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http://www.washington-report.org/backissues/031885/850318011.html


Book Review

Israel's Sacred Terrorism: A Study Based on Moshe Sharett's Personal Diary and Other Documents


By Livia Rokach. Belmont, Massachusetts: Association of Arab American University Graduates, 1980. 73 pp. $4.50 (paper).

Reviewed by Richard H. Curtiss, March 18, 1985, Page 11


Most Israelis observe a conspiracy of silence by which certain subjects widely discussed in the Hebrew press are seldom aired in English-language media. One Israeli who dared to break that code of silence, however, is the late Livia Rokach, daughter of Israel Rokach, Minister of the Interior in the government of Moshe Sharett.

Sharett, a moderate who was Israel's first foreign minister and second prime minister, kept a diary in which he meticulously recorded his frustration at the determination of Israel's first prime minister, David Ben Gurion, to achieve his goals by force, and at the "immense capacity for plotting and intrigue-making of Moshe Dayan," Ben Gurion's political protege. Much of the diary concerns the 1954-55 period during which Ben Gurion had yielded the premiership to Sharett, but still sought to set Israeli policy, first from his retreat at Kibbutz Sdeh Boker, and subsequently as Defense Minister under Sharett. Throughout this time, Ben Gurion carried out a policy he described as "retaliation," but which Sharett saw as one of regular provocations designed to bring about a new war in which Israel could seize more territory from the Arabs in Gaza, the West Bank, Sinai, Syria and Lebanon.

Avneri: "Rokach Did Clean Work"

Sharett's diary was edited by his son and published in Hebrew only. When Pis. Rokach translated excerpts from it to insert into her book about this crucial period. and its tragic results, the Israeli Foreign Ministry threatened her publisher, the Association of Arab American University Graduates, with legal action if they published it without the permission of Sharett's son. The AAUG went ahead with publication and, in the words of Israeli Knesset member Uri Avneri, "the Jerusalem politicians decided that pursuing a legal course in stopping the dissemination of the booklet would be a mistake of the first order, since this would give it much more publicity."

We have the word of Avneri, whose vocal opposition to Israeli war policies in the 70s and 80s in many ways parallels the silent opposition of Sharett in the 50s and 60s, that "Livia Rokach did clean work. All her quotations are real. She did not ever take them out of context, nor did she quote them in a way that contradicts the intention of the diary writer."

Through 1954 entries in Sharett's diary we watch the planting of seeds that led to Lebanon's bloody civil war and to the creation under renegade Major Saad Haddad of an Israeli-cont rolled Maronite enclave along Israel's northern border. Sharett attributes the idea to Ben Gurion:

"This is the time, he (Ben Gurion) said, to push Lebanon, that is, the Maronites in that country, to proclaim a Christian State..."

The tactics, Sharett writes, were Dayan's:

"According to him (Dayan), the only thing that's necessary is to find an officer, even just a major. We should either win his heart or buy him with money, to make him agree to declare himself the savior of the Maronite population. Then the Israeli army will enter Lebanon, will occupy the necessary territory, and will create a Christian regime which will ally itself with Israel. The territory from the Litani southward will be totally annexed to Israel..."

We see secret raids in 1955 into Arab territory:

"Ben Gurion reported to the cabinet ... how our four youngsters (Israeli paratrooper reservists) captured the Beduin boys one by one, how they took them to the wadi, how they knifed them to death one after the other... When I arrived in Tel Aviv an officer... came to tell me that the whole revenge operation was organized with the active help of Arik Sharon, the commander of the paratroopers battalion."

The Story of the Lavon Affair

The diary records the Lavon affair, in which Israeli provocateurs exploded bombs in U.S. cultural centers and diplomatic establishments in Cairo and Alexandria in 1954 after being told "to break the West's confidence in the existing (Nasser) regime... The actions should cause arrests, demonstrations and expressions of revenge. The Israeli origins should be totally covered."

When the provocateurs-young Egyptian-born Jews trained in Israel and returned to their homeland-were caught and tried, Sharett publicly denied Israeli complicity and accused the Egyptians of "vicious hostility to... the Jewish people."

In private, however, Sharett deplored "the unleashing of the basest instincts of hate and revenge... I walk around ... horror-stricken and lost, completely helpless... What should I do?"

What Sharett should have done is now tragically clear. As Israeli Prime Minister, had he stood up in the Knesset and denounced Israel's actions aimed at provoking another Arab-Israeli war, the bloodshed of 1956, 1967, 1970, 1973 and 1982 might have been averted, and the greatest bloodletting of all-the Lebanese civil war-almost certainly would not have occurred.

He did not, and today we see an Israel where Ariel Sharon impatiently awaits his call to direct the next chapter in a tragic history-perhaps a Masada for the Jews, or an Armageddon for us all.



Richard H. Curtiss is a retired foreign service officer and executive director of the American Educational Trust.


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