Amir Oren's glance rested for a moment on the press release published by the Defense Ministry that the people who fell on the Altalena were to be defined as "murdered." But there are no murdered people without murderers, and in this case they are David Ben-Gurion (who gave the order ) and Yitzhak Rabin (who commanded the Haganah unit that sank the Irgun ship off the Tel Aviv coast in June 1948 ).
The memorial for the Altalena fallen was held this week in the presence of former members of the Irgun militia and those who followed in their footsteps. Not one word of reservation was voiced, not even by the prime minister. Only two weeks previously, they had been agitated by a comparison I had made - during a Shavuot study session at Tzavta in Tel Aviv - between Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir, and Yasser Arafat. Then I said that they, like him, had been contaminated by terrorism. "This guy, Sarid, has gone berserk," was what they said.
I do not particularly like historical analogies. The one who makes them suffers in the same way as the one who made the changes - he loses out because there will always be differences that can be highlighted.
However, my methodological mistake does not alter their biographies. Many people who headed movements of national liberation adopted violent and indiscriminate methods of resistance that brought death and injury to the innocent and the wicked alike, to civilians as well as soldiers, and which deliberately sowed panic among the public. We have to be sorry but not to deny this, and those who do the rewriting should not be hopeful. Later on, the terrorists became legitimate leaders, presidents and prime ministers; and Begin and Shamir are among these.
At one stage, B. Michael drew attention to the book, "The History of the War of Liberation," which was written by people who had been involved in the Irgun and the Lehi prestate right-wing underground movements. It is based on documents from the archives of the Israel Defense Forces and of the Irgun, of the Jabotinsky Institute and the Betar Museum. In their dedication, the authors thanked Uri Zvi Grinberg, Abba Ahimeir, Arthur Szyk, Shmuel Schnitzer and Shmuel Tamir; the prologue and summary were written by Israel Eldad.
There is no room here to mention all of the activities for which these organizations took responsibility, but here are a few typical cases: On 4.11.1937 - five dead and eight wounded in shooting at a bus in the Jerusalem suburb of Romema; 16.7.38 - 10 killed and three wounded including four women, a boy and young girl, by a bomb hidden in a basket of vegetables; 26.7.38 - 27 killed and 46 wounded when a bomb exploded in Haifa's Arab market; 29.5.39 - five killed and 18 wounded when mines were detonated in the Rex Cinema in Jerusalem, and among the seriously wounded were a Jewish man and woman; 20.6.39 - 78 killed by a bomb in the Haifa vegetable market.
And we have not mentioned the best known incidents - the explosion at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, the massacre at Dir Yassin, the executions of Jews who were suspected of cooperating with the foreign occupier (at least 10 cases ), and the assassinations of some of the representatives of His Majesty's government and of the international community in the region or in the country.
From the end of 1937 until the middle of 1939, in less than two years, the terrorist activities of the Irgun and Lehi claimed 232 victims with another 370 wounded - men, women and children. All of this was detailed in the semi-official book, that was republished in 1981 with the assistance of the Defense Ministry.
I had difficulty calculating the exact number of the hundreds of fatalities from the period of terror between 1946 and 1948. Anyone interested in the figures can find them in the book and do the calculations themselves.
The acts of the fathers served as a lesson for the sons, and even after 1948 and 1967, the acts of Jewish terrorism did not stop. Many of these terrorists walk among us, free, today and those who were caught and sentenced were pardoned.
Every nation holds its own terrorists close to its heart and considers them heroes. And even if there is someone who feels revolted, he too does not oppose forgiveness because even though they have sinned, they are part of the people of Israel.
However, there is still a very small minority in whose eyes all the terrorists in the world - irrespective of race or religion - are considered outcasts, no matter what their motives may have been. And the aim does not, in their opinion, justify the means: instead, the means defile the aim.