Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Page 9 Below the Fold

Sometimes its the little stuff that gets my attention. Okay maybe most of the time. In any case a docudrama is being filmed in Israel. It is the story of the Altalena. The Altalena was a munitions ship brought to Israel by the Irgun which was led by Menachem Begin. The Irgun was a pre state underground militia. The Altalena was bringing in arms to help support Israel in its war of independence. Had the arms gotten through there would have been a different picture today.

The Altalena was late. Instead of arriving in May it arrived in mid June. There was a truce in the fighting at this time. Begin at first tried to send the ship back. It was already on its way to Israel. The provisional government headed by Ben Gurion knew about the Altalena. This government decided to bring the ship in during the truce period.The ship was supposed to anchor off of Tel Aviv.The Ministry of Security had them change the landing site to the area of Kfar Olga or Kfar Vitkin near Netanya. This was supposed to be done to avoid the UNO observers. Nothing seemed amiss. The important thing was the unloading of arms. One fifth of those arms were to go to Jerusalem. Jerusalem was not high on the priority list of Ben Gurion. This was a cause for joy. Then further discussions ensued about whom the arms would go to. The Irgun was being integrated into the IDF. Shouldn't these men have arms? No agreement was reached on the distribution of arms. Suddenly the government washed their hands of it. They would not help with the unloading of arms."We shall not help." That is what the government said. They at no time said do not unload the arms.

The short version of the story is that the ship was surrounded on the beach by government troops who fired on the ship. They shelled the ship and continued to do so. The white flag of surrender was ignored. The ship was destroyed. Good men were killed. All for what? Ben Gurion's plan to get rid of a serious political rival. False rumors were spread that the arms were to be used for a revolt against the government. After what was done the members of the Irgun would have had good reason to revolt. Jews had shot and killed other Jews. The irony resonates all these years later in the tragic death of Rabin. We were shocked as a nation that a Jew would have killed Rabin. Jew against Jew. The irony is that Rabin was on that beach with the forces who attacked the Altalena. Begin did not stage a revolt. No civil war. Begin had his priorities in order. First and foremost the Jewish state. We have not seen a leader of his caliber in a long time. I hope the movie does the story justice.

Submitted by Carol