"Altalena Affair" A Blood Libel - June 22, 1948


Why did I write this article? It is not because of the need to commemorate the 55 years to this tragedy. Its survivors do it every year, never to forget. Some of them were killed in 1948 in the battles against the Arabs. Some of them died later in Israel. The Captain of the Altalena, Monroe Fine, died in Chicago. They were forgotten people. After 1948, the New State referred to the ex-Irgunists as the untouchable crowd. They were discriminated against. They were arrested and persecuted. The same story is true to the other Irgun the Lehi (the so-called Stern Gang. Famous leaders such as Yitzhak Shamir were arrested. Hillel Kook, the leader of the Bergson Group was arrested. They were boycotted. Later all were rehabilitated but the scars were a fact. The frustrations did not easily vanish. Israel had its process of cancellation, of national healing.

The reason for this article is the surprising use of the Altalena Affair as an example for the Palestinian people. The idea is that the P.L.O. or Mr. Abbas needs a Palestinian Altalena. The issue in the new idea of a peace process, the road maps, is that the P.L.O. must demonstrate its authority even by a slaughter of its opposition, the terrorist organizations. They must use a civil war in order to achieve power and peace. The advocates of this road map use Altalena as a symbol, as an analogy. They suggest that history should repeat itself. To me this argument is nonsense, and stupid.

You cannot compare 1948"s circumstances to those of our time. The P.L.O. does not, and hopefully will not, have a sovereignty. The P.L.O is not a state. The P.L.O. is still a terrorist organization with a civil mask. Mr. Abbas is still a puppet of Mr. Arafat.

The P.L.O, thank God, is not free to make a free decision without the approval of Israel"s government. According to International Law, Israel is the authority and is responsible for everything that takes place in this region.

The Altalena Affair happened after the British left the region. It was a domestic issue of relations between organizations which emerged from a state of underground para-military activities. In the case of the P.L.O., it is not a domestic Palestinian issue because the Israeli authority is the "boss" in this area.

Who used the term "Palestinian Altalena" as an example for those who want to execute authority? The peace advocates. Many of them are Jews in this country and not just State Department officials.

The idea is: in the name of "authority", in the name of peace, in the name of the "road maps" you can commit a slaughter of Palestinians. Of course, they mean, terrorists but in Gaza, who is not a terrorist. Those peace advocates in the Jewish media or the New York Times, are willing to punish Israel for killing any Palestinian girl, by mistake, are now those who advocate a slaughter, a ruthless, senseless murder, of people. In short, they should look the other in search for an analogy or symbolism. They should not use this sensitive national traumatic experience for their advocacy. Let this "affair" live in peace.

At the beginning of this year, I was surprised by Shimon Peres arguing the Altalena Affair as a model for the P.L.O. at the Charlie Rose show (Channel 13). Peres? Why did he waive the bloody shirt of Altalena? It was a mistake. Peres tried to show that Ben-Gurion used power in order to execute authority. But Ben-Gurion was wrong. He made a mistake. So, Peres" idea was to show the P.L.O. how to repeat a historical traumatic mistake?

It is unreasonable to use Altalena as a model. Peres was followed by others in the media. Also in the Jewish media. I think that these analogies are stupid. They originated, first of all, from deep ignorance. It is not hard to prove that generations of young Americans never had a chance to learn the basic facts of the history of Israel. I hope that this article will encourage a challenge to this ignorance. Also, I have the feeling that this analogy which is a rootless one, as I have demonstrated in this article, is being used by the anti-Right, anti-Likud, writers who tried to smear the Israeli Right as if to expose its "fascist roots."

There is one more lesson: Do not rush to analogies! Do not distort history in order to reinforce your ideas in the present. We should be very sensitive when we discuss Israeli history. And it is senseless, stupid, and immoral to use the Altalena Affair in order to justify a slaughter as an idea of solving an issue. Israel has countered Palestinian attacks on its citizens for many years. Israelis dream of peace. They will be happy if all of the terrorists will disappear, or all of the Palestinians will immigrate to other Arab countries.

Others dream of a two state solution. Perhaps a bi-national state. There are a lot of dreams. But no one stated, openly, that we must use a slaughter, a genocide, as the only solution to the region"s problem. It is a liberal hypocrisy when justifying a slaughter in the name of the road maps! It is immoral license to kill. Is this the face of peace"s advocates? Therefore, do not touch our wounds. Do not trash and smear our memories. Let the old Israeli trauma vanish and do not dare to use it as a model, as a patter of behavior. It was a national shock. Menachem Begin was crying in the radio preventing a civil war. Israelis were crying on June 22, 1948. We should view the Altalena Affair only as a moral lesson of building a national unity for ever.

In his book Years of Wrath Days of Glory (1982) to Yitzhak Ben-Ami Describes the Hours of the Altalena Affair. His friend, Gershon Hakim, a member like him of the Bergson Group, saw Begin in Kfar Vitkin and told him: "...Commander (Begin was the Irgun"s commander), they will shoot us." Begin looked at Hakim in disbelief and said: "Jews do not shoot at Jews." Hakim decided to go home and told Ben-Ami: "Yes, they are going to kill us." Ben-Ami was shocked but Hakim was right.

The Altalena Affair was the end of a dream, the dream of the Hebrew Revolution. It was over: "...(we) were denounced as criminals... the state, we have dedicated our lives to building, was hunting us down in the street like animals... The Irgun was physically and emotionally crushed...", wrote Ben-Ami. Leaders such as Hillel Kook, Jacov Meridor, Eliahu Lankin, were jailed in the first Israeli political prison.

1 | 2

Return to News ArchivesBack to Top