early 1962, an Israeli citizen named Yosef (Joe) Golan came to
's consulate in
to renew his passport. He filled out the necessary forms and paid the fee, but
then the consul himself, Benjamin Eliav, came out and informed him that,
unfortunately, his passport could not be renewed. Sometime later, Golan learned
that Eliav had acted in accordance with instructions he received from his boss,
then foreign minister Golda Meir. And so began "the Joe Golan affair."
Golan, the adviser on Arab affairs for the World Jewish Congress (WJC), pursued
an alternative foreign policy; he held contacts with Arab statesmen, including
leaders of the National Movement in
. Meir tried to ground him.
Countless events and scandals that have occurred in the 43 years since then have
pushed Joe Golan's story into near oblivion, but this week, his widow is
publishing a book of memoirs (published in Hebrew and entitled "Dapim
miyoman," or "Pages From a Diary," by the Carmel Press) that he
left behind, and it is highly intriguing.
The passport scandal, which was also the subject of a Knesset discussion, played
out, as usual in Israel, without most Israelis being allowed to know what it was
all about: Meir basically made use of a classified file prepared for her by then
Mossad espionage agency chief Isser Harel, which portrayed Golan as "a
security risk," who therefore must not be allowed to leave the country.
Golan's version of events is quite astonishing and together with other chapters
in the book, leads one to conclude that the history of the immigration to Israel
from North Africa - and perhaps the basis of the relationship between Israel and
the entire Jewish world - ought to be reexamined.
In 1961, Golan wondered what would become of the Jews of Algeria after the
National Liberation Front (FLN) expelled the French and established an
independent state. He traveled to
and met there with one of the FLN leaders, Karim Belkacem. Belkacem welcomed
Golan as a friend who supported Algerian independence, but left no room for
doubt: Algerian Jews had tied their fate to
. Many of them were involved in the oppression of the population, including
interrogations and torture. The best thing he could advise Algerian Jews would
be to leave the country before it was too late: "We cannot guarantee their
welfare and protect them from the anger of the masses," Belkacem said.
Golan believed that Algerian Jewry should be warned. This was only 16 years
after the end of World War II. One of Golan's superiors in the WJC was Gerhard
Riegner, the man who brought to the attention of the world one of the first
reports of the plan to exterminate European Jewry. Golan met with Golda Meir.
She began with a scathing rebuke: Who gave him permission to travel to
? As an Israeli citizen, he was forbidden to have contact with Arabs. The FLN is
a terror organization and having contact with its people is a reckless act that
could harm relations between
supplies arms to
for Algerian Jews to stay where they are. Therefore, the FLN's warning must not
be passed on to them, Meir declared - according to Golan. The French security
services will protect them, she argued. Golan asked himself if she really
believed that: "You'd have to be an idiot to believe it," he wrote in
his journal, and decided to take action contrary to her orders.
"There are times when a person knows for certain that he is right," he
wrote. "Had I obeyed Golda's instructions, hundreds of Algerian Jews, maybe
even thousands, would have been murdered."
Golan composed a report about his talk with Karim Belkacem and relayed it - via
a secret and complex operation - to the chief rabbi of
, David Ashkenazi. As a result, he writes, Algerian Jews started to leave the
country, in an organized fashion and not in a panicked rush: "Due to my
action, hundreds, if not thousands, of lives of Algerian Jews were saved,"
Golan died about two and a half years ago. He wrote his memoirs in French. He
was born in
and grew up in
. His Russian-born father sold sewing machines and served together with Yosef
Trumpeldor in a muleteer regiment. Golan served in the Haganah and got to know
the leaders of Mapai. Later on, he served in the Israel Defense Forces'
intelligence corps, studied in
and found work there as an adviser on Arab affairs to the WJC. The president of
the congress at the time, Nahum Goldman, put together a Jewish foreign policy
that didn't always mesh with the definitions of
's interest as formulated by David Ben-Gurion and Golda Meir. Relations between
them were a mixture of respect and hostility, and ongoing competition, combined
with jealousy and quarrels originating in personal differences. In the midst of
this, Goldman searched for ways to have a dialogue with officials in Arab
states, without coordination with the Foreign Ministry or the Mossad.
Golan and the Mossad people also bristled at the behind-the-scenes activity in
preparation for getting the Jews of Morocco out of that country. Golan
reports extensively on three conversations with King Mohammad V of
. The king accepted him as a representative of the Jewish people and unlike the
FLN leaders in
, expressed deep sorrow over the Jews' departure; Golan says the king wanted
them to stay. Among other things, he spoke with Golan about what happened to
Moroccan Jews when they arrived in
: He knew that they were being housed in transit camps and discriminated
against. The king was familiar with the principles of Zionist ideology, but felt
that the Jews of
would have a better life if they stayed in his country.
Golan accuses the Ashkenazi establishment of ethnic discrimination deriving from
the racist fear that
might become a Levantine state. The biggest villain in his story is Dr.
Haim Sheba: "Ben-Gurion's confidant ... managed to convince the Mapai
leadership ... that the encounter with Moroccan Jewry would weaken the human
biological texture of Israeli society and cause its degeneration ... because the
harsh physical conditions in which Moroccan Jews live, particularly those who
live in towns and villages, has undermined their health and the encounter with
them will cause irreversible damage to the `super-race' of Sabras" - Golan
Golan writes very scathingly about the
"selection" policy that guided
in the first stage - the choice of young and strong people who could benefit
the state, and the abandonment of the weak, the old and the sick. After a while,
the state decided to take in all of them and even paid the Moroccan authorities
for each person.
Golan's position on this is not clear. He doesn't say explicitly that it would
have been better for the Moroccan Jews had they stayed in
, but his book invites a renewed discussion of some basic questions: Why did the
Jews of Morocco leave? Did they make the right decision when they were assisted
in this by
? And, above all, did
encourage their departure in order to protect them as Jews, or is the opposite
true: Did the interest of the State of Israel cause the destruction of the
Jewish community in
Golan frequently criticizes Isser Harel, who supplied Golda Meir with the
pretext for rescinding his passport, in the most scathing terms. "It was an
elegantly carried out character assassination that recalls the work methods that
Goebbels successfully developed. Isser Harel looks like a diligent student of
his," is just one example. About the hearing in the Knesset's Foreign
Affairs and Defense Committee, he writes: "This session in the Knesset
symbolizes the dark, shameful and sad period in the political life of my
country, which in those days lost its honor and sold its soul to the devil.
Those were the days of Golda Meir's government."
His passport was returned to him a few months later.
Golan devoted a large part of his work as a diplomat for the WJC to efforts to
improve ties between the Jewish people and the Catholic Church, yet the main
question raised by his book is whether
missed opportunities to settle its relations with the Arabs, without wars.
Golan was one of the initiators of the meetings between Israelis and Arabs that
took place in
; he writes about a long conversation with the Egyptian journalist Mohammed
Hasanain Haikal, and with one of
's close aides.
His book does not prove that Israel missed something and he does not make that
argument: It seems possible today to make the claim that until the Six-Day War,
Israel had nothing to offer to the Arabs, apart from demonstrations of good
will, like those organized by people like Joe Golan. It's hard to make the claim
that the Six-Day War could have been prevented had Ben-Gurion and Golda Meir
also adopted the "
spirit." Still, the value of alternative diplomacy, of the type nurtured
by Uri Avnery and later Yossi Beilin and others, ought not to be undervalued: It
led, among other things, to the
and Geneva Accords.
In his last years, Golan worked as a diplomat-adviser in the service of several
African countries, and was much respected and admired as a friend in all of
them. When the president of
, Leopold Senghor, heard that Golda Meir had rescinded his passport - he granted
Golan and his wife Esther Senegalese citizenship. Esther Golan, who lives in the
Jewish Quarter of the
, still holds a valid Senegalese passport. Hey, you never know when you might
Soggy saga of a used-book shop
25 years, Moshe Bar sold jeans, but he never forgot his first love - for used
books. Seven years ago he went back to it and opened Hagalleria Lesifrut (the
Book Gallery) on
. His selection is very extensive. The trade in used books saves them from
death; therefore, such shops should be viewed as cultural enrichment
A few years ago, major road works began on
. Apparently, one of the bulldozers damaged the foundations of the shop's cellar
and ever since, whenever God blesses Uri Lupolianski's city with rain - the shop
is flooded with water. Bar has gone to the municipality about it, but the
latter, instead of apologizing and sending someone to seal up the walls, gave
him such a runaround that he was forced to go to court and the hearings have
been continuing from one winter to the next. Last weekend, very heavy rains
fell. Bar had to work for many hours to save the books in his shop, and then he
decided that he'd had enough, that it was impossible to go on this way.
The next day he composed a small ad that was published in Haaretz. In it, Bar
made an emotional appeal to all book lovers in
and abroad, to scholars, poets, writers, journalists and even to
's fifth president, Yitzhak Navon, who once visited the store. He also called
upon government ministers and professors to raise their voices, too, to help
save the shop.
Tal Merom, a spokeswoman for the municipality: "This is a claim that should
be settled with the insurance company, not with the municipality."
This little saga of the used book shop epitomizes Jerusalem as many of its
inhabitants still view it in their minds, and as many of those who have left the
city like to remember it - as a hub of erudition and culture. The streams of
water ruining the pages of the old books are symbolic of the way the city is
drowning in hopeless backwardness and neglect. And becoming increasingly
deserted, like a sinking ship. (Ha؟aretz, 30 December 2005)