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Red Rag Column
Spiro Column 10 March 2010

’Olei ha-gardom

On 9 March 2010 the Knesset held a special session in memory of 12 Jewish terrorists, members of the Etzel and Lehi [1] underground organizations, who were hanged by the authorities of the British Empire. They have received the description `olei ha-gardom`[2] and are also sometimes called “harugei malchut”. [3] Terrorists? God forbid! Only in the eyes of the British Empire. According to Prime Minister Netanyahu, who gave a speech at the session, they were freedom fighters who sacrificed their lives for their people’s liberty and therefore, he said, `today we salute the heroism of the 12 members of the underground.`

Among others, Netanyahu salutes Shlomo Ben-Yosef who in 1938 opened fire at an Arab bus in which innocent civilians were travelling, including women and children, on the way to Safed.

If Shlomo Ben-Yosef is a freedom fighter and a hero, what do we call a 13-year-old Palestinian child from Hebron who threw a stone at a settler`s car? In the eyes of that same Netanyahu, that child is a terrorist who was legitimately arrested and jailed by an Israeli military court.

Netanyahu also salutes the two Lehi members, Eliyahu Bet-Zuri and Eliyahu Hakim, who in 1944 murdered Lord Moyne, the British Minister of State in Cairo. What is the difference between the murder of Minister Moyne, and the murder of Minister Rehavam Ze’evi in 2001 by members of the Palestinian underground? Why are the murderers of Minister Moyne “heroes” while the murderers of Rehavam are terrorists?

Another ’oleh gardom from Etzel, Dov Gruner, who was executed in 1947, said in his trial that he did not recognize the laws of the British court and refused legal defence. What is the difference between him and Fatah or Hamas members who do not recognize the legality of the Israeli military court in the Occupied Territories? After he was sentenced, Dov Gruner said in the court “in blood and fire Judea fell, in blood and fire Judea will rise.” Where else have we heard the expression “blood and fire”? Here I am reminded of Hamas members.

The option of non-violent struggle does not exist in the two camps, Gruner, Netanyahu and their friends on one side, and the imams of Hamas and Islamic Jihad on the other.

That is also expressed in the symbol of the Etzel organization: a rifle superimposed on a map of Eretz Israel [i.e. Palestine] and Jordan (of which Zeev Jabotinsky said, “One is ours, and so is the other”) above the words “Only thus,” that is, only by force of arms.

Yesterday’s victim became today’s murderer. That is what happens to abused children when they become abusive parents.

Dubious trustworthiness

The military milieu in Israel is in turmoil. Brigadier Moshe (Chiko) Tamir was forced to leave the army after he was convicted in a military court of failing to tell the truth. The story in summary, for those who are not familiar with it: Tamir allowed his minor son to drive a military ATV. The son caused an accident and struck a car. In his report on the incident Tamir wrote that the one who was driving at the time of the accident was his driver. He thereby hoped to save his son and himself from responsibility.

Tamir is a highly-regarded army officer, and he has a great many admirers among the corps of journalists who cover military and security affairs. Tamir is described a leader whose soldiers follow him blindly, a courageous warrior. In fact he is a product of the Occupation army, who enlisted in 1982 and belongs to the generation of young generals in the Israeli army who have never fought a real army and most of whose military experience comes from fighting the guerrillas of Hizbullah and suppressing Palestinian resistance in the Occupied Territories, that is, a hero mainly against civilians and children. In short: a colonialist general.

His expulsion from the army (in the official announcement he “concluded his term of service”) received sympathetic coverage in the media, both for Tamir, “the fearless warrior,” and for the Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, who was represented as letting this “talented warrior” go, “in sorrow and pain,” all against the background of songs of praise for the conservation of “trustworthiness as a supreme value in the army.”

To use a popular Israeli expression: this is nonsense in tomato juice. There’s no trustworthiness and no courage here; just an exercise in putting a brave face on things. Ashkenazi, who at the time of the writing of these lines is visiting the USA in order to raise money for the “Friends of the IDF,” was greeted upon his arrival at the donors’ meeting in New York by a demonstration by Neturei Karta [4] members carrying placards, one of which called him the “Butcher of Gaza”.

Which reminds me that the “Butcher’s” spokesman, Brigadier Avi Benayahu, lied so many times during the Gaza War that he makes the Tamir episode look like child’s play. (See the requests by Rabbis for Human Rights and Breaking the Silence organizations for a truthful investigation of what occurred in the Gaza War in the light of testimony by soldiers which completely contradicted the official announcements of the IDF Spokesman, not to mention B’Tselem and the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, which have repeatedly proven for decades now that the army’s reports are infected with lies all the way along the chain of command)

If trustworthiness is such an important value in the army, then the entire upper echelon of the General Staff, from the Chief of Staff down to the field ranks – who for 42 years now have been feeding us the lie that the IDF is a “defence army” – should be dismissed.

Put Dagan on trial

A letter that was sent to the Attorney General

To The Honourable Yehuda Weinstein
Attorney General

Honourable Attorney-General,

By now it has become clear to even the most sceptical that Israel had a hand in the act of murder in Dubai. The existence of more than ten Israeli citizens with dual citizenship whose names the assassins made use of in forged passports, leave no room for speculation about the Mossad’s responsibility for the crime.

If a secret group composed of the head of the Mossad and two or three others from the top echelon of the organization is permitted to decide who will live and who will die in the name of the idea of the Zionist State, then what is your answer to the murderer Yigal Amir, who believed that in the name of the idea of a Zionist Jewish state as he envisioned it, it was necessary to murder Prime Minister Rabin whom he considered to be endangering that idea?

The moment it is deemed permissible to execute people without trial, the sky is the limit and everyone is a potential victim of murder. If it is not your desire to bring an indictment against Dagan for cutting short a human life, at least don’t let him escape punishment for the falsification of documents. If equality under the law exists at all, then the treatment Dagan receives should be no different from that received by any Mafioso who falsifies Israeli ID documents for use by victims of the trade in women.

I am a survivor of the Krystallnacht pogrom in Berlin whose German citizenship was revoked by the Nazi race laws. My German citizenship was restored to me in democratic Germany after the Nazi laws were annulled.

The fact that a Mossad agent made cynical use of the Holocaust in order to receive by deception a German passport under an assumed name, which was then used by one of the assassins, is a personal affront to me.

As a holder of dual citizenship, I hereby request that you give me an assurance in writing that my name or details from my passport (a photo of which is located in a governmental file) will not be used by the Mossad or any other Israeli body that undertakes covert actions in foreign states.

Gideon Spiro

A travesty

A letter I sent to a judge at the Magistrates’ Court in Beersheba

To His Honour Ilan Ben Dor
Judge, Magistrates’ Court
5 Ha-Tikvah Street
Beersheba 84102

Your Honour,

On the basis of your decision of 25 February 2010, the human rights activist Nuri al-‘Uqbi was jailed for a week.

That decision was a terrible injustice to Nuri and caused inestimable distress to his friends and well-wishers from among both peoples.

Nuri is the chairman of the Association to Support and Defend the Rights of Bedouin in Israel, of which I too have the honour of being a member.

In a nutshell, he represents the injustice that the State caused to its Bedouin citizens that is manifested in various ways, but above all by the theft of their lands.

In 1952 the al-‘Uqbi tribe was asked by a representative of the Israeli government to leave the land on which they had lived for generations in al-Araqib for half a year, after which, they were explicitly promised, they would be permitted to return. To this day that promise has not been kept.

Nuri has lived in al-‘Araqib for the last four years in the context of his struggle to have his lands restituted. He meticulously adheres to democratic and non-violent means of struggle. Nuri is a Bedouin Martin Luther King.

The police, the Green Patrol, [5] the JDF and the Israel Land Administration have harassed him repeatedly. They tried to create facts on the ground, destroyed his tent and damaged his vehicle. He has been struck and arrested but he always returned to the scene of his vigil.

The authorities therefore decided to abuse their authority in a shameful way, by concocting an indictment with 40 separate accusations, some of which go back to 2005, in which he is accused of invading state lands. Nuri maintains that they are not state lands but rather his land, and he possesses documents to prove it. This issue is also being struggled over in the District Court in Beersheba.

The bizarre indictment apparently made such an impression on you that you decided to order him detained for several days. For a week that dear man sat in jail, along with criminals of all kinds. A judge is expected to employ independent judgement and not to be swept away by the demands of the Prosecution, and to beware against falling into the trap of hubris and power before he decides to deny a man’s freedom, all the more so when he is dealing with a veteran citizen who is nearly 70 years of age, of whom it is clear on the face of it that he poses no danger to the public.

I protest against this injustice, and hope that you will find it in your heart to acknowledge your error, repent and embrace judgment that is democratic and has no part in the discrimination and racism that characterize the Government’s policies towards Bedouin citizens.

Gideon Spiro


Dorit Beinisch, President of the Supreme Court
Attorney General Weinstein

Translator’s notes

1. Etzel: Irgun Tzva’i Le’umi (National Military Organization), sometimes just called the Irgun. A right-wing pre-State armed Jewish organization led by Menachem Begin. Lehi: Lohamei Herut Israel (Fighters for the Freedom of Israel), sometimes called the Stern Gang, after its leader Avraham Stern. Another right-wing underground group, generally considered more extreme than Etzel.

2. ‘Olei hagardom: literally, “those who ascend the gallows”: a reference to 12 members of armed Jewish organizations who were sentenced to death by hanging by the British authorities during the British Mandate in Palestine. Of the 12, 10 were hanged and two committed suicide in prison.


4. Neturei Karta: “Guardians of the City” in Aramaic. A small group of ultra-Orthodox Jews who strongly oppose Zionism and some members of which participate in demonstrations in support of Palestinian demands.

5. A paramilitary quasi-police force under the control of the Israel Land Administration, the main function of which is to prevent Bedouin from cultivating or grazing their flocks on land that has been defined as belonging to the Israeli government or to the Jewish National Fund.

Translated from Hebrew for Occupation Magazine by George Malent.

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