Israel and the Tragedy of the "Altalena"

By Alexander, Edward | Midstream, Fall 2011 | Go to article overview

Israel and the Tragedy of the "Altalena"


Alexander, Edward, Midstream


Brothers at War: Israel and the Tragedy of the Altalena, by Jerold Auerbach, (New Orleans, L.A: Quid Pro Books, 2011).

MILCHEMET ACHIM!--Brothers at war!--is a subject that has preoccupied Jews throughout their literature and history, from the narratives of Cain and Abel, Joseph and his brothers, in Genesis, the mutiny of Korach against the authority of Moses in Numbers, and the post-Biblical civil war that undermined the Jewish state from within while Roman legions were besieging it from without in the year 67 C. E. That was when Jewish national sovereignty came to an end until 1948. In his War of the Jews, Flavius Josephus, the Jewish military commander (and deserter), recounted the Jewish conflict within the larger one between Jews and Romans. If Josephus' account is to be believed, the Roman general Vespasian told his warriors (who had already killed 40,000 Jewish men) to hold back from further battle became "The Jews are vexed to pieces every day by their civil wars and dissensions, and are under greater misfortunes than, if they were once taken, could be inflicted on them by us.... Permit those Jews to destroy one another."

It is against the background of these wars between brothers that Jerold Auerbach, professor emeritus of history at Wellesley College and the author of numerous distinguished books about Jewish and American history, has written a luminous and probing history of the calamity of the Altalena, the ill-fated Irgun ship that tried to bring desperately needed refugee fighters, arms, and ammunition to the soldiers of Israel in June 1948,just weeks after the declaration of statehood and the ensuing invasion by five Arab armies. Readers familiar with Auerbach's own political views may be surprised to discover that his impulse to write the book came from an Israeli friend who had fought with the Palmach in the War of Independence and who still equates the Altalena expedition with the Zealots of Jewish antiquity. Brothers at War is a disinterested study of its subject, impeccable in its scholarship (with the sole exception of an index insufficient to its task). Although Auerbach concludes that there is not a shred of evidence to support Ben-Gurion's accusation that the Altalena mission was Begin's attempt to overthrow his government, he reserves judgment on whether Ben-Gurion's course of action against it was justified.

The broad outline of the story is well-known. Revisionist leaders bought a mothballed American ship, named it Altalena (using Vladimir Jabotinsky's pen-name), and recruited a 25-year-old Navy veteran from Chicago named Monroe Fein, who had commanded a similar ship in the Pacific, to be its captain. His ship sailed on June 11 from Port-du-Bouc with 940 passengers, including 120 young women. For the Altalena's mission to succeed, its planners would have to secure the cooperation of France (whence it originated), to evade the British navy (which had already diverted the Exodus 1947 and Ben Hecht ships from their course), and to coordinate the plan with the Provisional Government of David Ben-Gurion, who loathed Menachem Begin. (Both men had the nasty habit of flinging the epithet "Nazi" at the other.)

On May 26, that government had established the Israel Defense Forces as the army of the State of Israel and prohibited the "continued existence of any other armed force" (such as Palmach to its left and Irgun and Lehi to its right). Ostensibly, Begin accepted this decision: "Within the boundaries of the Hebrew independent state there is no need for a Hebrew underground. In the State of Israel, we shall be soldiers and builders. We shall respect its Government, for it is our Government." But there was a hitch. Jerusalem was outside the boundaries of the new state. Shmuel Katz, member of Irgun's High Command, later explained: "We never forgot Jerusalem, where the Israeli government refused to claim sovereignty." (Perhaps I should here mention that I was a longtime friend of Katz, who died in 2008. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Israel and the Tragedy of the "Altalena"
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.