Gaza Stripped

Gaza Stripped

One unfunny joke making the rounds as a result of the civil war in the Gaza Strip is that Hamas has now accepted a two-state solution: one in Gaza and the other in the West Bank. A line that I’ve come up with, although I’m surely not the only one, is that the Palestinians have finally had their “Altalena” moment — but this time, it’s the Irgun that has won.

To those who need an explanation: the Altalena was a ship that was running arms in 1948 to the hardline Irgun militia, commanded by Menachem Begin. Independence having been declared, however, David Ben-Gurion, the head of Israel’s provisional government, ordered that all militias be dissolved into the new national army. Begin refused, Ben-Gurion ordered an army force under a junior officer named Yitzhak Rabin to open fire. Men were killed on both sides (but mostly from the Irgun), the Altalena sank and Begin ordered the Irgun to stand down and be incorporated into the army.

I have two commentaries I wish to share in connection with recent events in Gaza. One is M. J. Rosenberg’s latest column from the Israel Policy Forum, “A Hamas-Run Gaza; We Can Thank Ourselves”:

Gaza has fallen to Hamas. Abbas’ Fatah is on the run. Unless a United Nations force (like UNIFIL) steps in, a sliver of territory with a population of 1.4 million, a short drive from Tel Aviv, will become a dagger aimed at Israel’s heart and perhaps even an Al Qaeda staging ground. A humanitarian crisis of horrific proportions is a near-certainty.

Whose fault is it? The Palestinians’, of course. But hardly theirs alone. As Nahum Barnea, Israel’s finest journalist, puts it in today’s Yediot Ahronoth, “The US and Israel had a decisive contribution to this failure. The Americans, in their lack of understanding of the processes of Islamization in the territories, pressured [the Palestinians] to hold democratic elections and brought Hamas to power with their own hands…. Since the elections, Israel, like the US, declared over and over that ‘Abu Mazen must be strengthened,’ but in practice, zero was done for this to happen. The meetings with him turned into an Israeli political tool, and Olmert’s kisses and backslapping turned Abbas into a collaborator and a source of jokes on the Palestinian street.”

The second is from our long-time khaver, Hillel Schenker. He writes with urgency but also hope in the UK Guardian’s Weblog, “Comment is free” on having just attended a conference in Italy, in his capacity as co-editor of the Palestine-Israel Journal. Click here to read his entire piece.

By | 2007-06-18T04:07:00-04:00 June 18th, 2007|Blog|2 Comments


  1. Tom Mitchell June 19, 2007 at 12:02 am - Reply

    You oversimplified what actually occurred with the “Altalena.” The ship brought arms donated by France for Israel. Since Etzel arranged the shipment they felt that they were entitled to a portion of the arms for their forces in Jerusalem, which officially was not part of Israel. Ben Gurion had a history of using force to suppress Etzel because he saw it as an ideological threat to Mapai’s hegemony. Even though it was Lehi that assassinated Lord Moyne in Cairo in November 1944 it was Etzel that was punished because it was seen as a threat, while Lehi was allowed to remain underground and non-active.

    When Israelis say they want Arafat to act as Ben Gurion did, what they may really mean is that they expect him to act without regard to democracy to provide security. Etzel threatened Israel’s diplomacy in June 1948 during the truce when the ship landed off of Tel Aviv. Again in Sep. 1948 when Lehi assassinated UN mediator Count Bernadotte Etzel was suppressed, and the assassins were allowed to go free–one of them later becoming Ben Gurion’s friend. Ben Gurion in 1944-48 behaved like Arafat did in the 1990s–he was just much more skilled and covert at it than Arafat was. Maybe this is why Peres was more tolerant of Arafat than Rabin was–he knew how Ben Gurion had really behaved.

  2. Ralph Seliger June 21, 2007 at 1:45 am - Reply

    Tom Mitchell may be correct in relating how Ben-Gurion struck at the Etzel (Irgun) when he should have hit the Lehi (Stern Gang); I don’t know enough to say. But the need for Begin’s Etzel to surrender its arms in favor of one national army was compelling.

Leave A Comment