Middle East History: It Happened in January; Rabin's Murder Rooted in Zionism's Violent Legacy
Neff, Donald, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs
MIDDLE EAST HISTORY: IT HAPPENED IN JANUARY; Rabin's Murder Rooted in Zionism's Violent Legacy
By Donald Neff
It was 48 years ago, on Jan. 4, 1948, when Jewish terrorists drove a truck loaded with explosives into the center of the all-Arab city of Jaffa and detonated it, killing 26 and wounding around 100 Palestinian men, women and children. 1 The attack was the work of the Irgun Zvai Leumi--the "National Military Organization," also known by the Hebrew letters Etzel--the largest Jewish terrorist group in Palestine. The Irgun was headed by Revisionist Zionist Menachem Begin and had been killing and maiming Arabs, Britons and even Jews for the previous 10 years in its efforts to establish a Jewish state.
This terror campaign meant that at the core of Revisionist Zionism there existed a philosophical embrace of violence. It was this legacy of violence that contributed to the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin on Nov. 4, 1995.
The Irgun was not the only Jewish terrorist group but it was the most active in causing indiscriminate terror in pre-Israel Palestine. Up to the time of the Jaffa attack, its most spectacular feat had been the July 22, 1946 blowing up of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, with the killing of 91 people--41 Arabs, 28 Britons and 17 Jews. 2
The other major Jewish terrorist group operating in Palestine in the 1940s was the Lohamei Herut Israel, "Fighters for the Freedom of Israel," Lehi in the Hebrew acronym, also known as the Stern Gang after its fanatical founder Avraham Stern. Two of its more spectacular outrages included the assassination of British Colonial Secretary Lord Moyne in Cairo on Nov. 6, 1944, and the assassination of Count Folke Bernadotte of Sweden in Jerusalem on Sept. 17, 1948. 3
Both groups collaborated in the massacre at Deir Yassin, in which some 254 Palestinian men, women and children were slain on April 9, 1948. Palestinian survivors were driven like ancient slaves through the streets of Jerusalem by the celebrating terrorists. 4
Yitzhak Shamir was one of the three leaders of Lehi who made the decision to assassinate Moyne and Bernadotte. Both he and Begin later became prime ministers and ruled Israel for a total of 13 years between 1977 and 1992.
They were both leaders of Revisionist Zionism, that messianic group of ultranationalists founded by Vladimir Zeev Jabotinsky in the 1920s. He prophesied that it would take an "iron wall of Jewish bayonets" to gain a homeland among the Arabs in Palestine. 5 His followers took his slogan literally.
Begin and the Revisionists were heartily hated by the mainline Zionists led by David Ben-Gurion. He routinely referred to Begin as a Nazi and compared him to Hitler. In a famous letter to The New York Times in 1948, Albert Einstein called the Irgun "a terrorist, rightwing, chauvinist organization" that stood for "ultranationalism, religious mysticism and racial superiority." 6 He opposed Begin's visit to the United States in 1949 because Begin and his movement amounted to "a Fascist party for whom terrorism (against Jews, Arabs, and British alike), and misrepresentation are means, and a `leader state' is the goal," adding:
At the core of Revisionist Zionism there existed a philosophical embrace of violence.
"The IZL [Irgun] and Stern groups inaugurated a reign of terror in the Palestine Jewish community. Teachers were beaten up for speaking against them, adults were shot for not letting their children join them. By gangster methods, beatings, windowsmashing, and wide-spread robberies, the terrorists intimidated the population and exacted a heavy tribute."
Ben-Gurion considered the Revisionists so threatening that shortly after he proclaimed establishment of Israel on May 14, 1948, he demanded that the Jewish terrorist organizations disband. In defiance, Begin sought to import a huge shipment of weapons aboard a ship named Altalena, Jabotinsky's nom de plume. 7
The ship was a war surplus U. …