A new study of Israel's founding makes the argument that not only was the Irgun a terrorist force, but that terrorism worked for the Jews in Palestine. A Wall Street Journal review this morning takes a more, um, nuanced view, on the ground that Israel has a bad enough reputation already among the Good People, especially those in Europe.
This is hardly a persuasive argument. If terrorism worked for the Irgun (and one of the leading terrorists, the Polish-born Menachim Begin, later became the prime minister of democratic Israel) surely we should acknowledge that fact, and learn from it. Nor is Israel the only modern democracy founded by bloody-minded killers. The Irish Republican Army, from 1918 to 1921, conducted a murder campaign in Dublin and to a lesser extent in the countryside, and Ireland today is an exemplary democracy with one of the more vibrant economies in Europe. Even Nicaragua, where the defeated terrorist Daniel Ortega was eventually elected president, is a functioning and effective democracy, at least by Latin American standards. And indeed the United States has terrorists among its founding fathers. A tactic is not altogether to be condemned, if it leads to admirable results on more than one occasion.