Zionism - Israeli Flag

Zionism and Israel - Biographies

Biography - Menachem Begin

Menachem BeginMenachem Begin (1913-1992)  was born in Brest­Litovsk in 1913. As a child he was forced to flee with his family to escape the fighting between the German and Russian armies in World War I.

A passionate Zionist from an early age, he joined Ze'ev (Valdimir) Jabotinsky's Betar youth movement in his teens, rising quickly to important administrative and leadership positions.

By 1936 Benin was in charge of Betar Czechoslovakia, and in 1938 he became the head of Betar Poland, an organization with 100,000 members which engaged in weapons training to defend Polish Jewry, preparation and transport of “illegal” immigrants to Israel, agricultural training, and communications.

In 1940, Begin was imprisoned in Siberian labor camps by the NKVD Soviet secret police (a forerunner of the KGB). After the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, he was set free because of his Polish citizenship, and joined the Free Polish Army, which in 1943 made its way to British­controlled Palestine for training.

Contacting the dormant Jewish underground, Irgun Zvai Leumi ("Irgun" or |"Etzel"), Begin set about planning a Jewish uprising against the British authorities, contrary to the Zionist organization's policy of cooperation with the British during the war. The revolt was to protest the continuing British ban on Jewish immigration to Palestine. It began in 1944, but increased in pace and scope immediately after World War II and continued until late 1947. Begin ordered many of the Irgun's operations, including the Akko prison breakout and the destruction of the central British administrative offices in the King David Hotel.

In 1948, the Irgun, under his leadership, attempted to bring a shipload of arms, the Altalena, into Israel and use to arm the Irgun as an independent fighting force. Labor Zionist leaders believed that forces in the Irgun were going to attempt a coup. The Altalena was sunk on the orders of David Ben-Gurion and Begin reluctantly disbanded the Irgun. In the 1950's, he led the movement against accepting German reparations for the Nazi Holocaust. From 1948 to 1977, Menachem Begin was the leader of Israel's opposition. Begin was a fiery and hyperbolic speaker both in the Knesset and in public fora. For a long time, the Herut party was small and isolated in Israeli politics, and considered to be extreme right wing. David Ben-Gurion was particularly uninterested in cooperating with them, and the bitterness over the Altalena was not forgotten.

In 1965, Begin merged his Herut Party with the Liberals to form Gahal, which later served as the foundation of the Likud Party. The crisis atmosphere in 1967 prior to the Six day war brought about the establishment of a National Unity Government, which  brought Begin and other Gahal leaders to the cabinet table. The National Unity Government continued until 1970, when Begin insisted that Israel condition Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser's extension of the cease-fire across the Suez Canal on the signing of a peace treaty recognizing Israel.

In 1977, Begin was elected Prime Minister. As Premier, he surprised many when he helped initiate the peace process with Egypt, which resulted in the Camp David Accords and the 1979 Israel­Egypt Peace Treaty.

Begin invested national resources in development programs for Israel's poorer neighborhoods and sought to liberalize Israel's economy. Rapid liberalization soon resulted in runaway inflation, corrected only after he left office.  He also greatly expanded the settlement enterprise in the West Bank.

In 1981, Begin activated IAF contingency plans from former administrations, that called for  bombing the French-built Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq, where the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein was developing nuclear weapons. Though Israel was roundly condemned by the international community at the time, it became apparent during the 1991 Gulf War that Israel's action had succeeded in hampering Baghdad's drive to acquire nuclear weapons.

In 1982, after repeated acts of PLO terror, Israel launched Operation Peace for Galilee to remove the terrorist threat from Israel's northern border. During the Israeli occupation of Lebanon, Christian militia entered the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps and killed large numbers of Palestinian civilians. Begin was rumored to be very distraught over the Lebanon war and claimed that Ariel Sharon had hidden information from him.

Begin's decision to encourage Ethiopian Jews to immigrate to Israel later culminated in Operation Moses, which brought thousands en masse to Israel in the early 1980's.

Following the death of his wife, Aliza, in the winter of 1982, Begin resigned as Prime Minister. He spent the rest of his life in seclusion, glimpsed in public only at memorials for his wife or at the weddings of his grandchildren. He died March 9, 1992, and was buried on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.

Adapted from Jewish Virtual Library

 

More Israeli and Zionist Biographies The Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Zionism and Israel

External Zionism Links

This site provides resources about Zionism and Israeli history, including links to source documents. We are not responsible for the information content of these sites. These links are NOT intended to be an exhaustive reference about Zionism, but the list will keep growing...

Please tell us about your favorite links and we will review them for inclusion.

Please do copy these links to your Web site and tell your friends about http://www.zionism-israel.com Zionism and Israel Information Center

 Thank you.

Please link to us and to  our Sister Web sites -    http://zionism.netfirms.com Zionism Pages  and Zionism and Israel On the Web

Wikipedia article about Zionism - A comprehensive article including the history of Zionism  as well as links to specific topics and articles about anti-Zionism.

Zionism - Table of contents at the Jewish Virtual Library

Zionism article at Infoplease

Zionism - Definition and Brief History - A balanced article that covers the definitions and history of Zionism as well as opposition to Zionism and criticisms by Arabs,  Jewish anti-Zionists.

Labor Zionism - Early History and Critique - Contribution of Labor Zionism to the creation of the Jewish state, and problems of Labor Zionism in a changing reality.

The US Library of congress has a comprehensive and balanced set of articles about Zionism:

Zionist Precursors - US Library of Congress

Political Zionism - US Library of Congress

Cultural Zionism - US Library of Congress

Labor Zionism - US Library of Congress

Revisionist Zionism - US Library of Congress

Jewish Agency Zionism pages - Links to basic information about Zionism from the Jewish Agency

Ambassador Herzog explains Zionism in the UN

Advocacy

Dvar Dea - Israel Advocacy

Israël-Palestina Informatie -gids Israël, Zionisme, Palestijnen en Midden-Oosten conflict... Israeli-Palestinian conflict from a European perspective - Dutch and English.

 

ZioNation - Zionism-Israel Web Log    Zionism & Israel News  Israel: like this, as if Albert Einstein Bible History of Zionism Zionism FAQ Zionism Israel Center Maps of Israel Jew Israel Advocacy Zionism and its Impact Israel Christian Zionism Site Map