Menachem Begin

Menachem Begin

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Menachem Begin, the son of Jewish parents, was born in Russia in 1913. During the First World War Begin was forced to flee with his family to escape from the German Army.

Begin, a staunch Zionist, joined the Betar youth movement and in 1931 became head of the organization. When Poland was invaded by Germany in 1939 Begin fled to Lithuania. He was captured by the Red Army and sent to Siberia. After the invasion of the German Army in 1941 Begin was released.

In 1942 Begin moved to Palestine where he eventually became Commander-in-Chief of the Irgun Zvai Leumi resistance movement. Over the next five years he organized over 200 acts of terrorism including the destruction of the central British administrative offices in the King David Hotel. The explosion killed ninety-one people.

The Jewish state of Israel was established on 14th May 1948 when the British mandate over Palestine came to an end. Begin founded the right-wing Herut Freedom Movement and was elected to the Knesset.

In 1973 the Herut Party joined forces with two other parties to form the Likud Front. Begin became leader of this new nationalist party and following the 1977 elections became Israel's new prime minister.

In September 1978, with the support of Jimmy Carter, the president of the United States, Begin and Anwar Sadat of Egypt signed a peace treaty between the two countries. As a result both men shared the Nobel Peace Prize.

In 1981 Begin ordered the bombing of the Osirak Nuclear Reactor in Iraq. Although criticised for this action, Begin argued that he had succeeded in hampering Iraq's attempt to acquire nuclear weapons.

Menachem Begin resigned from office in 1983. He retired from public life and lived in Jerusalem until his death on 9th March, 1992.

The Revolt

The Revolt (Hebrew: המרד ‎), also published as Revolt, The Revolt: Inside Story of the Irgun and The Revolt: the Dramatic Inside Story of the Irgun, is a book about the militant Zionist organization Irgun Zvai Leumi, by one of its principal leaders, Menachem Begin. In Israel, the organization is commonly called Etzel, based on its Hebrew acronym.

The book traces the development of the Irgun from its early days in the 1930s, through its years of violent struggle in the Palestine Mandate against both British rule (the "revolt" of the title) and Arab opposition, to the outbreak of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. The book is also part autobiographical, tracing Begin's own political development.

Originally published in Hebrew in 1951, an English translation by Samuel Katz was published that same year by W. H. Allen in the UK and Henry Schuman in the US. The book has gone through many editions and reprints, with the latest edition published in 2002.

The political scientist John Bowyer Bell, who studied both the Irgun and the Irish Republican Army (IRA), recalled that many of the IRA men whom he interviewed in the 1960s had read The Revolt and admired it as a manual of guerrilla warfare. [1] It was also studied by African National Congress Nelson Mandela after he went underground in 1960, and credited it as being among the books he used a guide in planning the ANC's guerrilla campaign against the apartheid government of South Africa. [2]

  1. ^ "During the course of his research he discovered that the Irgun saw the Irish War of Independence as a role model, and he began to explore the history of the IRA as background. (He would later get to know IRA men who studied Menachem Begin's memoir The Revolt as a manual of guerrilla warfare.)"
  2. ^ Rocker, Simon (2012-05-17). "How Israel's 1948 struggle inspired Nelson Mandela". The Jewish Chronicle . Retrieved 30 March 2013 .

This article about a book on Jewish history is a stub. You can help Wikipedia by expanding it.

Menachem Begin witnessed and experienced the Holocaust, a black period in Jewish History, about which one is permitted to ask questions, but can expect no answers. He experienced the suffering of the Jewish People in full measure, but maintained his faith in his Creator and in his people. He was one of the Great Jewish Leaders, certainly of the twentieth century, perhaps of all time. He was born in Brest-Litovsk in 1913. He became very familiar with the classic Jewish sources: the Bible, the Mishnah and Gemara, and the Siddur. He became intimately familiar with Jewish History. A passionate Zionist from his youth, he joined Z’ev Jabotinsky’s Betar Youth Movement in his teens, becoming the leader of Betar of Poland, an organization of 100,000 members, organized to defend Polish Jewry and to help provide the transport of “illegal” immigrants to Israel.

Begin became the operational head of the “Irgun Z’vai Leumi,” the National Military Organization that confronted the British, in their attempts to suppress Jewish immigration to Palestine after the Holocaust. He organized the Akko prison breakout and the destruction of the central administrative offices of the British at the King David Hotel, providing early warning to the British so that they could save their lives. Although some make foolish comparisons, it is clear that it as an obscenity to mention Begin’s name in the same sentence as today’s bloodthirsty terrorists.

In Israel’s War of Independence, Begin combined the forces of the “Irgun” with those of the “Haganah” (the official defense force of the fledgling state), and after the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, Begin disbanded the “Irgun” and led the opposition party in the Israeli government for 29 years, until he became Prime Minister in 1977. Some of his diplomatic achievements that may some day bear fruit were his initiation of the “peace process” with Egypt and his invitation to the late Anwar al-Sadat, President of Egypt, to address the “K’nesset,” the Israeli Parliament. One of his greatest acts as Prime Minister was ordering the destruction by the Israeli Air Force of the Iraqi nuclear reactor in Osiraq in 1981, an act that saved the world from calamity at the hands of a rogue Iraqi nuclear power, an act which was, naturally, roundly condemned by the United Nations.

He encouraged Ethiopian Jews to immigrate to Israel, resulting in Operation Moses, that brought thousands of Jews to Israel.

When he spoke at the U.N., his speech and its poor translation highlighted a problem of the Jewish State. Many of his references to Jewish sources went right over the heads of the Israeli translators, and foreshadowed the need and the struggle in Israel for more intensive Jewish education.

In a poignant demonstration of the truth of the idiom that behind every great man stands a great woman, following the death in 1982 of his beloved wife, Aliza, Begin retired from public life. He passed away in 1992, and was buried on the Mount of Olives in his beloved Jerusalem.


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A proud yet scarred leader haunted by the Holocaust and decades of war, former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin struggled to balance history and heroism to make peace with his greatest enemy and cement a legacy long misunderstood.

He was, at the same time, a controversial leader. Whether he was challenging the British, founding the Likud political party or fighting to end bigotry against Middle Eastern and African Jews in Israeli society, his dedication to his country and his people was boundless. Still, that unwavering commitment could bear untoward consequences. In 1948, as Israel fought for its life as a nation, his role in the tragic Altalena Affair that ended in the deaths of 19 Jews and at Deir Yassin, where more than 100 Palestinians died, including women and children, haunted him until the day he died. As Prime Minister of Israel, he made an historic peace deal with Egypt, and he also gave the go-ahead to bomb Saddam Hussein’s Osirak nuclear reactor.

His life is a nuanced and complicated canvas that tells the story of key events and currents in the history of modern Israel and its relationship to its Middle East neighbors. The recent ground-breaking peace agreements between Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco make this a propitious time to look back at Begin’s achievements and consider them in a new light.

With evocative imagery, rarely seen archival materials, and revealing interviews with those who knew him, UPHEAVAL portrays the life and essence of this brilliant, tough, complex, loving, and proud man who never compromised when the survival of Israel and the Jewish people were at stake.

His incredible life story plays out in this captivating documentary film from producer, writer and director Jonathan Gruber.


Jonathan Gruber has been directing, writing, and producing award-winning documentary films for more than 20 years. With his company, Black Eye Productions, he has helped celebrate long overlooked individuals, inform generations, build brands, facilitate social movements, and, of course, entertain. His documentaries are immersive viewing experiences, and include Miriam Beerman: Expressing the Chaos, Follow Me, Life Is a Banquet, Jewish Soldiers in Blue & Gray, STU, and Pola’s March. He was also the Co-Creator and Executive Producer of the MSNBC series, The Story of Cool. Jonathan specializes in building trust with his interview subjects, gently taking them on a storytelling journey and ultimately creating an environment that allows for honesty and vulnerability. Whether a 90-minute documentary film, a two-minute viral video, or a 30-second advertisement, Jonathan looks at all projects as stories worth remembering.

Menachem Begin to Joe Biden: I am not a Jew with trembling knees

On June 22 1982, Joe Biden was a Senator from Delaware and confronted then Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin during his Senate Foreign Relations committee testimony, threatening to cut off aid to Israel.

Begin forcefully responded, “Don’t threaten us with cutting off your aid. It will not work. I am not a Jew with trembling knees. I am a proud Jew with 3,700 years of civilized history. Nobody came to our aid when we were dying in the gas chambers and ovens. Nobody came to our aid when we were striving to create our country. We paid for it. We fought for it. We died for it. We will stand by our principles. We will defend them. And, when necessary, we will die for them again, with or without your aid.”

Senator Biden reportedly banged the table with his fist, and Begin retorted, “This desk is designed for writing, not for fists. Don’t threaten us with slashing aid. Do you think that because the US lends us money it is entitled to impose on us what we must do? We are grateful for the assistance we have received, but we are not to be threatened. I am a proud Jew. Three thousand years of culture are behind me, and you will not frighten me with threats. Take note: we do not want a single soldier of yours to die for us.”

After the meeting, Sen. Moynihan approached Begin and praised him for his cutting reply. To which Begin answered with thanks, defining his stand against threats.

Joe Robinette* Biden is a white with trembling knees. He kneeled in front of the Blacks for being white, and nothing is more racist than that, but he wanted the Jews to kneel in front of him. Democrat Jews will make it happen.

We are a nation in pain right now, but we must not allow this pain to destroy us.

As President, I will help lead this conversation — and more importantly, I will listen, just as I did today visiting the site of last night's protests in Wilmington.

&mdash Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) May 31, 2020

* Don’t ask me what Robinette means in French, it’s not PC.

Have a tip we should know? Your anonymity is NEVER compromised. Email [email protected]

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June 6-9, 1981: Israeli Prime Minister Begin Alerts US Televangelist to Impending Strike against Iraqi Nuclear Reactor

Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin calls televangelist and nascent political ally Jerry Falwell (see 1980) and says: “Tomorrow you’re going to read some strange things about what we’re going to do. But our safety is at stake. I wanted you, my good friend, to know what we are going to do.” Israel is preparing to use US-provided F-16s to destroy Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor (see June 7, 1981). Begin is concerned that the US will object to Israel’s use of the aircraft for non-defensive purposes. Falwell tells Begin, “I want to congratulate you for a mission that [makes] us very proud that we manufactured those F-16s.” Many Reagan officials are not happy that Israel violated the agreement with the US over use of the warplanes, but even though Vice President Bush and Chief of Staff James Baker both believe that Israel should be punished, Begin has provided himself cover on the Christian right. [Unger, 2007, pp. 109-110]

Menachem Begin - History

The debate was primarily about the Lebanon War &ndash the first one &ndash which had broken out just a few weeks ago on June 6, 1982. Had Israel used cluster bombs against civilians or not? In a tense and angry meeting with the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee on Capitol Hill, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin was pummeled by 36 American senators, with only three, according to the New York Times, expressing any support of Israel&rsquos policies. (The three were Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY), S.I. Hayakawa (R-Ca), and Rudy Boschwitz (R-Mn).

Prime Minister Begin reportedly told the senators that he &ldquodid not know&rdquo if cluster bombs had been used and said he would ask Defense Minister Ariel Sharon for a report. The senators were not mollified, with one later telling the Times that &ldquoI&rsquove never seen such an angry session with a foreign head of state.&rdquo

The &ldquobitterest exchange,&rdquo however, writes the Times, was that between Prime Minister Begin and someone else who&rsquos still around today &ndash Senator Joseph R. Biden. According to the report, Biden told Begin that he had no specific problems with the way in which the campaign in Lebanon was being fought, but objected to Israel&rsquos policies in the &ldquoWest Bank.&rdquo He claimed that Israel was losing its support in America due to its policy of establishing communities in the &ldquooccupied territories,&rdquo and, according to Begin himself (in a press statement following his return to Israel), &ldquoHe hinted - more than hinted - that if we continue with this policy, it is possible that he will propose cutting our financial aid.&rdquo

&ldquoDon&rsquot threaten us with slashing aid. Do you think that because the US lends us money it is entitled to impose on us what we must do? We are grateful for the assistance we have received, but we are not to be threatened. I am a proud Jew with 3,700 years of civilized history. Nobody came to our aid when we were dying in the gas chambers and ovens. Nobody came to our aid when we were striving to create our country. We paid for it. We fought for it. We died for it. We will stand by our principles. We will defend them. And, when necessary, we will die for them again, with or without your aid.&rdquo

The Times notes that the acrimonious meeting with the senators was an anomaly to an otherwise successful visit to the United States, concluding that &ldquoMr. Begin left Washington pleased at having his basic approach to the Lebanese crisis endorsed by [then-President] Reagan.&rdquo

Interviewed following the stormy Committee session, Begin himself was reticent regarding its content, saying only that, &ldquoI enjoyed the session very much. I believe in liberty, that free men should freely discuss problems and if they have differences of opinion they should voice them in sincerity.&rdquo

Menachem Begin 'backed plot to kill German Chancellor'

The dramatic claim by the author and researcher Henning Sietz is sure to stoke resentment on the German far Right and send shockwaves through the always delicate relationship between Germany and Israel.

The details of the 1952 parcel bomb attack, in which a policeman died, have been kept secret for fear of upsetting reconciliation between the two nations. It was carried out by a group of Jews embittered by what they saw as West Germany’s grudging attitude towards compensating victims of the Holocaust.

"There have always been rumours that revisionists in Israel were responsible for the assassination attempt on Adenauer," said Moshe Zimmermann, a leading historian at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

The new allegations are based on a memoir written by the man who planted the explosives in a hollowed-out encyclopaedia, Elieser Sudit, a former bomb expert for Begin’s Irgun Zwai Leumi group, which used terrorist tactics against the British occupation of Palestine.

Herr Seitz says that Sudit tells how he went to Begin with the idea. Begin had become chief of the opposition Cherut party and was fiercely critical of West Germany’s stance on compensation. Begin contributed $1,000 (£540) to the operation and, according to Sudit, even offered to sell his gold watch to cover the costs. Neither Begin nor Sudit were entirely convinced that the powerful bomb would reach its target.

"He was ready to commit himself, though, to a symbolic act that would express our anger even if we could not stop the agreement with Germany." The parcel bomb was supposed to be an appeal "to shake the conscience of the world".

Begin, who later took power at the helm of a Likud coalition, put Sudit and his accomplices in touch with two Knesset members, Jochanan Bader and Chaim Landau, as well as with Abba Scherzer, former intelligence chief of the Irgun. Together they planned not only the bomb attack on Adenauer but two other letter bombs on the West German delegation negotiating compensation with Israel.

Sudit’s team was hampered by a lack of cash and an amateurish approach. The parcel to the Chancellor was addressed wrongly, in childlike handwriting. One of the conspirators gave the parcel to two teenagers in Munich and tipped them to take it to the Post Office. Suspicious about the handwriting, the boys took it to a police station where the bomb ripped apart an office, killing a member of the bomb squad and injuring two others.

For Begin, who lost his parents and a brother in the Holocaust, the compensation talks were a sell-out, a cynical attempt to buy respectability for West Germany. He was against any kind of diplomatic reconciliation.

"Adenauer is a murderer," he said at a rally in early 1952. "Every German is a murderer." In a Knesset debate on January 7, 1952, he declared: "We are ready to die, to abandon our families and children," rather than accept accommodation with West Germany.

In the end Adenauer, overcoming critics in his own Christian Democratic Party, settled with the Israeli Government on a compensation deal worth about $1 billion.

"It doesn’t bear imagining what this information would have done for the already strained relations between Chancellor Helmut Schmidt and Prime Minister Begin in the 1970s," says Clemens Wergin, senior commentator for the Tagesspiegel newspaper.

Now relations are more solid - Israel and Germany celebrated 40 years of diplomatic friendship with great fanfare last year - but even so, Begin’s involvement in a murder plot has stunned analysts.

The bomb plot was hatched at a time when many Jewish fighters wanted to wreak revenge on Germany for families lost in the Holocaust. The group Nakam (Revenge) succeeded in poisoning the bread of thousands of SS men held in a prisoner-of-war camp and tried unsuccessfully to poison the water supply of Nuremberg. Another cell of eight former members of the Jewish Brigade, who fought with the British in Italy, assassinated about 200 SS men after the war.

Sudit, who later served a short jail term for firearms offences, waited until Begin died before releasing his memoirs, which were published in Hebrew in a very limited edition in 1994. He too is now dead. Herzel Makov, the director of the Menachem Begin Heritage Centre, told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz today that he knew nothing about Begin’s involvement in the bomb plot.

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Begin’s visit, they argued, was “obviously calculated to give the impression of American support for his party” ahead of general elections in the newly-formed State of Israel, which had come into being as the British Mandate formally ended at midnight, May 14, 1948.

Herut had been formed out of the Irgun Zvai Leumi, one of the Jewish resistance organizations fighting the British prior to independence. But Herut, the letter to the Times claimed, was “a terrorist, right-wing, chauvinist organization in Palestine.”

“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,” the letter read. Never mind the party’s rhetoric following Israel’s independence: their past actions spoke volumes, they wrote.

The signatories on the letter were Isidore Abramowitz, Hannah Arendt, Abraham Brick, Rabbi Jessurun Cardozo, Albert Einstein, Herman Eisen, M.D., Hayim Fineman, M. Gallen, M.D., H.H. Harris, Zelig S. Harris, Sidney Hook, Fred Karush, Bruria Kaufman, Irma L. Lindheim, Nachman Maisel, Symour Melman, Myer D. Mendelson, M.D., Harry M. Orlinsky, Samuel Pitlick, Fritz Rohrlich, Louis P. Rocker, Ruth Sager, Itzhak Sankowsky, I.J. Schoenberg, Samuel Shuman, M. Znger, Irma Wolpe and Stefan Wolpe.

Einstein had not supported Israel’s establishment, arguing 10 years earlier in an address at New York’s Commodore Hotel that the formation of a state with borders and an army ran counter to “the essential nature of Judaism.” In 1946 he would tell the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry on the Palestinian issue, “I cannot understand why it is needed. It is connected with narrow-minded and economic obstacles. I believe it is bad.”

A German by birth and a socialist, Einstein had been a professor at the Berlin Academy of Sciences and was on a visit to the U.S. in 1933 when Nazi Germany arose. He stayed in America and received citizenship in 1940. For all his opposition to Israel’s establishment as a state, he was Zionist, and was among the founders of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1925, when Palestine was under British Mandate rule.

Jewish defense against escalating Palestinian Arab violence in Palestine was, in the last years of the Mandate, handled by the Haganah. Its perceived restraint led to the formation of the paramilitary Irgun and Lehi organizations, which, the letter accused, employed “gangster methods” and “inaugurated a reign of terror in the Palestine Jewish community.”

The massacre at the Arab village of Deir Yassin on April 9, 1948 was particularly described. “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,” they wrote in the letter. Yet 240 uninvolved people were killed, and though the Jewish community condemned the slaughter, “the terrorists, far from being ashamed of their act, were proud of this massacre, publicized it widely The Deir Yassin incident exemplifies the character and actions of the Freedom Party.”

They went on to describe Herut’s fascist tenets, including “an admixture of ultranationalism, religious mysticism and racial superiority.” It was no ordinary political party, he wrote, but bore 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.”

Menachem Begin and Israel

Menachem Begin was born in 1913 and died in 1992. Though seen as a hard-liner, Menachem Begin, along with Egypt’s Anwar Sadat, started a peace initiative between Israel and Egypt that could have transformed the Middle East. It led to the talks at Camp David, America, in 1978 for which both men received world-wide praise.

Begin was born in 1913 in Brest Litovsk, in Russia . A Zionist from an early age, he became a lawyer after graduating with a law degree from the University of Warsaw in Poland. While in Poland, he gained a reputation for administrative and leadership skills and became head of Betar Poland – an organisation that was created to defend Polish Jews.

When the Germans occupied Poland in September 1939, Begin went to Lithuania where he believed he would be safe. However, in 1940, Begin was arrested by the NKVD and sent to a labour camp in Siberia. After the German invasion of Russia in June 1941, Begin was set free because he was a Polish national. He joined the Free Polish Army.

Both his parents were murdered by the Nazis during the Holocaust – something that was to deeply influence him and his decisions as a politician.

In 1942 he went to Palestine ostensibly to train with the Free Polish Army. In fact, Begin joined Irgun – a group identified by the British as a terrorist organisation. Begin quickly became its leader. During World War Two, Begin organised attacks against the British and Palestinians. This was considered an act of treachery at a time when Britain was experiencing difficulties in North Afrika against Rommel’s Afrika Korps. Begin was put on a ‘wanted’ list by the British for terrorist activities.

After the end of the war, Irgun continued its attacks, especially after the British authorities in Palestine vigorously stopped Jewish European refugees from illegally entering Palestine. Violence reached an obvious peak with the bombing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem in 1946. Irgun was held responsible for this though Begin claimed that he and the organisation had sent out three warnings as to what they were going to do in an effort to minimise casualties.

When Israel was created as a nation-state in 1948, David Ben-Gurion needed to feel that he had complete control over the nation. He made Haganah the effective Israeli army – but this meant that he could not tolerate the existence of Irgun within Israel. For this reason, Ben-Gurion arrested the leadership of armed gangs but absorbed many of the ‘foot soldiers’ into the Israeli army.

Begin disbanded Irgun and turned to legitimate politics. Begin lead the Herut Party. This party was merged with the liberals to form Gahal that, in turn, became the Likud Party.

The 1967 Six Day War led to Israel getting a National Unity Government which meant that Begin was brought into Israel’s cabinet for the first time.

He was seen as a hard line politician. In 1970, when Egypt’s Nasser called for a cease fire across the Suez Canal, Begin said that it should only be accepted if Nasser signed a treaty that recognised the existence of Israel.

In 1977, he succeeded as Israel’s Prime Minister – a position he held until 1983. Israel had survived the Yom Kippur War of 1973, but certain political sections both in Israel and Egypt (seen as the premier Arab nation) now looked for a diplomatic solution to the Middle East problems. By now, Begin was somewhat sympathetic to a diplomatic solution but he also believed in the use of force to protect Israel. While he was willing to work with Egypt to protect Israel’s western border, Begin was not willing to tolerate the existence of PLO camps near to Israel and used the military to attack them. In 1982, he initiated Operation Peace for Galilee which was designed to clear terrorists from Israel’s northern border.

He was also willing to use force to defend Israel against a perceived attack. In 1981, he ordered the Israeli air force to destroy Iraq’s nuclear reactor based at Osirak. Begin was roundly condemned throughout the world but he defended his action by saying:

“A million and half children were poisoned by the Zyklon gas during the Holocaust. Now Israel’s children were about to be poisoned by radioactivity. For two years we have lived in the shadow if the danger awaiting Israel from nuclear reactor in Iraq. This would have been a new Holocaust . It was prevented by heroism of our pilots to whom we owe so much.”

Menachem Begin resigned from politics in 1983 shortly his wife, Aliza, died. He lived in seclusion until his death in 1992. Menachem Begin is buried on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.

Watch the video: Straus Center Author Conversation with Dr. Daniel Gordis on Menachem Begin (June 2022).


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