Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Olmert should have more of an insight than most into terrorism

Geoffrey Wheatcroft
The Guardian

"Palestinians will point out that Israeli state violence has always more than matched that of its opponents - notably in the numbers of civilians killed - and they could point out also that this dates from before the creation of the state of Israel.

Ehud Olmert, the prime minister, has been described as "one of Likud's princes from a prominent Revisionist family", which makes Tzipi Livni, his photogenic foreign minister, a princess. In an interview with the Spiegel, the German magazine, she said that as a girl "All I ever heard about was that we Jews have the right to a state on both sides of the Jordan". Her father's grave bears the old map of that Greater Israel of Revisionist dreams, and she is one of the few prominent Israelis who can still quote the works of Vladimir Jabotinsky, the brilliant and charismatic man who founded the political tradition from which the groups called Betar, Irgun Zvei Leumi, Herut, Likud and now Kadima descend: a tradition to which she and Olmert belong by birth.

In the 1920s Jabotinsky created the Revisionist Zionist movement, defiantly nationalistic and militaristic, with an aim of admirable clarity: "The revival of the Jewish state with a Jewish majority on both sides of the Jordan." For Jabotinsky, Zionism was a psychological as well as political project. In an essay entitled Against Excessive Apology, he told the Jews to stop cringing and tell the goyim "to go to hell", which Olmert may be said to have taken to heart.

Instead of pretending that Palestine was "a land without people for a people without land", or that the existing inhabitants would welcome the Zionists, Jabotinsky insisted that they would not: "The native population, civilised or uncivilised, have always stubbornly resisted the colonists." It was thus "utterly impossible to obtain the voluntary consent of the Palestine Arabs", and the Zionists must be ready to use force by building an "Iron Wall". His famous phrase has now been interpreted literally by the Israeli government.

In the 30s, David Ben Gurion, the Labour leader who became Israel's first prime minister, called his antagonist "Vladimir Hitler", and the Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann told the New York lawyer Morris Rothenberg that the Jewish extremists evinced "Hitlerism in its worst possible form".

By the late 1930s some Revisionists had formed the Irgun, an armed militia committed to driving out the British and dealing with the Palestinian Arabs - by whatever means seemed necessary. "In blood and fire did Judea fall, In blood and fire will Judea rise again," ran one Revisionist song, and the Irgun were as good as those words. On July 22 1946 they blew up the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, which housed the British headquarters of the military command, killing 91 people, among whom 28 were British, 41 Arab and 17 Jewish.

We are now meant to be waging a "war on terror", and "terrorist" is a curse supposed to end all argument. But those who once supported the Irgun didn't shirk that word."

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