Friday, February 8, 2008

Pre-State Support of Irgun

From the book, The False Prophet: Rabbi Meir Kahane; From FBI Informant To Knesset Member By Robert I. Friedman, Chapter Three: Betar; Path to Militancy (pp 35-38):-

Meir and Nachman also raised money for the underground. The brothers rode up and down Brooklyn's Pitkin Avenue in a Betar sound truck that blared patriotic Hebrew songs and speeches by Jabotinsky, soliciting donations. "Ten big Jews would get out of the truck and put an Israeli flag down in the street," Nachman said. "People just pulled huge fistfuls of cash from their pockets and threw it on the flag. They were fighting with each other to throw the gelt [money]. You won't see something like that again until the Messiah comes!

"And I can remember dark moments, too, like when a cache of arms for the Irgun was discovered by the police on the roof of the Habad Synagogue [in Brooklyn]. At our house it was like Tisha B'Av [the commemoration of the destruction of the Second Temple] when that happened. My father's own Sha'arei Tefila congregation also raised money for an ambulance that people say went down on the Altalena [an Irgun arms ship that was sunk by the Haganah], although I haven't actually confirmed that."

(During the 1940s, the Haganah operated a separate, competing arms smuggling operation in America. Run by Teddy Kollek from Manhattan's McAlpin Hotel near Macy's department store in Herald Square, its key operatives included Hank Greenspun, the late publisher of The Las Vegas Sun, and Al Schwimmer, an Israeli arms merchant who would become involved in the Iran-contra arms-for-hostage negotiations.)

After Israel's creation on May 15, 1948, the Betar movement in America evolved into a right-wing, pro-Israel activist youth group, often holding noisy protest demonstrations at Arab UN missions in Manhattan. According to a high-ranking Justice Department official, these activities were coordinated by Moshe Rivlin, then Israel's vice-consul in New York. When contacted for comment, Rivlin said that he could not recall being involved in these demonstrations.

Kahane was usually at the forefront of Betar's militant actions. "He was a heck of a lot more radical in Betar than I was," said Allan's brother, Victor Mallenbaum, now a clinical psychologist in North Carolina who was part of Kahane's inner circle of childhood friends. "He was always ready to go and do some militant activity. He wanted to bomb a book store in Manhattan that sold pro-Nazi material."

In 1947, Kahane gained the notoriety he sought with his attack on the anti-Zionist British Foreign Minister Ernest Bevin. "Allan and Victor Mallenbaum had run over to the market and bought a crate of vegetables," recalls Irwin Fleminger. "I remember the look on Bevin's face when we pelted him. He was absolutely shocked!"

What's fact and what is not quite?

Any input from the more veteran Betarim out there?


Anonymous said...

Your readers may be interested to listen to Meir Kahane's views firsthand. They can download his videos here: The downloads are full DVD and sound quality is way better than on google video or youtube.

dvorah said...

this is a story i have been hearing my whole life from my father, jonathan yitzchak reichbart. i tried to archive the new york times for anything on the incident, but had no luck. THIS is his story! he is thrilled. he was in charge of untermeyer and warshaw. shipments of the food packages would be delivered at night. my father would instruct them to get on their hands and knees to feel around the floor of the freight elevator to be sure they didnt leave anything since they worked in the dark. as it was, a duffle bag was left filled with arms. a worker from another factory in the building found it the next morning as he arrived to his job. my father, that morning, arrived at the building as well, and decided to "check" on the boys, as he went up the stairs he noticed "others" in the room. my father knew something was going down. he left quickly and went across the street and bought a soda and eyed the building. minutes later police cars, fire engines etc came roaring up the street and surrounded the block. my father was wearing a trench coat. in another article, he beleives in the new york times, it states that the FBI is looking for a man in a trench coat seen by other workers leaving the building. he stayed in a movie theater in times square for the rest of the day and then went to queens to "hide out" at another friends house. he remembers the day well. one of his great stories from his irgun days. thanks for the article, you made his day!

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