May 16, 2007

Menachem Begin and Me

Here's a 2006 story from The Guardian that didn't get much play in the American media:

Menachem Begin 'plotted to kill German chancellor'
· Bomb aimed at Adenauer killed disposal expert
· Clash over reparations for Holocaust behind attack

Luke Harding in Berlin, Thursday June 15, 2006, The Guardian

Israel's former prime minister Menachem Begin was involved in a plot to blow up West Germany's first post-war chancellor, Konrad Adenauer, Germany's leading newspaper claimed yesterday.

The respected Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung claimed that the Zionist leader approved and helped organise the assassination attempt using a bomb hidden in an encyclopaedia, even offering to sell his gold watch as the conspirators ran out of money.

The bomb, arranged in March 1952, was detected before it reached Adenauer, but exploded killing a disposal expert and injuring two of his colleagues. French detectives arrested five Israeli people in Paris, all of whom were members of the Zionist group Irgun Tsvai Leumi, which Begin was linked to.

One of the alleged conspirators, Elieser Sudit, now 82, implicated Begin in a memoir written 40 years after the bomb went off. Begin, who was to become Israel's prime minister between 1977 and 1983, was, after the war, incensed by Adenauer's offer to pay Israel compensation for the Holocaust. He clashed bitterly with Israel's Labour leader David Ben-Gurion, rejecting his talks with Germany for compensation for the Nazis' crimes against the Jews. ...

But Mr Sudit told Haaretz this week: "The intent was not to hit Adenauer but to rouse the international media. It was clear to all of us there was no chance the package would reach Adenauer." [More]

Well, I certainly don't know the full story of Menachem Begin and Konrad Adenauer, but this does remind me of the time the police suspected me of intending to blow up Margaret Thatcher with a letter bomb.

In 1999, I was invited to speak at a small conference in Maryland where Mrs. Thatcher was to be the guest of honor. At the last moment, I decided I needed some new business cards to hand out to all the important folks there. There wasn't much time, so I told the printer to FedEx my box of 1000 new business cards directly to the hotel.

The day before I left, I got a phone call from the chief of police in the Maryland town, who told me that a small but suspiciously dense package addressed to me had been delivered to the hotel where Mrs. Thatcher was to arrive the next day. "Before we have the bomb disposal robot throw it in Chesapeake Bay, I figured I'd give you a call and see what you have to say for yourself," he said.

I finally figured out what the chief was talking about, and fulsomely reassured him that I wasn't an IRA terrorist. Eventually, some brave soul opened my package and confirmed that it was indeed full of business cards, so it wasn't dunked in the Bay.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer


Anonymous said...

So can we say terrorism, like wars of agression, are bad, unless they are good, which means they are for a "good" cause, like Israel?

I'm so confused.

Anonymous said...

Despite being generally pretty sympathetic to Israel and their predicament with their neighbours, it never ceases to amaze me how tolerant a large proportion of Israeli opinion towards the early zionist terrorist groups such as those led by Begin and Shamir.

Anonymous said...

In 1952 Israel, it is hard not to forgive people for wanting revenge. That is honorable.

Endless womanish whining, bathing in one's own flattering self-pity, that is not honorable.

Anonymous said...

Why would Begin be "incensed by Adenauer's offer to pay Israel compensation for the Holocaust"?

Anonymous said...

Why would Begin be "incensed by Adenauer's offer to pay Israel compensation for the Holocaust"?

My understanding is that Begin was very critical of ben Gurion's acceptance of such money. (Not that ben Gurion was even greatly enthusiastic, but the Israelis needed the dough at the time.) To Begin, accepting the money would be allowing the Germans off the hook too easily. What Begin ultimately intended to do about the Jews' "German problem," I don't know exactly, but this bomb plot may give you some idea of his mindset.

Anonymous said...

I tend to be doubtful of this assertion. One, Adenauer was no friend of the Nazis, and was briefly imprisoned for his advocacy in the 1920's of Rhenish Separatism. I'm sure Begin wanted some revenge but Adenauer would hardly be a logical or sensible target. In contrast with say the very many French collaborators around or various ex-Nazi commanders.

Killing one of them would have served to remind the world of the failure to stop the Holocaust and therefore generated sympathy for Israel. Killing Adenauer who was both a somewhat opponent of the Nazi Regime and an anti-Communist at a time when the Soviet Union was backing Nasser and friends would be stupid.

Menachem Begin was often violent, dangerous, and aggressive but never stupid. This move would have topped the all-time stupid list.

Next, Israel at the time was small, out-gunned and out-manned and had barely survived the 1948 War only 4 years previously. Israel desperately needed modern arms to match those pouring into Nasser's Egypt. THAT above all was Israel's top national security priority. I have a hard time imagining Menachem Begin trying to kill Adenauer for ... paying compensation for the Holocaust? Particularly when the possibility existed of getting excellent small arms and other military equipment out of the Germans to match the Soviets.

The possibility of annihilation by Egypt would have IMHO concentrated Begin's mind wonderfully. He was never stupid.

Steve Sailer said...

Begin's 1982 invasion of Lebanon was really really smart. It converted Lebanese Shi'ites from anti-PLO to anti-Israeli, midwifing Hezbollah into existence to resist the Israeli occupation of Southern Lebanon.

How's that whole Hezbollah thing working out for Israel?

Anonymous said...

What is it with you and Israel, Steve? I'm pissed about the neocons Iraq War as much as the next guy but you never seem to tire of digging up dirt on that country...

Anonymous said...

Hindsight is 20/20 Steve.

Israel being surrounded by much larger, hostile nations that at the time were continuously supplied by the Soviet Union, had to regularly respond to provocations to deter attacks.

Syria and the PLO using Lebanon as a proxy could not go unanswered without encouraging another attack. Considering the surprise Yom Kippur War nearly wiped out Israel (supposedly Dayan was only an hour away from giving the "Samson order" to nuke Egypt as Israel contemplated total defeat) it's not as though letting the PLO show Israel could be attacked with impunity via Lebanon wasn't dangerous.

Since it could give the coup-minded Brotherhood officers in Sadat's Army unhealthy ideas. Ideas sure to find sponsorship and help with the Soviet Union, always eager to regain influence in Egypt.

Hezbollah's growth is more a function of Iran's patronage than anything else. If Israel had left the PLO alone Iran would have simply patronized the PLO instead (as they are the Sunni-led Hamas).

For Israel there are no good answers. A small nation with enemies all around them having unlimited manpower and military hardware needs to be seen as dangerous when provoked. To do otherwise invites attack. I find it hard to fault Begin in 1982 since all of his options were lousy.

At least he did something, instead of dithering around or half-measures like Olmert, who proved Israel's lack of military capability and guaranteed another war, this time on a larger scale. Begin's actions seemed plenty smart to me: he played his strongest card and on his terms. His timing and his initiative.

Anonymous said...

"Begin's 1982 invasion of Lebanon was really really smart."

It actually got Israel a few years of peace and stability, and forced the PLO from Lebanon to Tunisia. It would have been better if they could have wiped out the PLO entirely (Sharon's initial plan), but the PLO hid among civilians in Beirut and whined until the international community demanded that Israel let them get evacuated from Lebanon.

Anonymous said...

Actually, trying to kill Adenauer seems like on of Begin's least nefarious actions. Adenauer was after all German, and his main achievement was to ensure that the Germans didn't have to pay for their crimes of the Nazi era, or any of the cost of the war for which they were responsible.The "reparations" West Germany paid to Israel was money provided by the US, really just a way of laundering some of America's aid to Israel.
Begin's other activities were less benign. His direction of terrorist campaigns to drive the Palestinian people out of their country is fairly well known, but his role during World War II isforgotten: Begin waged a terrorist campaign against the British in Palestine, thus diverting forces who could otherwise have been fighting the Germans and Italians, making Begin an objective ally of the Nazis. THe term "Stab in the back" comes to mind.

Anonymous said...

The reason Steve is interested in or occasionally features Israel is probably the same reason NPR, our newspapers, Fox, CNN, and the rest are interested in and (more than occasionally) feature Israel. Israel is very important in US foreign policy. We are fighting a war in the region. Remember that?

Specifically to Steve, while I can't speak for him, I think the subject of Israel in American policy has a very interesting sociobiological angle (a relatively small tribe influential on much of the civilized world, and its troubles and woes).

Is it that what is objected to is a.) many mentions of Israel; or
b.) many mentions of Israel that are perceived as critical or able to be construed as critical?

Who posted here laughing about the treatment of free speech and its vigorous "fresh air," you know, the treatment that amounts to: "close that damn window, it's freezing outside"?

Anonymous said...

"Begin waged a terrorist campaign against the British in Palestine, thus diverting forces who could otherwise have been fighting the Germans and Italians, making Begin an objective ally of the Nazis."

An objective ally of the Nazis? Please. Begin's issue with Britain was that the British backtracked on their agreement to allow Jewish refugees to immigrate to British-controlled Palestine, at a time when Jews were being murdered by the millions by the Nazis. The British reneged on the deal because they were being blackmailed by the Nazi-allied Arabs over oil.

In any case, Begin's organization was a radical splinter group, and the mainstream Palestinian Jews served with the British against the Nazis and Italians (e.g., Moshe Dayan, etc.).

Anonymous said...

Touche. But I think he does go a little overboard.

Still, he hasn't censored me yet. Maybe it's because I'm not a NATIVE WHITE BORN CHRISTIAN AMERICAN. ;)