Menachem Begin on Terrorism
From: The Revolt, by Menachem
Begin. Revised Edition. Nash Publishing, New York, 1977
Former right-wing Israel prime minister Menachem Begin was once
a leader in a terrorist group (the Irgun) that fought against
the British in Palestine to create the Jewish state of Israel. Below he
explains why -- to his dual ethical standard -- murders by Jewish groups
cannot be termed "terrorism," but only the necessary acts of
Jewish "freedom" fighters. His observations of course have profoundly
ironic poignancy when applied to the current Israeli/Palestinian conflict
-- especially the suicide bombings by groups like Hamas.
Begin's one-sided blindness goes far in explaining the vicious loop of
the current Israeli-Palestinian violence:
"Our enemies called us terrorists. People who were neither friends
nor enemies, like the correspondents of the New York Herald-Tribune,
also used this Latin name, either under the influence of British propaganda
or out of habit ...
The British Press and the British troops continued to call us by the name
["terrorist"] which, in their Generals' opinion, suggested bravery
on our part and fear on theirs. They called us 'terrorists' to the end.
No doubt there was a psychological explanation for this. And yet, we were
not terrorists ... It all depends on who uses the term ...
The historical and linguistic origins of the political term 'terror' prove
that it cannot be applied to a revolutionary war of liberation ... A revolution,
or a revolutionary war, does not aim at instilling fear. Its object is
to overthrow a regime and to set up a new regime in its place. In a revolutionary
war both sides use force. Tyranny is armed. Otherwise it would be liquidated
overnight. Fighters for freedom must arm; otherwise they would be crushed
overnight. Certainly the use of force also wakens fear. Tyrannous rulers
begin to fear for their positions, or their lives, or both. And consequently
they try to sow fear among those they rule. But the instilling of fear
is not the aim in itself. The sole aim on the one side is the overthrow
of armed tyranny; on the other side it is the perpetuation of that tyranny.
The underground fighters of the Irgun arose to overthrow and replace
a regime. We used physical force because we were faced by physical force.
But physical force was neither our aim nor our creed. We believed in the
supremacy of moral forces. It was our enemy who mocked at them. That is
why, notwithstanding the enemy's tremendous preponderance in physical
strength, he it was who was defeated, not we. That is the law of history
... What has a struggle for the dignity of man, against oppression and
subjegation, to do with 'terrorism?' Our purpose, in fact, was precisely
the reverse of 'terrorism.' The whole essence of our struggle was the
determination to free our people of its chief affliction -- fear."
[BEGIN, M., 1977, p. 59-61]
"We had to hate -- as any nation worthy of the name must and always
will hate -- the foreigner rule, unjust and unjustifiable per se,
foreign rule in the land of our ancestors, in our own country . We had
to hate the barring of the gates of our own country to our own brethren,
trampled and bleeding and crying out for help in a world morally deaf.
And, naturally, we had to hate all those who, equipped with modern arms
and with the ancient machinery of the gallows, barred the way of our people
to physical salvation, denied them the means of individual defence, frustrated
their efforts for national independence, and ruthlessly withstood their
attempts to regain their national honour and restore their self-respect.
Who will condemn the hatred of evil that springs from the love of what
is good and just? Such hatred has been the driving force of progress in
the world's history -- 'not peace but a sword' in the cause of mankind's
advancement. And in our case, such hate has been nothing more and nothing
less than a manifestation of that highest human feeling: love. For if
you Love freedom, you must hate Slavery; if you love your people, you
cannot but hate the enemies that compass their destruction: if you love
your country, you cannot but hate those who seek to annex it. Simply put:
if you love your mother, would you not hate the man who sought to kill
her: would you not hate him and fight him at the cost, if needs be, of
your own life?
This is a fundamental human question in the violent and stormy world to
today. Let every decent man search his soul and decently answer ...
Truth compels [the author] to ask himself in the presence of his readers,
Gentile readers and hostile readers, this testing question: If ever again
your people should find themselves in a position like that in which they
were when you had to 'go underground,' to fight, to become a hunted 'rebel'
-- in such circumstances would you again do what you did then?
The answer is definitely: 'Yes.'"
[BEGIN, MENACHEM, 1977, p. xxvi-xxvii]
Ben Hecht's comments on Jewish terrorism
Hecht, Ben. A Child of the Century, Primus; Donald I. Fine, New York, 1985
Note: Irgun was a Jewish terrorist organization against
British occupation of Palestine, in the years up to Israel's declaration
that Palestine was Israel, the Jewish state, in 1948. Ben Hecht was a Zionist
activist and supporter of Irgun. He was a newspaper reporter, and
later a successful Hollywood screenwriter.
p. 614. "The play I'd written, A FLAG IS BORN [featuring Marlon
Brando, who later -- as he noted in his autobiography -- regretted acting
in such a piece of propaganda], netted the Irgun nearly a million dollars.
Bergson bought a fairly large 'ocean liner' with the money. He put my
name on its bows."
p. 615, [Hecht was later asked to help raise millions of dollars more
for Irgun, by drafting a newspaper ad]. "The ad carried the headline:
'Letter to the Terrorists of Palestine.' It read: 'My Brave Friends. You
may not believe what I write you, for there is a lot of fertilizer in
the air at the moment. But on my word as an old reporter, what I write
is true. The Jews of America are for you. You are their champions. You
are the grin they wear. You are the feather in their hats. You are the
first answer that makes sense -- to the New World. Every time you blow
up a British arsenal, or wreck a British jail, or send a British railroad
sky high, or rob a British bank, or let go with your guns and bombs at
the British betrayers and invaders of your homeland, the Jews of America
make a little holiday in their hearts ..."
p. 617, "The ad appeared in a few days. Some fifteen newspapers printed
it at their 'usual advertising rates.' Hundreds of other newspapers in
the U.S., Mexico, South America and France ran the ad gratis. It appealed
to them, apparently, as news."