Last week Rosie Gray of Buzzfeed tweeted the photograph above of four American journalists partying with red wine and vinyl: (from left) Jamie Kirchick, Eli Lake, Rosie Gray, and Liz Wahl, the RT anchor who resigned on-air.
In the discussion on twitter, lots of folks pointed out that Lake wears a t-shirt with the image of rightwing Israeli PM and terrorist Menachem Begin. Noah Pollak of the Emergency Committee for Israel said he bought it for Lake in Israel. (Neoconservatives look out for one another.)
The terrorist bona fides? Begin (1913-1992) was prime minister of Israel in the 70s and 80s, but during the 1940s he was a leader of the Jewish terrorist group the Irgun. In his book The Revolt, Begin takes credit for two famous massacres of civilians: the bombing of the King David Hotel in July 1946 and the Deir Yassin attack of April 1948.
The King David Hotel bombing killed 91 people, including many British officers and Jewish and Palestinian civilians. Benny Morris, a pro-Israel historian, writes in the book 1948:
“The… explosion, which brought down one of the hotel’s wings, was the single biggest terrorist outrage in the organization’s history. The IZL [Irgun] subsequently claimed that it had given the British ample warning but that they had failed to evacuate the building; the British maintained that no adequate warning had been given.”
In his book The Revolt, Begin explains that he was shocked by the human cost of the massive bombing but attests his innocence of murder because warnings went out– 25 minutes before the bombing.
“[I]t is clear that we did all we could to ensure the early and complete evacuation of the hotel; that the warnings were given and received in time by the authorities; that they had time enough to evacuate the hotel twice over; that somebody, for some dark purpose, or because he had lost his head, or to protect a spurious prestige, ordered that the hotel should not be evacuated.”
In the Deir Yassin case, the Irgun captured a Palestinian village west of Jerusalem in an event that epitomizes the Nakba to this day. Morris says that 100-120 villagers were killed in the assault on the town, and a number of women and girls were raped.
“The conquest of the village was carried out with great cruelty. Whole families–women, old people, children–were killed… Some of the prisoners moved to places of detention, including women and children, were murdered viciously by their captors,” Morris quotes the statement of a Haganah Intelligence Service commander. “The atrocities were condemned by the Jewish Agency, the Haganah command, and the Yishuv’s two chief rabbis,” Morris relates.
Once again, Menachem Begin stated that the victims were warned.
“One of our tenders carrying a loud speaker was stationed at the entrance to the village and it exhorted in Arabic all women, children and aged to leave their houses and to take shelter on the slope of the hill. By giving this humane warning our fighters threw away the element of complete surprise, and thus increased their own risk in the ensuing battle…. Our men were compelled to fight for every house; to overcome the enemy they used large numbers of hand-grenades. And the civilians who had disregarded our warnings, suffered inevitable casualties.”
Begin says many lies were told about Deir Yassin, but that stories of Deir Yassin helped the Jewish forces in the end.
“In the result it helped us. Panic overwhelmed the Arabs of Eretz Israel… [T]he Arabs began to flee in terror, even before they clashed with Jewish forces… [W]hat was invented about Dir Yassin, helped to carve the way to our decisive victories on the battlefield.”
Historian Shira Robinson notes that David Ben-Gurion was thankful to the Irgun for the massacre. He later said, “If we didn’t have Dayr Yasin, we would be a minority in this country.”