quarta-feira, maio 07, 2008

Yossi Harel / Exodus 1947

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There were some things in this story I did not remember, probably never knew: that they were returned to Germany, to other camps, dispersed. The younger pictures below are not certain but I am posting them anyway.

A call to courage, Globe Editorial, Israel at 60, May 8, 2008.

The life of Yossi Harel, the captain of the illegal immigrant ship Exodus 1947, who died last month at the age of 90, symbolized as much as the life of any man could the hope, courage and resilience that is the story of Israel. As the Jewish state celebrates its hard-won 60th anniversary today, the example of people like Mr. Harel serves as a reminder that no matter how daunting the challenges and obstacles that remain for Israel, they could be no greater than those confronted and overcome by the country's founders.

Mr. Harel was in his twenties when he became a central figure in the effort to smuggle displaced Jews from Europe to Palestine, then under British Mandate. The Exodus, a rusting former U.S. warship obtained from a scrapyard, carried 4,500 Holocaust survivors from Europe to Palestine in 1947. To reach the promise of Israel, Mr. Harel gave British warships the slip, defied warning shots and fought, along with passengers, an armed boarding party. After the ship was finally seized and towed into Haifa, the passengers refused to disembark so that they could be returned to Europe, and went on a 24-day hunger strike. Perhaps as much as any one act, the defiance of the Exodus, its crew and passengers changed opinion - especially among members of a UN special committee on Palestine - to favour a Jewish state.

Sixty years is just two-thirds the span of one man's - Mr. Harel's - life. Still, what has been achieved in Israel represents not only a triumph for the Jewish people but a lesson for others. The country's per capita GDP places it in the world's top tier. Its universities are major world-class research institutions. In a region defiled by despotism, Israel is a beacon of freedom and democracy. In a region tainted by cronyism and arbitrary measures, Israel is governed by the rule of law. This is a day for celebration.

There is much emphasis in the analysis accompanying Israel's 60th anniversary on the negatives: the Iranian threat, the demographic challenges, and much legitimate concern also over the plight of the Palestinian people, who live in hopelessness and squalor. Yet the lineaments of a settlement between Israel and the Palestinians exist. Israel's leadership, and its Palestinian counterparts, know what a peace agreement would look like. Extremism, especially but not exclusively on the Palestinian side, must not be allowed to create a situation that sees Israel content to live with security measures that fall short of a comprehensive peace. The courage of Yossi Harel and his generation should serve as a guide.