Humanities in Decline


Editorial Note

In December 2020, the Israeli Council for Higher Education (CHE) asked the public to send suggestions for advancing the Humanities in higher education institutions. The CHE appointed a committee headed by a CHE member, Prof. Haviva Padia of the Department of Jewish History, Ben Gurion University.  The committee invites the public to write his/her position or proposal regarding ways to promote the Humanities in academia and the public in Israel. The proposals must be sent by email, no later than January 31, 2021, to

The CHE public announcement has sparked a debate among members of the academic network Academia-IL. No one doubts the necessity of the Humanities, rather, the debate was more concerned with who decides what is considered important research that deserves public funding.

There is no doubt that the Humanities are essential, as students should be able to critically examine written texts. However, what has gone wrong with the Humanities is that political activists have seized the Humanities to advance their political agenda through the neo-Marxist, critical studies paradigm. Dozens of political activists masquerading as academics were recruited by their like-minded political activist peers to proliferate a particular political agenda as pioneered by Edward Said.

For example, the Walter-Lebach Institute for Jewish-Arab Coexistence, established in 2002 at the School of Humanities at TAU, aims to create and promote a “critical discussion of issues related to the Jewish-Palestinian conflict and to coexistence in Israel.”  The Institution is involved in academic courses related to the impact on the peace process, land policies in the Negev desert, legal issues, among others, and “the occupation and its implication on Israeli society.” The Institution grants annual scholarships.   

Of late, the Walter-Lebach Institute has published “A call for applications for a grant to candidates on doctoral dissertation or thesis.” Shortly after, the Institute announced the publication of an article, “Half-Statelessness and Hannah Arendt’s Citizenship Model: The Case of Palestinian Citizens of Israel,” co-authored by Noa Gani, a Ph.D. student at the Hebrew University and Prof. Amal Jamal, the head of the Walter-Lebach Institute. The article explores Hannah Arendt’s “conceptualization of half-statelessness,” which, according to the authors, theorizes “the partial invasion of citizenship by characteristics of statelessness. It is a process of dehumanization.” The article uses Arendt’s conceptualization to “demonstrate the meaning of dehumanization by examining the reaction of Palestinian citizens of Israel to recent radicalization of state policies towards them.” The article also refers “to the anti-liberal legislation and the radicalization of political discourse in Israel during the last decade, leading to further deterioration in the civil status of Palestinian citizens.”  The co-authors describe how “Palestinian citizens of Israel have never been recognized as an indigenous national group. This misrecognition is most intensely manifested in the denial of having equal right to the land (Jamal, 2007). This denial is translated into the realization of the Zionist vision of creating exclusive Jewish sovereignty at the expense of negation and repression of Palestinian nationalism” The article’s proof is a citation of Knesset member Ayman Odeh.

Evidently, the article is a political exercise dressed up in academic garb. 

The Institution also held an event, “2019 Elections: New Hegemony or Adequate Representation of public positions?” in May 2019, inviting, again, Ayman Odeh, the leader of the Hadash party and Joint List alliance, and Michal Biran, member of the Labor Party, to speak, moderated by Prof. Amal Jamal. Hardly an academic or balanced debate. It is not surprising that the books the Institution publishes are: The Politics of Inclusion and Exclusion in Israeli-Palestinian Relations (2020) Control and Thorn in It (2020) The Media Activities of National Minorities in the Algorithmic Age (2020) Palestinian Arab Organizations in Israeli Civil Society (2019) The Conflict – Sociological, Historical and Geopolitical Aspects (2019) Arab Civil Society In Israel (2017) The Nakba in the National Memory of Israel (2015) The Impact of the Occupation on Israeli Society (2013) Land, Democracy and Multi-Minority Relations (2013) Dialectic of Memory and Oblivion in Israeli Independence and the Palestinian Nakba (2010).

As can be seen, the Institution provides a one-sided political perspective that does not allow alternative voices.

The Institution also provides a link to another one-sided political event. In 2019 the Minerva Humanities Center at TAU had held a book launch for Idith Zertal’s “Refusal: The Duty of Obedience and the Right to Conscience,” published the year before. Speaking at the event were Adi Ophir, Gadi Algazi, Hagit Gur Ziv, Zehava Galon, Amal Jamal, Michael Sfard, Yishai Rosen-Zvi, and Yonatan Shapira. The event was filmed and uploaded to the TAU website.  Zertal, a highly controversial historian, has been accused of misrepresenting events surrounding the decision of Holocaust survivors to come to Israel. The speakers’ roster at this event is telling as well, many like Ophir and Algazi are leaders of the neo-Marxist, critical school, and some are from the Meretz Party.   

As for Zertal’s book on “Conscientious objection” and “Obedience and refusal,” she discusses the “thought of the refusal and right – and duty – of citizens to say ‘no’ to the government and the law; The intellectual, political, and cultural background of conscientious objectors; The concrete motives, anchored in time and place, of the refusal of conscience and its modes of action, its purposes, and its clashes with the institutions of the state and with its basic myths; And the ongoing controversy surrounding refusal in the public sphere – in the military, in the courts, in the media and academia.”   The book questions, “How does a person become a refuser? What are the individual, social and political conditions in which such an event matures and takes place? How does the refusal resonate in the public sphere and what does it attest to?” And argues that the “connection of conscientious objection to a democratic state is clear and can serve as a standard for the very democratic essence of a state. But the Israeli democracy haunts its conscientious objectors, especially since the occupation and its wars were their main motives. While the state of occupation is denied or considered the norms of the military, backed by the political and legal systems, defines conscientious objectors as an existential security threat, danger to democracy and the rule of law, and punishes accordingly: young Israelis, reservists or conscientious objectors before enlisting, are sent, since half a century for extended periods of time in the military prison.”   Zertal’s reading of the topic is biased and misguided, not to mention the lack of contextual understanding of the phenomenon. 

Unfortunately, the market for one-sided, Israel-bashing academic work is flourishing as many publishers compete with each other to publish books that reflect badly on Israel.   It is hardly a secret that since the publication of Said’s books, many in the Israeli and Western academy have devoted themselves to undermining the image of Israel while neglecting or soft-pedaling human rights abuses in the dictatorships of the Middle East. 

The CHE committee should fight the distortion of the political activists disguised as academics. IAM has been researching the phenomenon since 2004 and has collected numerous instances of such politicization.  IAM will provide more examples in the next several posts.

פנייה לציבור – קבלת הצעות לקידום מדעי הרוח באקדמיה

המועצה להשכלה גבוהה (מל”ג) והוועדה לתכנון ולתקצוב (ות”ת)מייחסות חשיבות רבה ביותר לקידומם של מדעי הרוח במוסדות להשכלה גבוהה באופן מערכתי. בשנים החולפות יזמו ות”ת ומל”ג מספר מהלכים במטרה לקדם את מדעי הרוח בראייה מערכתית ארוכת טווח וכללו את הנושא במסגרת התכנית הרב שנתית הנוכחית (תשע”ז- תשפ”א).בנובמבר 2020 הוקמה ועדת היגוי לקידום מדעי הרוח מקרב חברי מל”ג וות”ת בראשותה של חברת המל”ג, פרופ’ חביבה פדיה – המחלקה להיסטוריה של עם ישראל, אוניברסיטת בן גוריון בנגב.הוועדה התבקשה לגבש הצעה לתכנית עבודה מסודרת ואחודה, ובה המלצות קונקרטיות, תיעדוף, לוח זמנים ואופני יישום, לקידום תחום מדעי הרוח בהשכלה הגבוהה.הוועדה פונה לציבור ומזמינה את כל המעוניין להציג בכתב לוועדה את עמדתו או הצעתו בנוגע לדרכים לקידומם של מדעי הרוח באקדמיה ובציבור בישראל.את ההצעה יש להעביר בדואר אלקטרוני לכתובתלא יאוחר מיום 31 ינואר 2021

The Walter-Lebach Institute for Jewish-Arab Coexistence was established in 2002 as part of the Social Science School, the School of Humanities, and the School of Education at Tel-Aviv University.  The Institution’s goal is to create and promote critical discussion of issues related to the Jewish-Palestinian conflict and to coexistence in Israel.  The Institution is involved in conventions, publications, and academic courses related to its core interests, including psychological factors and their impact on the peace process, third section activity in Israel, land policies in the Negev desert, legal issues, the occupation and its implication on Israeli society, and dilemmas of recognition in conflicts.  The Institution grants annual scholarships for outstanding students and researchers who focus on relevant issues, in addition to collaborations with other institutions and research centers.

קול קורא להגשת מועמדות לקבלת

מענק על עבודות דוקטורט או תזה

  • נושאי העבודות:
  1.  התפתחויות במערכת היחסים בין המדינה למיעוט הערבי בישראל בעשרים האחרונים.
  2. השלכות והשפעות הקורונה על החברה בישראל ובמיוחד בממשק בין החברה היהודית לערבית.
  3. המערכת הפוליטית הישראלית ומיקומם של האזרחים הערבים.
  4. מערכת המשפט וזכויות האזרחים הערבים.
  5.  האלימות בחברה הערבית ותפקידה של משטרת ישראל במניעתה. 
  6. השתלבותם של האזרחים הערבים במשק והכלכלה בישראל.
  • קריטריונים להגשת מועמדות:
    תלמידי/ות התואר השלישי והתואר השני, אשר מצויים/ות במהלך כתיבת עבודת דוקטורט לאחר שהצעת המחקר נשפטה ואושרה או תזה העוסקות בנושאים אלו, מוזמנים/ות להגיש את מועמדותם/ן לקבלת מענק כספי. המלגות הן בסך 12,000 ₪ לתלמידי/ות הדוקטורט ו- 5000 ₪ לתלמידי/ות התואר השני.
  1. ** תלמידי/ות הדוקטורט יהיו מחויבים/ות בכתיבת מאמר קצר בשפה העברית עבור המכון המבוסס על עבודתם/ן. המאמרים שיימצאו מתאימים ויעמדו בסטנדרטים המחקריים המתאימים יפורסמו במסגרת המכון לאחר שיעברו שיפוט אקדמי כמקובל.** כלל הזוכים/ות במלגות יתחייבו להגיש עותק של עבודתם/ן למכון בתום הכתיבה ולציין את קבלת המלגה בדברי התודות.

הגשת מועמדות: יש להגיש את הפריטים הבאים בקובץ PDF אחד:

  1. נושא העבודה ותקציר בהיקף של עד 5 עמודים, הכולל את רציונל המחקר, מסגרתו התיאורטית, סקירת ספרות קצרה, מתודולוגיה, מבנה המחקר ואופן ביצועו. יש להקפיד להפריד בין חלקי התקציר בצורה ברורה.
  2. אישור על הצעת העבודה מרשויות אקדמיות מתאימות )אישור מעבר לשלב ב’ לדוקטורנטים ואישור הצעת התיזה למסטרנטים(. המלגה איננה מיועדת למי שכבר מסר/ה את העבודה לשיפוט.
  3.  שני מכתבי המלצה )אחד ממנחה/ת העבודה(. מכתבי ההמלצה אמורים להישלח על ידי הממליצים ישירות למייל המכון.
  4. קורות חיים אקדמיים.
  5. מידע על מלגות ופרסים נוספים שהוענקו עבור העבודה. למגישים בפעם השנייה, חשוב לציין זאת ולדאוג להמלצות מעודכנות.
  6. פרטים אישיים: יש לציין על הבקשה שם מלא, כתובת, מס’ טלפון, מס’ ת.ז. וכתובת דואר אלקטרוני.

את כל החומרים המפורטים לעיל יש להגיש ב- 2 עותקים בדואר רגיל וכן למייל המכון בקובץ אחד מרוכז בפורמט PDF, לא יאוחר מתאריך ה- 15/01/2021.

כתובת למשלוח: מכון וולטר ליבך לחקר הדו-קיום היהודי-ערבי, בניין נפתלי, קומה 5, הפקולטה למדעי החברה, אוניברסיטת תל אביב, תל אביב, 6997801

מכון וולטר ליבךהפקולטה למדעי החברה ע”ש גרשון גורדוןאוניברסיטת תל אביב


חוקתיות, כינון חוקה וריבונות- מבט תיאורטי והשוואתי (2020)

חוקתיות, כינון חוקה וריבונות- מבט תיאורטי והשוואתי (2020)

הפוליטיקה של הכלה והדרה ביחסי ישראלים ופלסטינים (2020)

הפוליטיקה של הכלה והדרה ביחסי ישראלים ופלסטינים (2020)

שליטה וקוץ בה- תמורות במדיניות המדינה כלפי אזרחיה הערבים והשפעתן על התנהגותם

שליטה וקוץ בה (2020)

הפעילות התקשורתית של מיעוטים לאומיים בעידן האלגוריתמי

הפעילות התקשורתית של מיעוטים לאומיים בעידן האלגוריתמי (2020)

ארגונים ערביים פלסטיניים בחברה האזרחית בישראל

ארגונים ערביים פלסטיניים בחברה האזרחית בישראל (2019)

הסכסוך- היבטים סוציולוגיים, היסטוריים וגיאו- פוליטיים

הסכסוך- היבטים סוציולוגיים, היסטוריים וגיאו- פוליטיים (2019)

החברה האזרחית הערבית בישראל

החברה האזרחית הערבית בישראל (2017)

הנכבה בזכרון הלאומי של ישראל (2015)

הנכבה בזכרון הלאומי של ישראל (2015)

השפעת הכיבוש על החברה הישראלית (2013)

השפעת הכיבוש על החברה הישראלית (2013)

קרקע, דמוקרטיה ויחסי רב מיעוט (2013)

קרקע, דמוקרטיה ויחסי רב מיעוט (2013)

דיאלקטיקה של זיכרון ושכחה בעצמאות הישראלית ובנכבה הפסלטינית: נקודת מבט עכשווית

דיאלקטיקה של זיכרון ושכחה בעצמאות הישראלית ובנכבה הפסלטינית (2010)

רב-תרבותיות ואתגרי האזרחות הדיפרנציאלית בישראל

רב-תרבותיות ואתגרי האזרחות הדיפרנציאלית בישראל (2007)

קישורים שימושיים

היכנסו לעמוד הפייסבוק החדש של מכון וולטר ליבךצפו בהרצאה בנושא בחירות 2019: הגמוניה חדשה או ייצוג הולם של עמדות הציבור?! בהשתתפות ח”כ איימן עודה וגב’ מיכל בירןערב עיון ושיח עם צאת הספר “סירוב: חובת הציות וזכות המצפון” מאת עדית זרטלישראל והפלסטינים – לקראת הכרעות גורליות? יום עיון פרי שיתוף פעולה בין מכון וולטר ליבך ומרכז תמי שטינמץ למחקרי שלום.


Tel Aviv University

  בחירות 2019: הגמוניה חדשה או ייצוג הולם של עמדות הציבור?  

איימן עודה

מיכל בירן

מנחה: פרופ’ אמל ג’מאל

  • Location: אולם ונצואלה
  • Date: Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Published inבחירות 2019: הגמוניה חדשה או ייצוג הולם של עמדות הציבור?


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Mediterranean Politics
ISSN: (Print) (Online) Journal homepage:
Half-Statelessness and Hannah Arendt’s
Citizenship Model: The Case of Palestinian Citizens
of Israel
Noa Gani & Amal Jamal
To cite this article: Noa Gani & Amal Jamal (2020): Half-Statelessness and Hannah Arendt’s
Citizenship Model: The Case of Palestinian Citizens of Israel, Mediterranean Politics, DOI:
To link to this article:
Published online: 23 Sep 2020.
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Half-Statelessness and Hannah Arendt’s Citizenship
Model: The Case of Palestinian Citizens of Israel
Noa Gani  a and Amal Jamal  b
aThe Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel; bSchool of Political Science, Government and
International Affairs, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel
This article explores Hannah Arendt’s conceptualization of half-statelessness,
theorized as the partial invasion of citizenship by characteristics of statelessness.
It is a process of dehumanization, since according to Arendt, human beings
can realize their humanness only within the confines of genuine citizenship.
Explicating Arendt’s conceptualization of half-statelessness helps us better understand
her dynamic citizenship theory and better explain contemporary developments,
characterizing ethnic national states in which populist trends lead to
gradual substantial revocation of national minorities’ citizenship status. We illustrate
the analytical advantages of Arendt’s conceptualization and demonstrate
the meaning of dehumanization by examining the reaction of Palestinian citizens
of Israel to recent radicalization of state policies towards them.
KEYWORDS Hannah Arendt; citizenship; half-statelessness; dehumanization; israel; palestinian minority


סירוב : חובת הציות וזכות המצפון : מסה

מחבר: עדית זרטל שנת ההוצאה:  2018 מילות מפתח: סרבנות גיוס ושירות צבאי; סרבנות מטעמי מצפון; סרבני גיוס מטעמי מצפון; סרבני מלחמה; סרבנות פוליטית מה קורה לאדם שנוף מולדתו הושחת ונגזל ממנו, שמדינתו וחוקיה השתעבדו לאי־חוקיות ולאי־צדק? האם עליו לציית אוטומטית לתביעות המדינה או לדבוק בחופש המצפון וכבוד־האדם שלו ולסרב, מכוח אהבת המולדת שלו? סירוב מצפוני הוא אירוע נדיר שמעטים מסוגלים לו. כיצד נעשה אדם לסרבן? מהם התנאים האינדיווידואליים, החברתיים והפוליטיים, שבהם מבשיל אירוע כזה ומתחולל? איך מהדהד הסירוב במרחב הציבורי ומה הוא מעיד עליו? זיקתו של הסירוב המצפוני למדינה הדמוקרטית ברורה ויכולה לשמש תו־תקן לעצם מהותה הדמוקרטית של מדינה. אולם הדמוקרטיה הישראלית רודפת את סרבני המצפון שלה, במיוחד מאז היו הכיבוש ומלחמותיו למניעיהם העיקריים. שעה שמצב הכיבוש מוכחש או נחשב לנורמטיבי הצבא, בגיבּוּיָן של המערכות הפוליטית והמשפטית, מגדיר את סרבני המצפון כאיום ביטחוני קיומי, סכנה לדמוקרטיה ולשלטון החוק, ומענישם בהתאם: צעירים וצעירות ישראלים, חיילי מילואים או סרבני־חִיּוּל טרם גיוס, המסרבים לשרת בצבא כובש, משוגרים זה חצי מאה לפרקי זמן ממושכים בכלא הצבאי. ציות וסירוב; מַחְשֶׁבֶת הסירוב והזכות – והחובה – של אזרחים לומר “לא” לשלטון ולחוק; הרקע האינטלקטואלי, הפוליטי והתרבותי של סרבנות המצפון; המניעים הקונקרטיים, המעוגנים בזמן ובמקום, של סרבנות המצפון ואופני הפעולה שלה, תכליותיה, והתנגשויותיה עם מוסדות המדינה ועם מיתוסֵי היסוד שלה; והפולמוס המתמשך המתנהל סביב הסירוב במרחב הציבורי – בצבא, בבתי המשפט, בתקשורת ובאקדמיה – הם נושאי הדיון בספר מעמיק, סוחף וחיוני זה. אל הספרנושא/נושאים: , שלטון וממשלפוליטיקה וממשלתוכן הספר:



Tel Aviv University

Searchסירוב -  חובת הציות וזכות המצפון

סירוב – חובת הציות וזכות המצפון

תאריך: 6.1.19

דברי ברכה

דברי ברכה

  • Lecturer(s) יו”ר: אורי לנדסברג, מרכז מינרבה למדעי רוח, אוניברסיטת תל אביב
  • Location אולם רוזנברג
  • Date Sunday, 06 January 2019

Published in סירוב – חובת הציות וזכות המצפון

עדי אופיר

עדי אופיר

  • Lecturer(s) עדי אופיר, מכון קוגוט למדעי הרוח, אוניברסיטת בראון
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Published in סירוב – חובת הציות וזכות המצפון

חגית גור זיו

חגית גור זיו

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  • Date Sunday, 06 January 2019

Published in סירוב – חובת הציות וזכות המצפון

מיכאל ספרד

מיכאל ספרד

  • Lecturer(s) מיכאל ספרד, עורך דין
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Published in סירוב – חובת הציות וזכות המצפון

מושב א’ – דיון

מושב א' - דיון

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Published in סירוב – חובת הציות וזכות המצפון

יונתן שפירא

יונתן שפירא

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Published in סירוב – חובת הציות וזכות המצפון

גדי אלגזי

גדי אלגזי

  • Lecturer(s) גדי אלגזי, החוג להיסטוריה כללית, אוניברסיטת תל אביב
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Published in סירוב – חובת הציות וזכות המצפון

זהבה גלאון

זהבה גלאון

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Published in סירוב – חובת הציות וזכות המצפון

אמל ג’מאל

אמל ג'מאל

  • Lecturer(s) אמל ג’מאל, בית הספר למדע המדינה, ממשל ויחסים בינלואמיים, אוניברסיטת תל אביב
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עדית זרטל

עדית זרטל

  • Lecturer(s) עדית זרטל, מחברת הספר “סירוב – חובת הציות וזכות המצפון”
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  • Date Sunday, 06 January 2019

Published in סירוב – חובת הציות וזכות המצפון

יונתן שפירא

יונתן שפיר

  • Location אולם רוזנברג
  • Date Sunday, 06 January 2019


Uri Goren (Greenblatt) who died in 2017, was a member of the Gideonim (specialists of the Haganah in Morse code communication between Palestine and the Diaspora, from both ships and land stations); commander of the illegal immigrant ship “Latrun” during the British Mandate period; a colonel in the IDF who commanded the technological unit of the Intelligence Division, and the first director of the company ECI.

On Both Sides of the Crypto By Uri Goren Translated by Aryeh Malkin, Kibbutz Ein Dor April 2010

Page 45

Another Look at Aliya: Idith Zertal
Idith Zertal, born at Kibbutz Ein Shemer, is a leading historian in the stream of those who deny Zionism and preach a different view of it and of the State of Israel. They are called the ”New Historians”. I came across her name and her ideas in an article published in the newspaper Haaretz, which referred to her book
“The Jews’ Gold” 1 – the result of her research. I learned from that article, that it was the author’s opinion that the leadership of the Jewish settlements in Palestine, with Ben Gurion at its head, brought the remnants of the Holocaust to Palestine for the purpose of using them to increase the fighting forces, in preparation for the War of Independence which was bound to come. In other words, they were to be cannon fodder!
I wrote Idith a letter in which I expressed my amazement in a very polite language. I received an answer from her, thanking me for the letter and suggesting that I read the book itself, after which we could meet and discuss it again. I purchased the book and read all of the more than 500 pages, but I ended up very much angrier than I had been after reading only the article.
The book describes the rescue of the remnants of the Holocaust in a way which would make any anti-Zionist and anti-Semite proud. She ignores the fact that no other country in the world agreed to allow the entry of Jews and that they had been left without homes, without families and without hope. Zertal describes the leaders of the Yishuv as a bunch of cruel individuals working in devious ways and forcing desperate people to come to Palestine. Indeed, having no choice, they are brought on rotting and dangerous ships,

1 Translation of the Hebrew title; it was published in English under the title: From Catastrophe to Power: The Holocaust Survivors and the Emergence of Israel

under sub-human conditions, they arrive in this foreign country and are thrown into a desperate war, in the course of which many of them are killed. She describes the cruelty of the young Israelis, the Palyam and the soldiers of the Jewish Brigade and other branches of service in bringing these ‘slave ships’ to Palestine.
I did not find in the book any supporting testimonials; not from one ma’apil nor from one Palyamnik such as I. I know how strongly the desire of the remnants of the Holocaust was to come to Palestine and how disappointed they were if their turn was delayed. The “Exodus” is the best example of this. After arriving in Palestine and then being sent back to France, they were offered refuge there, yet only a few of the weakest individuals took up the offer. Sick people and women with advanced pregnancy were the only ones to leave the vessel. They also found a means to return to Israel at a later date. In a telephone conversation with Zertal I expressed surprise that she did not interview any ma’apilim or any of those who accompanied them. Her peculiar answer was: “History is based on written material and not on interviews.” I said that may be correct as regards ancient history but it is ridiculous when there are many who are still living that experienced an event. Our discussion became more severe and was discontinued. I was cut off by her for some time after that, but I wrote her a letter and detailed my criticism of her book.

A few years later I was invited to participate as a speaker in a seminar on Aliya Bet at Kibbutz Ma’ale HaChamisha. Idith Zertal was to lecture at the seminar. The organizer of the seminar asked me if my name could also be included as a speaker and I agreed. I suggested, however, that if my name was published then Idith was likely to beg to be excused from appearing. That is exactly what happened. In my lecture I told my own personal story after which I expressed my anger at Idith’s book and accused her of telling a bunch of lies. I finished my diatribe against her with a very severe sentence: In Zertal’s description of the actions of Ben Gurion and the leadership of the Yishuv, the only accusation missing is that Ben Gurion encouraged Hitler to wipe out the Jews so that we would be able to convince the remainder to come with us to Palestine, where they could act as ‘cannon fodder’. I admit that I exaggerated, but I was mad!
The letter exchange with Dr. Idith Zertal is enclosed in appendix A.

Appendix A: Letter to Dr. Idith Zertal and her reply
June 17, 1996
Dr. Idith Zertal
Editorial Board of “Times” [Hebrew: Zmanim]
Department for the Study of Zionism
Tel Aviv University, Chaim Levanon Street, Tel Aviv
Shalom Idith;
I read and reread an article by Dalia Karpel dealing with your book, and among other subjects, with the matter of the Aliya movement (1945 – 1948) and the role played by the leaders of the Yishuv (the Jewish settlement in Palestine), the Mosad for Aliya Bet and the Palyam in its organization. I tend to believe that the author (Karpel) misquoted you or did not interpret you correctly. If otherwise, then I am completely confused and my request is that you give me a private lesson in the history of the Holocaust and “illegal immigration”. I am willing to pay any price you name for such a lesson, if it will clear up the confusion in which I find myself.
I am a Sabra born in 1926 and when I became 19 and was a communications person in the Hagana, I was called to the offices of the “Mosad” in Tel Aviv, where they offered me to join their operation and to go to Europe, where I would work together with other Aliya Bet delegates. Although my parents had a farm to take
174 Uri Goren
care of and my older brother was already in Europe, as a member of the Jewish Brigade, my parents urged me to accept the challenge. That is how it came about that I left Palestine by a devious route, (described by Lova Eliav in his book, “The Vessel Ulua”), arrived in Italy and continued from there to Southern France. From a wireless operator I became the manager of a camp, where immigrants were being prepared and trained for Aliya. Following that, I was commander of the immigrant vessel “Latrun”, which ended up with the immigrants and I being sent to the Cyprus detention camps. I returned to Europe and once again was appointed to take charge of the immigrant camp “Grand Arénas”. It was here that the immigrants, who later sailed on the “Exodus” were gathered; I met these same immigrants again when they arrived at Port de Bouc, on the deportation ships.
You can understand from the short review of this chapter in my life, that I have had the opportunity to meet thousands of the survivors of the Holocaust, and as a young Sabra I was appalled and deeply affected by what I saw. I heard many of their stories during days and nights that I spent with them and tried to ease their paths as best I could. As a result I earned the thanks and the good will of many of them and have maintained contact with some until the present.
This in brief, is part of my story, which is similar to that of many of my friends in the Palyam, the Machal, the Jewish Brigade and
On Both Sides of the Crypto 175
other groups of volunteers, who had contact with the survivors. I would now be extremely grateful to you if you explained your view to me. I shall present my questions as concisely as possible: If I understood correctly (perhaps I did not), in your research you criticize the actions of the leaders of the Yishuv, the Mosad for Aliya Bet and the one who stood at its head, Shaul Avigur, and the men of the Palyam, (I was one of them during a part of my career). At the end of WW II hundreds of thousands of survivors found themselves destitute and homeless and there was no country in the whole world that was willing to take them or to assist them in their hour of need. On the contrary; they closed their gates before them (including of course, those of Palestine).
A colorless man (as Karpel says you describe him), Shaul Avigur, answered the call of the leadership of the Yishuv, and created the Mosad for Aliya Bet, an amazing organization which spread its branches through many of the countries of ravaged Europe, and took the survivors of the Holocaust under its wing. It did its best to rehabilitate them and brought them from inland Europe to the shores of the Mediterranean, supplied them with their basic needs, bought ships and brought them safely to the shores of Palestine. About 140,000 refugees were brought to Palestine in this manner and this – in no small way – contributed to the establishment of the State of Israel, in which you and I live today.
176 Uri Goren
I lived with the survivors of the Holocaust for three years and I can truthfully say that their greatest wish and their greatest hope was to be able to come to Palestine, the Land of Israel. To attain this goal they were ready to face the most extreme hardships. The physical conditions on the immigrant vessels were atrocious. But I bear witness that I and my friends, who worked with me in preparing the vessels, did everything possible on our part to ease the suffering of the passengers. When I was commander of the “Latrun”, I spent hours in the hold of the vessel and tried to encourage the survivors and make their journey a bit more comfortable. My Palyam friends on other vessels did the very same thing.
Moreover, before every voyage we explained to the survivors exactly what the conditions of the voyage would be like. We knew from experience though, that no difficulty would convince them to forego the trip. If, for some reason we would refuse to take on a passenger because of that person’s state of health or some other reason, the person would plead and beg and sometimes even threaten us, trying to convince us not to strike him from the list of passengers.
The case of the “Exodus” can serve as a model for research. 4,500 passengers were returned to Port de Bouc by the deportation ships. The French authorities, under the pressure of the British, invited them to come ashore, where they would be granted asylum.
On Both Sides of the Crypto 177
Nevertheless, none but a few who were very sick agreed to leave the ships. The rest went back to Hamburg, in Germany, to another detention camp. I was amazed when, not long after, I met a goodly number of them in a transition camp of ours in southern France. These survivors who had been through all that they had been through, were ready to make the terrible journey once again on a Hagana vessel. Forty years later, in 1986 I believe, the survivors of the “Exodus” had a convention in the “Culture Hall” of Tel Aviv. I was overwrought with emotion to see so many healthy and happy people with their families and offspring who came to be present at that meeting. They and the Palyamnikim who brought them are ingredients in a typical cross-section of the present Israeli population. Their children are successful farmers, scientists, businessmen and industrialists. Almost all of them have made their way and found their niche and are proud members of the Israeli community. Those that recognize me point me out to their children and say: “He brought me to Palestine.” That is my reward.
Idith, if I understood you correctly, you claim in your research that the men of the Mosad and the Palyam used the ma’apilim (the immigrants) for their own political and other purposes. I just cannot understand such a statement. First and most important: because I know how strongly the ma’apilim felt about coming to Palestine. You might say that those that fought and fell in the War of Independence were also merely pawns in the hands of the leadership of the Yishuv. Among those who fell was Gur, the son
178 Uri Goren
of that ‘colorless man’, Shaul Avigur. What I have written here is merely a smattering, which I will sum up with a few thoughts: What would historians have said if the leadership of the Yishuv had not mobilized to save the lives of the remnants of the Holocaust? I and my friends are really hurt and insulted by the thoughts expressed in your research. Most of us volunteered to do what we did, and did our jobs with the utmost devotion. I went to Europe with a suitcase of clothes from my closet and returned in a shirt and a pair of short pants. I did not think that I was doing something outstanding, but to present us as exploiters?!? What would have happened to the remnants of the Holocaust if the Yishuv in Palestine had not opened its arms to take them in? The real heroes of this mass immigration were the ma’apilim themselves. No one knows that better than we, the ones who accompanied them.
Shaul Avigur was a wise and well-balanced leader. I would hate to have seen someone who pulled weighty decisions ‘out of his sleeve’ in his place. If he was calculating and careful in making a decision, then that is paying him a compliment. Where did you get your inside information from, by the way? Might I suggest that you take a poll; that is a popular thing to do nowadays. Question the ma’apilim living in Israel today and ask them, what they think of the whole Aliya Bet operation. Best do this quickly because time is running out and the biological clock is ticking away. I shall be grateful to you if you would study these pages and react. I would
On Both Sides of the Crypto 179
be more than happy to discuss this with you personally. I am of course willing to pay for the time you devote to this subject.
Thank you, and cordial greetings,
Uri Goren
Dr. Idith Zertal’s letter of reply
June 19th, 1996
Shalom Uri Goren,
Firstly, thank you for your letter. It is easy to see that you wrote it from your heart, with emotion and even with pain. I do not wish, nor can I remain inattentive to it. At any rate, the style and the gentlemanliness of your letter is very much better than those of the vulgar type that appeared in the supplement of “Haaretz”, following an interview with me. I will try to answer your questions within the limits of this letter.
The interview was really terrible and left me feeling frustrated. I tried to prevent its being published but could not. It had been readied for publishing and it was election week, so the editors had nothing suitable with which to replace it. All I can say to you is that much that was said was abbreviated or removed from its context, and many quotes were actually misquotes. For every ten sentences of written material, only one sentence appeared, leaving
180 Uri Goren
only the extreme impression, a vulgar condensation of a complicated subject. This is not my style or my way of expressing myself. However, having agreed to an interview, I decided not to voice my complaint about the result in public, nor to complain of the injustice that had been done me. I have heard politicians complain about their having been misunderstood and having their words taken out of context; I preferred to let it pass in silence.
You may have noticed that I have not reacted to the vulgar letters that were published. I haven’t because: a) I believe that everyone has the right to his own opinion, and the right to express it; b) I cannot argue about feelings, or with memories or what people think they remember; c) Most important, no one bothered to read my book before they wrote their reaction to it.
Now I address you and your reaction. You say that you are ready to pay any price for a lesson in history from me. Uri Goren, you are not serious. For seventy shekels you can purchase my book which has 674 pages and more than one hundred more pages of notes and bibliography. Had you read the book, a good number of your questions would have been answered, and you might have also learned that my knowledge of the subject is extensive. (Allow me to mention that the work on my doctorate received the designation, “cum laude”). You would have found that a good deal of what you pointed out appears in the book.
I must assume that there may be some errors in the book, and there is room for some argument relating to my interpretation of some events, but I assure you that it was written only after thorough research and also after I developed a personal proximity and involvement with the subject. I tried to maintain a high standard of intellectual honesty. I am certain that had read the book you would have found that many things are even more complicated than you imagined. You might even found some facts and material that were not known to you and you might even agreed with some of my conclusions. What surprises me about the book is how little people are ready to learn more about the past, and think that they already ‘know it all’. I am surprised at the aggressiveness expressed in the letters and the inability to be ready to listen and perhaps learn something new. Is it really too much of an intellectual effort to ask of you to read my book? I would then be happy to discuss it with you and even to debate it.
As a rule, historical research is not a copy of what people recall, or the retelling of what people were once told and recall. Decent historical research involves critical analysis, sometimes painful analysis of texts and documents of the related period. This of course includes protocols of the period dealt with; decisions taken at that time as well as correspondence. Such critical analysis applied years after the event itself, when compared to the memories of those who were there at the time, usually leads to a problematic situation, at least, and sometimes to outright confrontation. Those who were present at an event of the past usually do not have all the information and the background to the particular event, and they are bound to be biased by a personal attitude to the people or to the matter involved.
What I have written here is also only ‘the tip of the iceberg’. My thoughts on historical discipline and on writing history are topics upon which numerous books have been written, and this subject is the main focus of my academic and intellectual endeavor today. Nothing that I have written has been done off-handed, everything has been done only after deep thought and consideration of all the material that I have on hand. My book stands on its own merits; read it and then judge it.
Until then, I wish you all the best, and I thank you once again for your letter.
Dr. Idith Zertal

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