Likud and Zionism

November 30th, 2009 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The rest of Thursday was learning about some of the history of Zionism and Likud specifically.  The first stop was the Menachem Begin Centre. Begin, who signed the peace treaty with Egypt, was effectively the third leader of the revisionist zionism movement. The modern founder of zionism was Theodor Herzl, and then Vladimir “Ze’ev” Jabotinsky led the revisionist faction, which Begin then led.

Begin died in 1992, and usually tops the polls of most admired former prime ministers. However for most of his career he was a terrorist/freedom fighter (depending on point of view) and was very much a political outcast until the 1970s.

The centre in his name, obviously is very favourable to him. They have a very nice set of displays, and audio-visual effects. The tour guide, who works for the centre, was a young Canadian girl who emigrated to just two years ago, leaving her family behind.

Begin was a leader within the Irgun, and there is no doubt by today’s standards some of what they did would be called terrorism – especially the murder of the Sergeants. The British response was not much better.

There was also the infamous bombing of the King David Hotel, and to this day, there are bitter different points of views between the UK and Israel on it.

Not once in my time in Israel did I hear any demonisation of the Palestinian Authority. The two countries that were always criticised were in fact Britain (for former acts) and Iran (for current support of Hamas, Hizbollah etc). Britain was as much the enemy in the mid 1940s, as was the Arab states.

After the war of independence, tensions between the Ben-Gurion Government and Begin’s Irgun were massive, and in fact led to some bloodshed. Begin’s decision not to retaliate is said by his supporters to have prevented a civil war. Ben-Gurion seemed to despise Begin and would not even mention his name for several decades.

In 1977 Begin broke the 30 year monopoly of the Labour Party on power and became Prime Minister. His entire career had been as a hard liner who was against turning over any of the occupied territories to its neighbours. Yet he signed a peace treaty with Egypt in 1979, which set the precedent of land for peace, handing over the entire Sinai peninsula. He won the Nobel Peace Prize along with Anwar Sadat and Shimon Peres. His peace treaty was bitterly opposed my many in his own party.

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The signatures on the final page of the peace treaty.

He also bombed the Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981, and in 1986 approved the invasion fo Lebanon, which eventually led to him retiring in 1983. He was a recluse until his death in 1992. One of the reasons for his popularity is he was seen as a simple man of the people – and refused to be buried on Mount Herzl, but instead on the Mount of Olives next to two young Irgun fighters who killed themselves in jail to avoid execution by the British.

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A view of old Jerusalem from the Begin Centre.

After the centre, we went to the West Bank. It was fascinating to see first hand parts of the occupied territories. Two things struck me. The first is how big the West Bank is, and how much room there. It is not some crowded area like Gaza. The second is how close many Palestinian and Israeli cities and settlements are to each other. Don’t think there is some nice straight line you can draw between the two.

Much of the West Bank will form a future Palestinian state. But it is not as simple as just going back to the 1967 boundaries. Even the Palestinians say they are not expecting Israel to abandon major cities in the area. What is likely to happen is that any area Israel keeps, might be replaced with some territory elsewhere from sovereign Israel. This can be made into a win-win but the devil is in the details.

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A typical shot of the West Bank.

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This is at the top of a strategically important hill in the 1967 war. The military are very reluctant to give up this area, as they say they could not prevent an invasion from reaching major cities without it. That is of course their point of view.

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Below is a Palestinian town.

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A photo of the group, in the West Bank. Regardless of the politics of the area, it was a fascinating place to view.

Then we headed to Tel Aviv where we visited the Jabotinsky Institute. This was the only part I did not enjoy much. It mainly consisted of a lecture on Jabotinsky, and the presentation was too zealous – mainly about how all the other Zionists turned out wrong and Jabotinsky was right. Was interesting to learn about him (I had never heard of him before), but what should have taken one hour took two and a half.

We then checked into out hotel in Tel Aviv. Now the hotels generally in Israel had been three star ones to keep costs down. The total cost for the six days was only 500 Euros, and that included hotels, food, travel, driver, and entry tickets.

Now the hotel in Jerusalem was very basic (probably a 2 to 2.5 star in reality) but okay to sleep in. But the hotel in Tel Aviv was a 0 star. You opened the door and immediately saw a cockroach. Not in just one room, and the first three rooms we opened. We gave up after that. Also I noticed the beds had just sheets on them, no sleeping covers. We eventually worked out based on the neighbourhood that this is one of those hotels that you normally rent by the hour.

We staged a walkout and found a much nicer one down the road. The owner actually got offended we were leaving. She was lucky we did not report it to the health authorities for demolition. Yuck. On the plus side it allowed us to hassle our host greatly about how he tried to book us into a prostitute hotel.

Then Thursday night was night clubbing until around 2 am in Tel Aviv. It has a active party scene. I had to cut out early to write my NBR column :-(

What I gained most from the day is understanding that the issues around Israel did not start in 1948 or 1967. The zionist movement grew out of the late 1800s, as a response to the discrimination and worse of the Jewish populations in almost every country on Earth. People will disagree on whether or not the response was the correct one, but it is simplistic to see it as merely to provide a homeland after the events of the Holocaust – the move for a homeland had been steadily underway for some decades. Most of the planning happened when there was no Palestine – when the area was part of the Ottoman Empire.

Today Israel is an established fact, and there is little doubt there will be a Palestinian state at some stage. But under what conditions, and what boundaries is a long way from being resolved.

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22 Responses to “Likud and Zionism”

  1. KiwiGreg (3,170 comments) says:

    The chicks look way hotter than the guys. Are they the Swedes?

    [DPF: Two of the four girls are Swedish. One is Austrian, and one is American/German]

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  2. deserthead (9 comments) says:

    I hope you get to talk to palestinians in the west bank about the conditions there. Going to Israel and only talking to israelis would be like going to apartheid era south africa and only meeting afrikaners.

    I can’t recommend doing a tour with these guys strongly enough

    http://www.toursinenglish.com/

    [DPF: We were invited by Young Likud, and the agenda reflected their view point no doubt. They went out of the way to stress that it was their views, and there are legitimate other views. If a Palestinian group invited me to tour Palestine (and provided adequate security) I'd be delighted to do so]

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  3. garethw (205 comments) says:

    “Most of the planning happened when there was no Palestine – when the area was part of the Ottoman Empire.”
    Just because it was under the Ottoman Empire doesn’t mean there was no Palestine. If so, there was no Egypt or Hungary for a period there either.

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  4. grumpyoldhori (2,410 comments) says:

    Two groups of Semites scraping, it is just bloody sad.
    Of course the Israelis do have a problem on the West Bank, if the Palestinians decide to forget the two state solution and demand to become Israeli citizens, what then ?
    Does Israel stay a democracy, or does it go down the SA road ?
    As for Israel joining Nato, an absolute pipe dream, which European country would send troops to stop the Israels and Arabs fighting ?

    [DPF: Interesting Likud generally does not favour two states. They want to increase Jewish immigration to Israel, and have all Palestinians also as Israeli citizens - but with a Jewish majority - however in a secular state with freedom of religion. It is fair to say there is no agreement on this issue]

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  5. MikeE (555 comments) says:

    If you are clubbing in Israel look out for a DJ under teh name of “Borgore” you’ll have fun :-P

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  6. Jack5 (4,571 comments) says:

    Wasn’t Weizmann the key Zionist figure? As a British scientist he also played an important role in munitions in World War 1?

    An interesting trip, DPF. Can you please tell us more about the group you are with on the Israel leg of the trip? Is it a study group, or some sort of Rejewvenation retreat?

    [DPF: The attendees are leading youth members of CR political parties in Europe (plus me). Young Likud invited people they knew to attend]

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  7. tvb (4,199 comments) says:

    A place of immense history, deeply held beliefs and nuclear weapons. A powderkeg. But I am sure about one thing the holocaust has got no one damn thing to do with public policy on how to handle peace in Israel. They keep giving that terrible event a flick when an Israeli soldier kills a palastinian child or drives a bulldozer through an Arab house.

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  8. GPT1 (2,087 comments) says:

    Another very interesting post. Fascinating trip.

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  9. Matt Long (89 comments) says:

    I find it intersting that Israel was founded by Freedom Fighters/Terrorists, and is now plagued by its own Freedom Fighters/Terrorists. Those who sow the wind…

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  10. barry (1,317 comments) says:

    MMMMMMmmmmmmm – the israeli’s blaming the British – sounds very much like the maori’s blaming the colonials (aka: the british). I guess the effect will be the same – no resolution.

    I once visited Israel on a buying trip. The Israeli’s have some pretty good industrial products, but I was diss-illusioned by their attitude and we eventually didnt proceed.

    The first thing that struck me was they always said (of political problems) “the rest of the world doesnt understand us” – and they were very serious about this.

    Then I found that they get an AWFUL LOT of help from Uncle sam – and this is industry, not military. Although its delivered via the military.
    Everyone has to serve (well they did then) 2 months a year in the military until they were of a certain age (and they could continue after this voluntarily). In the military they teach you things like firing guns etc, but thet also teach you technology and skills.
    So – if you want to automate your factory – youll have someone trained in this skill by the military (ie: by Uncle Sam’s money), if you want a pilot to spray the organge groove – then you get one of the pilot who is trained as a pilot and a microlight plane. If you want medical people or metal workers or anything – youll have someone on the staff trained in these skills – by Uncle sam via the military.

    And then they get special access rights to the EU. Israel is the only country that has effective membership rights to the EU while not being a member. Its based on guilt and all good luck to the israeli govt for using this historical fact – but buggered if I was going to support their industry buying from them while they competed directly with my customers with special access rights (and zero duty)

    A very intersting country and obviously lots of history – but just like the balkans (and many other places) blaming history for the current situation never seems to solve problems. Id not like to live there.

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  11. Hurf Durf (2,860 comments) says:

    Is Puke okay? I’m surprised he hasn’t slimed his way on here already. He wouldn’t need to though, he’s fully covered by dumboldtwat et al.

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  12. MikeNZ (3,234 comments) says:

    DPF said
    “This is at the top of a strategically important hill in the 1967 war. The military are very reluctant to give up this area, as they say they could not prevent an invasion from reaching major cities without it. That is of course their point of view.”

    No way really?

    Barry
    Israel has special rights because the Europeans and the rest of the UN aren’t honest enough to force the Arab States to act honestly and let Israel be part of the geographic group she should be in.
    Another reason the UN is UNessasary.

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  13. TripeWryter (715 comments) says:

    Begin was the mastermind of the Deir Yassin massacre in April 1948, and he and his fellow Irgunites did so deliberately to provoke the Palestinians into fleeing from their homes and land.

    It was such an atrocity that if committed by anyone else, such as the Nazi Germans, they would have been in the dock for crimes against humanity. They were very cruel.

    For nearly 40 years the Israelis lied about what happened at Deir Yassin. In the end they dropped the fiction about 1983 (not long after the massacres at Shatila and Sabra in Beirut) when a retired Israeli Air Force general (Peled, I think) took a BBC film crew to where the village had been and described the massacre.

    Begin was one of the more dreadful human beings of the 20th century, and probably calling him a ‘human being’ is being charitable to him.

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  14. Luc Hansen (4,573 comments) says:

    hurf

    It’s OK. Others are doing very well without me. And I enjoy these postings from DPF on his travels – in fact, I wonder why a blog by such a reasonable man draws in such dog whistle extremists like your good self.

    I fear I may die wondering.

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  15. Political Busker (231 comments) says:

    I am looking forward to reading these Middle East threads a bit later on David, very interesting – cheers.

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  16. Jack5 (4,571 comments) says:

    Lucy at 9.14:

    …I fear I may die wondering…

    You must have a sparkling existence, Lucy, if you think Kiwiblog’s likely to be on your mind when you finally drift off into the big sleep (and may that be several decades away).

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  17. Luc Hansen (4,573 comments) says:

    Whatever, Jacky…

    and thank you for your good wishes.

    Anytime you want to try debate instead of personal attacks, let me know. I’ll be available.

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  18. Hurf Durf (2,860 comments) says:

    I’m not an extremist. You’re just far-left.

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  19. Murray (8,838 comments) says:

    “A view of old Jerusalem from the Begin Centre”

    See those two curtain walls, I could take out either of them.

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  20. Spoff (275 comments) says:

    “force the Arab States to act honestly and let Israel be part of the geographic group she should be in.”

    The Arab States have long been willing to acknowledge and deal with Israel on condition that Israel acknowledges the rights of those dispossessed in 1947-8. Every major negotiation between Israel and the Arab States has foundered on this one point.
    - see “The Iron Wall. Israel and the Arab World” Avi Shlaim.

    There is great irony in MikeNZ’s use of the term “honesty” when what he proposes is that the Arab States should pretend that the dispossession of the indigenous people did not take place. This would be a monumental act of dishonesty.

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  21. Murray (8,838 comments) says:

    Come back when the first item in the Palo charter isn’t the destruction of the state of Israel spooff.

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  22. Spoff (275 comments) says:

    I suggest that the Pals may not be willing to drop that particular item until there is some movement in the Likud charter:

    The ‘Peace & Security’ chapter of the 1999 Likud Party platform “flatly rejects the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan river.” The chapter continued: “The Palestinians can run their lives freely in the framework of self-rule, but not as an independent and sovereign state.”

    …..and the attitude of the third largest party, Shas:

    “It is forbidden to be merciful to them. You must send missiles to them and annihilate them. They are evil and damnable,”
    (The spiritual leader of Israel’s Shas party, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, in a sermon calling for the annihilation of Arabs)
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/1270038.stm

    Here is the Hamas position:
    “Our message to the Israelis is this: we do not fight you because you belong to a certain faith or culture. Jews have lived in the Muslim world for 13 centuries in peace and harmony; they are in our religion “the people of the book” who have a covenant from God and His Messenger Muhammad (peace be upon him) to be respected and protected. Our conflict with you is not religious but political. We have no problem with Jews who have not attacked us – our problem is with those who came to our land, imposed themselves on us by force, destroyed our society and banished our people.

    We shall never recognise the right of any power to rob us of our land and deny us our national rights. We shall never recognise the legitimacy of a Zionist state created on our soil in order to atone for somebody else’s sins or solve somebody else’s problem. But if you are willing to accept the principle of a long-term truce, we are prepared to negotiate the terms. Hamas is extending a hand of peace to those who are truly interested in a peace based on justice.

    · Khalid Mish’al – head of the political bureau of Hamas
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2006/jan/31/comment.israelandthepalestinians

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