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The Lifting of the Altalena

An effort to revive the symbolic Israeli ship

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Smoke from the Altalena Off of the Tel Aviv Shore (IPO)

Even from the depths of Mediterranean Sea, the Israeli ship the Altalena still sails on the waters of political metaphor. The ship is famous for being fired on and downed in 1948 by the Israel Defense Forces (led by Yitzhak Rabin) shortly after the founding of the State of Israel. The Altalena Affair, as its semi-widely known, came to pass because the ship had weapons in its hold bound for the Irgun, a paramilitary group led by future Prime Minister Menachem Begin and a vestige of the Jewish forces operating in pre-state Israel. The Irgun had refused orders to give up the ship and so Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion instructed the IDF to sink it, killing several Israelis and wasting the cargo. (For a stellar recounting, check out this Tablet piece by Shimon Peres and David Landau.)

The takeaway message is that a government must maintain its absolute authority over extreme groups that seek to undermine it, sometimes by show of force. For years, many waited for Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to have his Altalena moment with terrorist groups that launched attacks against Israel. He never did. Some Israelis rightly suggest that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is due for an Altalena moment with the settlers who engage in price tags attacks as well as the settler movement itself.

But the Altalena itself is back in the news for a different reason. The Begin Center is looking to raise the sunken ship and use it for a memorial in an effort to recast Irgun leader Menachem Begin as the hero of the story. From the BBC:

Director of the Begin Center in Jerusalem, Herzl Makov, believes it was Menachem Begin who pulled Israel back from the brink of civil war.

“Begin decided not to fight back,” Mr Makov says. “Begin realised it was a strategic issue: ‘if we, the Jewish people were going to have among ourselves now a war, there was no chance to get independence.’ So, he ordered, ‘don’t shoot back,’” he says.

Mr Makov wants to highlight this lesson of history by raising the Altalena, or at least part of it, from the bottom of the sea and building a new monument. He is currently looking for funding for the project.

Here’s a question: Given the meaning of the story, does Israel really need a second Altalena memorial?

Related: Uncivil [Tablet]
Raising the Israel’s Altalena ship ‘A lesson for the future’ [BBC]

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The Altalena represents so much about the nature of the origins of Israel’s establishment. Still, I don’t think this warrants a dramatic resurrection, both literally of the ship and of the Begin legacy. Israel needs to work harder at reconciling the simultaneous love/hate she has for leaders past and present. Its ok that we don’t have a quorum on how we all feel about Begin! Seriously! We should be able to look at that period clearly, while still having doubts and questions. This is how generations learn and grow. It would be incredibly unhealthy to continue to raise the next group of Israeli youngsters on the hero/villain narrative story. We’re not doing ourselves any favours with that kind of reading of our history.

Poupic says:

I feel like throwing up reading this rag. Mapainikes shot at the ship with volunteers, some survivors of the camps and what did Ben Gurion and Rabin do? They shot at it with canons and sank it. To this day, ALTALENA! From the lips of Begin ring in my ears. It is but onbe more despicable moments in Israel’a history. The same Mapainikes gave away to the British patriots who fought the British who had closed the door of escape to Palestines to Jews fleeing the Shoa inferno. Some, no doubt were hanged in the Acco Jail like Dov Gruner. They had to lift him from his stretcher his broken body could not support him to be hanged. The whole world beggedBritain to spare his life if just ask for it. He did not recognize the British the right to judge him.

The Altalena is a symbol of the traitorious left that indeed should be a monument to never forget.I feel like throwing up reading this rag. Mapainikes shot at the ship with volunteers, some survivors of the camps and what did Ben Gurion and Rabin do? They shot at it with canons and sank it. To this day, ALTALENA! From the lips of Begin ring in my ears. It is but one more despicable moments in Israel’s history. The same Mapainikes gave away to the British patriots who fought the British who had closed the door of escape to Palestine to Jews fleeing the Shoa inferno. Some, no doubt were hanged in the Acco Jail like Dov Gruner. They had to lift him from his stretcher his broken body could not support him to be hanged. The whole world begged Britain to spare his life if he just ask for it. He did not recognize the British the right to judge him.

The Altalena is a symbol of the traitorous left that indeed should be a monument to never forget, partucularly today.

Louise says:

I just subscribed about a week ago. Please unsubscribe me. I will not read a news story that does not tell the whole truth. If this is how the rest of your publication is I don’t need it, I have enough from the “mainstream” press.

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The Lifting of the Altalena

An effort to revive the symbolic Israeli ship

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