Etzel

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Towards the end of the First World War, while the British and the Turkish forces were still fighting in Palestine, Lord Rothschild received from the British Foreign Office an official letter, which later came to be known as the Balfour Declaration. It read as follows:

The Foreign Office
November 2, 1917

Dear Lord Rothschild,

I have much pleasure in conveying to you, on behalf of His Majesty's Government, the following declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations which has been submitted to, and approved by, the Cabinet.

"His Majesty's Government views with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country."

I should be grateful if you would bring this declaration to the knowledge of the Zionist Federation.

Yours sincerely,
Arthur James Balfour

When the First World War ended, discussions commenced on the future of Palestine and the region as a whole. On April 19, 1920, the Allies (Britain, France, Italy and Greece, Japan and Belgium) convened at San Remo in Italy to discuss a peace treaty with Turkey. It was decided at that conference to assign to Great Britain the mandate over Palestine on both sides of the Jordan and the responsibility for putting the Balfour Declaration into effect. While the conference was in session, the Arabs launched violent action to foil its implementation.

The first Arab riots took place in Jerusalem in the intermediary days of Passover (April) 1920. The Jewish community had anticipated the Arab reaction, and was ready to meet it. Jewish affairs in Eretz Israel (Palestine) were then being administered from Jerusalem by the Vaad Hatzirim (Council of Delegates), appointed by the World Zionist Organization (WZO) (which in 1929 became the Jewish Agency). The Vaad Hatzirim charged Ze'ev (Vladimir) Jabotinsky with the task of organizing Jewish self-defence. Jabotinsky was one of the founders of the Jewish battalions which had served in the British Army during the First World War and had participated in the conquest of Palestine from the Turks. Acting under the auspices of the Vaad Hatzirim, Jabotinsky established the Haganah (self-defence) organization in Jerusalem, which succeeded in repelling the Arab attack.

Six Jews were killed and some two hundred injured in Jerusalem in the course of the 1920 riots. Had it not been for the preliminary organization of Jewish defence, the number of victims would undoubtedly have been much greater.

After the riots, the British conducted widespread arrests among both Arabs and Jews. Among those arrested was Jabotinsky himself, together with 19 of his associates, on a charge of illegal possession of weapons. Jabotinsky was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment with hard labor and deportation from the country after completion of his sentence. When the sentence became known, the Vaad Hatzirim made plans for widespread protests, including mass demonstrations and a national fast. Meanwhile, however, the mandate for Palestine had been assigned to Great Britain, and the jubilation of the Yishuv - the Jewish community in Eretz Israel (Palestine) - outweighed the desire to protest against the harsh sentence imposed on Jabotinsky and his comrades.


Ze'ev Jabotinsky

With the arrival in Jerusalem of the first High Commissioner, Sir Herbert Samuel, British military government was superseded by a civilian administration. As a gesture towards the civilian population, the High Commissioner proclaimed a general amnesty for both Jews and Arabs who had been involved in the April 1920 riots. Jabotinsky and his comrades were released from prison to an enthusiastic welcome by the Yishuv, but Jabotinsky insisted that the sentence passed against them be revoked entirely, arguing that the defender should not be placed on trial with the aggressor. After months of struggle, the British War Office finally revoked the sentences.

Two and a half years after his release from jail, Jabotinsky resigned from the Zionist Executive and issued a strong appeal for an extensive revision of Zionism. The party, which he founded in 1925, after having established the Betar youth movement (Brit Yosef Trumpeldor - the Yosef Trumpeldor Alliance) two years previously in Riga, Latvia, was thus called the Revisionist party.

Relations between the socialist parties and the Revisionists were fraught with tension, not only because the former supported the Zionist establishment which Jabotinsky challenged, but also for reasons of ideological rivalry. Jabotinsky rejected the introduction of socialist orientation into the settlement movement in Eretz Israel and advocated a heterogeneous society, where there would be room for free enterprise. In order to reform the character of Diaspora Jewry, he argued, it was essential to impose order and discipline, to maintain 'hadar' (dignity) and freedom in Palestine, but not necessarily to transform each and every Jew into a farmer.

As leader of Betar, Jabotinsky scrupulously observed outward standards of dress and conduct, thereby furnishing the socialist parties with the pretext they needed to term him a militarist, a fascist and an "enemy of the workers". This was a blatant distortion of the truth. Jabotinsky was a liberal and friend to the workers: it was on his initiative and instructions that every member of Betar who immigrated to Palestine was required to serve for two years in the "Betar battalions", in the various settlements throughout the country, and to undertake manual labour.

The 17th Zionist Congress, which convened at Basle in 1931, rejected Jabotinsky's demand that it proclaim the objective of Zionism to be the establishment of a Jewish state, and this rejection exacerbated his strained relations with the Zionist leadership. Four years later, when the Zionist Executive decided on a "disciplinary clause" which prohibited "independent political actions" of Zionist parties, Jabotinsky seceded from the World Zionist Organization and founded the New Zionist Organization. His great popularity among European Jews and in Jewish communities in the United States and South Africa was reflected in the response to his initiative. Some 700,000 members registered before the inaugural conference of the New Zionist Organization (as against about one million before the elections to the 1939 Zionist Congress).

After the establishment of this new body, the Revisionist movement in Eretz Israel seceded from the Histadrut and founded the National Workers Association (Histadrut Ha'ovdim Hale'umit). They also established their own health fund (Kupat Holim Le'umit) and the rivalry between the two camps intensified.

The British disapproved of Jabotinsky's activities, and when he left the country in 1930 on a lecture tour of South Africa, the Mandate government barred his re-entry into Palestine.

As noted earlier, the first Arab riots against the Jews took place in April 1920. Scarcely a year later the Arabs launched a further attack against the Jews. This time the unrest began on the Tel Aviv-Jaffa border (May 1921), reaching Jerusalem on November 2, 1921, the anniversary of the Balfour Declaration. That year 43 Jews were killed and 134 injured.

The Arab attacks sharpened Jewish awareness of the need for self-defence. The inaugural conference of the Trade Union Movment (Histadrut), held in Haifa in December 1920, decided, among other things, to set up a national defence organization (the Haganah) "to safeguard the national and social content of popular defence in this country". The Haganah now came under the authority of the Histadrut and its institutions.

The 1921 riots were followed by seven years of calm, in which the Yishuv doubled in size (from 87,790 on 23 of October 1922 to 150,000 in 30 of June 1927). This lull was exploited by the Haganah for organization, training and arms' purchase. The quiet also generated a sense of complacency, and some of the Yishuv's leaders began to question the need for a national defence organization, which would require considerable funds. These leaders believed that the British Mandatory government could be relied on to defend the Yishuv in times of need. The events of 1929 proved these beliefs hopelessly misplaced.

The riots began in Jerusalem. They commenced with anti-Jewish agitation during Friday prayers at the El Aksa mosque and attacks on Jewish bystanders. The Arab rioters attacked Jews in the Old City, and from there moved on to the new Jewish quarters outside the City walls. From Jerusalem the riots proceeded to spread to other parts of the country. The worst incidents occurred in Hebron, where rioters moved from house to house, murdering any Jews they encountered. In all, 133 Jews were killed and 230 were injured in the course of one week.

The unrest took the Jewish community and the Haganah by surprise. The great majority of the Jewish leaders were out of the country (attending the 16th Zionist Congress in Zurich), and the Yishuv was left without clear direction during its hour of need.

In the wake of the riots, severe criticism was levelled at the Haganah, and the controversy regarding its policies and its leadership was revived. There was a growing demand for authority over the Haganah to be transferred from the Histadrut to the Jewish Agency, which represented the entire Yishuv. Moreover, the leaders of the socialist parties within the Histadrut tended to be anti-militaristic in outlook, equating militarism with the fascism then emergent in Europe. They also feared that the transformation of the Haganah into an organized military framework would greatly enhance the power of its leaders and enable them to dominate the Yishuv.

According to its constitution, the objective of the Haganah was the 'defence of the Yishuv and preparation of a popular militia'. This basically anti-military stance was countered by many commanders within the Haganah, who sought to impart a more military flavor to the organization, but it was not until the 1940s that it actually adopted a military framework. Professor Yohanan Ratner, who served on the Haganah command, writes: (My life and I, p.222)

 

Today it often seems to us to be self-evident that the Haganah had to develop into a regular army, or at least that this was the universal aspiration ... but this is a superficial assumption. Nowhere has it been stated that the Haganah had to become an army, or even that it was intended from the outset to become such; till almost the last moment, certain highly influential elements held a different view.

The issues of authority and of militarism caused considerable turmoil within the Haganah rank-and-file and, in conjunction with the Tehomi affair (see below), constituted the underlying causes of the 1931 split in the organization.

THE SPLIT IN THE HAGANAH
Avraham Tehomi, a senior officer in the Haganah, was appointed district commander of Jerusalem after the 1929 riots. In the "History Book of the Haganah " (Toldot Hahaganah) (vol. 2, p.426) we find the following about Tehomi and his comrades

 

From the 1920s on, there was one outstanding group among the Jerusalem commanders - a closely knit band of friends who regarded themselves as a family and as bearers of sole responsibility for the security of the city and its environs. The group was headed by the two "Avrahams": Avraham Zilberg (Tehomi) and Avraham Krichevsky, who were connected to a group which had immigrated in the early twenties from southern Russia - the Odessa group. Several of its members, distinguished by an absolute dedication to the organization, were senior Haganah officers in various parts of the country. In contrast to the pacifist spirit which - ostensibly- prevailed in the Jewish community in Palestine and influenced the mood of the Haganah at the time, this group was imbued with an unmistakably 'militaristic' spirit.


Avraham Tehomi

Tehomi had been involved in the Jewish self-defence organization in Odessa and had immigrated to Palestine with its members. Once there, he joined a group of laborers working on road building and construction, became a member of the Histadrut and was active in the Haganah. However, he held activist views and insisted that the Haganah become a military organization. As Jerusalem district commander, he brought order and discipline to bear on the Haganah, and was consequently accused of 'militarism' and of introducing 'fascist methods' . At the same time, there was growing demand for the Haganah to be transferred from the Histadrut to the Jewish Agency. Tehomi, who enjoyed considerable prestige among the Haganah officers in Jerusalem, could not easily be replaced by the Histadrut leaders.

In the spring of 1931, Tehomi took leave of the Haganah command to visit the United States on private business. On reaching his first stop, Piraeus, Greece, his visa was revoked by the US consul after a medical inspection team on board ship noticed his injured arm.

Tehomi returned to Jerusalem and asked to resume his post as district commander, but was refused on the grounds that, in his absence, a new commander (Avraham Ikar) had been appointed . (Tehomi had also been suspected of contacts with the Revisionist party and of planning to take over the Haganah leadership). The refusal to reinstate him aroused considerable protest among the district officers, most of whom remained loyal to him. When the Haganah General Headquarters persisted in its refusal, these commanders joined him in seceding from the Haganah and, in April 1931, they established a new underground body.

Their organization was named the "Irgun Zvai Le'umi" (National Military Organization), but for reasons of secrecy, its members used the name infrequently. The more commonly-used name was "Irgun B" or Haganah Le'umit (National Defence). It was in dire financial straits and lacked sufficient funds to cover its expenses. In addition, the Histadrut institutions boycotted the organization's members, who were employed in construction or road building, and prevented them from obtaining work (the employment office was at that time part of the Histadrut).

About a month after the split, the Haganah leaders decided to bow to the authority of the Jewish Agency. A joint General Headquarters was established for the first time, half of its members drawn from the Histadrut and the other half from non socialist parties. Despite this seeming parity, the great majority of the senior commanders of the Haganah were members of the Histadrut and affiliated to the labor parties. The co-opting of non socialists to the Haganah leadership did not bring Tehomi back into the Haganah ranks and the split became an established fact.


David Raziel

The new organization was concentrated in Jerusalem, and included a group of Hebrew University students known as the "Sohba" (fraternity). Some of the members graduated from the organization's first training courses, and played key roles in the development of the Irgun. The outstanding personalities in the group were David Raziel, Avraham Stern, Hillel Kook and Hayim Shalom Halevi. Over the years, the ranks of the Irgun were swelled by new young recruits, particularly from the Betar youth movement, but also from Maccabi, a non-party sports organization. New branches were set up all over the country (Tel Aviv, Haifa and Safed), and the Irgun became a nationwide movement.

In June 1933, Dr. Chaim Arlozorov, chairman of the Political Department of the Jewish Agency and one of the prominent leaders of the labor movement in Eretz Israel, was murdered in Tel Aviv while strolling with his wife on the beach. The crime stunned the Yishuv and the entire Jewish world. Three members of the Revisionist party were charged with the murder, and although they were eventually acquitted, the charge was exploited to incite hostility against Betar and the Revisionist movement in general.

We are not concerned here with details of the affair, but rather with its impact on the development of the Irgun. The unbridled incitement against the Revisionist Party proved effective, and at the 18th Zionist Congress in Prague some two months after the murder, the power of the labor parties had increased whilst that of the Revisionists had noticably declined. The agitation had the reverse effect, however, where the Irgun was concerned. Amongst the non socialist parties there was general disapproval that the Histadrut had utilized the Haganah's intelligence service to amass evidence against the murder suspects. The Haganah was supposed to be a non-party organization, and by wielding it against the Revisionist party, its commanders were exceeding their authority. The parity principle notwithstanding, it was strikingly evident that the Haganah was controlled entirely by the labor parties.

Tehomi visited Prague with the aim of mobilizing public support among those Zionist leaders who were not affiliated with the left. After lengthy discussions, a supreme political committee - the Supervisory Committee - was established for the organization, consisting of representatives of the General Zionist party, the Mizrahi (religious) party and the Revisionist party, headed by Jabotinsky. The Supervisory Committee not only provided political and public backing, but also considerably improved the organization's financial situation. The fact that Jabotinsky himself had joined the National Defence encouraged Betar members to follow suit, thus swelling the organization's numbers. In the "History of the Haganah" (vol. 2, p.580) we find:

 

It is difficult to understand today why these people officially supported a seceding organization, when a general Haganah organization existed whose administration was based on equal representation, and which was undoubtedly aware of the need for a united stand in defence of the Yishuv. It may be assumed that narrow party considerations influenced them. First of all, the Histadrut's decisive influence on the Haganah was manifest, both because the Haganah had, in effect, been a Histadrut department for the first ten years of its existence, a fact which could not be overlooked.... and also because left-wing activists in the Haganah always enjoyed greater influence and public weight than the right-wing representatives in the command.

 


The King David Hotel in Jerusalem was built by the Moseri family, members of the wealthy and influential Jewish establishment in Cairo and Alexandria. They set up a shareholding company to finance its construction, consisting mainly of Egyptian businessmen and wealthy Jews from all over the world. The luxurious seven-storey building, with 200 rooms, was opened to the public in 1931. In 1938, the Mandatory government requisitioned the entire southern wing of the hotel, and housed the military command and the Mandatory government secretariat there. The British chose the King David for its central location and because it was easy to guard. They built a military communications center in the hotel basement and, for security reasons, added a side entrance linking the building to an army camp south of the hotel. Fewer than a third of the rooms were reserved for civilian use.

It will be recalled that after Black Sabbath (Saturday), Menahem Begin received a letter from Moshe Sneh (chief of the Haganah General Headquarters) with instructions to blow up the King David. After preparatory work and several postponements, Irgun fighters gathered at . on Monday, July 22, 1946 at the Bet Aharon Talmud Torah seminary in Jerusalem. They arrived one by one, gave the password and assembled in one of the classrooms. They realized that they were being sent on a mission, but none of them knew what the target was. Shortly afterwards, the senior command arrived and it was only when the briefing began that the assembled fighters discovered that they were going to strike at the King David Hotel.

After the weapons had been distributed, the first unit - the group of "porters" - commanded by Yosef Avni, set out. Their assignment was to reach the hotel by bus and to wait at the side entrance so as to assist in unloading the explosives from the van when it arrived. All six "porters" were disguised as Arabs so as to avoid arousing suspicion. The strike force left next in a van loaded with seven milk-churns, each containing 50 kilograms of explosives and special detonators. The commander of the operation, Yisrael Levi (Gidon), rode in the van dressed as a Sudanese waiter, while his deputy, Heinrich Reinhold (Yanai), and the other members of the unit, were dressed as Arabs. The van drove through the streets of Jerusalem, its tarpaulin cover concealing the milk-churns and the passengers, and halted at the side entrance of the hotel, through which foodstuffs were brought into the basement 'La Regence' restaurant. The fighters easily overcame the guards by the gate and hastened to the basement, where they searched all the rooms, and assembled the workers in the restaurant kitchen. They then returned to the van, brought the milk-churns into the restaurant, and placed them beside the supporting pillars . Gidon set the time fuses for 30 minutes, and ordered his men to leave. The staff gathered in the kitchen were told to leave the building 10 minutes later to avoid injury.

During the withdrawal from the basement, heavy gunfire was levelled at the group and two fighters were injured. One of them, Aharon Abramovitch, later died of his wounds.

After exiting the hotel, Gidon summoned two women fighters who were waiting nearby, and ordered them to carry out their mission. They ran over to a nearby telephone booth, and delivered the following message to the hotel telephone operator and to the editorial office of the Palestine Post:

I am speaking on behalf of the Hebrew underground.
We have placed an explosive device in the hotel.
Evacuate it at once - you have been warned.

They also delivered a telephone warning to the French Consulate, adjacent to the hotel, to open their windows to prevent blast damage. The telephone messages were intended to prevent casualties.

Some 25 minutes after the telephone calls, a shattering explosion shook Jerusalem, and reverberated at a great distance. The entire southern wing of the King David Hotel - all seven storeys - was totally destroyed. For reasons unclear, the staff of the government secretariat and the military command remained in their rooms. Some of them were unaware of events, and others were not permitted to leave the building, thus accounting for the large number of victims trapped in the debris.


King David Hotel after the explosion

For ten days, the British Engineering Corps cleared the wreckage, and on July 31 it was officially announced that 91 people had been killed in the explosion: 28 Britons, 41 Arabs, 17 Jews and 5 others.

The success of the Jewish underground in striking at the heart of British government in Palestine, and the high toll of victims, sent shock waves through England and the rest of the world. At first, the Mandatory government denied having received a telephone warning, but testimony submitted to the interrogating judge made it clear beyond a doubt that such a warning had in fact been given. Moreover, the Palestine Post telephone operator attested on oath to the police that, immediately after receiving the telephone message, she had telephoned the duty officer at the police station. The French Consulate staff opened their windows as they had been told to by the anonymous woman who telephoned them, and this was further evidence of the warning.


King David Hotel after the explosion

It is almost impossible to recapitulate what occurred in the government secretariat offices in the half hour preceding the explosion, but all the evidence suggests that there were numerous flaws in the security arrangements in the King David, and that a series of omissions occurred. The telephone warning was disregarded, and although the warning signal was given, an all-clear was sounded shortly before the explosion. These facts indicate that there were serious errors in the decision-making process and that internal communication did not function properly.

The heads of the Jewish Agency were stunned. They feared that the British would adopt even more severe retaliatory measures than on Black Sabbath, and hastened to denounce the operation in the strongest terms. The statement they issued the following day expressed "their feelings of horror at the base and unparalleled act perpetrated today by a gang of criminals." Even David Ben-Gurion, who was then in Paris, joined the chorus of condemnation, and in an interview to the French newspaper 'France Soir', declared that the Irgun was "the enemy of the Jewish people".

The denunciation by the Jewish Agency totally ignored the fact that the bombing of the King David was carried out as part of the activities of the United Resistance, and on the explicit instructions of Moshe Sneh. At the request of the Haganah, the Irgun issued a leaflet accepting responsibility for the operation. It stated, among other things:

[...]
e. The telephone warnings were given at . And if it is true, as the British liars have announced, that the explosion occurred at , they still had 22 minutes at their disposal in order to evacuate the building of its residents and workers.
Therefore responsibility for loss of life among civilians rests solely with them.

f. It is not true that the persons who delivered the warning spoke 'on behalf of the United Resistance' (as the press reported)... On this matter, we are refraining at present from making any further statement, but it is possible that - in the context of the savage and dastardly incitement - it will be necessary to issue such a statement at the appropriate time.

g. We mourn the Jewish victims; they too are the tragic victims of the tragic and noble Hebrew war of liberation
[...]

A year later the Irgun issued the following statement:

THE TRUTH ABOUT THE KING DAVID HOTEL 


[...] On July 1 - two days after the British raid on the National Institutions and on our towns and villages -we received a letter from the headquarters of the United Resistance, demanding that we carry out an attack on the center of government at the King David Hotel as soon as possible...

Execution of this plan was postponed several times - both for technical reasons and at the request of the United Resistance. It was finally approved on July 22...

Notwithstanding this, days later, Kol Yisrael broadcast a statement - in the name of the United Resistance - abhorring the high death toll at the King David caused by the actions of the 'dissidents'...

We have kept silent for a whole year. We have faced savage incitement, such as this country has never before known. We have withstood the worst possible provocations - and remained silent. We have witnessed evasion, hypocrisy and cowardice - and remained silent.

But today, when the United Resistance has expired and there is no hope that it will ever be revived... there are no longer valid reasons why we should maintain our silence concerning the assault against the center of Nazi-British rule - one of the mightiest attacks ever carried out by a militant underground. Now it is permissible to reveal the truth; now we must reveal the truth. Let the people see - and judge.

July 22, 1947.

The Hebrew press, and the Haganah publications, continued to condemn the Irgun in the strongest possible terms. They were echoed by the British press, which was briefed by the Mandatory government. However, the effect of the British denunciations was blunted to a large extent by the publication of instructions issued by General Sir Evelyn Barker (British army commander in Palestine) several hours after the explosion. He ordered all the Jewish places of entertainment, restaurants, shops and Jewish homes - "out of bounds for all British officers and soldiers". The instructions ended by saying that:

"The aim of these orders are to punish the Jews in a way the race dislikes as much as any, namely by striking at their pockets"

Barker's letter reached the Irgun's intelligence service and was immediately made public in Palestine and throughout the world. The antisemitic tone of the letter greatly embarrassed the British government and diverted public opinion from the attack on the King David Hotel. Questions were asked in the House of Commons about the letter and the London Daily Herald wrote, among other things, that if General Barker had in fact written the letter, he was demonstrating his unsuitability for his position.

The order was officially rescinded two weeks after it was issued, but the damage to the British cause in Palestine could not be erased.

However, as a result of Black Sabbath, the moderates now held the upper hand, and at a meeting of the Jewish Agency Executive in Paris on August 5, 1946, it was decided to terminate the armed struggle against the British in Palestine. This marked the end of the glorious ten-month period when all the Jewish forces in Eretz Israel (Haganah, Irgun and Lehi) fought together against foreign rule.

The terminating of the armed struggle provoked considerable resentment among many members of the Haganah, and Yitzhak Sadeh (commander of the Palmach) gave vent to this emotion in his article "Proposal and Response" in Ahdut Ha'avoda, October 15, 1946 which he signed Noded (Wanderer).

 

There will be no capitulation, because there is nobody to order capitulation, and should such a person be found, he would find nobody to carry out the order.

The Haganah focused its efforts on bringing in illegal immigrants, and in order to appease those activists in the Haganah ranks who continued to favor armed struggle, it sanctioned the sabotaging of British naval vessels which were hunting down illegal immigrants. Thus, on August 18, 1946, Palmach fighters sabotaged the Empire Haywood and two days later damaged the Empire Rival, the two ships used for deporting immigrants from Haifa to Cyprus.

When the United Resistance ceased to exist, the Irgun and Lehi continued the armed struggle alone. The Irgun was now both morally and materially stronger than ever before. Support for its cause had grown, since the United Resistance had legitimized its activities. The number of recruits increased, and its stock of weapons and ammunition was expanded as a result of its acquisitions from British army depots. Free of the restrictions imposed by the Haganah command, the Irgun now intensified its anti-British activities.

A poster published by the Irgun

 


 

These chapters in the history of the Irgun Zvai Le'umi (the National Military Organization), known in Hebrew by its acronym Etzel, and in English as the Irgun or IZL, were written specifically for this Internet website. They are arranged chronologically in order to provide a complete picture of the history of the Irgun, from its establishment in 1931 to its disbanding after the State of Israel came into being.

In its initial years, the Irgun was primarily concerned with repelling Arab riots in the country. Whilst the Haganah adhered to the policy of self-restrain ('Havlaga') in the face of Arab attack, the Irgun activity resisted Arab aggression.

With the publication of the 1939 White Paper restricting Jewish immigration into Palestine, the Irgun had no choice but to direct their efforts against the British too. A truce was briefly declared after the outbreak of the Second World War. When the full extent of the Holocaust became known, and it was clear that Britain was continuing to implement the White Paper, the Irgun realized that there was no alternative but to renew the armed struggle against the British in Palestine.

On February 1, 1944, the Irgun proclaimed a revolt against British rule over Palestine and demanded that the British leave the country forthwith and a Jewish state be established. The gradual intensification of military action against the Mandatory government undermined the basis of British rule. These operations, carried out with the Lehi (Fighters for the Freedom of Israel) and occasionally with the Haganah as well, ultimately forced the British government to bring the question of the future of Palestine before the United Nations.

On November 29, 1947, the UN Assembly decided to partition Palestine into two states: a Jewish state, the State of Israel, and a Palestinian-Arab state.

Now, that the British Archives have been opened, it is obvious that the armed fight against the British, in which the Irgun took a prominent part, had a decisive role in their withdrawal from the country

 



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