As an impressionable teenager, I learned the truth of Jews and Israel. It was so simple then and in reality, is so simple now. It is only as adults that we confuse it; only politicians who hide the truth from us. As a young adult, I came across The Revolt, by Menachem Begin and the powerful words he spoke to me, only to me, always to me.
“I have written this book,” he began “primarily for my own people, lest the Jew forget again – as he so disastrously forgot in the past – this simple truth: that there are things more precious than life, and more horrible than death.” This is the crime I accuse the Likud and Benyamin Netanyahu of committing – forgetting this simple truth.
On May 15, 1948, Menachem Begin broadcast a speech to a nation already at war. It was a war that was to continue beyond his lifetime – and may well continue well after my life and those of my children and perhaps even my grandchildren. His words should be read and remembered for they speak to us today, as they did to those who listened to him then. This is the speech that should be broadcast on the radio today, through the Internet and the television and in the halls of the Knesset:
“The State of Israel has arisen. And, it has arisen only thus – through blood, through fire, with an outstretched hand and a mighty arm, with sufferings and with sacrifices. It could not have been otherwise…It has been difficult to create our state. But it will be still more difficult to keep it going. We are surrounded by enemies who long for our destruction. And that same oppressor, who has been defeated by us directly, is trying indirectly to make us surrender with the aid of mercenaries from the south, the north, and the east. Our one-day-old state is set up in the midst of the flames of battle….There must be no surrender, no favoritism. There must be reciprocity. Enmity for enmity, aid for aid, friendship for friendship.
“We must foster friendship and understanding between us and every nation, great or small, strong or weak, near or far, which recognizes our independence, which aids our national regeneration, and which is interested, even as we are, in international justice and peace among nations….
“Whoever does not recognize our natural right to our entire homeland, does not recognize our right to any part of it. And we shall never forego this natural right…We cannot buy peace from our enemies with appeasement. There is only one kind of ‘peace’ that can be bought – the peace of the graveyard, the peace of Treblinka. Be brave of spirit and ready for more trials. We shall withstand them.”
The speech is much longer; I’ve only shared a portion. But the concept of “the peace of Treblinka” weighs on my mind. What a brilliant phrase. It says so much about what is wrong with this government and so many others. We say we are seeking peace with our neighbors, but which peace? Is it true and lasting peace? Is it the bastardized peace the Arabs call hudna? Is it the worst of all peace – the peace of Treblinka?
The peace of Treblinka is what Ariel Sharon was trying to buy by destroying Gush Katif and, in some ways perhaps, what Menachem Begin himself did when he destroyed Yamit. It is what Benyamin Netanyahu’s government has now voted for in the Ulpanah neighborhood and it is what too many loyal Likudniks practice when they stay in the Likud long after it has moved away from the ideology that attracted them to join.
I was opposed to the unilateral withdrawal of Gaza and Northern Shomron because I believed that unilateral decisions simply encourage more violence. Whatever compromising may need to be done in the future should only be decided upon when we have a peace partner, so long as the peace we get is not the peace of Treblinka.
I voted for Ariel Sharon, to my eternal shame, because I believed his promises, his calls for security and negotiating from a position of strength. I believed and I voted for him, as the leader of Menachem Begin’s party. And so, Gush Katif was evacuated with my vote. I protested. Our family went to Neve Dekalim and to the other communities to show support and we believed that it would never happen; that the government of Ariel Sharon would not destroy the homes of 9,000 people for nothing. It was the Likud/Kadima hammer that rammed through those settlements – and it was my vote that helped give them that hammer. I will live with that…always.
I won’t have to live with the Ulpanah decision and other unilateral decisions because I resigned from the Likud many months ago. We parted and I am eternally grateful for that because the Likud is sinking. Weighed down by having too many who believe too differently from each other. You cannot have a Moshe Feiglin and a Bibi Netanyahu in the same party; you cannot have those who will vote to surrender parts of our land with those who believe, as Menachem Begin did, that to unilaterally surrender some is to surrender all.
For too long, there has been a quiet voice in the Likud begging for sanity. How long will it take for those who disagree with Netanyahu’s path to admit they will never succeed in turning the Likud around? I don’t know the answer to that – but what I do know is that while they remain in Likud, it is their hand on the hammer that destroys the Ulpanah houses and whatever else Netanyahu will do for his peace of Treblinka.
Paula R. Stern