The Jewish articles below are
followed by an analysis.
Old Zichron's main thoroughfare, is lined with the
town's original houses, some of which have been restored; you'll find the
Aaronson House, at 40 Hameyasdim St. Aaron Aaronson (1876-1919) was an
agronomist of international repute who received his training in France under
the aegis of the Rothschilds. He and his sisters, Sara and Rebecca, and his
assistant, Absolom Feinberg, with whom he had set up an experimental farm at
Athlit, were at the center of NILI, an anti-Turkish spy ring that supplied the
British with intelligence during World War I. Feinberg was killed while
traveling through Gaza on a desperate mission to contact the British army in
Sinai. After the Six-Day War 50 years later, when a search was made so he
could be reburied in Jerusalem, the site of his grave in Gaza was identified
by a palm tree that sprouted from dates he had been carrying in his pocket
when he was ambushed. Both Sara and Rebecca had been in love with Feinberg;
Sara was arrested by the Turks and committed suicide . Aaron Aaronson himself,
one of the most promising and admired members of the Jewish community in
Palestine, died in a plane crash on his way to the Paris Peace Conference at
the end of World War I.
World War I pitted the British against the Ottoman Empire. Some of the Jews of Palestine
were convinced that supporting the British would help bring about a Jewish State. Led by
Avshalom Feinberg and Aaron Aaronson, this group recruited other members of the Zichron
Ya'acov community to work on behalf of the British. They called their organization NILI (Netzah
Israel Lo Y'Shaker). Contact was made with the British, and in 1916 and 1917, NILI
transmitted important intelligence information to the British.
Feinberg and Joseph Lishansky were ambushed by Bedouins near El
Arish in 1917, and Feinberg was killed. In September of that year, a carrier pigeon used
by NILI was ambushed. Two weeks later, a member of NILI was arrested and after torture,
disclosed some of the group's secrets.
In early October, the Turks surrounded Zichron Ya'acov and arrested Sarah Aaronson
(1890-1917). They interrogated her for three days, during which she refused to betray her
friends. After three days, she managed to commit suicide. Two of the others Joseph
Lishansky and Na'aman Belkind were executed by the Ottomans on December 16, 1917.
Spies for the Turks and Germans
The Secret Crescent Cause By Abraham Rabinovich
At a conference at Tel Aviv University a couple of weeks ago on the Middle East in World
War I, lecturers pointed out that while there was indeed sympathy for the Allied cause
among many Palestinian Jews, others joined the Turkish-German struggle against the Allies.
Among them, according to an American historian, was the sister of Chaim Weizmann, Mina. A
physician, Mina allegedly undertook to serve as a German spy against the Allied cause at
the same time that her illustrious brother in England was contributing as a chemist to the
British war effort and hanging his hopes for a Jewish homeland on an Allied victory.
The sensational allegation concerning Mina Weizmann apparently aired publicly for the
first time was made offhandedly by Prof. Donald M. McKale of Clemson University during
a lecture on German intelligence activity in the Middle East during the First World War.
The Germans, who encouraged their Turkish allies to attack the Suez Canal in order to draw
off British forces from the European theater, had difficulty recruiting local agents to
spy on the British forces in Egypt.
"The Ottoman government refused to permit the Germans to operate freely," said
McKale. "Subsequently the Germans recruited a number of Jews in Palestine as spies,
hoping to exploit the hatred of Russian Jews for czarism.
"One such was Mina Weizmann, a Russian emigre physician in Jerusalem and younger
sister of Chaim Weizmann, who lived in London and was the Zionist leader."
CHAIM, who would become Israel's first president, was born in 1874 in Byelorussia, the
third of 12 children. Mina was the 11th child, 16 years younger than Chaim. The 12th child
was Khilik, father of Israel's current president, Ezer Weizman. Ezer himself was a year
old when Mina, his aunt, died.
McKale said in an interview that he had come across a reference to Mina Weizmann while
researching German archives for a book on Germany and the Middle East. Mina, who was 24
when the war broke out, had been living in Jerusalem but worked during the war as a doctor
in a Cairo hospital where she presumably had access to British military personnel.
She was arrested by the British as a spy, said McKale, and transported to Malta where she
was imprisoned briefly.
"Then, most unusually, she was returned to Russia. It is unclear whether she was in
fact a double agent working for the British or whether she really was a German spy and
that her influential brother assisted in her release."
At least one other Palestinian Jew recruited by the Germans as a spy, Isaac Cohen, turned
out in fact to be a British agent, McKale noted.
The American historian said that Mina Weizmann's identity as a German spy had been
reinforced by the son of the man who allegedly recruited her, a German agent named Curt
Preufer, the subject of one of McKale's books. The elder Preufer would later serve as a
senior diplomat under the Nazis.
Preufer's son, who lives now in the US, told McKale that his father and Mina had meetings
in a hotel.
"There is an implication that the two of them had an affair," said McKale.
ANOTHER speaker at the symposium, Dr. Jacob Markovizky of Haifa University, noted that
leaders of the Yishuv, the Jewish community in Palestine, encouraged Jewish youth after
the outbreak of the World War I to enroll in the Turkish army.
"The Jewish elite, including teachers, felt that the mobilization of able-bodied
young men into the Turkish army would be a tangible expression of Jewish loyalty to the
Ottoman Empire. The Yishuv hoped that, in return, the Turkish authorities could, some day,
recognize aspirations for a Jewish homeland in Palestine."
Students from prestigious high schools in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem were pressured by the
Yishuv leadership to enlist in the Turkish army for the sake of the long-term benefit of
the Jewish community.
Some even became officers, but about one-fourth of the enlistees, feeling no sense of
identity with the Ottoman empire, eventually deserted their units. Most of these were from
Tel Aviv. Enlistees from Jerusalem were for the most part persuaded by the distinguished
educator David Yellin to serve out their term, said Markovizky.
"There was no
collective punishment against the Jews of Palestine or even of Zichron Ya'acov."
Prof. Gideon Biger of Tel Aviv University said
that Israeli and other Jewish historians have been distinctly ungenerous to the
Turks in making them out to be "the big bad wolf."
Acts of villainy attributed to the Turks during the World War I in fact constituted
moderate, even civilized, behavior in the context of war, he said.
WHEN fighting broke out in 1914, there were 85,000 Jews in Palestine, most of whom
had arrived in the decades after 1882. Most did not adopt Ottoman citizenship,
preferring to retain citizenship of their home country, with the protection that
With the outbreak of war, some of these home countries like Britain, France and
Russia became enemies of Turkey. Their nationals were given a choice of becoming
Ottoman subjects or leaving the Ottoman Empire. If they became subjects, they would
be liable to draft but, as a gesture, the Turks said they would defer draft for a
About 15,000 foreign Jews who refused to take Ottoman citizenship were forced to
leave the country. Noting that Israeli history books refer to this as "the
cruel deportation," Biger said that no country behaved more gently to citizens
of enemy states during a war.
"The Turks gave them the opportunity to become loyal citizens or to leave the
country, which was at war with their motherland. During the Second World War the
Americans arrested all the Japanese who lived in the US and sent them to
concentration camps although they were US citizens and had lived there for a
"During the Second World War, the British sent all the Germans who lived in
Palestine to Australia, since they were seen as potential spies. The Turkish
activities in this situation were the normal activities of a country at war."
LIKEWISE, the expulsion of Jews from Tel Aviv by the Turks in 1917 is recalled as a
traumatic, anti-Jewish event in memoirs which shaped the perception of the period
among Israelis today.
Reality was quite different, said Biger.
The British Army had reached southern Palestine from Egypt earlier that year and had
tried unsuccessfully to break through the Turkish line at Gaza. As the British
prepared for another assault, the Turkish authorities feared that it might include a
landing by sea north of Gaza. A likely target was Jaffa, which was also a departure
point for an assault on Jerusalem.
Therefore, the Turkish authorities ordered all inhabitants to evacuate the city and
go inland "partly to avoid British cooperation with the local Arabs and partly
to protect [Jaffa's residents] from the possible [British] attack," said Biger.
Some 50,000 Arabs duly packed their belongings and trekked inland. So did the small
population of the new Jewish suburb, Tel Aviv.
"All the houses were closed and stood unharmed for seven months," said
Biger. "The Turkish regime even helped by supplying food. A group of young
people, armed by the Turks, was left in Tel Aviv in order to protect the houses,
which remained unharmed until the inhabitants came back."
THE MOST emotion-laden grievance against the
Turks involved their crackdown on the Nili spy ring, founded by a group of young
Jews in Zichron Ya'acov to help the Allied war effort. The ringleader, Aaron
Aaronson, managed to escape but the Turks hanged other members of the ring and
tortured Aaronson's sister, Sara, who finally shot herself.
The known facts are correct, said Biger, but the prevailing Jewish attitude is too
The only people punished by the Turks, he noted, were those actually involved in the
ring and only after a military trial. There was no collective punishment against
the Jews of Palestine or even of Zichron Ya'acov.
"No house was burned and anyone can visit today the original house of the
Aaronson family. The woman who committed suicide was actually a spy who received the
'usual treatment' of spies during war."
Eighty years onward, said Biger, it is time to understand that Turkish actions
during the First World War were the result of circumstance and not of anti-Jewish
sentiment. This new perception may not just be a function of passing time but of
Israel's current warm strategic relations with Turkey.
A large number of Turkish academics and ex-military officers participated in the
two-day symposium in Tel Aviv. Israeli participants then traveled to Istanbul for
the symposium's second half.
Thanks to Mavi Boncuk
Official Word from Israel
From the web site of the Israeli Ministry of
Foreign Affairs, featuring an article from Me'ir Pa'il (entitled "Hashomer to the Israel
Defense Forces Armed Jewish Defense in Palestine"), we get an interesting
In Palestine under Ottoman rule, young men who lived in the moshavot
around Zikhron Ya'akov formed an organization called the Gideonites. During the war, this
organization served as the basis for NILI (the initials of netzah yisrael
lo yeshaker I Sam. 15:29), which engaged in active espionage for Great Britain,
under the leadership of the agronomist Aaron Aaronson. On the other hand, during the war
several thousand Jewish residents of Palestine were inducted into the Turkish army; a few
of them were trained and appointed as officers and NCOs in the Turkish army. Examples are
Moshe Sharett, Dov Hoz (who later deserted to the British army), Alexander Aaronson, and
Elimelekh Zelikovich (Avner); the latter eventually became a senior commander in the
Important developments in the military sector of the Zionist enterprise took place during
World War I in the British army, which fought against the Turks. The first of these
developments occurred in Egypt in 1915, when the Zion Mule Corps was formed, under
the command of Lieutenant-Colonel John Henry Patterson, an Irishman, and Captain Joseph
Trumpeldor. The Zion Mule Corps joined the British Expeditionary Force that landed on the
Gallipoli peninsula in the Dardanelles (May 1915) and saw action there until the British
were forced to evacuate their strongholds (January 1916). Almost all the soldiers of this
corps were Jews who had been expelled by the Turkish authorities from Palestine because of
their alien citizenship.
Only after the setback in Gallipoli and relentless petitioning in British government
circles in London by Jabotinsky, Rutenberg and Trumpeldor did the British War Office
agree, in September 1917, to the formation of a new infantry regiment based on nearly one
hundred veterans of the Mule Corps who had come to Britain, plus Jewish emigres from
Russia who had settled in Britain and agreed to join a Jewish combat unit. Thus, the 38th
Royal Fusiliers came into being in southern England under the command of
Lieutenant-Colonel Patterson, the former commander of the Zion Mule Corps, which had been
dismantled. In February 1918, the 38th Fusiliers was transferred to Egypt, and took part
in the British offensive of September 1918 under General Edmund Allenby. The regiment,
then stationed in the Jordan Valley near Jericho, participated in crossing the Jordan
river eastward in the direction of Salt. Vladimir (Ze'ev) Jabotinsky was a deputy
commander of this regiment, with the honorary rank of lieutenant.
A second Jewish regiment, the 39th Royal Fusiliers, was formed in Britain immediately
after the 38th shipped out. The 39th Fusiliers, composed of Jewish volunteers from the
United States and Canada, plus Jewish emigres from Russia, was sent to Egypt in April 1918
under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Eliezer Margolin, who had led a battalion in the
Australian expeditionary force on the French front. During its maneuvers in Egypt, this
regiment began to absorb Palestinian Jewish volunteers who had enlisted in the British
army after the British occupied the southern half of Palestine. The trained half of this
regiment fought alongside the 38th Royal Fusiliers in September 1918.
A third Jewish regiment, the 40th Royal Fusiliers, was created on the basis of Jewish
volunteers from the United States and Canada (including David Ben-Gurion and Itzhak Ben-Zvi,
who had been expelled from Palestine by the Turks, as well as Dov Joseph and Nehemia
Rabin). This regiment, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Samuel, reached Egypt in August
1918 and began to take on Jewish volunteers who had come over from Palestine (including
Eliyahu Golomb, Dov Hoz, Berl Katznelson, and several members of Hashomer). The 40th Royal
Fusiliers was transferred from Egypt to Palestine, but too late to see action.
Almost all the members of the three Jewish regiments were discharged immediately after the
end of World War I in November 1918. Those from Britain and Palestine returned to their
respective countries and some of those from North America settled in Palestine to realize
their Zionist convictions.
On David Ben-Gurion, from a bio in the World
Zionist Organization web site:
Ben-Gurion's studies were curtailed by the outbreak of the First
World War and he returned to Eretz-Israel , encouraging Jews to request Ottoman
citizenship. The alternative was expulsion on suspicion of being enemy aliens. Despite
Ben-Gurion's orientation, he was expelled from Eretz-Israel by Djemal Pasha, head of the
Ottoman forces in that country. In Alexandria he met Josef Trumpeldor and Vladamir
Jabotinsky who were both working for the establishment of a Jewish Legion within the
British army. Ben-Gurion opposed the initiative as he was concerned with its implications
for the Jews who remained in Eretz-Israel. After Eretz-Israel had been captured by the
British, Ben-Gurion called on Russian Jews in the United States to join the Legion and was
instrumental in establishing and recruiting for the 40th Fusiliers. He himself enlisted in
the Legion and arrived in Eretz-Israel in the summer of 1918, when he campaigned for the
unity of the labour movements in Eretz-Israel.
View from Holdwater
Here's the deal: after centuries of prosperity,
practically all the minorities of the Ottoman Empire decided to take advantage of
the weakened Ottoman Empire and stabbed their nation in the back. Years later,
groups from Armenians to Greeks to Assyrians would dishonorably present the reaction
to their treachery as "genocide." As Mustafa Kemal Ataturk pointed out,
however, there was one exception among the different millets: Ottoman Jews
remained loyal. In an emotional encounter,
one summed it up:
"The Ottoman dynasty is the saviour of
Turkish Jews. When our ancestors were driven out of Spain, and looked for a country
to take them in, it was the Ottomans who agreed to give us shelter and saved us from
extinction. Through the generosity of their government, once again they received
freedom of religion and language, protection for their women, their possessions and
their lives. Therefore our conscience obliges to serve you as much as we can in your
The Inquisitions were perhaps the most
dramatic, but by far not the only example when Turks defended the Jews. In 1924,
when there was no longer an Ottoman Empire (and thus no reason to sugarcoat the
Ottomans' behavior), Haim Nahum, the last Grand Rabbi of the Ottoman Empire, said: "It
is actually an understatement that there was no anti-Semitism in Turkey. In fact,
there was a pro-Semitism. Ottoman governments treated their Jewish subjects with a
special consideration and compassion as one of their own, as one of the most loyal
and devoted subjects of the empire."
Since Jews were living in a world where Jewish
persecution by Christians was running rampant, honorable Jews should always
remember what historian Cecil Roth declared:
"Jewish people must always recall the Ottoman Empire with gratitude who, at
one of Judaisms darkest hours, flung open its door widely and kept them
open." Frankly, Jews need to go a step further, as Dr. J. E. Botton
wrote in an early 2001 letter to Forward:
"It should be our moral obligation to
Let's examine what is going on here. As in any
barrel, there are going to be a few bad apples. Among the Jews, a handful of selfish
Zionists decided to take advantage of their Ottoman Turkish benefactors. These Nili Spies proved instrumental in
hurting the Ottomans greatly, by showing the ropes to the invading British.
The Greek Patriarch of Jerusalem warned the
Ottoman authorities in Syria of this mischief, probably not so much out of loyalty
for the Ottoman Empire, but out of hoping to do ill against one of the Greeks'
economic rivals. (The Greeks, as well as the Armenians, have a history of awful
anti-Semitism.) The Ottoman authorities, not known for their light-handed ways,
decided to take no chances. Because of the actions of these bad apples, there were
times the Jewish community was treated with a broad stroke. Even the loyal ones,
like Ben-Gurion, were unfairly treated, according to Jewish sources (I have not
looked into this area extensively). After a few months, Rabbi Haim Nahum got Enver
Pasha to intervene, and Jemal Pasha stopped the deportations.
Now, of course, in Israel, these Zionists are
heroes. If it weren't for the Zionists, there would be no Israel. You don't push out
a people from their lands and take over by being nice. The Zionists were not nice.
(But by the same token, not that it makes it right, but in fairness to the Zionists,
this is the way of the world. Historically, the strong has pushed out the
weak. When Christian nations did it, their "civilizing the heathens"
became a noble cause; when the Turks did it, we are told in the West that they
destroyed all civilization in their wake. When the Israelis had their turn, the
reason why it became distasteful is because their crimes occurred in the 20th
century, when it was no longer chic to squash the rightful owners of a land, by
hook, crook, and finally military might.)
If the Jews had decided differently, they would
have made the Turks the bad guys, regarding the Jews' ownership of Palestine, when
they had the opportunity. So great a defender of Judaism were the Turks, that in
1516, after conquest of Palestine, the Ottomans offered Eretz Israel, as a homeland,
to the Jews, on a platter. The Jews turned down the offer, figuring they would be
safer under Ottoman jurisdiction, in a world where they suffered so long under
So now the unethical genocide industry
has gotten wind of this episode. Creepy Zionists like Alfred Boehm have written
books making ugly statements such as, If Palestine had not been freed by the
English at the end of 1917, the Jewish Yishuv (settlement) would have been
exterminated by Djemal.
Imagine! The notion that the Ottoman Turks
might have also committed "genocide" upon the Jews themselves. Pure gold,
for the unethical genocide forces.
This is also music to the ears of ignorant
Israelis, some of whom, just like ignorant Americans and other Westerners, equate
Muslim Turks with the Arabs. Since Arabs are not popular in Israel, these ignorant
Israelis leap at the chance to point to the "Arab" Turks when they hear
this bad history, and say, you see! The Turks did a number on the Jews.
This is precisely the kind of misinterpretation
that an honorable historian such as Prof. Gideon Biger of Tel Aviv University is
hoping to correct; the above article tells us he "said that Israeli and
other Jewish historians have been distinctly ungenerous to the Turks in making them
out to be 'the big bad wolf.'"
Now look at what we've learned, from the above
Most (Jews) did not adopt Ottoman
citizenship, preferring to retain citizenship of their home country, with the
protection that offered.
Can you imagine? Here is the Ottoman Empire, in
a fight for its life, being attacked on all sides, externally as well as, at times,
internally (Armenians, Arabs, Assyrians, Greeks) ... very sensitive to the
traitorous disloyalty of minorities ... and here are these Jews, and they are not
even Ottoman citizens!
What would any country in the world have done
with elements who never even swore their loyalty, in this dark and dangerous wartime
Let's repeat what the article tells us, now:
About 15,000 foreign Jews who refused to
take Ottoman citizenship were forced to leave the country. Noting that Israeli
history books refer to this as "the cruel deportation," Biger said that no
country behaved more gently to citizens of enemy states during a war.
After correcting other misconceptions and
propaganda, the article concludes,
Eighty years onward, said Biger, it is time
to understand that Turkish actions during the First World War were the result of
circumstance and not of anti-Jewish sentiment.
Now what reasonable person could argue? Yet
here is the disgusting specter author Abraham Rabinovich offers:
This new perception may not just be a
function of passing time but of Israel's current warm strategic relations with
In other words, the implication is Prof. Biger
is being made to say such things to cozy up with the Turks. This is the same
accusation Israelis who don't buy into the Armenian "genocide" get hit by.
For example, when Nobel prize-winning Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon
Peres declared in April 2001:
"We reject attempts to create
a similarity between the Holocaust and the Armenian allegations. Nothing similar to
the Holocaust occurred. It is a tragedy what the Armenians went through but not a
The explanation became obvious to
genocide-batty Israelis such as Israel Charny.
Peres must have been lying through his teeth.
Now note the stupidity of author Rabinovich's implication. Israeli textbooks as a whole support the
"emotional Zionist" view that the Turks behaved like the Nazis. That means
if the Israeli state were to exert pressure on Israeli professors to be nice to the
Turks this is the common rap Turkish professors in Turkey get, by the way; the
contra-genocide ones are all mindless and unscrupulous instruments of the state
the first thing they would do is get rid of these textbooks. Professor Biger would
become the rule, not practically the lone exception.
Just note the following section above, "The
Official Word from Israel," a current offering from the Israeli government.
The Zionists who betrayed the Ottoman Empire are treated as heroes (quite
understandably). There is no kowtowing to Turks. It can be argued that a generally
headstrong nation as Israel kowtows to no other, including the United States. (Ariel
Sharon was reported to have said in the Knesset, rather believably, that the other
politicians needn't worry about the USA, as in effect the USA is in
the pockets of the Israelis.) Friendship with Turkey is not going to allow any
Israeli, especially a relatively honorable Israeli such as Shimon Peres, to lie for
the Turks. And the rare Turk-defending Israeli professors who deviate from the
official Israeli version of history are not guided by anything other than their own
quest for truth and honor.