Israeli History 101:
What do you know about Israeli Leaders?
by Mazin B. Qumsiyeh

Chaim Weizmann (1874­1952) was born in Motol, Russia and became a British subject in 1910. During World War I, Weizmann discovered an improved method of making acetone and butyl alcohol for explosives to aid British war efforts. He was thus instrumental in securing British government commitment to Zionism in the form of the Balfour Declaration (which was secured in a letter addressed to Weizmann). He also served as special advisor to the British Ministry of Supply. For his efforts on behalf of the Zionist project he was rewarded by becoming first president of the state of Israel.

David Ben-Gurion was born David Green in Plonsk, Russia (now in Poland). He settled in Palestine in 1906. As chairman of the Executive of the Jewish Agency for Palestine from 1935 to 1948, Ben-Gurion directed all Jewish affairs to transform the country from multi-ethnic/multi-cultural area to a Jewish state “to redeem its Jewish nature”. His activities ranged from land development and settlement of immigrants to secret activities against natives and later (after the Palestinian revolt of 1936 jolted the British rulers) against the British. Here is an excerpt from Rabin’s memoirs about Ben Gurion: “We walked outside, Ben-Gurion accompanying us. Allon repeated his question, ‘What is to be done with the Palestinian population?’ Ben-Gurion waved his hand in a gesture which said ‘Drive them out!’” (Yitzhak Rabin’s memoirs, leaked censored version of Rabin memoirs, published in the New York Times, 23 October 1979; Rabin’s description of the conquest of Lydda, after the completion of Plan Dalet).

Moshe Sharett, 1894­1965, Born in Russia, originally named Shertok. In 1906 he settled in Palestine where he was active in the labor movement. In 1933 he became head of the political department of the Jewish Agency for Palestine. Sharett was David Ben-Gurion’s closest associate in the struggle for an independent Jewish state. In 1948 he was appointed foreign minister of Israel and from 1953 to 1955 served as prime minister. He resigned from the government in 1956. Sharet sought to strengthen Israel’s position by statesmanship rather than confrontation. His replacement as premier by Ben-Gurion in 1955 and retirement in 1956 reflected the movement in Israel toward confrontation that resulted in the 1956 Arab-Israeli War.

Levi Eshkol (1895­1969) was born Levi Shkolnik in Ukraine (then under Russian control). In World War I he served in the Jewish Legion, which supported the British forces in Palestine. He moved to Palestine and helped build up the Haganah, the Jewish underground organization that helped ethnically cleanse Palestine between 1947-1949.

Golda Meir (1898-1978) was born Golda Mabovitz in Kiev, Ukraine. Her family moved to Milwaukee in 1906. In 1921, she and her husband, Morris Meyerson (the name was changed to Meir in 1956) settled in Palestine. She once declared “There are no such thing as Palestinians.” Her secret agreements with King Abdullah in 1947 was instrumental in thwarting the formation of a Palestinian state and in the Hashemite’s control over the area known as the “West Bank” (see Avi Shlaim “Collusion across the Jordan”)

Menachem Begin was born in Brest-Litovsk, Russia (now Brest, Belarus). In the 1930’s, he became active in the Zionist underground terror movement and moved to Palestine in 1942 whereupon he engaged in terrorism including bombings in civilian areas. Wanted for murder by the British mandate authorities. Once called Palestinians “cockroaches”

Yitzhak Shamir was born 1915 in Ruzinoy, a village in eastern Poland. His last name was Jazernicki and he changed it. He joined the Irgun Zvai Leumi, an underground Jewish terrorist group in 1937 and was involved in several terrorist attacks against civilians. In 1940, Shamir joined the more radical Lohamei Herut Yisrael (Israel Freedom Fighters), or Stern Gang. He was twice arrested for his terrorist activities by the British and fled to France in 1946. When Israel was established, he came back and then worked for the Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency responsible for continuing terrorism against the native Palestinians.

Yitzhak Rabin (1922-1995), was born in Jerusalem to Zionist settler parents. In 1941, Rabin joined the Palmach, a unit of the Jewish underground army in Palestine and was deputy commander of the Palmach in 1947-1948 when the group engaged in ethnically cleansing Palestinians (as Benny Morris documented expulsion of Palestinians in the LOd and Ramle areas were carried out under Rabin’s command). Famous as Israeli defense minister in the late 1980s for ordering troops to “break the bones” of Palestinian demonstrators (mostly children). Rabin stated that “The Oslo “Peace Process” is “A new instrument for reaching traditional [Israeli] objectives” (according to Uri Savir, his chief negotiator, from ). Henry Kissinger stated “I ask Rabin to make concessions, and he says he can’t because Israel is too weak. So I give him arms, and he says he doesn’t need to make concessions because Israel is strong” (quoted in Findley’s Deliberate Deceptions p.199). Yitzhak Rabin, once said (in the Knesset): “For all its faults, Labor has done more and remains capable of doing more in the future [in expanding Jewish settlements] than Likud with all of its doing. We have never talked about Jerusalem. We have just made a ‘fait accompli.’ It was we who built the suburbs in [the annexed part of] Jerusalem. The Americans didn’t say a word, because we built these suburbs cleverly.”

Ehud Barak, was born 1942 as Ehud Brog, son of East European immigrants in Palestine. He later adopted the Hebrew name Barak [meaning lightning]. He began his military service in 1959. He was a member of a secret assassination unit that killed a number of Palestinian political leaders in Lebanon (e.g. Beirut 1976) and liquidating resistance in the occupied territories. He was rewarded by rising quickly through the ranks to become the youngest army chief of staff in Israeli history.

Ariel Sharon (Arik Scheinerman) was born in British-ruled Palestine in 1929 from Russian immigrant settlers. In 1953, he was asked to set up a unit for “preemptive strikes” across the borders. This “unit 101” spread terror and murderous violence among the Palestinian population to force them to flee from their homes and land near the border. On October 14, 1953, Sharon committed a massacre in the village of Qibya (then under Jordanian rule). Ben Gurion lied when he said the massacre was committed by enraged Israeli villagers (as later documents showed). 69 civilians (mostly women and children) were murdered. In the early 1970s, his forces were charged with the task of “pacifying” the recalcitrant Gaza Strip. He imposed a brutal policy of repression, blowing up houses, bulldozing large tracts of refugee camps, imposing severe collective punishments and imprisoning hundreds of young Palestinians. The whole area was effectively transformed into a jail. He was to become involved in the settlements project, in founding Likud, and a number of other “achievements.” He was the architect of Israel’s invasion of Lebanon. His funded and armed a mercenary/proxy Phalange forces committed the massacres at Sabra and Shatila for which he is being indicted for war crimes. His crimes continue to date unchecked (both Amnesty and Human Rights Watch stated that recent actions in the past two months amount to war crimes). See

Shimon Peres (1923 -) was born as Shimon Perski in Vishniva, Poland (now Belarus). He and his parents came to Palestine in 1934 (under British rule). He joined the underground Israeli forces, the Haganah, and served as a chief of its manpower division in the 1940s. He is the architect of Israel’s nuclear program. Appointed in 1953 as director general of the ministry of defense, he immediately started exploring the nuclear development. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Israel developed its nuclear program primarily with eth help of France while maintaining the Peres doctrine of “ambiguity.” The US and Britain and other countries looked the other way. He was awarded (with Rabin and Arafat) the Nobel Peace Prize for their Oslo accords. The Nobel committee members recently signed a letter regretting their awarding him the Nobel Peace Prize (based on his recent actions as member of the Sharon government).

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