Sunday, July 23, 2006


The spirit of the King David Hotel
Tom Segev
The terror attack on the King David Hotel in Jerusalem was in its day the equivalent of the Twin Towers; yesterday was its 60th anniversary. There are two historic plaques at the hotel, one of whose wings was used by the British Mandate authority. On one of the plaques, which has been hanging there for some time, a few words note the terror attack: "On July 22, 1946, the Etzel underground bombed the southern wing." The action is attributed to Etzel alone, but there is no condemnation. "Underground" generally has a positive connotation. The unveiling of the other plaque this week was meant to cap an academic conference held at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center on the issue of who is a freedom fighter and who is a terrorist. It was quite a week to clarify such a question. They can be distinguished by organizational affiliation, goals, targets, means of combat and mode of operation. They all assume that a freedom fighter is a good person and a terrorist is a bad one. Nearly every terrorist defines himself as a freedom fighter, and vice versa: freedom fighters are usually defined as terrorists. So was Begin. He invested a lot of effort to convince history that he was not a terrorist. Among other things, he emphasized that his organization did not harm civilians. There's a thesis that could serve as an historic lesson from a moral standpoint: not harming civilians. The new plaque identifies the perpetrators of the attack as "Etzel fighters." It's important for them to emphasize that they acted "under orders from the Hebrew rebel movement," in other words, the Hagannah, among others. They called the hotel switchboard, the editorial offices of the Palestine Post, and the French Embassy (presumably they meant the consulate) "to prevent casualties." In other words, they sought a terrorist attack without casualties, but something went wrong. Twenty-five minutes went by and then "for some reason" the British did not evacuate the building "and as a result" 91 people were "regrettably" killed. There were 28 British, 41 Arabs, 17 Jews and five others. To emphasize the military aspect of the operation, the plaque notes that one of the Etzel people was killed "in an exchange of fire."
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Dee said...

I used to think that it was hard being in Ramallah when it was re-occupied and torn to pieces in 2002. But it seems to be so much harder being a million miles away here in Chicago when the Gaza Strip is being reduced to rubble and Lebanon, my birthplace, is being shredded and deprived of any kind of normalcy that it enjoyed for a few measly years. I often wonder what I would have done had I been there. Would the proximity have made it easier? Probably not. But being all the way out here makes me think that nothing else is important. I can’t help but think that everything else I’m doing is so unimportant. Watching the pictures of babies crying as their bodies bore the brunt of this horrible war deemed “self-defense” I just want to cry and scream. How can anyone stand this? What happened to all the people out there who killed and burnt and went on a rampage when cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed surfaced? Are these Lebanese babies not worth the effort? Are they not worth the protests and cries? Yes the cartoons were demeaning and at the end of the day, we know the protests were about so much more than the cartoons themselves. It was blatant racism and double-standards. But again I wonder where is that fervor that we saw back then (without the killing and burning of buildings) that the Lebanese and Palestinian people are need of now.

oldtownboys said...

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