One evening about 20 years ago, someone with a “Middle Eastern accent” called
the Knesset and said a bomb was set to go off. I was working at The Jerusalem
that night, and I can’t remember how much advance time the caller gave, but
security guards went all around the Knesset and informed everyone, and some
people left, but many stayed. It turned out there was no bomb.
if there had been, and it had blown up the Knesset and killed a lot of people
who’d chosen to ignore the threat? Would we say of the bombers, “Well, they
warned everybody, it’s not their fault people were killed”?
I’m reminded of that
evening by an interview in last Friday’s Yediot Aharonot
with Sarah Agassi, one
of the two young Etzel women who called the King David Hotel on the afternoon of
July 22, 1946 and warned the British authorities to evacuate the building, which
was their headquarters, because it was about to blow up. “They had a half-hour.
If they had evacuated people at 12:35, it wouldn’t have happened,” she
By “it,” she meant the deaths of 91 people in the hotel. “I don’t
regret it for a second,” she said, blaming Sir John Shaw, the British
secretary, for ignoring the warning. (The British maintain they received
“It’s because of him that so many were killed,” she said.
We don’t call
that terrorism, though. We don’t call it “glorifying terrorists,”
we name highways, neighborhoods, schools and hospitals after the man who
the bombing, Menachem Begin.
Ninety-one people killed – Britons, Arabs,
Jews and others.
“There were other actions no less courageous that we
carried out against the British,” said Agassi. “For example, blowing up
armored cars. We would hide out in Rehavia, we knew their route, we’d
bombs and set them off when the car passed, then run away.”
Hebrew acronym for “National Military Organization in the Land of
killed civilians, too – Arab civilians, scores of them, in tit-for-tat
of Arab markets and other public places.
After the War of Independence,
Begin was a terrorist in the eyes of some Israelis, but by now he is a
unchallenged national hero. Remembered as a gentleman, he is the most
leader in Israeli history.
We see no reason why he shouldn’t be. But when
the Palestinians, beginning with their leaders, eulogize Muhammad Oudeh,
planned the Munich Olympics killings of 11 Israeli athletes, or name a
Ramallah after Dalal Mughrabi, leader of the Coastal Road bus hijacking
killed 37 Israelis, then we are outraged.
“Whoever sponsors and supports
naming a square in Ramallah after a terrorist who murdered dozens of
the Coastal Road encourages terror,” said Prime Minister Binyamin
March. He called on Palestinian leaders to “stop the incitement.”
four years ago, when Etzel veterans commemorated the 60th anniversary of
King David bombing, Netanyahu, scion of a proud Revisionist family, was
featured speaker. “It’s very important to make the distinction between
groups and freedom fighters, and between terrorist action and legitimate
military action,” he told the audience.
IN THE hypocrisy that
characterizes Israel’s view of Palestinians, this is the height of it:
greatest denouncers of Palestinian violence against Israel also tend to
greatest defenders of pre-state Zionist violence against Britain.
electing Begin prime minister, we elected Yitzhak Shamir, who had been
the leadership trio of Lehi (the Hebrew acronym for “Fighters for the
Israel”). Lehi went Etzel one better – not only did it kill for Israeli
statehood, it killed after statehood, too. On September 17, 1948, Lehi
Jerusalem shot to death Count Folke Bernadotte, the UN’s envoy to the
East (who, as a Swedish diplomat during World War II, had saved many
of Jews from the Nazi death camps).
At Lehi’s 70th anniversary
celebration in Jerusalem last month, National Union MK Arye Eldad (whose
Yisrael, had been one of Shamir’s partners in the leadership) said from
podium: “Count Bernadotte wanted to internationalize Jerusalem. In
Lehi killed him. With his death, the concept of taking Jerusalem away
Jewish people died with him.”
Hooray. And after Yitzhak Shamir dies,
there will be highways, neighborhoods, hospitals and schools named after
It seems to me that if you are going to condemn the Munich Olympics
killings and the Coastal Road Massacre, you also have to condemn the
Hotel bombing and the Bernadotte assassination.
By the same token, if you
justify or even “understand” Begin’s and Shamir’s violence, you also
justify or at least understand the violence of Muhammad Oudeh and Dalal
And if you don’t – if violence in the name of your nation’s
freedom is what you call heroism, but violence in the name of the enemy
freedom is what you call terrorism – then you have no principles at all.
the only thing you stand for in this world is the side you happen to