Irish Times

Examining an alleged quote by Golda Meir about the Holocaust cited by Gideon Levy

(CAMERA senior research analyst Gidon Shaviv assisted in this post)

We recently posted about an Irish Times article by Lara Marlow which highlighted Haaretz’s Gideon Levy (“Holocaust makes Israelis think international law doesn’t apply,” Sept. 11th) in which Levy recycled a previously discredited quote by former prime minister Golda Meir.


Levy told Marlow the following:

On a national level, “Golda Meir said that after the Holocaust, Jews have the right to do anything they want,” Levy continues. “The Holocaust makes Israelis think international law doesn’t apply to them, because they are the ultimate victims of history; the only victims.

Though Gidon Levy previously told CAMERA in an email that he had no source for the quote in question, we’ve been able to determine there is a source for at least a variation of the alleged quote – the late Shulamit Aloni. However, even Aloni isn’t clear on the details or the exact origin of the alleged Meir quote, and so even this “source” only represents hearsay.

Additionally, in tracing Aloni’s retelling of the alleged quote, it’s clear that it has changed considerably over the years.

Aloni, 2002 

Talking at a Gush Shalom (A left-wing NGO) conference in Tel Aviv in January 2002, Aloni stated:

Golda said that ‘after the Eichmann Trial we have the right to do everything’. During the Lebanon War Begin said that ‘no one has the right to tell us what to do, definitely not those who bombed Dresden’. (Translated from the original Hebrew)

Aloni, 2009

In 2009, Aloni published an op-ed in [Hebrew] Haaretz which opened with the alleged quote by Meir.  

[Meir said] after the Eichmann trial, now, when everyone knows what they did to us, we can do anything we want, and no one has the right to criticize us and tell us what to do. (Translated from the original Hebrew)

Levy, 2014:

Again, let’s remember that this is the quote Levy used when speaking to Lara Marlow of The Irish Times last week.

[Meir said]…after what the Nazis did to us, we can do whatever we want

Note that in the original 2002 telling, the emphasis is on the Eichmann Trial and not, as Levy presents it, as “The Holocaust.”  Additionally, it is Begin (and not Meir) who is attributed as saying “no one has the right to tell us what to do.” Also, Begin was likely referring to how the allies attacked the German city of Dresden during WWII, and was not referencing the Holocaust. In other words, even Begin wasn’t justifying Israeli actions by virtue of what happened to Jews during the Holocaust, but was merely comparing how the Western Allies and Israel conducted their respective wars.  

As we’ve demonstrated, Aloni would later, in 2009, meld the two quotes into one, and attribute them both to Meir, while delicately changing the emphasis.

Finally, we have no way to verify if Aloni is accurately quoting Meir in either version, as she has never, as far as we can tell, provided details regarding when and where Meir uttered these words. We also can’t determine (again, assuming that some variation of the alleged quote is accurate) if the former prime minster was taken out of context.  Of course, Levy and the Irish Times columnist love the alleged quote because it fits nicely with their belief in immutable Israeli villainy – a state so immoral that it cynically exploits the Holocaust to justify cruelty and wanton violence against Palestinians. 

Bottom line: The Irish Times published a highly dubious quote to support a crude and ugly caricature of the Jewish state, one which appeals to the extreme left narrative fancied by Levy and his political fellow travelers within the European media elite.

22 replies »

  1. Seems odd 2002 being the first time this alleged quote from Golda Meir is told. That´s a long time after her death.

    I has a huge mistrust for these cases where someone pops up with a quote of which there is no confirmation or corroboration of someone very famous and now dead.

    I actually feel the same about the alleged quote of Martin Luther King, in which he supposedly berates a black student for being anti-Semitic who asked “what about the Jews?”.

    I think all these unconfirmed quotes need to be taken with a ton of salt.

  2. While I understand the rhetorical device Gideon Levy is attempting to employ here, I would like to give him a quick lesson in logical reasoning in case he is not aware: that (questionable) statement by a former Israeli Prime Minister can only validly be cited as evidence to state that: it is LIKELY that SOME Israelis (probably not most of the ~20% of Israelis that are Arab Muslims) think that because of the Holocaust, international law doesn’t apply to Israel.

    • Actually it can be interpreted to something completely different.

      It is because of the holocaust and its lessons that Israelis know that they cannot rely or listen to other nations’ advice!
      This does not place Israel above the law or is the same as saying I do whatever I want to do.
      It’s more in the line of “thank you for your concern but I do things my way”.

      In line of Golda’s many recorded statements I find it hard to believe she ever said something in line with what Mr Levy implies.
      He should focus on her legacy that forever attempted to bridge between us and the Arabs rather than constantly trying to tarnish her name with made up quotes.

  3. Sherlock Holmes would have been proud of the detective work done in tracking down the origin of this lie, repeated and tweaked by Levy! Well done!

  4. Another of these dubious intellectuals and antizionists (partly of Jewish origin) who have a problem called Israel.
    Ian Buruma and why Israel is the culprit for the secession of Scotland.
    They reflect current mainstream opinion more than leftist anti-Zionists do. The world is increasingly fragmenting, with fearful people embracing smaller, defensive identities: Scottish, Catalan, Flemish, Sunni, Shia, Kurdish, and so on. The idealistic internationalism of the early postwar years is collapsing fast. Tribal feelings – national, ethnic, and religious – are filling the vacuum. And, most ironic of all, Israel, a nation-state built by a people despised for their cosmopolitanism, has become a prime symbol of this disturbing trend.

    Well, you might call him an intellectual, I would`nt, he is more the prime symbol of the postmodern age where banality and stupidity are celebrated as outstanding intelelletual achievements, and rewarded with prizes, features and chairs.
    Take the stalinist idiot Zizek</ who just made a big u-turn in Al Guardian, translated by DIE ZEIT; related to Rotherham, from telling the world that 9/11 was self inflicted ´cause of US-imperialism, western postcolonialism and white male evil to formerly bad western “Leitkultur”
    Instead of kicking him out of university for propagating falsehoods and ideology he gets features and interviews where he calls for a struggle (djihad)
    Our axiom should be that the struggle against western neocolonialism as well as the struggle against fundamentalism, the struggle of WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden as well as the struggle of Pussy Riot, the struggle against antisemitism as well as the struggle against aggressive Zionism, are parts of one and the same universal struggle. If we make any compromise here, we are lost in pragmatic compromises, our life is not worth living.

    You know what time it is when an antisemite aggressivly calls for struggle against antisemitism and zionism, just like his fellow Agamben who cried out that he would like to fight with Hamas, and denigrates the memory of the Jewish holocaust victims since decades, in allegedly philosophical reflections about homo sacer and ‘muselmann’ and other quite dubious comparisons, meshing the US led war on terror with the NS crimes, Guantanamo with Auschwitz, heavily leaning on the NS philosopher Martin Heidegger and Carl Schmitt, both ardent antisemites, naturally.

    • Fritz:
      “…the postmodern age where banality and stupidity are celebrated as outstanding intelelletual achievements, and rewarded with prizes, features and chairs.”

      I couldn’t put it better myself.
      As my father would say with a sigh: “Nu Shoyn, could always be worse! Now how about another Turkish coffee?”

      • Thanks, maybe only obsessed. 🙂
        Interestingly Idiot Zizek calls for a djihad against neocolonialism, zionism and fundamentalism, but avoids to mention islamism. Naturally, as he calls for struggle for and against which means Djihad.
        I wonder who all are convertits among the chattering class without publicly telling it