Between the Palmach Veterans & the UNESCO Resolution

Maj. Gen. (ret.) David Ivry discusses the controversial UNESCO resolution that disassociates the Jewish people from their holy sites and the efforts initiated by the Palestinian Authority to de-legitimize Israel as a Jewish state. Opinion

The Western Wall and the gilded Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem (Photo: AP)

Last October we attended cemeteries a few times and listened to the prayer for the dead "El Malei Rachamim" said in honor of the memory of friends, sons and parents who were killed in the Yom-Kippur War. The heart aches. We paid so dearly to achieve the security and independence of our state, and tears fill our eyes again and again as we listen to the mournful prayer "El Malei Rachamim."

While standing at a cemetery a thought came to my mind regarding the decision by the Israeli Government to commemorate the late Maj. Gen. Rehoboam Zeevi at Sha'ar HaGai, formerly known by its Arab name Bab al-Wad. The 'convoy war' during which Jewish forces attempted to breach the road to besieged Jerusalem, to penetrate at any cost through enemy-dominated areas while carrying food and ammunition and enable the besieged defenders of Jerusalem to endure exacted a heavy tool of casualties – most of them young Palmach warriors. Small Palmach detachments escorted the supply convoys under heavy fire, often riding in exposed Jeeps or pickups or in trucks with improvised armor protection and limited off-road trafficability. Zvika A and Zvika B were there, as were Chibi, Moti and Moshik – but Rehoboam was not there. Admittedly, he was serving on another front, and so his name may be commemorated elsewhere – but why rob this humble sanctuary that remains as the only consolation for many families?

I find this decision by the government is very difficult to understand. It demonstrates reflects obtuseness, callousness and lack of consideration toward the innermost feelings of many individuals who were a part of the Jewish community during the War of Independence. Admittedly, by now, they have dwindled into a small minority that is no longer influential on Election Day, but the same government that rebels, justly, against the UNESCO resolution that disassociates the Jewish people from our holy sites, Temple Mount and Jerusalem, does an injustice to the Palmach veterans by trying to commemorate a distorted piece of history.

The government's decision has angered the Palmach veterans. The heart aches as we watch those who are already well into their 90s gather their remaining strength and stack up their shares in the establishment of the state to demand justice. They feel that the state is robbing them of their dignity, their heritage, their history and the history of the state. The issue is not headline news, they will not be able to organize a demonstration attended by tens of thousands at Rabin Square, some of them cannot even operate the social media, so our national leaders pay them no heed and do not listen to their outcry. The Government of Israel does not even respond to their appeals or explain its decision. In the eyes of this government, they are transparent. That is how this government implements the adage "Honor the face of an old man", and worse still – that is how our leaders treat those old men whose bravery and fighting spirit made it possible for us to be here.

I feel deeply ashamed by the way the government conducts itself in this matter. The late Yigal Alon said, "A nation that does not know how to honor its past, its present is poor and its future will forever be shrouded in a fog." All that remains for us to do is say the "El Malei Rachamim" prayer. Heaven may listen to us, as the Palmach veterans are not likely to address their plea to UNESCO.

Finally, to a different issue: we have recently witnessed an intensive effort initiated by the Palestinian Authority to de-legitimize Israel as a Jewish state in various international forums. Some of the resolutions these forums adopt and the declarations they issue are downright absurd. Most of those declarations do not have any practical significance, namely – they are merely declarative and do not have 'teeth'. Nevertheless, an accumulation of negative declarations forms a negative mass that accompanies us and compels us to defend ourselves and explain.

Conversely, the Balfour Declaration was declarative and apparently had no 'teeth'. The British Foreign Minister declared "His Majesty's government views with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people…" This declaration was made by a country that was a global superpower in those days – not by an authorized international body. Nevertheless, many still regard the Balfour Declaration as the origin of the process that led to the establishment of the State of Israel, and the Palestinians have even expressed their will to sue Britain for it.

It is difficult to estimate which declarative statement will develop 'teeth' over the years. In my estimate, however, the anti-Israeli declarations by the various international organizations possess a greater significance than what we currently assign to them.


Maj. Gen. (ret.) David Ivry was the Commander of the IAF, Chairman of the National Security Council, and Israel's Ambassador to the US.


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