Early life and military career
Uri Milstein was born in Tel Aviv to Avraham Milstein, a volunteer in the British army in World War II, and Sarah Milstein, a kindergarten teacher.His parents were among the founders of Kibbutz Afikim, and his father was a member of David Ben-Gurion's party; the Mapai, and on the "Haganah" (the leftist parties' defense organization). His older brother was a member of the "Palmach". Uri himself was a member of Mapai's youth party, HaTnuah HaMe'uchedet (The United Movement).
Milstein studied at Hayil school in Tel Aviv's Yad Eliyahu neighborhood, Hadassim youth village and a high school in Tel Aviv. In 1958, he was drafted into the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and served in the 890th Airborne Battalion of the Paratroopers Brigade as a soldier, squad commander and combat medic. Before being discharged, deputy commander of the brigade, Rafael Eitan, appointed him as the historian of the paratroopers. He served as a medic in the Six-Day War, the War of Attrition and the Yom Kippur War, and did his reserve duty in the history department of the Israeli Air Force. In 1974 he was relieved of his post as historian of the paratroopers by Yitzhak Mordechai, commander of Paratroop Brigade 35. (Milstein says this was on account of his publicizing his research on the "Battle of the Chinese Farm" in which Mordechai was involved.)
Personality and Style
From his writings, Milstein can best be described as someone extremely (over?)confident in his intellectual capacities who never grew out of the "why stage", someone who must understand everything about anything to his own satisfaction, even so far as to argue on everyone and anyone, he writes; "I was 4.5... wondering about everything, expressing opinions, criticizing the adults, and getting them angry. Basically, perpetually counterintuitive...In my mother's eyes I was impudent, even when I was 60 and she 97. As a child I sensed with my childish intuition that I was going to drive her out of her mind, since adults don`t like criticism and call it "chutzpah", since criticism reveals their faults, which they normally try to hide... The World War sharpened my understanding... The adults in my family discussed the war, I listened to the radio and to the adults discussions, and formed my own opinions which were contrary to theirs. I then started developing my military understanding and reached the conclusion of Heraclitus (that war is the mother of everything) before I even heard of his name..." Similarly, Milstein says what he wants, when he wants. Not only on his all-time favorite target of criticism, late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, (he names the chapter of Rabin`s service as Chief of Staff; "A lame donkey in the General Staff"), but even on close family. He writes; "My grandmother was placed in a psychiatric institution by my uncle. When I was twenty he told me that he had her institutionalized because her public nymphomania was embarrassing the family... In another place he writes; I was eight, during Israel's War of Independence in 1948, my father, brother, and uncle fought in it, and took me to the fronts during the cease-fires. Battles took place not far from our home...During battles I walked in the nearby orchards and watched with curiosity...During battle reconstructions with my family members I realized they weren't saying the truth and covered-up the faults and shortcomings of themselves and their group members."
After completing his service in the IDF in 1960, he studied economics, philosophy and political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He wrote his PhD on religion and legislation in Israel. After the Six-Day War, he published War of the Paratroops, and at the beginning of 1973 he published a military history of the early days of Israeli statehood, By Blood and Fire Judea. In the 1980s, he taught military history at the IDF Command and Staff College. In 1989, Milstein published the first volume of his series on the War of Independence, in which he alleged flawed functioning of commanders who were considered heroes in Israel. Time Magazine assessed it as "the definitive history of the war". Professor Benny Morris of Ben-Gurion University wrote then in The Jerusalem Post and later in Yedioth Ahronoth that until the publication of these books, all that had been written on the war was "a historical smear" and that only from these books is the true story being told. Professor Louis Rene Beres of Purdue University, writing on the books, called them "a strategic asset for the state of Israel". Only four of the planned twelve volumes had been published when publication was stopped in 1991. Milstein blamed this on "pressure from Palmach veterans Yitzhak Rabin, Amos Chorev, Zvi Zamir, and others, who were harmed by the truth finally coming out". Milstein is presently trying to raise the resources to continue publication himself. In 1993, he published Crisis and Its Conclusion, criticizing the functioning of the IDF in the Yom Kippur War.
In 1995 he published The Rabin File: How the Myth Was Inflated about Yitzhak Rabin as a commander of the Palmach. In 2010 he reprinted it as "Rabin's Way and Legacy" [in Hebrew] with some changes, and an additional volume dealing with Rabin's later years, and contributions from other authors about what they term "Rabin's real legacy".
In his introduction, Milstein writes: "as Rabin had so much influence on the people of Israel, I endeavor to understand as much about the man as I can, I will investigate everything that had an effect on him, his genealogy, his personal early life, and everything else".
Milstein writes that Rabin had a deprived childhood due to his parents-especially his mother- being preoccupied with their socialist activism, and not showing him love and attention. Milstein maintains that this caused Rabin to have an underdeveloped personality and strong feelings of insecurity, which would manifest themselves throughout the life of Rabin the adult. Milsteins favorite claim on Rabin is that he fled the battle he commanded on April 20, 1948, and that altogether, for his 54-year involvement in matters relating to Israel's security; "Rabin has not one known military action worthy of praise!"
Milstein established the Survival Institute and a book publishing house called "Survival". After that, Milstein taught at the Ariel University Center of Samaria.
Views and opinions
Milstein was one of the first academics to openly criticize the Israeli defense establishment. He is described as being too extreme in his conclusions, but his "contribution to the knowledge is enormous (Milstein has been researching Israeli military history for over 50 years, and claims to have conducted thousands of interviews, and to have a total of 500 gigabytes of interviews and documents.) and he is willing to suffer his devotion to the truth." (Throughout his more recent books, Milstein laments "the academic and economic boycott" he is in due to his criticism, he does not, however, provide any information on this "boycott".) A classic example of Milsteins audacious devotion to the "truth" was when he testified in 1988 in Military Court in defense of the sentry from the "Night of the Gliders. Milstein testified that fleeing in the face of danger is a normal phenomenon, that even men who achieved high rank in the IDF acted thus. When the judges asked him to elaborate he told of Yitzhak Rabin ( then minister of defense) fleeing the battle he commanded on April 20, 1948 (the"blood convoy").The judges totally ignored his testimony in their judgement, and Rabin's office refused to speak to journalists about it. Milstein claims that shortly before his death, at a gathering of ex-Palmach members (hosted by Micha Peri in Tel-Aviv) Rabin admitted fleeing the battle. In The Blood Libel of Deir Yassin – The Black Book, he claims that the Deir Yassin massacre was a myth created by the Israeli left to prevent the Irgun from forming an independent unit inside the IDF and keep Menachem Begin out of the first national unity government under David Ben-Gurion, and that Begin and the Irgun themselves went along with it to [successfully] scare the Arabs.
Milstein is a supporter of the thesis that the Soviet Union intended to assault Germany in 1941. [Milstein explains his involvement in this by saying that due to the way his own research was ignored when it led to provocative revelations,(which was most of the time,) he developed an interest in research that upset the common wisdom-and got ignored. ]
Milstein's main theme is how the political and military powers of Israel (though by no means only of Israel) protect their power and prestige at the expense of their performance. Thus on the Six-Day War, Israel's most famous victory, Milstein pointed out that General Uzi Narkis, commander of Central Command, refused to hold an inquiry on their foul-ups, saying "don't launder our dirty clothing in public". On the whole war, Milstein said "The IDF didn't investigate the battles for Jerusalem at any level, and the Israeli public including the army, thirstily drank the myths which many commanders created and were popularized by journalists. The legends which accompanied the capture of Jerusalem are the most tangible showing of Israels culture of mythology, which resulted in the failures of the War of Attrition, the Yom Kippur War, and the (First) Lebanon War... The heads of state and the senior IDF commanders are directly responsible for the failures caused by failing to learn the lessons."
In "Rabin's Way and Legacy" Milstein writes in the prologue, "Even if we hadn't known that Rabin fled the battlefield he commanded on April 20, 1948, that he was fired from all his active military commands in Israel's Independence War,(this is Milstein`s understanding of Rabin`s being promoted [as Milstein himself writes] from field command to office command) and that he received electric shocks in a psychiatric hospital in May 1967 (on the eve of the Six-Day-War, Rabin was then Chief of Staff of the IDF), even so we would have to follow the principle of Rene Descartes: I think (question), therefore I am (Cogito ergo sum), or to the motto of the Royal Society"Do not believe the words of man"(nullius in verba).
Milstein insists that Rabin, long revered as "Mr. Defense" and "The Warrior Par Excellence" had not only fled the battle he commanded on April 20, 1948, leaving his men in an ambush, and being in such a state of collapse as Chief of Staff in 1967 as to receive electric shock therapy, but in that his 54-year career as a militiaman, soldier, officer, and politician, "Rabin has not one known military action worthy of praise!" He had not the slightest notion of economics, and was even lacking basic education. The same can be said of his home life as he was particularly rough with his wife, and even as Prime Minister they had violent confrontations.
Milstein says that Rabin is merely a microcosm of a macrocosm, not only of Israel, but of most of the world's anti-intellectualism, as he calls it, a world that thrives on myths and half-truths, and makes only mocking pretense at learning lessons.
Milstein is married to the actress Shifra (Ben David) Milstein, with whom he has two daughters. His daughter Dalit is the co-founder and director of Notzar Theater.
- After All, 1965, Kiryat Sefer publishers (in Hebrew)
- The Blond Bear, 1970 Ramdor Publishers (in Hebrew)
- The War of the Paratroopers, 2 vols. 1968 (in Hebrew)
- The History of the Paratroopers, 4 vols. 1985–1987 (in Hebrew)
- History of Israel's War of Independence, 4 vols. out of 12 projected, 1996–1999. University Press of America
- History of the War of Independence: A nation girds for war, Volume 1 of History of the War of Independence, Uri Milstein, Allan Sacks, ISBN 0-7618-0372-6, ISBN 978-0-7618-0372-0
- History of the War of Independence: The first month, Volume 2 of History of the War of Independence, Uri Milstein, Allan Sacks, ISBN 0-7618-0721-7, ISBN 978-0-7618-0721-6
- The Shaked Patrol, Miskal Publishers, 1994.
- The Rabin File: An Unauthorized Expose (English), 2000, Authors: Uri Milstein, Aryeh ʻAmit, Gefen Publishing House, ISBN 965-229-196-X, 9789652291967, 472 pages
- The Rabin File – The Myth And Its Collapse 2005 Survival Institute Publishers
- Blood Libel at Deir Yassin – The Black Book 2007 National Midrasha Publishers and Survival Institute Publishers. The book presents testimonies refuting the claim that a force of the Irgun underground committed a massacre at the Arab village of Deir Yassin in the 1948 war, and accuses leaders of the Israeli community of promoting the massacre story to discredit their political opponents.
- The Birth of a Palestinian Nation: The Myth of the Deir Yassin Massacre Gefen Publishing House, 2012. ISBN 978-965-229-582-8
Critique of Military Reason series
- The Outbreak of War 1992
- The Crossing Which Wasn't 1992. Yaron Golan Publishers (in Hebrew)
- The Lesson of a Collapse 1993. Survival Publishers And Yediot Ahronot (in Hebrew)
Critique of the Present Civilization series
- Razmach, Pamphlets Of Literature, 1970.
- The General Theory of Security – the Survival Principle, (English & Hebrew) 1999 Survival Institute Publishers
- New Administration for Israel – An Intellectual-Political Alternative, 1993 (English & Hebrew)
- An End to Life, 1994 Survival Institute Publishers (English & Hebrew)
- The Oasis of Dreams, The Legend of Hadassim, 2006 Survival Publishing, (English & Hebrew), (an autobiography of The Generation of the State)
- Milstein;Rabins Way and Legacy Survival Publications 2010 page 96
- On What We Dreamed, Survival Publications 2006 pages 37–39
- Rabin`s Way and Legacy p. 541
- On This We Dreamed p. 39
- Rabins Way and Legacy page 412
- Enterprise for the 70th Jubilee of the State of Israel
- Rabin`s Way and Legacy pages 50-64
- Rabin`Way and Legacy page 41
- Nashon, Gad (May 2000). "Dr. Uri Milstein: "Israel's most cherished and hated revisionist military historian"". Jewish Post.
- Milstein;Enterprise for 70th Jubilee of Israel's Independence
- Rabin`s Way and Legacy page 20
- Rabin`s Way and Legacy page 317
- Ури Милыштейн Добровольные помощники Сталина. Почему ненавидят Виктора Суворова. In: Новая правда Виктора Суворова. Продолжение супербестселлера. Антология. Сост. Д. С. Хмельницкий. М.: Яуза-пресс, 2009. Серия «Великая Отечественная: неизвестная война». ISBN 978-5-9955-0099-5 (in Russian)
- Milstein, Israeli History Magazine"Segulah" July 2011
- Milstein History of the Paratroopers Schalgi Publishing House 1985 vol.III page 962
- p. 904
- page 30
- Condemnation, commemoration, determination: Bar-Ilan responds to a national tragedy. Bar-Ilan University, Spokesman's Office, English Communications. 1996.
- Milstein's website