May 3rd marked Golda Meir z”l’s birthday, the fourth Prime Minister of Israel. Born as Golda Myerson in 1898, she began her political career at the young age of 20, as a delegate from Missouri to the American Jewish Congress in the USA, and she never looked back. She was highly involved in the struggle for Israel’s independence, and is a signatory to Israel’s declaration of Independence.
In the newly established state, she served in a number of roles in the government, before becoming Prime Minister in 1969. She was also the third female to be Prime Minister in the world!
She was loved, even adored, around the world. Eleanor Roosevelt said that Golda Meir was “a woman one cannot help but deeply respect and deeply love.” But she will also be remembered for a number of significant and historic speeches.
In January 1948, the War of Independence was beginning to intensify. Golda Meir was sent by David Ben Gurion to America, to raise $25 million for military equipment to help defend the nascent Jewish community. In Chicago, on January 2nd 1948, she gave an unscripted speech about the historic moment that the Jewish people found themselves in, so close to realizing their dream of a state. The speech was so good, that she raised $50 million, and Ben Gurion said, “Someday when history will be written, it will be said that there was a Jewish woman who got the money which made the state possible.”
Another significant speech she gave came after Israel captured Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi war criminal, in 1960. The daring operation was carried out by the Mossad, who tracked Eichmann down to where he was living in Argentina, where they captured him. However, despite Eichmann being one of the greatest criminals of the 20th century, the government of Argentina accused Israel of breaking Argentinian law, and breaching its sovereignty. Golda Meir, then the Foreign Minister of Israel, made a speech at the United Nations, giving a blistering response to the accusations.
“This (the UN Security Council) is a body that deals with threats to the peace. Is this a threat to peace–Eichmann brought to trial by the very people to whose total physical annihilation he dedicated all his energies, even if the manner of his apprehension violated the laws of the Argentine? Or did the threat to peace lie in Eichmann at large, Eichmann unpunished, Eichmann free to spread the poison of his twisted soul to a new generation?”
But maybe her most powerful speech was the speech she made in the United Nations in 1957. This speech was given 60 years ago, but when one reads it, it reads as if it was written today.
“Mr. President, I should like from this rostrum to address to the Arab States of the Middle East a solemn appeal: Israel is approaching her tenth anniversary. You did not want it to be born. You fought against the decision in the United Nations. You then attacked us by military force. We have all been witnesses to sorrow, destruction and the spilling of blood and tears. Yet Israel is here, growing, developing, progressing. It has gained many friends and their number is steadily increasing. We are an old tenacious people and, as our history has proved, not easily destroyed. .
In the light of these facts, what is the use or realism or the justice of policies and attitudes based on the fiction that Israel is not there, or will somehow disappear? Would it not be better for all to build a future for the Middle East based on cooperation? Does hate for Israel and the aspiration for its destruction make one child in your countries happier? Does it convert one hovel into a house? Does culture thrive on the soil of hatred?
Her appeal to the Arab nations, and to the United Nations, is a powerful and relevant one. Preaching hatred towards Israel will neither make Israel go away, nor will it help the Arab people of the region. Working together with Israel will create a better future for all the peoples of the Middle East. Golda Meir’s words from 1957 are as relevant as ever in 2017.
Contributed by Aron White, CAMERA intern