Monday, May 12, 2008

Shmuel Katz, Zionist hero, dies at 93

Shmuel Katz, one of the last remaining links to the Zionist Revisionist icon, Ze'ev Jabotinsky, and himself a towering figure and a mighty pen of the Zionist Right, died in the early hours of Friday morning, soon after Yom Ha'atzmaut, at Tel Aviv's Ichilov Hospital. He was 93.


Well over a hundred people attended the funeral Sunday afternoon at the Hayarkon Cemetery in Petah Tikva.


Among the mourners were Likud Party chair and opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu, former defense minister Moshe Arens, former MK Uzi Landau, former Knesset Speaker, MK Ruby Rivlin, Jabotinsky Institute director Yossi Achimeir and MK Gideon Sa`ar.


Katz was born in South Africa in 1914 and first came to Israel in 1936, joining the Irgun.
Jabotinsky sent him to London in 1939 to represent the Revisionist Zionist position. He soon found himself virtually stranded after Jabotinsky died suddenly in upstate New York in 1940. Katz subsequently made a living as a journalist working for a number of London newspapers while also founding a Zionist Revisionist weekly.


In 1946 he managed to return to Palestine and joined the Irgun High Command. He was the movement's de facto foreign minister and its last Jerusalem-area commander prior to statehood.


Katz was elected to the First Knesset on the Herut list. He is believed to have been the last surviving member of that First Knesset. A Knesset honor guard placed a wreathe on his grave.
Highly principled and often uncompromising, he quit politics and established a publishing house.
After the Six Day War he became a leader of the Land of Israel movement.

When the Likud Party won the 1977 elections and broke Labor's stranglehold on Israeli politics, Menachem Begin asked Katz to serve as his adviser on information, tasked with explaining the new government's position to a hostile media and an unfriendly Carter administration.


But Katz soon came to feel that Begin was too accommodating in the face of US pressure and in January 1978 left the premier over his peace negotiations with Egypt.


Katz opposed the notion of land for peace, championing the formula of peace for peace.
A prolific writer, essayist and historian, Katz had a regular column in The Jerusalem Post for many years and continued to publish occasional op-eds until very recently. Among his most important books are Lone Wolf: A Biography of Vladimir Jabotinsky; Battleground: Fact and Fantasy in Palestine; and The Aaronsohn Saga about the Nili spy ring, whose English edition was published late last year by Gefen.


Though a fierce ideologue, Katz was soft spoken, with a twinkle in his eye and a winning self-deprecating humor. As recently as several weeks ago, he was planning a new series of short op-eds for the Post in opposition to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's policies.


Katz is survived by his son Yuval who recited the kaddish memorial prayer and nephew Dr. Leonard Bliden who delivered a moving eulogy.

May his memory be for a blessing.

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