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Zionist political violence

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Zionist political violence

Aftermath of the King David Hotel bombing, 1946

Zionist political violence refers to acts of violence committed by Zionists.

Actions were carried out by individuals and Jewish paramilitary groups such as the Irgun, the Lehi, the Haganah and the Palmach as part of a conflict between Zionists, British authorities, and Palestinian Arabs, regarding land, immigration, and control over Palestine.[1]

British soldiers and officials, United Nations personnel, Palestinian Arab fighters and civilians, and Jewish fighters and civilians were targets or victims of these actions. Domestic, commercial, and government property, infrastructure, and material were also attacked.

Main occurrences

The hanged and booby trapped bodies of Sgt. Clifford Martin and Sgt. Mervyn Paice, killed by the Irgun (see The Sergeants affair)

Zionism was formally established by Theodor Herzl, a Jewish journalist from Austria-Hungary, in the late 19th century following the publication of Der Judenstaat,[2] seeking to encourage Jewish immigration to the Palestine. The percentage of world Jewry living in Palestine grew from around 78,000 in 1900 (12% of the population of the Ottoman Palestine) to nearly 6 million in 2005 (76% of the population of Israel).[3] As of 2009, roughly 40% of the world's Jews live in Israel.[4][5]

During World War I, Zionist volunteers fought in the Jewish Legion of the British Army against the Ottoman Turks because they expected the British would be less opposed to the Zionist project than the Ottoman authorities.

During the Haganah.[6] The Irgun were the armed expression of the nascent ideology of Revisionist Zionism founded by Ze'ev Jabotinsky. He expressed this ideology as "every Jew had the right to enter Palestine; only active retaliation would deter the Arab and the British; only Jewish armed force would ensure the Jewish state".[7]

During the 1936–39 Arab revolt in Palestine, Palestinian Arabs fought for the end of the Mandate and the creation of an Arab state based on the whole of Palestine. They attacked both British and Jews as well as some Palestinian Arabs who supported a Pan-Arabism. Mainstream Zionists, represented by the Vaad Leumi and the Haganah, practiced the policy of Havlagah (restraint), while Irgun militants did not follow this policy and called themselves "Havlagah breakers." The Irgun began bombing Palestinian Arab civilian targets in 1938.[6] While the Palestinian Arabs were "carefully disarmed" by the British Mandatory authorities by 1939, the Zionists were not.[6]

After the beginning of [9]

After World War II, between 1945 and the 29 November 1947 Partition vote, British soldiers and policemen were targeted by Irgun and Lehi. Haganah and Palmah first collaborated with the British against them, particularly during the Hunting Season, before actively joining them in the Jewish Resistance Movement, then finally choosing an official neutral position after 1946 while the Irgun and the Lehi went on their attacks against the British.

The Haganah carried out violent attacks in Palestine, such as the liberation of interned immigrants from the Atlit camp, the bombing of the country's railroad network, sabotage raids on radar installations and bases of the British Palestine police. It also continued to organize illegal immigration..

In February 1947, the British announced that they would end the mandate and withdraw from Palestine and they asked the arbitration of the United Nations. After the vote of the Partition Plan for Palestine on 30 November 1947, civil war broke out in Palestine. Jewish and Arab communities fought each other violently in campaigns of attacks, retaliations and counter-retaliations which provoked around 800 deaths after two months. Arab volunteers entered Palestine to fight alongside the Palestinian Arabs. In April, 6 weeks before the termination of the Mandate, the Jewish militias launched wide operations to control the territory dedicated to them by the Partition Plan. Many atrocities occurred during this time. The Arab population in the mixed cities of Tiberias, Safed, Haifa, Jaffa, Beisan and Acre and in the neighbouring villages fled or were expelled during this period. During the Battle for Jerusalem (1948) where the Jewish community of 100,000 people was besieged, most Arab villages of the Tel Aviv – Jerusalem corridor were captured by Jewish militias and leveled. Those members of the Arab population who had not fled were expelled or killed.

At the beginning of the civil war, the Jewish militias organized several bombing attacks against civilians and military Arab targets. On 12 December, Irgun placed a car bomb opposite the Damascus Gate, killing 20 people.[10] On 4 January 1948, the Lehi detonated a lorry bomb against the headquarters of the paramilitary [16]

Condemnation as terrorism

Irgun was described as a terrorist organization by the United Nations, British, and United States governments, and in media such as The New York Times newspaper,[17][18] and by the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry.[19] In 1946, The World Zionist Congress strongly condemned terrorist activities in Palestine and "the shedding of innocent blood as a means of political warfare". Irgun was specifically condemned.[20]

Menachem Begin was called a terrorist and a fascist by Albert Einstein and 27 other prominent Jewish intellectuals in a letter to the New York Times which was published on December 4, 1948. Specifically condemned was the participation of the Irgun in the Deir Yassin massacre:

  • "terrorist bands attacked this peaceful village, which was not a military objective in the fighting, killed most of its inhabitants – 240 men, women and children – and kept a few of them alive to parade as captives through the streets of Jerusalem."

The letter warns American Jews against supporting Begin's request for funding of his political party Herut, and ends with the warning:

  • "The discrepancies between the bold claims now being made by Begin and his party and their record of past performance in Palestine bear the imprint of no ordinary political party. This is the unmistakable stamp of a Fascist party for whom terrorism (against Jews, Arabs, and British alike), and misrepresentation are means, and a "Leader State" is the goal."[21]

Lehi was described as a [22] by the British authorities and United Nations mediator Ralph Bunche.[23]

Jewish public opinion

During the conflict between Arabs and Jews in Palestine before the war, the criterion of "Purity of arms" was used to distinguish between the respective attitudes of the Irgun and Haganah towards Arabs, with the latter priding itself on its adherence to principle.[24] and the Jewish society in the British Mandate Palestine generally disapproved and denounced violent attacks both on grounds moral rejection and political disagreement, stressing that terrorism is counter-productive in the Zionist quest for Jewish self-determination.[9] Generally speaking, this precept requires that "weapons remain pure [and that] they are employed only in self-defence and [never] against innocent civilians and defenceless people".[25] But if it "remained a central value in education" it was "rather vague and intentionally blurred" at the practical level.[24]

In 1946, at a meeting held between the heads of the Haganah, David Ben-Gurion predicted a confrontation between the Arabs of Palestine and the Arab states. Concerning the "principle of purity of arms", he stressed that: "The end does not justify all means. Our war is based on moral grounds"[26] and during the 1948 War, the Mapam, the political party affiliated to Palmach, asked "a strict observance of the Jewish Purity of arms to secure the moral character of [the] war".[27] When he was later criticized by Mapam members for his attitude concerning the Arab refugee problem, Ben-Gurion reminded them the Palestinian exodus from Lydda and Ramle and the fact Palmah officers had been responsible for the "outrage that had encouraged the Arabs' flight made the party uncomfortable."[27]

According to Avi Shlaim, this condemnation of the use of violence is one of the key features of 'the conventional Zionist account or old history' whose 'popular-heroic-moralistic version' is 'taught in Israeli schools and used extensively in the quest for legitimacy abroad'.[25] Benny Morris adds that '[t]he Israelis' collective memory of fighters characterized by "purity of arms" is also undermined by the evidence of [the dozen case] of rapes committed in conquered towns and villages.' According to him, 'after the 1948 war, the Israelis tended to hail the "purity of arms" of its militiamen and soldiers to contrast this with Arab barbarism, which on occasion expressed itself in the mutilation of captured Jewish corpses.' According to him, 'this reinforced the Israelis' positive self-image and helped them "sell" the new state abroad and (...) demonized the enemy'.[28]

Selected Irgun, Haganah and Lehi attacks

  • June 30, 1924. According to Israeli journalists Shlomo Nakdimon and Shaul Mayzlish, Dutch Jew Jacob Israël de Haan was assassinated by Avraham Tehomi on the orders of Haganah leader Yitzhak Ben-Zvi[29] for his anti-Zionist political activities and contacts with Arab leaders.[30]
  • 1937–1939 The Irgun conducted a campaign of violence against Palestinian Arab civilians resulting in the deaths of at least 250.
  • July 15, 1938* A bomb left in the vegetable market in Jerusalem by the Irgun injured 28[31]
  • July 25, 1938* The Irgun threw a bomb into the melon market in Haifa resulting in 49 deaths[32]
  • November 6, 1944 Lehi assassinated British minister Lord Moyne in Cairo, Egypt. The action was condemned by the Yishuv at the time, but the bodies of the assassins was brought home from Egypt in 1975 to a state funeral and burial on Mount Herzl.
  • 1944–1945 The killings of several suspected collaborators with the Haganah and the British mandate government during the Hunting Season.
  • 1946' Letter bombs sent to British officials, including foreign minister Ernst Bevin, by Lehi
  • July 26, 1946 The bombing of British administrative headquarters at the King David Hotel, killing 91 people — 28 British, 41 Arab, 17 Jewish, and 5 others. Around 45 people were injured.
  • 1946 Railways and British military airfields were attacked several times.
  • October 31, 1946 The bombing by the Irgun of the British Embassy in Rome. Nearly half the building was destroyed and 3 people were injured.[33]
  • April 1947* An Irgun bomb placed at the Colonial Office in London failed to detonate.[34]
  • July 25, 1947 The Sergeants affair: When death sentences were passed on two Irgun members, the Irgun kidnapped Sgt. Clifford Martin and Sgt. Mervyn Paice and threatened to kill them in retaliation if the sentences were carried out. When the threat was ignored, the hostages were killed. Afterwards, their bodies were taken to an orange grove and left hanging by the neck from trees. An improvised explosive device was set. This went off when one of the bodies was cut down, seriously wounding a British officer.[35]
  • December 1947 – March 1948 Numerous attacks on Palestinian Arabs in the context of civil war after the vote of the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine
  • '1947 Letter bombs sent to the Truman White House by Lehi
  • January 5–6, 1948 The Semiramis Hotel bombing, carried out by the Haganah (or, according to some sources, Irgun) resulted in the deaths of 24 to 26 people
  • April 1948 The Deir Yassin massacre carried out by the Irgun and Lehi, killed between 107 and 120 Palestinian villagers,[36] the estimate generally accepted by scholars.[37][38]
  • September 17, 1948 Lehi assassination of the United Nations mediator Folke Bernadotte, negotiator of the release of about 31,000 prisoners (including thousands of Jews from Nazi concentration camps during World War II),[39][40] whom Lehi accused of a pro-Arab stance during the cease-fire negotiations.

See also


  1. ^ "The Beleaguered Christians of the Palestinian-Controlled Areas, by David Raab". Retrieved 2010-02-21. 
  2. ^ Walter Laqueur (2003) The History of Zionism Tauris Parke Paperbacks, ISBN 1-86064-932-7 p 40
  3. ^ See Historical Jewish population comparisons#Ranking
  4. ^ accessed Feb 2009
  5. ^ accessed Feb 2009
  6. ^ a b c  
  7. ^ Howard Sachar: ''A History of the State of Israel, pps 265–266
  8. ^ "Avraham Stern". Retrieved 2007-11-19. 
  9. ^ a b Gal-or, Noemi. Tolerating Terrorism in the West: An International Survey. Routledge, 2004. p.74
  10. ^ a b Karsh (2002), p.32
  11. ^ Yoav Gelber, 'Palestine 1948', p.20; The Scotsman newspaper, 6th January 1948; Walid Khalidi states that 25 civilians were killed, in addition to the military targets. 'Before Their Diaspora', 1984. p. 316, picture p. 325; Benny Morris, 'The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949', Cambridge University Press, p.46.
  12. ^ Benny Morris, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited, p. 123.
  13. ^ Larry Collins/Dominique Lapierre, 'O Jerusalem'.History Book Club/ Weidenfeld and Nicolson. London. 1972. p.135: 'two fifty-gallon oil drums packed tight with old nails, bits of scrap iron, hinges, rusty metal filings. At their center was a core of TNT...'
  14. ^ Collins/Lapierre. Page 138: 17 killed. Dov Joseph, 'The Faithful City - The Siege of Jerusalem, 1948'. Simon and Schuster, New York, 1960. Library of Congree Number: 60-10976. page 56: 14 killed and 40 wounded.The Scotsman, 8 January 1948: 16 killed, 41 injured.
  15. ^ Embassy of Israel, London, website. 2002. Quoting Zeev Vilnai - 'Ramla past and present'.
  16. ^ Benny Morris, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem revisited, p.221.
  17. ^ Pope Brewer, Sam. Irgun Bomb Kills 11 Arabs, 2 Britons. New York Times. December 30, 1947.
  18. ^ Irgun's Hand Seen in Alps Rail Blast. New York Times. August 16, 1947.
  19. ^ W. Khalidi, 1971, 'From Haven to Conquest', p. 598
  20. ^ ZIONISTS CONDEMN PALESTINE TERROR New York Times. December 24, 1946.
  21. ^ New Palestine Party – Visit of Menachen Begin and Aims of Political Movement DiscussedNew York Times. December 4, 1948.
  22. ^ "Stern Gang" A Dictionary of World History. Oxford University Press, 2000. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press [1].
  23. ^ Ralph Bunche report on assassination of UN mediator 27th Sept 1948, "notorious terrorists long known as the Stern group"
  24. ^ a b Anita Shapira (1992), p. 252
  25. ^ a b Avi Shlaim, The Debate About 1948, International Journal of Middle East Studies, 27:3, 1995, pp. 287–304
  26. ^ Anita Shapira (1992), p. 295
  27. ^ a b Yoav Gelber (2006), p. 291
  28. ^ Morris 2008, pp. 404-406.
  29. ^ Shlomo Nakdimon; Shaul Mayzlish (1985). Deh Han : ha-retsah ha-politi ha-rishon be-Erets Yisraʼel / De Haan: The first political assassination in Palestine (in Hebrew) (1st ed.). Tel Aviv: Modan Press.  
  30. ^ Marijke T.C.Stapert-Eggen. "The Rosenthaliana's Jacob Israel de Haan Archive". University of Amsterdam Library. 
  31. ^ The TimesSaturday July 17, 1938
  32. ^ The Times Tuesday July 26, 1938
  33. ^ "Jewish Terrorists Admit Bombing Embassy in Rome".  
  34. ^
  35. ^ Britain Since 1945, David Childs P.34 para 1
  36. ^ Kana'ana, Sharif and Zeitawi, Nihad (1987), "The Village of Deir Yassin," Bir Zeit, Bir Zeit University Press
  37. ^  : Chapter 4: The second wave: the mass exodus, April—June 1948, Section: Operation Nahshon, page 238
  38. ^  : Chapter 16: Deir Yassin, Section 12: The Massacre, page 377
  39. ^ Macintyre, Donald (2008-09-18). "Israel's forgotten hero: The assassination of Count Bernadotte – and the death of peace".  
  40. ^ Sune Persson, Folke Bernadotte and the White Buses, Journal of Holocaust Education, Vol 9, Iss 2–3, 2000, 237–268. Also published in David Cesarani and Paul A. Levine (eds.), Bystanders to the Holocaust: A Re-evaluation (Routledge, 2002). The precise number is nowhere officially recorded. A count of the first 21,000 included 8,000 Danes and Norwegians, 5,911 Poles, 2,629 French, 1,615 stateless Jews and 1,124 Germans. The total number of Jews was 6,500 to 11,000 depending on definitions. Also see A. Ilan, Bernadotte in Palestine, 1948 (Macmillan, 1989), p37.


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