TEL AVIV (Jul. 8)
A Haganah decoration, giving official recognition to the pre-state Jewish defense force, was the center of a heated dispute today which involved not only leaders of the one-time Herut underground organization but also leaders of Mapai who had been active in the formation and direction of the Haganah.
Members of the right wing Herut, political successor to the underground Irgun army, were the first to protest the award of state decorations to only one underground organization. Subsequently, prominent Haganah leaders like Gen. Johanan Ratner, former Prime Minister Moshe Sharett and others also protested the procedure of awarding the decoration.
The most widely-publicized correspondence was that between Mr. Sharett and Shimon Peress, general director of the Israel Defense Ministry who was directly responsible for distribution of the decoration. Mr. Sharett, who was one of the founders of Haganah and responsible for its activities for a time, was not invited to attend the major decoration award ceremony at which Prime Minister David Ben Gurion made the awards to prominent Haganah leaders.
It was reported that a few days later, Mr. Sharett received the application form for the decoration and replied with a protest against the “lack of knowledge of Haganah history” in the award idea and with an ironic thanks that “at last you have remembered me. ” He refused to accept the decoration despite an assertion by Premier Ben Gurion that he regretted the “mistake” of the Defense Ministry in not inviting Sharett to the ceremony. Oved Ben Ami, former mayor of Nathanya and regional Haganah commander and a founder also did not receive the decoration.