From the archives: fascism and terrorism in Israel. Einstein and others

New Palestine Party. Visit of Menachen Begin and Aims of Political Movement Discussed. As published on 4 December 1948.

JVL Introduction

As Netanyahu does his electoral deal with Israel’s most extreme racists, it is opportune to look back  at Zionism’s chequered history.

In 1948 Albert Einstein, Hannah Arendt and Sidney Hook amongst them, had no compunction in calling Menachem Begin’s party, recently formed out of the membership and followers of the former Irgun Zvai Leumi, both terrorist and fascist. They furthemore considered it tragic that the top leadership of American Zionism had refused to condemn Begin’s visit to the US at that time. We republish the letter they wrote to the New York Times which published it on 4th December 1948.

And last year Bradley Burston wrote movingly in Ha’aretz of Zionism’s Terrorist Heritage that “Israel has a terrorism problem it’s unwilling to talk about. Hidden in plain sight”.

Is it possible to talk of any of these things in Britain today without falling foul of the IHRA definition of antisemitism?


Among the most disturbing political phenomena of our times is the emergence in the newly created state of Israel of the “Freedom Party” (Tnuat Haherut), a political party closely akin in its organization, methods, political philosophy and social appeal to the Nazi and Fascist parties. It was formed out of the membership and following of the former Irgun Zvai Leumi, a terrorist, right-wing, chauvinist organization in Palestine.

The current visit of Menachem Begin, leader of this party, to the United States is obviously calculated to give the impression of American support for his party in the coming Israeli elections, and to cement political ties with conservative Zionist elements in the United States. Several Americans of national repute have lent their names to welcome his visit. It is inconceivable that those who oppose fascism throughout the world, if correctly informed as to Mr. Begin’s political record and perspectives, could add their names and support to the movement he represents.
Before irreparable damage is done by way of financial contributions, public manifestations in Begin’s behalf, and the creation in Palestine of the impression that a large segment of America supports Fascist elements in Israel, the American public must be informed as to the record and objectives of Mr. Begin and his movement.

The public avowals of Begin’s party are no guide whatever to its actual character. Today they speak of freedom, democracy and anti-imperialism, whereas until recently they openly preached the doctrine of the Fascist state. It is in its actions that the terrorist party betrays its real character; from its past actions we can judge what it may be expected to do in the future.

Attack on Arab Village

A shocking example was their behavior in the Arab village of Deir Yassin. This village, off the main roads and surrounded by Jewish lands, had taken no part in the war, and had even fought off Arab bands who wanted to use the village as their base. On April 9 (THE NEW YORK TIMES), terrorist bands attacked this peaceful village, which was not a military objective in the fighting, killed most of its inhabitants (240 men, women, and children) and kept a few of them alive to parade as captives through the streets of Jerusalem. Most of the Jewish community was horrified at the deed, and the Jewish Agency sent a telegram of apology to King Abdullah of Trans-Jordan. But the terrorists, far from being ashamed of their act, were proud of this massacre, publicized it widely, and invited all the foreign correspondents present in the country to view the heaped corpses and the general havoc at Deir Yassin.
The Deir Yassin incident exemplifies the character and actions of the Freedom Party.

Within the Jewish community they have preached an admixture of ultranationalism, religious mysticism, and racial superiority. Like other Fascist parties they have been used to break strikes, and have themselves pressed for the destruction of free trade unions. In their stead they have proposed corporate unions on the Italian Fascist model.
During the last years of sporadic anti-British violence, the IZL and Stern groups inaugurated a reign of terror in the Palestine Jewish community. Teachers were beaten up for speaking against them, adults were shot for not letting their children join them. By gangster methods, beatings, window-smashing, and wide-spread robberies, the terrorists intimidated the population and exacted a heavy tribute.

The people of the Freedom Party have had no part in the constructive achievements in Palestine. They have reclaimed no land, built no settlements, and only detracted from the Jewish defense activity. Their much-publicized immigration endeavors were minute, and devoted mainly to bringing in Fascist compatriots.

Discrepancies Seen

The discrepancies between the bold claims now being made by Begin and his party, and their record of past performance in Palestine bear the imprint of no ordinary political party. This is the unmistakable stamp of a Fascist party for whom terrorism (against Jews, Arabs, and British alike), and misrepresentation are means, and a “Leader State” is the goal.

In the light of the foregoing considerations, it is imperative that the truth about Mr. Begin and his movement be made known in this country. It is all the more tragic that the top leadership of American Zionism has refused to campaign against Begin’s efforts, or even to expose to its own constituents the dangers to Israel from support to Begin.

The undersigned therefore take this means of publicly presenting a few salient facts concerning Begin and his party; and of urging all concerned not to support this latest manifestation of fascism.

New York, Dec. 2, 1948


The destruction after the Irgun’s 1946 bombing of Jerusalem’s King David Hotel, which killed 91 people. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Zionism’s Terrorist Heritage

Israel has a terrorism problem it’s unwilling to talk about. Hidden in plain sight

Bradley Burston, Ha’aretz
26 June 2018

Israel has a terrorism problem it’s unwilling to talk about.

I understand the reluctance.

Every now and then, I realize that I need to say something out loud, something painful, something I myself am not going to like, if only because I myself need to hear it. So here’s this:

We in Israel need to seriously address the history, the consequences, and, yes, the heritage, of our own terrorism.

Two weeks ago outside a courtroom in the mixed Jewish-Arab town of Lod, some 20 young Jews danced and chanted in celebration of the grisly 2015 fire-bombing murder of an 18-month-old Palestinian baby, Ali Dawabshe, killed in his bed in the West Bank village of Duma.

Ali’s parents were also killed in the attack, and his four-year-old brother Ahmed was critically burned.

The celebrants, wearing the outsize skullcaps and long forelocks favored by militant “price-tag” settlers, surrounded Ali and Ahmed’s grandfather Hussein Dawabshe as he left the court where the three Jewish murder suspects were on trial.

“Where is Ali? Dead! Burned! There is no Ali!” they jeered at the grandfather, who has raised the four-year-old Ahmed and seen him through the grueling healing process since the attack. “Ali is on fire! Ali is on the grill!”

“Police officers and the ministers who were present at the court chose not to intervene,” Ynet reported at the time, “letting the demonstration of hatred and racism continue.” The Israel Police were later quoted as explaining that officers did not intervene because “There was no violent rioting.”

Apart from the question of how the police would have reacted had the demonstrators been Palestinians and the victim a Jewish child – recent experience leaves little doubt that the result would have been beatings, injuries and arrests – it is worth paying attention to the response of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his cabinet, who are consistent and immediate in strafing social media after every event involving Palestinian terrorism:


There it is. Israel has a terrorism problem which has been part and parcel of Zionism even before the state was founded. It’s there every time Benjamin Netanyahu waxes moral, declaring that the Palestinians erect monuments to their terrorists, while we build tributes to peace.

Consider, as but one example of thousands, Netanyahu’s meticulously produced video statement with which he opened this school year, excoriating Palestinians for building monuments to honor terrorists who killed Jews.

“Children should be taught to love and respect, not hate and kill,” Netanyahu intones, his palms clasped in sincerity.

“There are so many champions of peace to dedicate statues to. Why do the Palestinians consistently choose to honor mass murderers?”

What Netanyahu did not say, was that entire Birthright trips could be built around the plaques and monuments which Israel has erected in recent years to honor the bombings and other terrorist killings committed by the members of the Irgun Zvai Leumi and Lehi pre-state underground groups – not to mention the highways, boulevards, schools, and town squares named for the armed bands’ respective commanders in chief – the late Israeli prime ministers Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir.

There is also the gravesite and pilgrimage site in the West Bank settler city of Kiryat Arba, honoring the memory of Baruch Goldstein, who close to the Purim festival in 1994 gunned down 29 Palestinians kneeling during worship at Hebron’s Tomb of the Patriarchs.

As recently as 2010, Jewish residents of East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood were filmed celebrating Purim by singing “Dr. Goldstein, there is none other like you in the world. Dr. Goldstein, we all love you he aimed at terrorists’ heads, squeezed the trigger hard, and shot bullets, and shot, and shot.”

Our terrorism problem has grown so cosmeticized as to have become all but invisible. Hidden in plain sight.

It was there at the opening of the landmark official visit of Britain’s Prince William. It was there in the breezy dispatch of Israel 10 Television News correspondent Akiva Novick, who reported, in a reference to former Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin’s Irgun Zvai Leumi armed underground:

“For the first time ever, an official visit of a member of the Royal Family, and in the place blown up 72 years ago by IZL men in one of the operations which brought about the end of the British mandatory rule here.

“It took very many years for the British to restrain themselves, or to have absorbed this insult.”

This insult.

“The terror attack on the King David Hotel in Jerusalem was in its day the equivalent of the Twin Towers,” wrote historian Tom Segev in 2006, after Benjamin Netanyahu had taken center stage at a commemoration celebrating the 60th anniversary of the attack. Years later, Segev would call it, “at the time the most lethal terrorist attack in history.”

The blast, which levelled six floors of a wing of the hotel with 350 kilograms of explosive, killed 91 people, all but 16 of them civilians. Most of the dead were British government staffers or hotel employees. There were 41 Arabs, 28 British citizens, 17 Jews, two Armenians, one Russian, one Greek and one Egyptian.

At the two-day 60th anniversary event at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center, Netanyahu joined IZL veterans and academics who sought to prove, once and for all, that the bombers and gunmen of Begin’s IZL and of future prime minister Yitzhak Shamir’s radical Lehi underground – which carried out high-level political assassinations – had been freedom fighters and not terrorists.

They insisted that the occupants of the King David had been given fair warning, a claim disputed by British authorities.

They spoke of the bombing as the most significant event in driving the British out of Palestine and paving the way for Israel’s independence, a claim widely disputed by historians but significant in its subtext – that terrorism, in the end, pays.

The climax of the 60th anniversary observance was the unveiling of a large plaque near the King David, commemorating the bombing.

At the time, Simon Macdonald, the British ambassador to Israel, along with consul general John Jenkins, wrote to the mayor of Jerusalem protesting the plaque. “We don’t think it’s right for an act of terrorism to be commemorated,” they wrote. The British embassy added that: “There is no credible evidence that any warning reached the British authorities.”

The text of the plaque was altered slightly, but the monument remained.

Netanyahu, meanwhile, who had just suffered a crushing defeat in the 2006 elections, his Likud coming in a dismal fourth with only 12 Knesset seats and less than nine percent of the vote, was readying a comeback.

Among the cornerstones of his campaign would be – and is to this day – his condemnation of the Palestinians for honoring terrorists. Still, the reminders of Jewish terrorism continue to present themselves. As the UK Jewish Chronicle wrote in 2016 in a reference to the highest-ranking Jewish victim of the King David bombing, the Manchester man who served as under-secretary of the Palestine treasury:

“History’s joke is that Julius Jacobs’s house in Jerusalem became the prime minister’s official residence for two decades. Its last occupant was Yitzhak Rabin, who then moved to the new residence on Smolenskin Street. Mr. Begin, the succeeding prime minister, was thus saved from having to confront the ghosts of the past each day and to be reminded of a British Jew who had died unnecessarily in such tragic circumstances.”