MembersThen and Now: The Purity of Arms

Part III

By Tsvi Sadan |
Avigdor Libermann. Benjamin Netanjahu Photo: Miriam Alster/Flash90

The first part in this series was about the recurring problem of the claim to moral superiority by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). The second touched on the resurfacing of the “two state solution.” In this final installment we will look at Israel’s unparalleled notion of the “purity of arms.”


From the early 1920s, the Zionist leadership in Israel was slow to act against Arab violence. What became known as the Policy of Restraint was an attempt to avoid civilian casualties that, it was believed, would push the Arabs toward more terror and bloodshed.


During the 1936-1939 Arab Revolt in Mandatory Palestine in which 400 Jews were murdered, Jewish leaders repeatedly condemned the sporadic Jewish acts of revenge—which themselves were as much as anything a sign of frustration with the Jewish leadership’s policies. Viewing revenge as immoral and self-defeating, the highly-respected Israel Labor Party leader Berl Katzenelson used the notion of “purity of arms” to chastise the Jewish militants of the time with...

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