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THE ISRAEL REPORT

September/October
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ANOTHER TACK: Crazier than Ben-Gurion

By SARAH HONIG

(September 9) Back in the days of the great 1948 debate on whether independence should be declared, my dad branded my mom "crazier than Ben-Gurion," not only because she justified B-G's resolute risk, but because she dared express confidence that we could not be defeated.

To her mind, the conquest of Jaffa, in which her IZL friends played a major role, proved that. But that didn't go a long way to convincing my dad that we would survive. We were too few and the Arabs too many, he judged. "They could finish us off if they just all hurl their hats at us together," he was heard to predict darkly.

Hats were not an item the IDF could afford to issue its soldiers then, at least not of a uniform sort. My father's wartime photos show him and his comrades in an astonishing variety of headgear and outfits.

He spent the early part of that war trekking from front to front with the single outmoded cannon which the pauper IDF somehow came to possess. He used to reminisce about all "the noise it made - a lot of sound and fury but hardly any damage."

His unit unsuccessfully tried out some homemade weaponry on Herzliya beach, but was dramatically reinforced after the first ceasefire with the import of two antique Mexican cannons. They were soon dubbed "Napoleonchiks," because of their wooden wheels. These, too, were shuttled to the various front lines to accentuate the special effects.

Whenever he had any time off, my dad hand-engraved dog tags. The IDF discovered his artistic talent and that is how it was put to use.

Thousands of his identification disks ended broken. More than 6,000 soldiers gave their lives in that first war, a painful sacrifice for a population which numbered only some 600,000 in a sea of 50 million hostile Arabs with vastly superior arms and resources.

But now it transpires that all I heard from my father during my childhood was hokum. What my father called the War of Liberation should rightly known as the Imperialist War of Occupation by Superior Forces of Foreign Zionist Interlopers. This, anyway, is what our children will learn in school as of this year. Their new history text by Eyal Naveh doesn't even pretend to tell an objective story.

Its author has in fact written that he hopes "the views of the nationalist Right...would be shoved to the margins and relegated there forever. My book's objective is to contribute to this goal."

In other words, history lessons in our schools have a political end.

And ends have been known to justify means. The new text will give our kids nothing of which to be proud but everything to be ashamed of. "Who will want to live in a country born in sin, never mind fight for it?" asks author Aharon Megged.

The child who relies on Naveh will come away sure that the mighty Jews had the advantage in 1948. He will read a watered-down account of the murderous exploits of Arab terrorism, will be asked to evaluate his country from the point of view of a Gaza refugee, and will be taught that the PLO was set up in reaction to Israeli expansion in the Six Day War (which happens to have broken out three years after the PLO came into our world).

Naveh dryly alludes to the 1920 attack on Tel Hai in which Yosef Trumpeldor fell as "a misunderstanding between Jews and Arabs. Somebody opened fire and a few casualties resulted." Generations of young Israelis - Left and Right - were reared on the heroism of Tel Hai and Trumpeldor's last words: "It is good to die for our country." Naveh makes it look like hype.

But Trumpeldor can rest easy. He is in good company with other smitten idols like Dov Grunner and Hanna Szenes. Underground fighter Grunner was executed by the British, after adamantly refusing to ask for clemency. In an ITV docudrama playwright Motti Lerner shows him as having been callously brainwashed by his heartless IZL commanders, including Menachem Begin. Grunner was no hero. He was a stupid dupe.

Another Lerner ITV docudrama, paid for by your taxes and mine, portrayed Szenes a few years ago as no less than the traitor who turned in fellow volunteers from Eretz Yisrael after they parachuted into Nazi-occupied Europe.

Szenes's brother, Giora, lost his High Court battle against the pseudo-historical forces. A few days ago, five years after its ruling, the court released its arguments.

It concluded that Lerner's version of events was a figment of his imagination and it acknowledged that Szenes's memory was wronged. Yet the court maintained that Lerner's freedom of expression cannot be curtailed by the truth. He was granted the right to slander outright.

No Zionist hero is sacred to the new historians who rule our roost.

They can't conceive of anyone who would be fool enough to sacrifice his life for any ideal - not Trumpeldor, Grunner or Szenes.

They must not be tolerated as role models for impressionable youngsters. Likewise, the war for Jewish independence must be reduced to diminutive "post-Zionist" proportions. There was nothing heroic or against-the-odds in the struggle, even if my dad told me otherwise. He was just an eyewitness; Naveh knows better.

Naveh would never have pronounced my mom "crazier than Ben-Gurion," because he would not have ascribed her apparent confidence to determination and never-say-die feistiness, but to the alleged objective situation in which we clearly had the upper hand. No wonder the War of Independence was a piece of cake, albeit not a kosher one.

©Jerusalem Post 1999
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