JWR / Middle East Geopolitics

Jason Maoz: The Day Israel Saved The World

Amos Perlmutter: Saddam's Predictable Defiance

A classic editorial: The West's Unfinished Business

Jon B. Alterman: The Sunset of Arab Leadership

Douglas M. Bloomfield: Time for Israel to Leave Lebanon?

Reader Response

Cover Story
January 4, 1998 / 6 Tevet, 5758

Unfinished Business

[This classic originally appeared as an editorial in the Forward on August 10, 1990. -Ed.]

As the world awoke last week to the implications of the Iraqi blitzkrieg in the Gulf, an old man lay ill in a hospital room in Jerusalem. In his time he knew more than his share of controversy. As a young man he was seized by Stalin's NKVD and thrown into the Gulag Archipelago. In the early meetings of the Knesset, David Ben Gurion refused to address him by name. When at the UN, he went before the General Assembly and he faced an almost empty chamber. But no amount of vilification that Menachem Begin endured was as galling as that which greeted the attack he ordered in June 1981 on Iraq's bomb-making reactor, Osiraq, near Baghdad. In an editorial that stunned the Jewish community, The New York Times derided him for making a "sneak attack" and called the raid "an act ofM. Begin. By Seth Lipsky, 1987, oil on canvas. inexcusable and short-sighted aggression." The Times, among others, fretted about the possibility that a humiliated Hussein would be even more dangerous. The premier was impervious to the appeasers. He reminded a press conference that Jews are an ancient people, used to condemnation. "There won't be another Holocaust in history," he declared. "Never again." Mr. Begin is said to have felt the destruction of Iraq's atomic-bomb-making potential was the most important act of his government. Were Iraq armed with atomic bombs the dangers that are today so evident would be incalculably greater. We wonder whether any of the world's leaders thought of Mr. Begin as the chill ran down their spines this week. It would be the gracious thing for one of them -- or all of them -- to give the old man a call and let him know they at last comprehend whose sight was short and who had a wiser appreciation of the responsibilities of leadership.

[Few took the initiative. -Ed.]

Painting above: "M. Begin" by Seth Lipsky, 1987, oil on canvas. © All rights reserved.

This portrait of Menachem Begin is the best known of a series of Jewish heroes painted by Seth Lipsky, the editor of the Forward. The series includes, among others, Revisionist founder Vladimir Jabotinsky; Israeli general Ariel Sharon; Holocaust historian Lucy S. Dawidowicz; the young soldier Yitzhak Rabin; the hero of Tel Hai, Joseph Trumpeldor; and the Byelorussian martyr, Masha Bruskina. Though the painter is better known as the editor of the Forward, he works at his easel every day and tells his intimates that painting is his "violin d'Ingres." (An allusion to French painter Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, whose real love was the violin.) Though Mr. Lipsky is exceptionally private about his paintings, Jewish World Review understands that the artist is represented by Charles Liebling, (212) 724-2594.


© 1990, Forward and 1987, Seth Lipsky