Photo Credit:
Golda Meir

Many references to the two Meir quotes either cite the aforementioned Marie Syrkin as the source or don’t give her name but cite the places and years she provided for the statements. As noted earlier, the quotes appear in Syrkin’s A Land of Our Own, both on the same page, one underneath the other. The parenthetical attribution that follows the second quote, the one about forgiving the Arabs, is “Press conference in London, 1969.” Perhaps the only thing accurate about that citation is that Meir was in fact in London in 1969.

It is disconcerting to think that Syrkin, who passed away in 1989, may have made up the quotes for Meir or that she somehow got them wrong. She was a respected scholar and a friend of Meir who wrote prolifically about her and edited some of her speeches.

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However, a hint that Syrkin may have at least taken some artistic license in editing Meir can be glimpsed in this aside by Asher Weill, the managing director of the book publisher Weidenfeld and Nicolson: “Mrs. Meir does not want the speeches to appear necessarily verbatim but they should be judiciously cut and style-edited.”

All said, it seems there are three possibilities surrounding the mystery of Meir’s two most heralded but troublingly elusive quotes:

(1) The words were indeed spoken by Meir exactly as we know them today and I and the researchers at the various repositories I contacted were remiss in not locating them in their original sources.

(2) Meir expressed the thoughts in somewhat different language and Syrkin or someone else rewrote them as the quotes we are all familiar with.

(3) Meir never said them at all.

Many of us – perhaps most of us – will find it hard to accept that these two gems that have become inextricable parts of the fabric of twentieth-century Jewish history and folklore did not come from the mouth of Golda Meir. But until their authenticity can incontrovertibly be verified, it cannot be said with certainty that Meir ever said either one of them.

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Harvey Rachlin, a frequent contributor to The Jewish Press, is an award-winning author of thirteen books including “Lucy’s Bones, Sacred Stones, and Einstein’s Brain,” which was adapted for the long-running History Channel series “History’s Lost and Found.” He is also a lecturer at Manhattanville College in Purchase, New York.

2 COMMENTS

  1. I tend to think that a mixture of 1&2 is most plausible. I also think that the word "forgive" is very much in line with Meir's character (though not with the stereotype that you are alluding to). In addition, you may regard Syrkin's book as a primary source, since Meir was aware of the quotes in the book and signed on to them

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