April 30, 2012
Benzion Netanyahu, the father of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, dies at home in Jerusalem at the age of 102.
He was born Benzion Mileikowsky on March 25, 1910, in Warsaw. His father was a rabbi who toured Europe and the United States to make speeches on behalf of Zionism. He took the family to Palestine in 1920 and changed the last name to Netanyahu (“God-given”).
Netanyahu studied medieval history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and became active in Revisionist Zionism, a more militant, expansive form of Jewish nationalism led by Ze’ev Jabotinsky. Netanyahu lobbied in the United States from 1940 to 1948 to win support for the creation of Israel and for the vision of the Revisionist Zionists, whose New Zionist organization he led after Jabotinsky’s death.
Despite dreaming of a greater Israel and rejecting compromise with the British or the Arabs, Netanyahu eventually came to support the state of Israel in the area set aside under the U.N. partition plan of 1947.
His hawkish views were reflected in his work as a historian. He specialized in the Spanish Inquisition, arguing that Jewish converts to Catholicism were persecuted on a racial basis and not for continuing to practice Judaism. He said that Jewish history “is a history of holocausts” and that the Nazi genocide was different only in scale. He also served as an editor of the Hebrew Encyclopedia.