TOMORROW, July 22nd, is the 60th anniversary of the bomb attack on the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, where the British Mandate Secretariat was based, an event that hastened the end of the British Mandate in Palestine. The bombing, which killed 91 people, was carried out by members of the Irgun organisation on the order of the Hebrew Resistance Movement; the leader of Irgun was Menachem Begin who became prime minister of Israel in 1977. Binyamin Netanyahu, a former prime minister of Israel, is attending the anniversary events and, according to press reports, has claimed that the Irgun were governed by morals, unlike groups such as Hamas. He said: “It's very important to make the distinction between terror groups and freedom fighters, and between terror action and legitimate military action.” Irgun operated in Palestine between 1946–8 and claimed responsibility for over 200 acts of terrorism against the British and Arabs. If Mr Netanyahu wants to regard Irgun as “freedom fighters” he is entitled to do so. No doubt they felt, as many freedom fighters around the world have felt, that unless they took some direct action they would never achieve their objectives. However, it is surely legitimate to ask why members of Hamas in Palestine cannot also claim to be freedom fighters and to be respected as such. They even have the added legitimacy of having being democratically elected. Why cannot the Israeli people see this parallel and show more understanding of the Arab people and their aspirations?


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