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Red Rag weekly column: Sharon: a cruel genius, or just cruel?
By: Gideon Spiro
14 January 2014 (English translation 25 January 2014)

A cruel genius or just cruel?

News of the death of Ariel Sharon came as I was writing this column. Radio and television programmes were cancelled and replaced by an unending stream of admiration for Sharon, who certainly had his admirers. The superlatives that were heaped on him made me uncomfortable. That he loved classical music grated on my ears in particular. I’m sure he loved it, but the image of a warrior general who spends his day killing human beings returning to his home, stretching out in an armchair and relaxing to the strains of classical music leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. Perhaps because I am a refugee from Germany.

According to the radio and television broadcasts he was a military genius, far-sighted and decisive with political vision, the last of the great leaders of the State of Israel, and also a charming man with a sense of humour and a diligent farmer to boot. In short, they depicted him as God – or at least, His emissary on Earth. That is a very one-sided picture, and in the lines that follow I will endeavour balance it. Sharon was the embodiment of military control over the civilian echelon. I’m not talking about a military coup with tanks surrounding government buildings and some colonel seizing power. There is no need for that in Israel. The civilian echelon, or what remains of it, virtually throws itself at the feet of the generals and begs those dear generals to go to the Knesset, the government, the municipalities and the business world. And they oblige. Hardly any Jewish political party in Israel does not boast at least one high-ranking officer.

Finance Minister Lapid’s new party enlisted Yaakov Peri, former head of the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet), who distinguished himself there by enhancing the torture system. Instead of being put on trial for violating human rights, he is today the Minister of Science and Technology. Before that he made millions in various jobs in the financial sector. A reputation for being able to “deal with Arabs” yields financial dividends. Justice Minister Tzipi Livni’s party has set a record in that regard. Of its six Knesset members, three are generals. The Defence Minister from the Likud, Moshe Yaalon, was the IDF Chief of Staff, and his eyes are on the prime ministerial prize. Since the beginning of the Occupation three generals have been prime ministers (Rabin, Barak and Sharon), two generals have been Presidents of the State (Herzog and Weizmann) and many others hold key positions in the government, Knesset and the local administrations. In many important ways the civilian echelon has become an extension of the military echelon. Yesterday’s Chief of Staff of the IDF ensured that billions of dollars flowed to the army, and in his new role as Minister of Defence he continues to pour billions into the military, even though he knows that it is a fat, wasteful and corrupt institution. Military control over the civilian echelon explains to a great extent why the culture of force and violence has taken root in Israel. The conviction that what cannot be achieved with force can be achieved with more force typifies a society that in which the army sets the tone – all the more so when in a colonial and racist society like Israel.

Sharon was a perfect representative of the culture of force, which manifested itself in the irresponsible use of an army equipped with all kinds of modern deadly toys, gifts from the USA. If indeed Sharon is a strategic genius as his admirers would have it, then the line dividing genius from reckless adventurer is a very fluid one. Jewish and Arab graveyards are filled with evidence of that recklessness, one of the signs of which was contempt for human life.

I am not one of those who share the view of Gideon Levy, expressed in the headline of his article dedicated to Sharon, that he “He stopped on red” (Haaretz 12 Jan. 2014). At many points in his career he did not stop on red. He did not stop on red when in 1953 the terror unit he founded, Unit 101, blew up houses in the village of Qibya on top of their residents, including women and children. Sixty-seven people were crushed to death under the rubble and a similar number were wounded. That style befits a Mexican drug cartel, not the army of a state that has pretensions to being democratic. Nor did he stop on red when at the Mitla Pass in the Sinai War in 1956 he disobeyed an order and sent troops into the pass, where they were caught in an Egyptian ambush. In the ensuing battle 40 paratroopers were killed and over a hundred wounded.

In a normal country an officer who disobeyed an order and caused the deaths of dozens of soldiers would be court-martialled, demoted to the rank of private and dismissed from the army. Not in Israel. Sharon managed to jump that hurdle.

He did not stop at any red lights at all in the First Lebanon War. In that war he crossed countless red lines, starting with the war itself, the unjustified invasion of a neighbouring country, the occupation of parts of Beirut and the shelling of residential neighbourhoods, the bombing of hospitals and schools by the air force, all cumulating in the massacre in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps that he could have prevented but chose not to. He did not stop at any red lights when it came to the construction of settlements in the Occupied Territories – a war crime under international law. For 18 years Israel was stuck in the deadly mud of Lebanon – 1,200 Israeli soldiers were killed, thousands were wounded and billions of shekels were lost that could have worked wonders if they had been invested in society and the Israeli economy; not to speak of the thousands of Lebanese and Palestinians who were killed and wounded. He survived that too. Nor did he not stop on red in the ties he fostered with despotic regimes.

He did not stop on red in his business dealings either. If the opinion of former State Attorney and current Supreme Court judge Edna Arbel, who said that Sharon should have been indicted for accepting bribes, had been accepted, he probably would have joined Moshe Katzav in prison. But that too he managed to evade by the skin of his teeth, thanks to Attorney General Mazuz. Undoubtedly he was a genius when it came to surviving. Sharon’s belligerence was manifest even when he did the right thing, like evacuating the Gush Katif settlement bloc in the Gaza Strip, but in an inappropriate way, at a sudden unilateral blow without any advance coordination with the other side. In the endless broadcasts about Sharon the statement that he saved Israel in the Yom Kippur War was heard repeatedly. That is a widespread popular belief that has been internalized by Sharon’s admirers, but it is a myth. Without getting into the details about the war, at no point was Israel in danger of being invaded or destroyed. The Egyptian war plans proved that the Egyptian objective was to break the status quo after the government of Golda Meir rejected Sadat’s peace proposals. And that objective was realized.

And finally, full personal disclosure: I belong to the cohort that was drafted into the IDF in August 1954. Throughout my military service until 1957 I was in the paratroopers under the command of Arik Sharon. I reject the romantic aura which to this very day surrounds the reprisal actions of the 1950s in the popular imagination and which allegedly transformed the IDF from a passive army to a proactive and aggressive one, thanks to Sharon. The reprisal actions were usually night raids on police stations when the police were sleeping. By the time they figured out what was going on, the building had been blown up and the Israeli force had departed. It was not a battle between two armies. There were exceptional incidents in which the paratroopers encountered army units from the other side, and then there were battles that produced dead and wounded. Wherever there was real war, such as for example at the “Chinese Farm” [1] in the Yom Kippur War, the Israeli paratroopers were beaten and withdrew.

I must stress that I have nothing at all against Sharon the man. He never harmed or offended me in any way. On the contrary, in 1960, when he was a colonel, I asked him for a letter of recommendation in order to get a job, and he consented without hesitation. In the end I did not use it, but I photocopied it several times in case of future need.

My criticism stems from a controversy that has deepened over the years. There has been much talk about “Sharon 2”: the man who underwent a transformation from being a man of war to a man of peace. We will never know the truth. The fact that Sharon’s sons invited the settler Zambish (Ze’ev Hever) to speak at the memorial service for him in the Knesset – Zambish, one of the builders of the apartheid state in the Occupied Territories that is based on the theft of Palestinian land – raises doubts that such a transformation took place.

Despite everything written here, when I watched on television the lowering of the coffin and heard the military cantor recite the funeral prayer “God full of mercy” (El male rachamim), tears flowed from my eyes, in the name of Gideon the 19-year-old soldier, who did not know what Gideon the 78-year-old senior citizen knows today, who believed in his commanders, Sharon and Raful (Raphael Eitan), and that all he did in the army was for the sake of the Homeland, who was willing to sacrifice his life on the altar of military actions the lack of justification for which he learned later, but who was then innocent of any idea that he was being led astray – in the name of that soldier the tears flowed over the death of his commander.

I agree with what Menachem Begin said in the Knesset to his adversaries: in future generations, when no one remembers you, Sharon’s name will be remembered. The question is – how will he be remembered in another hundred or two hundred years – as a peace-lover and hero of Israel or as a warmonger who gambled with people’s lives? Time will tell.

John Kerry – angel of peace or hawker of illusions?

Since John Kerry was appointed as US Secretary of State, he has invested more time and energy to a solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians and the signing of a peace treaty than to any other issue. What is the American interest in Israeli-Palestinian peace? Why does US imperialism care if Jews and Arabs pour out their blood? According to the classic left-wing theories that verge on anti-US obsession, the privately-owned arms industry needs to show profits, otherwise thousands of workers will lose their jobs. Where will the profits come from? From periodic wars. The reserves get low and they have to get filled with new merchandise – and the arms industry celebrates. And there are technological innovations in weapons that have successfully passed the manufacturers’ tests and now have to be tested on a real battlefield. Israel is a testing-ground that willingly offers to test new of weapons under war conditions. Israeli-Palestinian peace would reduce the number of wars, and the arms industry would certainly not profit from that.

But maybe that theory is inadequate? Maybe the American arms industry does not determine the foreign policy of the US? Is there some concealed US interest that has not yet been revealed? In any case I have no definite answer and so I will stick to what is clearly visible: Secretary of State John Kerry’s repeated visits to our region with the declared objective of promoting a peace agreement in the framework of a two-state solution which include all the core issues. The settlers are starting to feel the pressure, fearing what is coming, and that is a good sign. In this context I support US imperialism. What remains for me is to determine whether the representative of the empire, John Kerry, is a fair intermediary who has not been corrupted in either side’s favour. And here matters get clearer and my support for US imperialism declines. According to media reports, Kerry supports the Israeli demand to maintain an army along the Jordan Valley, in the very heart of the Palestinian state, for many years. The government of Israel saw that it was good, and immediately added another condition: an Israeli presence at the ports of entry to the Palestinian state with a veto over who may enter, and especially who may not enter, the supposedly sovereign Palestinian state. In other words, an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement as Netanyahu, Lieberman and Yaalon understand it will be an international seal of approval for the continuation of the Occupation by different means. Not a sovereign Palestinian state, but a slightly-modified Bantustan. In this context that we must also consider the idea of exchange of territory according to which Israel will annex what are called the “settlement blocs”. This is a reward for the settlers and the Occupation that promises to perpetuate the friction between the robber and the robbed. The idea of two states, to the extent that it is achievable, has to return to its roots: withdrawal from all the Territories, evacuation of all the settlements, the infrastructure of which will be used to absorb half a million Palestinian refugees, similar to the number of settlers who will be evacuated, in short: a return to the Green Line. And for that we need leadership that will combine De Klerk and De Gaulle. With no such figure visible on the horizon, we must fill his place with massive international pressure on Israel. That among other things is the duty of John Kerry and his European counterparts, if they act with integrity: to return the stolen property to its owners.

Concentration camp – Israeli-style

The Government of Israel has decided to deal with asylum-seekers from Africa by tried-and-tested German means, the main elements of which are to make their lives unbearable, detain them without trial, prevent them from working and make it impossible for those who manage to circumvent the ban to send money to their families left behind. As far as Israel is concerned, they can die of starvation. A Knesset member from the prime minister’s party, formerly the spokeswoman of the army of Occupation, Miri Regev, described the refugees from Africa as a cancer. And cancer must be fought, it must be extirpated from the body, which is, as you will have guessed, the Jewish collectivity in Israel.

The government of Israel does not think otherwise and so it built in the Negev a concentration camp in the literal sense of the term, that is, a place to concentrate thousands of asylum-seekers without trial. According to the official terminology they are not refugees or asylum-seekers but “infiltrators”, that is, criminals who must be punished. Inspectors from the Interior Ministry go out on hunting expeditions in areas where refugees live and hunt victims who are sent to the concentration camp in the Negev. The refugees, who know very well the history of the Jewish people, decided not to go to the concentration camp like lambs to the slaughter and organized a surprising and impressive struggle. Thousands of refugees demonstrated in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv under the slogan “Refugees, not infiltrators!” and demanded that the government stop treating them as if they were invisible and regularize their status according to the Refugee Convention that Israel has signed.

The next day thousands went to Jerusalem to demonstrate at the Knesset, and a delegation from the refugees requested to enter the Knesset to meet with Knesset members. The Chairman of the Knesset, the apartheid-kippa-wearing settler Yuli Edelstein, barred the delegation from entering the Knesset – for after all you have do not invite cancer into your parliament. Netanyahu replied that the demonstrations do not influence him. He continues to insist that it is they are infiltrators and not refugees, without any detailed examination of who is entitled to a refugee ID and who is not. Netanyahu is acting like the German air force commander Hermann Göring. When he was told that a senior employee in the offices of the air force was of Jewish origin, Göring said, “I’ll decide who is a Jew.”

Now we must hope that no 17-year-old refugee from Eritrea or South Sudan living in Paris plans to protest at the treatment of the refugees in Israel including members of his family by assassinating an employee at the Israeli embassy, and after whom a street will later be named. [2]

My romance with Haim Gouri

On Wednesday 25 December 2013 I went to the Supreme Court to be present at the deliberations on an appeal filed by Mordechai Vanunu for the lifting of the restrictions that have been imposed on him by the Israel Security Agency (ISA) and the Director of Security of the Ministry of Defence since he was released from prison in April 2004. As long as those restrictions are in place he cannot leave Israel. This is the 7th or 8th appeal he has filed, and so far all of them have been dismissed through a disgusting process in which the judges meet in private with members of the ISA in an ex parte hearing where they tell them fairy tales about “danger to the security of the State” if Vanunu leaves the country, and the judges repeatedly buy that shoddy merchandise. Of course since Vanunu has not been inside the reactor at Dimona for 28 years now he does not constitute any danger, but over and over the judges have shown their weakness of character, they are unable to show any independence and the ISA plays them like marionettes. I have accompanied Mordechai Vanunu in all the appeals as part of my solidarity with him and my support for him and his actions since he was abducted in 1986 in act of terrorism by the State of Israel.

At the Supreme Court I unexpectedly met the poet Haim Gouri. I asked him if he remembered me and he replied that he certainly did. I assume that he remembers the clash between us in the pages of the newspaper Davar, may it rest in peace, in 1978. I wrote a letter that sharply criticized Haim Gouri. The legendary editor of Davar, Hanna Zemer of blessed memory, showed the letter to Gouri and he thought it should not be published. To her credit Hanna Zemer went against Gouri’s wishes and decided to publish it and to run a reply from Gouri. And so it was. Hanna Zemer showed a special kind of courage. On the one hand, Haim Gouri, a famous poet, a pillar of Israeli culture, who was also known as the poet of the Palmah, was well-connected to the ruling elite until the Likud came to power in the “revolution of 1977”. Nevertheless, he was not persecuted by the Likud authorities, because he was loved by the settlers. In addition, he was a member of Davar’s editorial board, and it is not often that a newspaper editor decides against a member of the editorial board on a matter that involves him personally. And moreover, the other side was represented by one who bore the label of an extremist from the margins of the left-wing camp - me. But nevertheless, Hanna Zemer decided in favour of freedom of expression despite Gouri’s discomfiture. And for that she is deserves to be honoured. Gouri’s resentment over the publication of my letter was clear in his reply.

My letter appears below, followed by Haim Gouri’s reply:

The source of the desecration of “the holy trinity”

Davar, 21 August 1978

Haim Gouri likes to wear the cloak of preacher at the gate. He preaches morality, sometimes to the world and sometimes domestically, while braving infernal anguish that torments his troubled soul. He recently did that in his article “The holy trinity” (Davar 4/8/78) in which he declared himself to be shocked at the employment of Arab children in Israel’s Jewish agriculture.

I do not know whether to laugh or cry in the face of Haim Gouri’s hypocritical moralistic pose. He is the last one who has the right to preach morality. Haim Gouri was and still is an active participant in the process of degeneration, corruption and decline that have characterized Israel since June 1967. That process is inextricably linked to the beginning of the Occupation, Israel’s rule over and oppression of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The Occupation is the original sin which contains within it all the corruption, decay and degeneration that have begun to fray the fabric of Israeli society. Haim Gouri never opposed the Occupation. He defended it from his lofty quasi-spiritual position. In his sanctimonious pose of a Palmahnik with a conscience (a clean conscience, I should add – because it has hardly ever been used) he supplied Israeli society with the addictive drug of moral and historical justification for oppression and Occupation. He cannot suddenly recoil from one of its direct consequences. The employment, for a pittance, of Arab children who work under the burning sun is entirely grounded in the Occupation. That disgrace constitutes part of the growth of a racist consciousness that has grown at an impressive rate within the Jewish collectivity since 1967.

The moral degeneracy that is the employment of Arab children is part of the general degeneracy, as are parasitic war-profiteering, stealing lands from the Arabs of the Territories and throwing gas grenades into classrooms full of children. It all starts with the Occupation.

It is no coincidence that a gangster like Flatto-Sharon entered the Knesset in 1977. Ten years of Occupation were fertile soil for distorting the values of Israeli society to the point of accepting the norms of an international gangster and integrating him into Israeli society as a patriot. Cocktail parties in a villa in Savyon in the company of ministers and tycoons along with an aperitif of Holocaust films are a good background against which to see what has happened in Israel since the beginning of the Occupation. Haim Gouri cannot beg off with the Israeli excuse that “I had no part in it”, because he did have a part in it. He is part of the influential and comfortable crowd in the State of Israel. He was close to the regime, he received favours from them and he did favours for them.

Haim Gouri was an architect of the compromise that prevented the evacuation of the illegal Gush Emunim settlement at Kadum. He hobnobbed with ministers and prime ministers as part of the family, he mediated and compromised, added a word here and removed a sentence there and in the end he managed to help the gang of marauders execute the land-theft that for some reason was given the bland label of “settlement” (Heb. hitnahalut). There is a direct line between the brutality of Gush Emunim and the employment of Arab children under conditions of slavery. We have not heard Haim Gouri demand that the occupied Arab population be invited to use the educational and community infrastructure that the Jewish collectivity enjoys. Arab children do not have summer camps and activities at community centres, and their parents do not earn enough to make a living, and that necessarily leads to cheap child labour.

What Haim Gouri needs to do – what he should have done long ago, in fact – is to be quiet and be ashamed. In silence he can go over the screenplay of his next film: “The 82nd Blow”. [3]

Haim Gouri replies

Davar 28 August 1978

No man chooses his adversaries, if it were possible I would choose an adversary whose style is cleaner.

1. I have the right to be appalled at the employment of Arab children under conditions of exploitation “in Jewish agriculture in Israel”, a right that is shared by many who think as I do that Israel does not have to return to the borders of 4 June 1967.

2. Problem of Arab labour did not begin only with the “Occupation”. It accompanied the return to Zion from its beginning. The “holy trinity” [4] of the Second Aliyah was already a social, national and moral challenge at the from the beginning of the century to its continuation in the twenties and the thirties at the time of the “vigils” for Hebrew labour against “those who see the Homeland through the hole of a piaster” [5]

3. “Small and good” Israel had hard choices, moral unease and injustices in the relations between us and our neighbours. It suffices to mention only one incident: the Kafr Qasim affair.
There is a tendency to idealize those days in all aspects. It is worthwhile to take a look at the newspapers from that period …

4. There are those who think that the “Occupation” and its continuation are entirely the fault of the Israelis and in no way the fault of the Arabs. As an “an active participant in the process of degeneration, corruption and decline that have characterized Israel since June 1967” I nevertheless believe that the Six Day War did not break out because of Israel, which was willing to see the “Green Line” as a final border, just as it had danced for joy on 29 November 1947.

5. I admit that I was an “active participant”. First as a company commander in the Jerusalem Brigade against the Arab Legion, which opened fire on 5 June 1967. After that I was an “active participant” who helped hundreds of Arabs who had fled eastward to return to their homes in Abu Dis, al-Azariya [Bethany – trans.] and other villages in the area, and I did it with the “active participation” of a captured Jordanian vehicle which fell into our hands next to an artillery position that had shelled Hebrew Jerusalem.

6. After that, I admit, I opposed and I still oppose, as an “active participant”, the withdrawal of Israel to the Green Line. The “Allon Plan”, which I support, concerns itself with the survival and security of Israel and it does not require the exploitation of Arab children for the sake of greed and the distortion of the face of Zionism.

7. Kadum. The Labour government, if it had wanted, could have rejected the compromise I proposed next to the train station at Sebastia. It was a hundred percent consistent with what had been proposed to the settlers by the government of Israel at the time of the preceding settlement crisis and which was sharply rejected by the honourable Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook. Without identifying with the path of Gush Emunim, I thought that under the circumstances that had been created there, when thousands of men, women and children had been gathered there for a week without an answer, it was desirable to prevent a repeat of the ritual of settling and dragging away and the spectacles that go along with it, it down to the last victim. The government of Israel had the authority after that to decide what its policy would be on that matter based on its own judgment.

8. I do not know what “favours” I did for the “regime” or received from it. If G.S. has a detailed list of those “favours” I hope he will be kind enough to divulge it without requiring me to retain the services of a lawyer for that purpose. Presumably this newspaper will publish it.

9. The dragging of The 81st Blow into the above-mentioned letter causes me, for all that, to wonder whether it would not be best to let the reader judge and to respond for himself, instead of me, the remaining sections of the letter and its style.

My romance with Gouri began many years before that. At the end of the 1950s, when my military service ended and after I requested and received a year’s leave from Kibbutz Merhavia where I was a member, I returned to my parents’ house in Jerusalem. At the end of grade 12, before we were inducted into the army, each one of the members of my group received a Mapam membership booklet. Not one of us had been asked if we wanted to be a member of Mapam, for it was taken for granted that graduates of a high school in a Hashomer Hatzair kibbutz are naturally also members of Mapam. In Jerusalem I joined the local branch and I was active in the youth brigade. The branch was headed by Victor Shem Tov, later a member of the Knesset and minister of health. Alongside him presided an emissary from the kibbutz movement, whose role was to ensure that the branch did not make trouble and diverge from the party line. As a critical young man I asked questions and expressed opinions that were not always consistent with the positions of the party. Ben-Gurion had coined the slogan “all except Herut and the Communists”, two impure parties, one on the Right and the other on the Left. That did not seem right to me, and I asked, why not cooperate with the Communist Party, for example, on matters in which the positions were similar? Where there are disagreements, such as on the question of Zionism, we can argue, and where there is agreement, such as, for example, the struggles of workers for better wages, we can collaborate. And I also asked why we should not accept Arabs as members in Hashomer Hatzair kibbutzim. The Mapam newspaper, Al Hamishmar appeared every day with the slogan, “For Zionism, socialism and the brotherhood of peoples” printed on its masthead. What kind of brotherhood of peoples is it if Arabs are disqualified from membership in kibbutzim? Along with me there was another young man who shared my views, and his name was Shuka Porath, later Professor Yehoshua Porath, a respected Middle East scholar, who later turned sharply to the Right.

These positions robbed the branch leader of sleep and the rumour of “leftist ferment” in the Jerusalem branch of Mapam took flight on the left-wing scene. Activists of the Communist Party met with me several times and invited me to hear lectures at their branch by “Comrade Sneh”. I went, I listened, and indeed Sneh was a rhetorical artist and a gifted speaker. For every issue he had an answer and to every hard problem a solution, and above all, the Soviet Union was always right. It was easy to fall into his net. He did not catch me in it because I could not digest the requirement to submit to every Soviet whim. I did not understand what was so great about a one-party dictatorship, and of course there was also the Zionist issue. I still believed then that it was possible to reconcile Zionism with the brotherhood of peoples, and many years would pass before I reached a dead-end street on that issue where it became clear to me that when in all matters related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, reconciling Zionism with the brotherhood of peoples was the squaring of a circle. The mathematician who can do that has not yet been born.

The irony in all this is that years later Sneh would return to Zionism and explain with the same skill why the Soviet Union was wrong, whereas I for my part remained in the anti-Soviet Left but moved away from Zionism.

To the dismay of the Communist Party activists I did not join their party, but my willingness to listen to what they had to say was my downfall. In those days, the 1950s and 1960s, Mapai ruled Jerusalem under the leadership of Moshe Baram. It was hard to get a job in public institutions, government, the Histadrut, the municipality or university administration if you were not a Mapainik, and hard to impossible if anyone stuck the dread label of Communist on you. And that is what happened to me. Even to be a Mapamnik was problematic, but Communist? Heaven help you. If at least that had been true, I could have borne the suffering like Jesus bore his cross, but the accusation was totally groundless. In my distress I turned to Haim Gouri, who was already then a national figure, and I told him about the problem. I asked him if he would please rescue me by giving me a letter that would remove from me the Communist suspicion and certify that I was kosher and fit enter the holy fraternity of state employees. He agreed and wrote the letter that appears below. I asked him if he remembered who Yaakov Goren was, to whom the letter was addressed, and he did not remember. Nor did he remember that he had written the letter, and he asked me to send it to him, which I did. Since the letter bears no date, I assume that it was written at the end of the 1950s or the beginning of the 1960s.

[Below is a translation of Gouri’s letter, which was written by hand in Hebrew. The style of the original is reproduced here – trans.]

To Yaakov Goren greetings

I bear witness like a hundred witnesses that Gideon Spiro whom I know personally is an AA Israeli patriot a graduate of a Zionist-socialist movement a fighter in a paratroopers regiment and veteran of battles. All the slanders about him being a “Communist” heaven forfend are stupid lies and foolish McCarthyism this young man has the right to be treated like any other person and to be judged according to his talent and success in his work.

Yours Haim Gouri

Translator’s notes



3. Allusion to a 1974 documentary about the Holocaust directed by Gouri, called The 81st Blow.

4. The “holy trinity” of the Second Aliyah: Hebrew labour, Hebrew language and Hebrew defence.

5. Reference to a poem by Avraham Shlonsky in which the poet accused Jewish farmers in British Mandate Palestine who employed cheap Arab labour instead of Jews of caring more about money than the Jewish homeland (some low-denomination coins in Mandate Palestine had holes in the middle).

Translated from Hebrew for Occupation Magazine by George Malent
IDF paratrooper Gideon Spiro, 1955
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