Irgun As ‘Terrorists’

Irgun As ‘Terrorists’

In the Media Watch column (July 9), professor Jonathan Sarna is quoted as arguing that the Irgun was not a terrorist organization because it “did not deliberately target civilians; indeed, it tried mightily to avoid targeting them.”

The historical evidence, however, demonstrates that the Irgun and its allies touted the organization as a terrorist group and extolled violent acts against civilian targets. In May 1947, a fundraising arm of the Irgun in the United States, the Palestine Resistance Fund, published a full-page advertisement in the New York Herald Tribune, entitled “Letter to the Terrorists in Palestine.” In that ad, the group asserted, “Every time you blow up a British arsenal, or wreck a British jail, or send a British railroad train sky high, or rob a British bank or let go with your guns and bombs at the British betrayers and invaders of your homeland, the Jews in America make a little holiday in their hearts.”

Shortly thereafter, the head of the Irgun, Menachem Begin, sent a private letter to the author of the letter, Ben Hecht. Begin thanked Hecht for “all that you have done for us, voluntarily and with civic courage whose equal it is difficult to find in these days of cowardly cynicism.” Begin in no way tried to disassociate himself or the Irgun from Hecht’s reference to the Irgun as “terrorists” or his extolling of attacks on trains and banks. Indeed, Begin asserted, “You have taken your stand at our side without fear or compromise.”

I wonder how Sarna would respond if a fundraising arm of Hamas published a similar “Letter to the Terrorists in Palestine,” today substituting the word “Israeli” for “British.”

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