Saturday, May 21, 2011

Haaretz's Tom Segev on the Map I Produced

In the footsteps of terror

Menachem Begin regularly rejected any comparison between the terrorist acts carried out by members of the Irgun (pre-state underground militia) and the actions of Palestinian terrorists; he claimed that in contrast to the Arabs, the Irgun - his organization - spared civilians' lives. Begin was even more angered when Irgun members were called "dissenters" and cast out from the pantheon of Israeli heroism. After he became prime minister, he frequently took the trouble to correct the historical narrative, and after his death, the Menachem Begin Heritage Center was founded, which operates by force of a special law, at the state's expense.

The center has just put out a map for travelers. The Begin Center takes pride in the terrorist acts that Irgun and Lehi (another pre-state militia) members carried out; the map it published leads travelers along a route of those attacks in Jerusalem.

It is a large and eye-opening map, lavishly printed on glossy paper. There are a total of 165 flag markers on it, the vast majority of them denoting terror attacks perpetrated by members of Irgun and Lehi, and a minority marking acts by members of the Haganah and Palmach. Contrary to Begin's claims, the map enumerates a long series of outright terror attacks, including bombings of places where civilians tended to congregate, such as buses, cafes, markets, a cinema, a post office and the like. The terror attacks are termed "acts of retaliation."

The chronology of terror attacks that accompanies the map strengthens the thesis that no less than they were intended to hurt the Arabs and the British, the actions of the various organizations were designed to bolster their standing, in anticipation of the struggle over the governing of the state about to be established, and it's hard not to get the impression from the map that this competition continues to this day.

As expected, the map shows that the Irgun did much more for the country than the Haganah. The number of Arabs the Irgun killed is almost quadruple the number of Arabs the Haganah killed (according to the map a total of around 250. In actuality there were more ). Some 60 British were also eliminated, nearly all of them by the Irgun and Lehi. The Haganah mainly ran interference: According to the map, one in every four actions it carried out was aimed at hurting the Irgun, by abducting its members and disrupting its activities. There is no mention of the Haganah's efforts to defend the Jewish Quarter, or of the Hish, the secretive field corps of the Haganah, or of the convoys that brought supplies to the besieged city, or of the Convoy of 35 ("Lamed Heh" ), or of other actions. On Mount Scopus a traveler relying on the map will find a marker for "the Haganah's failed attempt to conquer Augusta Victoria." The truly significant event that occurred nearby is not referenced on the map at all: the attack on the doctors' convoy in April 1948, in which 78 people, mostly personnel from Hadassah Hospital and the Hebrew University, were killed. One may speculate as to why this incident has no place in Begin's heritage. Perhaps it is because the convoy was traveling under the Haganah's protection; perhaps because Irgun and Lehi members did not rush to its defense; and perhaps because the attack came just a few days after the conquest of Deir Yassin by Irgun and Lehi members.

The Deir Yassin affair is described on the map at length; as expected, the text portrays the conquest of the village as a military operation in every way, and does not mention the death of more than 110 Palestinians, and states: "About a third of the Irgun's and Lehi's fighting force was hurt by the gunfire and sustained many dead and wounded." The map does not note the numbers: 35 wounded and five dead.

A response will be forthcoming.


1 comment:

OJ said...

I don't believe you ever responded to this post...

I'm actually looking for the post on the Arab influx to Israel between 1948 and the fact that the Jews took pride in their coming...Do you know which one that is?