Friday, March 30, 2007

Heard about this news on Ynet this morning:

Teddy Kollek, the legendary mayor of Jerusalem, lent a hand to the British authorities in their 1940s crackdown against right-wing underground movements that sought to drive the British out of Palestine, secret MI5 documents have shown.

Teddy was indeed a legendary mayor. He was Jerusalem. Patron of the Arts and actively engaged in consolidating the "Greater Jerusalem" concept. I never liked him. He was a snob of the first order. But he was also a Zionist who cared deeply about Israel.

This news is only a rubber stamp for what has always been known about this period of coallboration between the Jewish Agency and the British Mandate administration, labelled as the "Saison". There are no squeaky clean moral heros in this tale. Just leaders, deeply concerned about the future State of Israel doing some pragmatic thinking.

Here is what Wikipaedia has to say:

"The extremist Lehi group assassinated Lord Moyne in Cairo 1944. The two assassins, Eliyahu Hakim and Eliyahu Beit-Zouri were captured and executed. Though the Irgun joined the Jewish community of Palestine in condemning the murder, the Zionist leadership demanded that both separatist underground movements immediately disband. The Irgun refused. The Haganah initiated what is known as the Saison "The Hunting Season", in which it attempted to paralyze Irgun activity by arresting its members and turning them over to the British. Though many captured Irgun members were tortured, and some deported and even executed, Menachem Begin forbid them to fight the Haganah forces. The Irgun's costly determination to place the concern for national unity over the concern for its fighting ability or even the safety of its members gradually raised sympathies for the marginalized group, and serious disputes within the Haganah command. All in all, over 1000 members of the Irgun and Lechi were arrested and interred in British camps during the Saison. Several hundred were deported to camps in Kenya and Eritrea. "

Of course there is a great pain in the memory of that time. The Irgun thinking short-term (removing the Brits from Mandate Palestine) and the more conservative socialist leadership (funny combination that, isn't it?) worrying about the future international status of the State-to-be and its need for allies, if it wants to function as a nation among the nations.

So what the news does is nothing new except provide a name, an icon, to a policy during a time of great emotional upheaval and moral ambiguity. We must not forget the the years of the saison roughly correspond to the years of the Holocaust. The Yishuv's main concern was to bring about a change in British policy of prohibiting Jewish immigration. It could be seen as a policy of appeasement but its motivation must not be in doubt here.

And I'm not even sure the policy has not paid off, eventually. After all, Britain to this day, does not seem to hold the less salutary aspects of Israel's birth pains against it. Of all European countries, Britain is still Israel's best friend, second only to the US.

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