everyone, especially governments, have a dark side. The dark side was shamelessly shown during that time. The dark side, we fervently pray, that never finds expression again. But it makes us wonder, given today’s performances in the circus of international affairs, can authority be entrusted to authority-bedazzled people? And, is appeasement worth the price?

The answers are clear in the Irgun’s defiant bravery, their willingness to stand strong in the face of world pressure, and their deeper desire for accomplishment rather than honor or publicity – powerful contributions to the creation of the State of Israel.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/features/dust-settles-on-bootlickers-too/2010/01/13/

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