He is best known for the Nobel Peace Prize he shared in 1979 with then-Egyptian leader Anwar Sadat, as they ended a decades-long enmity that had plagued the two countries.
And yet, Menachem Begin before wearing the tie of the 6th prime minister of Israel, was for many years the leader of one of the deadliest terrorist organizations, which even the Israelis detested.
Before the creation of the state of Israel, Begin was the leader of the Zionist militant group Irgun, an extremist group that had split in 1931 from the larger Jewish paramilitary organization Haganah.
Even before he was in his thirties, Begin had become known as a fierce critic of the mainstream Zionist leadership for being too soft on the British, arguing that the only way to save Europe’s Jews was to establish a Jewish state after the British were forcibly expelled. .
He joined the Irgun in 1942 and took over its helm in 1944, determined to force the British government to withdraw its troops from Palestine completely by any violent means.
In February 1944, he declared rebellion against the British by exterminating British people in Palestine.
The Irgun later fought the Arabs during the 1947–48 Civil War while Begin was labeled by the British government as “the leader of the notorious terrorist organization”.
“I come from the Irgun, I’m not afraid of anyone”… he would once say angrily when speaking against the establishment of a Palestinian state. The British authorities even banned him from entering the UK between 1953 and 1955. It wasn’t until 1972 that the British government granted him a visa, five years before he became prime minister.
One of Begin’s most heinous crimes was his organization’s involvement in the Deir Yassin massacre on April 9, 1948, when approximately 130 fighters from the Zionist paramilitary groups Irgun and Lehi killed at least 107 Palestinian Arab villagers, including women and children, in a village in Deir Yassin, despite the fact that it was preceded by a peace agreement.
Begin was elected to the first Knesset as head of Herut, the party he founded, and was initially on the political fringes, embodying the opposition to the Israeli establishment and the ruling Labor Party.
Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin during his visit to the USA.
For many years he was in the opposition, until in the 1977 elections he managed to put an end to the 30-year rule of the Labor Party and to elect the new prime minister of his country.
Begin may have been forced to compromise with the Egyptians in the late 1970s, but he would now turn his undivided attention to the Palestinians. During his days, the orgy of illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip began.
He was the leader who gave the military the go-ahead to dismantle Iraq’s Osirak nuclear plant, as well as the bloody 1982 invasion of Lebanon to fight PLO strongholds there, sparking the 1982 Lebanon War. It was Israelis who led to the establishment of Hezbollah, as the Israelis have admitted.
Domestic allies of the Israelis – the outlawed Phalangists – had been ordered by the Israel Defense Forces to clear out PLO fighters as part of their operations in West Beirut. Despite the fact that the Israelis were informed of the massacres perpetrated by the Phalangists, they took absolutely no action to prevent them. The public and international record on his person was the beginning of his political end, he isolated himself and resigned in October 1983.
You are a terrorist;
It is noted that the organization’s biggest terrorist attack is considered the bombing of the King David Hotel – the seat of the British administration at the time – in Jerusalem in 1946, killing 91 people and injuring 46.
The Irgun’s activities have been classified as terrorist by the British MI5 and more. Even the Zionist Congress of 1946 and the “Jewish Agency for Israel” considered it a terrorist organization.
According to the author of “Right Hand Man” Menachem Michelson, once, the well-known American journalist Mike Wallace, asked him directly, “Mr. Prime Minister, you were the leader of a terrorist organization. Do you see any comparison between that and that and the Palestine Liberation Organization?’
But how did Menachem Begin deal with the accusations that the Israeli Irgun fighters were terrorists?
Begin replied: “There is absolutely nothing to compare it to. We fought to free our land from a foreign regime, from the British. They want to wipe us off the face of the earth and take our land, because this land is ours. We kicked out the British because the land is ours. What do the Arabs want? Throw us out of our land! There is no comparison between the OAP or any of their killer squads. Another issue is the combat method. They kill every man, woman and child, while we did everything to avoid harming civilians. It’s true that sometimes disasters happened and civilians were injured, but that was not part of our regular battle.”
Georgetown University professor of international relations Bruce Hoffman, who specializes in terrorism, has argued that: “Unlike many terrorist groups today, the Irgun’s strategy was not to deliberately target or harm civilians. At the same time, however, Begin and other apologists claim that they were warning [πριν χτυπήσουν] they cannot exonerate either the group or its leader for the 90-one people killed and another 45 wounded… Indeed, whatever non-lethal intentions the Irgun may or may not have had, the fact remains that a tragedy of almost unparalleled magnitude was caused … so that to this day the bombing remains one of the world’s deadliest terrorist incidents of the 20th century.”