Next week will mark the 72nd anniversary of the shelling by the newly created IDF of the Altalena, a ship bearing arms for the Irgun in the fight for Israel’s independence. Following the incident, the then-deputy chief of staff of the IDF gave sworn testimony accusing five senior members of the Irgun of treason. Shlomo Nakdimon, the author of a book about the Atlalena affair, argues that it’s high time that Israel formally clears their names:
The attorney general at the time, Yaakov Shapira, revealed that, “authorities considered arresting the detainees on charges of treason in the first place, but taking into account the seriousness of the charges and these daring times, authorities preferred to arrest them until they could no longer endanger the peace of the state of Israel again.” Although all five were sent home as if nothing had happened, they were left with a mark of disgrace. I raised the issue in my last letter to the former IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot, requesting that their names be cleared.
The request was forwarded to the IDF’s Department of History and a month later, I received an answer from the chief of staff’s bureau, saying that, “the five Irgun fighters . . . were released to their homes without any criminal proceedings against them. The prime minister and defense minister, David Ben-Gurion, sought to integrate them in senior positions in the IDF, hence our understanding is that his conduct removed any blemish from them.”
The five were Yaakov Meridor, later Israel’s finance minister; Hillel Kook, a member of the first Knesset; his fellow Knesset member, and the Altalena’s captain, Eliyahu Lenkin; Bezalel Amitsur, who oversaw the integration of Irgun fighters in the IDF; and Moshe Ḥason, who did not enter public life.