Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Similar to the Attack on Begin

Excerpted from an op-ed on the Women of the Wall by Evelyn Gordon:

...The “exclusion of women” narrative—which is just one element of a broader media campaign decrying Israel as a “racist,” “fascist,” “antidemocratic,” “apartheid” state—is eerily reminiscent of the left’s response to the upset victory of Menachem Begin’s Likud in the 1977 election after nearly 30 years of uninterrupted rule by parties of the left. One Haaretz columnist, for instance, termed that election “the beginning of the end of the State of Israel—at least, the State of Israel as we knew it.” For years afterward, comparisons of Israel to Germany, Italy, and Spain in the 1930s were rife, as one of Israel’s leading law professors, Menachem Mautner, noted in his book Law and the Culture of Israel. The literary critic Dan Miron wrote in 1985: “From Jerusalem, the fire of civil war is liable to erupt, toward which we are advancing step by step….Here, in the city of the parliament and government, forces are gathering that will try to suppress or abolish Israeli democracy.” Amos Kenan’s 1984 novel The Road to Ein Harod envisioned a right-wing military coup producing a junta that would hunt down leftists and execute them without trial, expel Israeli Arabs, and bring the country to the brink of nuclear war. Benjamin Tammuz’s 1984 novel Jeremiah’s Inn envisioned Israel becoming a Haredi country whose secret services persecuted the few secular Jews who hadn’t managed to flee.

In reality, Begin didn’t turn Israel into a fascist, fundamentalist state; indeed, Haaretz columnists today routinely laud him as a quintessential democrat (though only as a precursor to claiming that Netanyahu isn’t). Freedom from religion, moreover, actually expanded during Likud’s years in power. In 1984, a Petah Tikva movie theater opening on Shabbat was an epic development; within a few years, places of entertainment opening on Shabbat had become routine...

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

New Biography Soon to be Published

New book promotion of Daniel Gordis' new biography:-

A fascinating biography of the sixth prime minister of Israel that explains how the pre-state terrorist became the first Israeli leader to sign a peace treaty with an Arab country.

Reviled as a fascist demagogue by his great rival Ben-Gurion, venerated by Israel’s underclass, the first Israeli to win the Nobel Peace Prize, a proud Jew but not a conventionally religious one, Menachem Begin was a complex and controversial figure. Born in Poland in 1913, Begin was a youthful admirer of the Revisionist Zionist Ze’ev Jabotinsky, and soon became a leader within Jabotinsky’s Betar movement. A powerful orator and mesmerizing public figure, Begin was imprisoned by the Soviets in 1940, joined the Free Polish Army in 1942, and arrived in Palestine as a Polish soldier shortly thereafter. Joining the underground paramilitary Irgun in 1944 [actually 1943, if not earlier], he achieved instant notoriety for the organization’s devastating bombings of British military installations and other violent acts.

Intentionally left out of the newly established Israeli government, Begin’s right-leaning Herut political party became a fixture of the opposition to the Labor-dominated governments of Ben-Gurion and his successors, until the surprising parliamentary victory of his political coalition in 1977 made him prime minister of Israel. Welcoming Egyptian President Anwar Sadat to Israel and co-signing a peace treaty with him on the White House lawn in 1979, Begin accomplished what his predecessors could not. His welcoming of Ethiopian Jews and Vietnamese “boat people” was universally admired, and his decision to bomb Iraq’s nuclear reactor in 1981 is now regarded as an act of courageous foresight. But the disastrous invasion of Lebanon in 1982 to end the PLO’s shelling of Israel’s northern cities, combined with the aftereffects of a debilitating stroke and the death of his wife, led Begin to resign in 1983. He spent the next nine years in virtual seclusion, until his death in 1992. Begin was buried not alongside Israel’s prime ministers, but alongside the Irgun comrades who died in the struggle to create the Jewish national home to which he had devoted his life.


Monday, August 26, 2013

On The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

Review of Bohaterowie, Hochsztaplerzy, Opisywacze, Wokol Żydowskiego Związku Wojskowego 

[Heroes, Hucksters and Story-Tellers: On the Jewish Military Union in the Warsaw Ghetto]

by Mary V. Seeman August 25, 2013

Bohaterowie, Hochsztaplerzy, Opisywacze, Wokol Żydowskiego Związku Wojskowego (Warsaw: Stowarzyszenie Centrum Badań nad Zaglada Żydów, 2011) 635 pp. [Heroes, Hucksters, and Storytellers: On the Jewish Military Union (ŻZW)]

This book is written by two historians, one a Pole, Dariusz Libionka, and the other an Israeli, Laurence Weinbaum. Dr. Libionka is the director of the Majdanek State Museum Research Department and chief editor of the journal, Zagłada Żydów. Studia i Materiały [Holocaust Studies and Materials], published by the Polish Academy of Science Center for Holocaust Studies. Dr. Laurence Weinbaum is chief editor of the Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs, published by the Israel Council on Foreign Relations of the World Jewish Congress, and an adjunct lecturer at the Ariel University. Beneficiaries of a research grant from Israel’s Jabotinsky Institute, and in relentless pursuit of their objective, the two authors analyze an overwhelming amount of source material in both Israel and Poland, much of it previously unknown, and much of it entirely contradictory.

Libionka and Weinbaum’s book is both a scrupulously detailed examination of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, focusing on the smaller and less well known the two resistance formations that fought, and a comprehensive collection of survivor, bystander and perpetrator accounts, some published earlier, much of them not. The authors trawled official archives, diaries and correspondence from the period and from the years that have followed. They have also carefully evaluated the secondary sources that have arisen over the years, including, for example, books by Chaim Lazar, Dan Kurzman, Israel Gutman and  Moshe Arens, to name but a few. Significantly, their research is as much about the evolution of the narrative as the actual events themselves. Indeed, the first half of this hefty tome is devoted to a painstaking deconstruction of the story as it evolved over time.

The prevailing image of Jewish victims of the Nazi Holocaust is one of persecution, humiliation, mass murder and submission. The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising (which took place in April/May 1943) is the best known act of Jewish resistance during the Shoah. There were, in fact, many other forms of resistance, and a number of other, smaller uprisings. Individual acts of defiance took place in ghettos other than Warsaw, and there was actually a full-fledged revolt in Białystok (August 1943), There were other smaller, though no less heroic, armed confrontations. Attempts at armed resistance erupted in three extermination camps: Treblinka (August 1943), Sobibór (October 1943) and Auschwitz-Birkenau (October 1944). Thousands of Jews escaped from the ghettos and joined partisan groups in the forests of Poland and Lithuania. Resistance took other forms in other parts of Europe. But resistance without arms and without some form of support from sympathetic non-Jews was all but impossible. Arms cost money, and the Jews had almost none. They also needed allies to assist them on the so-called Aryan side and these were in short supply. Indeed, assistance from outsiders was difficult to come by, and took time to develop. Tragically, time was something that Jews in Warsaw during the German occupation did not have.

As part of “Operation Reinhard,” approximately 300,000 residents of the Warsaw Ghetto were rounded up from July to September 1942 and deported to Treblinka where they were gassed on arrival. It was only after that calamitous event that the Jews of Warsaw seriously began to organize resistance. On 18 January 1943, a second deportation began, this time met with unexpected armed action. Hundreds of people in the Warsaw ghetto, armed with a few handguns and Molotov cocktails, caused German casualties and brought a halt to the proceedings. “Only” 5,000 Jews were removed from the ghetto, instead of the 8,000 originally planned.

Two resistance organizations, the ŻZW (Żydowski Związek Wojskowy or Jewish Military Union) and the ŻOB (Żydowska Organizacja Bojowa or Jewish Combat Organization) took control of the ghetto. They built bunkers and fighting posts and executed a number of collaborators, including Jewish Police officers, and members of a resistance organization called Żagiew, which was sponsored and controlled by the Germans as a trap to ensnare Jews.

The final phase of the ghetto started on the eve of Passover, April 19 1943. When German troops entered the ghetto in order to liquidate it, and were met with gunfire. The relative initial success of the revolt is usually attributed to the efforts of ŻOB in large measure due to the fact that the story of the revolt was told mainly through the eyes of two ŻOB leaders who survived: Yitzhak “Antek” Zukerman, who was ŻOB’s liaison to the Polish underground, and Marek Edelman, deputy commander  of ŻOB, who wrote a tract entitled The Ghetto Fights that was published immediately after the war.

Initially, when the Jews were driven into the ghetto many underground factions took hold, representing the whole gamut of pre-war Jewish political life (left, right, and middle of the road, Zionist, Bundist, assimilationist, religious, militantly secular). After the summer deportations of 1942, the many youth groups coalesced, all under the banner of ŻOB, except that is for the Zionist right, which remained separate and formed its own armed formation, the  ŻZW, That group traced its roots to the prewar Zionist youth movement Betar, founded by the Odessa-born maximalist Jewish leader, Vladimir Ze’ev Jabotinsky. In the years before the war it had been one of the largest Zionist movements in Poland. Menachem Begin had been its leader. However, with the outbreak of the war and the rapid German advances, he and many of his colleagues headed east in hopes that from there they could make their way to Palestine. The authors take pains to explain that, unlike some of the other Jewish youth groups, the right was bereft of most of its senior leaders, and this fact also influenced the course of its development. The Betar underground group was later bolstered by a number of politically unaffiliated fighters, and even some leftists who had not been absorbed by the ŻOB. Among the other aspects of its evolution, the authors pay close attention to the fate of the Betar members who were dispatched from the ghetto to work on farms in the area of Hrubieszów.

The ŻZW and ŻOB did not share their arms; each maintained a separate hierarchy of command. But they did co-operate, at least to the extent that each demarcated its territory and waged war against the Germans from specific coordinated zones. Very few ŻZW fighters survived the uprising and none of the senior leaders.  Because of this, they were not initially given as much credit for bravery as was ŻOB. No less significant was the left-wing dominance of Israeli political life. Accordingly, documents that seemed to suggest that the longest-lasting defense action in the Uprising took place around the ŻZW stronghold at Muranowski Square were largely ignored or downplayed.

Jürgen Stroop, the Nazi commander in charge of putting down the uprising reported in his infamous official description of the event that two flags (the red and white Polish flag and the blue and white banner of the ŻZW) fluttered over the ghetto. Stroop sent daily reports on the German “aktion” in the ghetto plus a final summary report in which he noted that the flags not only motivated but also unified Poles and Jews. Himmler, apparently, ordered him to bring down the flags as his first priority. This book demonstrates that the story of the two flags is depicted very differently in various accounts and was often used, as was the whole ŻZW story, in a symbolic fashion. It is debatable whether the Polish underground fighters aided ŻZW (who actually tended to be more favorably disposed toward the Polish state) more than they did ŻOB, or even at all. The Polish underground, of course, had its own internal political divisions and the extent of Polish aid to which group is difficult to determine with certainty.

There is not even a consensus, for instance, as to who led the ŻZW. The authors dispense with the idea popular in Poland that a Dawid Moryc Apfebaum—and for whom a square is named in Warsaw—was the key personality in the group. They maintain that Apfelbaum never existed (or played any role in the formation) and that  the commanders were actually Leon Rodal, a well-known Yiddish journalist and Revisionist activist from Kielce, and Paweł (Paul) Frenkel. Certainly, one additional difficulty in pinpointing the relevant personalities is that both Jewish and Polish fighters are referred to in the various documents by code names so even that the identity of some individuals is rather uncertain. This is especially noteworthy in the case of Pawel Frenkel, about who almost nothing is known, not even his precise age, and of whom not even a photograph has been found.

Libionka and Weinbaum examine the documents and demonstrate why many of them are unreliable. They identify many that are blatant falsifications or fabrications created out of personal or ideological motives—including several shameless memoirs penned by survivors. Many of the reports that were (and still are) considered trustworthy contradict one another, and many of the survivors’ stories have changed over time. In fact, thanks to Libionka and Weinbaum, some of the original sources have now been definitively discredited and can be discarded.  Significantly, the authors explain that neither Poles nor Jews have a monopoly on confabulation. Indeed, both individual Poles and Jews contributed to the way in which the history of the organization was distorted, though each for different reasons.

During the battle, the ŻZW lost all of its commanders, and, on April 29, the surviving fighters escaped the ghetto through the Muranowski tunnel. On May 8, the Germans uncovered the main command post of the ZOB. Most of that organization’s leadership, including chief commander, Mordechai Anielewicz, took cyanide. Marek Edelman and a few comrades escaped through the ghetto sewers two days later. The suppression of the Uprising officially ended on 16 May 1943, when Stroop personally pushed a detonator button to blow up Warsaw’s Great Synagogue on Tłomackie Street.

This book, in great detail, focuses on the factual and fictional contributions of the ŻZW to the Ghetto Uprising. Some of what has been reported about its role is exposed to be fraudulent or exaggerated. Its authors hasten to explain that this in no way detracts from its very real and heroic contributions to that foremost display of Jewish courage in World War II. Libionka and Weinbaum have succeeded in exploding many of the myths that obscured the real story of the ŻZW and in so doing, have finally set the record straight. Their book is not yet available in English, but one presumes it will be soon.


Mary V. Seeman, Professor Emerita in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto, was born in Lodz, Poland. She has published in the area of women’s mental health and psychosis, receiving numerous awards, including an honorary degree from the University of Toronto and appointment as Officer in the Order of Canada.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The 1947 Anti-Jewish Pogrom in England

Extracts from Daniel Trilling's 2012 :

Why have the 1947 riots been forgotten?

In 1947...Britain was in the grip of recession as it struggled to restart its economy after the Second World War. On the August bank holiday topic dominated the conversation: the murder of two British army sergeants by Irgun paramilitaries in Mandate Palestine. The Irgun was one of several Zionist groups fighting a guerrilla war to force British troops out of the territory and establish the state of Israel. It had kidnapped the two sergeants in retaliation for death sentences passed on three of its own fighters. The three men were executed by British forces on 29 July, and two days later the bodies of the soldiers were discovered amid the trees of a eucalyptus grove near Netanya. They had been hanged and the ground beneath them booby-trapped with a landmine.

...On 1 August, a Friday, the Daily Express reported the story on its front page, prominently displaying a photograph of the bodies which, it promised its readers, would be a “picture that will shock the world”...

...In Birkenhead, near Liverpool, slaughterhouse workers had refused to process any more meat for Jewish consumption until the attacks on British soldiers in Palestine stopped. Around Merseyside, the anger was starting to spill on to the streets as crowds of angry young men gathered in Jewish areas.

On Sunday afternoon the trouble reached Manchester. Small groups of men began breaking the windows of shops in Cheetham Hill, an area just north of the city centre which had been home to a Jewish community since the early 19th century...Soon the streets were covered in broken glass and stones and the crowd moved on to bigger targets, tearing down the canopy of the Great Synagogue on Cheetham Hill Road and surrounding a Jewish wedding party at the Assembly Hall. They shouted abuse at the terrified guests until one in the morning.

The next day..."All premises belonging to Jews for the length of a mile down the street had gaping windows and the pavements were littered with glass.”

By the end of the bank holiday weekend, anti-Jewish riots had also taken place in Glasgow and Liverpool. There were minor disturbances, too, in Bristol, Hull, London and Warrington, as well as scores of attacks on Jewish property across the country. A solicitor in Liverpool and a Glasgow shopkeeper were beaten up. Nobody was killed, but this was the most widespread anti-Jewish violence the UK had ever seen. In Salford, the day after a crowd of several thousand had thrown stones at shop windows, signs appeared that read: “Hold your fire. These premises are British.”

Arsonists in West Derby set fire to a wooden synagogue; workers at Canada Dock in Liverpool returned from the holidays to find “Death to all Jews” painted above the entrance. And in Eccles, a former sergeant major named John Regan was fined £15 for telling a crowd of 700: “Hitler was right. Exterminate every Jew – every man, woman and child. What are you afraid of? There’s only a handful of police.”

...Worse still, Jewish loyalty over Palestine was being questioned openly. In the opening days of 1947 the Sunday Times had addressed an editorial “to British Jews” in which the paper accused them of failing to perform their “civic duty and moral obligations” by denouncing the anti-British violence in Palestine.

...On 5 August, four days after its sensationalised coverage had triggered the riots, the Express appealed for calm. “No more of this!” it implored readers, arguing that the attacks on innocent shopkeepers had become a national disgrace. In Manchester, the violence had subsided, leaving an ugly atmosphere...Today, there is little mention of the riots in the official histories. There are only a couple of academic essays beyond Kushner's study...James Chuter Ede, the postwar home secretary, dismissed the rioting as mere “hooliganism . . . rather than an indication of public feeling”, while magistrates condemned rioters as “un-British” and “unpatriotic”...Yet the riots were neither an aberration nor the product of an unruly working class. Britain was experiencing an identity crisis: it had won the war but appeared to be losing the peace, with recession at home and the break-up of its empire abroad, in which the events in Mandate Palestine played only a small part...

...The “sergeants affair” is a fading memory, snatches of which are preserved on a handful of reel-to-reel recordings in local history archives. Yet somewhere amid the ghostly swirl of recollections, a painful irony remains: one of the murdered soldiers, Clifford Martin, was Jewish.


Saturday, August 24, 2013

On A Settlement Freeze

From the CAMERA website:

Jimmy Carter's "Settlement Freeze" Lie

Jimmy Carter has consistently and falsely claimed that during the Camp David negotiations Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin agreed to a settlement freeze to last the duration of subsequent peace talks, and that Begin violated this unwritten agreement. For example, in an op-ed published in the Washington Post in 2000, Carter claimed:

Prime Minister Begin pledged that there would be no establishment of new settlements until after the final peace negotiations were completed. But later, under Likud pressure, he declined to honor this commitment, explaining that his presumption had been that all peace talks would be concluded within three months. (Washington Post, Nov. 26, 2000)

Carter makes a similar charge in his book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, though with some subtle differences:

Sadat always insisted that the first priority must be adherence to U.N. Resolution 242 and self-determination for the Palestinians, and everyone (perhaps excepting Begin) was convinced that these rights had been protected in the final document. All of us (including the prime minister) were also confident that the final terms of the treaty would be concluded within the three-month target time. Everyone knew that if Israel began building new settlements, the promise to grant the Palestinians "full autonomy," with an equal or final voice in determining the ultimate status of the occupied territories, would be violated. Perhaps the most serious omission of the Camp David talks was the failure to clarify in writing Begin's verbal promise concerning the settlement freeze during subsequent peace talks. (p. 50; emphasis added)

While the first passage implies that it was Begin's expectation alone that the subsequent peace talks would be concluded within three months, the book passage indicates that all participants had that expectation. This contradiction aside, in both passages Carter clearly charges that Begin broke a promise to impose an open-ended settlement freeze.

Carter's long standing claims about the settlement freeze have been accepted by other experienced Middle East observers. For example, in an otherwise quite hostile review of the book in the New York Times, Ethan Bronner, a former Middle East correspondent for the Boston Globe, wrote:

To see the narrowness of Carter's perspective, it is worth returning to 1979, the year of the Egypt-Israel peace treaty that resulted from Carter's Camp David mediation as president, a hugely significant accomplishment. Carter rightly accuses Menachem Begin, then Israel's prime minister, of deception regarding the expansion of West Bank settlements. Begin promised to freeze the settlements. Not only did he not do so; he had no intention of doing so. (New York Times, Jan. 7, 2007)

But did Prime Minister Begin make such a promise to freeze the settlements, and then violate it? The answer is no he did not – Begin promised and delivered a three month freeze, and further, Jimmy Carter knows this.

Here's the proof. To commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Camp David Accords, the Carter Center on Sept.17, 2003 held a symposium in Washington, DC. Participants included Mr. Carter, Samuel Lewis, who had been the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, William Quandt, who had been a staffer on the National Security Council, and Aharon Barak, who had been Israel's Attorney General. Ambassador Lewis brought up the question of the settlement freeze, and Barak stated that he was in the relevant meeting, had been the only one taking notes, and that his notes showed that Begin had agreed only to a three month freeze. Off camera Carter is heard to state, "I don't dispute that." William Quandt then added that while he had not been in the meeting, Cyrus Vance, who had been, told him immediately afterwards that Begin had agreed to a three month freeze, but they hoped to get it lengthened the next day. Neither Carter, nor Barak, nor Quandt indicated that Begin had ever agreed to extend the freeze.

So, confronted with the evidence in 2003 Jimmy Carter admitted that Begin had agreed to only a three month settlement freeze, but now Carter revives his false charge that Begin violated a promise to impose an open-ended freeze.

In doing so, Jimmy Carter is once again violating his promise never to lie to the American people.