Jewish insurgency in Mandatory Palestine
|Jewish insurgency in Mandatory Palestine|
|Part of Sectarian conflict in Mandatory Palestine|
Palestine Railway K class 2-8-4T steam locomotive and freight train derailed from the Jaffa and Jerusalem line after being sabotaged by Jewish insurgents in 1946
|Commanders and leaders|
Sir Evelyn Barker|
Sir Alan Cunningham
Sir Gordon MacMillan
John Vereker, 6th Viscount Gort
William Nicol Gray
British police: 4,000 policemen |
British Armed Forces: 100,000 troops (peak strength)
Haganah: 21,000 troops|
Irgun: 4,000 troops
Palmach: 3,000 troops
Lehi: 500 troops
Total forces: About 28,500
|Casualties and losses|
|338 British soldiers, police officers, and civilians killed||
50-100 militants and civilians killed|
The Jewish insurgency in Mandatory Palestine (known in the United Kingdom as the Palestine Emergency) involved paramilitary actions carried out by Jewish underground groups against the British forces and officials in Mandatory Palestine. The tensions between Jewish militant underground organizations and the British mandatory authorities rose from 1938 and intensified with the publication of the White Paper of 1939, which outlined new government policies to place further restrictions on Jewish immigration and land purchases and declared the intention of giving independence to Palestine, with an Arab majority, within ten years. Though World War II brought relative calm, the tensions again escalated into an armed struggle towards the end of the war, when it became clear that the Axis Powers were close to defeat. The conflict with the British lasted until the eruption of the civil war and to some degree also until the termination of the British Mandate for Palestine and the establishment of the State of Israel in May 1948.
The armed conflict escalated during the final phase of the World War II, when the Irgun declared a revolt in February 1944, ending the hiatus in operations it had begun in 1940. Starting from the assassination of Lord Moyne in 1944, the Haganah actively opposed the Irgun and Lehi, in a period of inter-Jewish fighting known as The Hunting Season. However, in autumn 1945, after the end of the war the Haganah began a period of co-operation with the two other underground organizations, forming the Jewish Resistance Movement. The Haganah refrained from direct confrontation with British forces, and concentrated its efforts on attacking British immigration control, while Irgun and Lehi attacked military and police targets. The Resistance Movement dissolved in recriminations in July 1946 following the King David Hotel bombing, with Irgun and Lehi acting independently, while the main underground militia Haganah acted mainly in supporting Jewish immigration to Mandatory Palestine. After the UN partition plan resolution was passed on 29 November 1947, the civil war between Palestinian Jews and Arabs eclipsed the previous tensions of both with the British.
Within Britain there were deep divisions over Palestine policy. Dozens of British soldiers, Jewish militants and civilians died during the campaigns of insurgency. The conflict led to heightened antisemitism in the UK and, in August 1947, after the hanging of two abducted British sergeants, to widespread anti-Jewish rioting across the UK. The conflict caused tensions in Britain's relationship with the United States.
- 1 Background
- 2 History
- 3 Aftermath: British policy during the 1948 War
- 4 Timeline
- 5 Effects
- 6 See also
- 7 Books
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Between the World Wars
Although both the 1917 Balfour Declaration and the terms of the League of Nations British Mandate of Palestine called for a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine, the British did not accept any linkage between Palestine and the situation of European Jews. After the Nuremberg Laws of 1935 many German Jews sought refuge abroad, and by the end of 1939 some 80,000 had been given refuge in Great Britain itself.
In 1936–37, soon after the start of the Arab uprising in Palestine, Earl Peel led a commission to consider a solution. The Peel Commission proposed a partition of Palestine that involved the compulsory resettlement of some Arab and Jewish inhabitants. It was not acceptable either to the Arab or to the Jewish leaders, though David Ben-Gurion remarked in 1937, "The compulsory transfer of the Arabs from the valleys of the proposed Jewish state could give us something which we have never had, even when we stood on our own during the days of the First and Second Temples." The twentieth Zionist Congress resolved in August 1937 that: ".. the partition plan proposed by the Peel Commission is not to be accepted"; but it wished ".. to carry on negotiations in order to clarify the exact substance of the British government's proposal for the foundation of a Jewish state in Palestine".
A further attempt was made in the Woodhead Commission, also known as the "Palestine Partition Commission", whose report was published in late 1938. A government statement (Cmnd 5843) followed on 11 November 1938. It concluded that: "His Majesty's Government, after careful study of the Partition Commission's report, have reached the conclusion that this further examination has shown that the political, administrative and financial difficulties involved in the proposal to create independent Arab and Jewish States inside Palestine are so great that this solution of the problem is impracticable." The brief St. James Conference followed in early 1939.
Britain also attended the international Évian Conference in 1938 on the issue of providing for refugees from Germany. Palestine was not discussed as a refuge because it might worsen the ongoing Arab revolt; Zionists naturally hoped that Palestine would be the principal destination for all such refugees.
British immigration restrictions and the 1939 White Paper
In the 1920s, the British imposed restrictions on Jewish immigration to Palestine and the ability of Jews to buy land, claiming that these decisions were taken due to concerns over the economic absorptive capacity of the country. In the 1930s, British authorities set a quota for immigration certificates, and authorized the Jewish Agency to hand them out at its discretion. Shortly before the outbreak of World War II, the British introduced the White Paper of 1939. The White Paper rejected the concept of partition of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states, and announced that the country would be turned into an independent binational state with an Arab majority. It severely curtailed Jewish immigration, allowing for only 75,000 Jews to migrate to Palestine from 1940 to 1944, consisting of a yearly quota of 10,000 per year and a supplementary quota for 25,000 to cover refugee emergencies spread out over the same period. Afterwards, further Jewish immigration would depend on consent of the Arab majority. Sales of Arab land to Jews were to be restricted.
In reaction to British restrictions, illegal immigration to Palestine began. Initially, Jews entered Palestine by land, mainly by slipping across the northern border, where they were aided by the border settlements. In the early 1930s, when crossing the northern border became more difficult, other routes were found. Thousands of Jews came to Palestine on student or tourist visas, and never returned to their countries of origin. Jewish women often entered into fictitious marriages with residents of Palestine to be granted entry for family reunification purposes. In 1934, the first seaborne attempt to bring Jews to Palestine happened when some 350 Jews of the HeHalutz movement in Poland who were unwilling to wait for certificates sailed to Palestine on the Vallos, a chartered ship. Two more ships carrying illegal immigrants arrived in 1937, and several more arrived in 1938 and 1939. These voyages were mainly organized by the Revisionist Zionist Organization and the Irgun. Until 1938, the Jewish Agency opposed illegal immigration, fearing that it would impact the number of immigration certificates issued.
Overall, between 1929 and 1940, a period of mass Jewish immigration known as the Fifth Aliyah occurred despite British restrictions. Nearly 250,000 Jews (of whom 20,000 later left) immigrated to Palestine, many of them illegally.
During World War II (1939–44)
The Second World War erupted when Mandatory authorities of Palestine were at the final stages of subduing the armed Arab revolt of 1936–1939. All Jewish organizations, including the Zionists in Europe also played a major role in the Jewish resistance to the Nazis in Europe, automatically allied with the Allied forces, including the British.
The Yishuv temporarily put aside its differences with the British regarding the White Paper, deciding that defeating the Nazis was a more urgent goal. The leader of Palestine's Jews, David Ben-Gurion, issued a call for Jews to "support the British as if there is no White Paper and oppose the White Paper as if there is no war". During the war, Palestinian Jews volunteered in large numbers to serve in the British Army, serving mainly in North Africa. Of the 470,000 Jews in Palestine at the time, some 30,000 served in the British Army during the war. There was a Jewish battalion attached to the British Army's 1st Battalion, Royal East Kent Regiment stationed in Palestine.
With the decline of the Arab Revolt by September 1939, the tensions among Jews and Arabs eased as well. During the war, among the Palestinian Arabs, the Nashashibi clan supported the British, while another Arab Palestinian faction, led by exiled Amin al-Husseini, supported the Axis powers. Haj Amin al-Husseini became the most prominent Arab collaborator with the Axis powers.
The Palestine Regiment was formed in 1942, combining three Jewish and one Arab battalions, reaching altogether 3,800 volunteers. It was involved in activities at the Mediterranean scene of the war, sustaining casualties during the North African Campaign. The Special Interrogation Group was also formed in 1942 as a commando unit composed of German-speaking Palestinian Jews. It performed commando and sabotage operations during the Western Desert Campaign.
The Jewish underground group Irgun ceased all anti-British activities by September 1939, and supported the British. An Irgun unit was sent to assist British forces fighting in the Middle East. In 1941, Irgun's David Raziel was killed while fighting in the Kingdom of Iraq with the British against that country's pro-Axis regime. Irgun also provided the British with intelligence from Eastern Europe and North Africa, and allowed members to enlist in the British Army.
However, in August 1940, Irgun member Avraham Stern formed Lehi, a breakaway group which favored armed struggle against the British to force them out of Palestine and immediately establish a Jewish state. Stern was unaware of the Nazis' intent to exterminate the Jews, and believed that Hitler wanted to make Germany judenrein through emigration. Stern proposed an alliance with Nazi Germany, offering the Germans help in conquering the Middle East and driving out the British in exchange for the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine, which would then take in European Jewry. This proposal, which never received a reply, cost Lehi and Stern much support. Stern became a pariah among the Jews in Palestine, and was himself killed by British police in 1942.
During the war, a special paratrooper unit in the British Army composed of Jewish men and women from Palestine was active. The unit's members were sent into occupied Europe, mainly by airdrop, to help organize and participate in local resistance activities on the ground. Some 250 men and women volunteered, of whom 110 underwent training and 37 were infiltrated.
In December 1942, when the mass murder of European Jewry became known to the Allies, the British continued to refuse to change their policy of limited immigration, or to admit Jews from Nazi controlled Europe in numbers outside the quota imposed by the White paper, and the Royal Navy prevented ships with Jewish refugees from reaching Palestine. Some ships carrying Jewish refugees were turned back towards Europe, although in one instance, about 2,000 Jews who were fleeing Europe by sea were detained in a camp in Mauritius, and were given the option of emigrating to Palestine after the war. The British also stopped all attempts by Palestinian Jews to bribe the Nazis into freeing European Jews. At the time that The Holocaust became known to the Allies, there were 34,000 Jewish immigration certificates for Palestine remaining. In 1943, about half the remaining certificates were distributed, and by the end of the war, 3,000 certificates remained.
In September 1944, the Jewish Brigade was formed, based on the Palestine Regiment core. The brigade consisted of nearly 5,000 volunteers, including three former Palestine Regiment battalions, the 200th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery and several supporting units. The brigade was dispatched to participate in the Italian campaign in late 1944 and later took part in the Spring 1945 offensive in Italy against the German forces.
British restrictions on Jewish immigration
During the 1945 British election, Labour pledged that if they returned to power, they would revoke the White Paper of 1939, permit free Jewish immigration to Palestine and even the transfer of Arabs, and turn Palestine into a Jewish national home that would gradually evolve into an independent state. However, the new Labour Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin, decided to maintain heavy restrictions on Jewish immigration. Before the war, Bevin had been the head of Britain's largest trade-union, the TGWU and in this capacity had led a campaign to prevent German Jews being allowed to migrate to Britain. Bevin favored the White Paper's policy of turning Palestine into an Arab state with a Jewish minority that would have political and economic rights, and feared that the creation of a Jewish state would inflame Arab opinion and jeopardize Britain's position as the dominant power in the Middle East. Bevin also believed that displaced Holocaust survivors should be resettled in Europe instead of Palestine.
Due to the British immigration restrictions, the Jewish Agency Executive turned to illegal immigration. Over the next few years tens of thousands of Jews sailed towards Palestine in overcrowded vessels in a program known as Aliyah Bet, despite the almost certain knowledge that it would lead to incarceration in a British prison camp (most ships were intercepted). The overwhelming majority were European Jews, including many Holocaust survivors, although some North African Jews were also involved.
In Europe former Jewish partisans led by Abba Kovner began to organize escape routes taking Jews from Eastern Europe down to the Mediterranean where the Jewish Agency organized ships to illegally carry them to Palestine. British officials in the occupied German zones tried to halt Jewish immigration by refusing to recognize the Jews as a national group and demanding that they return to their places of origin. The British government put diplomatic pressure on Poland, the source of a large number of the Jewish refugees, to clamp down on Jewish emigration, as Poland freely permitted Jews to leave without visas or exit permits, but their efforts proved futile. In 1947, British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) launched Operation Embarrass, a clandestine operation to blow up ships in Italian ports that were preparing to take Jewish refugees to Palestine, by having operatives attach limpet mines to the hulls of vessels. From summer 1947 to early 1948, five such attacks were carried out, destroying one ship and damaging two others. Two other British mines were discovered before they detonated.
In the early stages of illegal immigration, small coastal craft were used to bring in Jewish refugees, but large vessels were soon used. In total, some 60 ships were employed, including 10 ships acquired as war surplus from US boneyards. Among the crews were Jewish American and Canadian volunteers. In order to prevent Jewish illegal migrants reaching Palestine a naval blockade was established to stop boats carrying illegal migrants, and there was extensive intelligence gathering and diplomatic pressure on countries through which the migrants were passing or from whose ports the ships were coming. When an illegal immigrant ship was spotted, it would be approached by warships, and would often maneuver violently to avoid being boarded. British boarding parties consisting of Royal Marines and Paratroopers would then be sent to take control of the ship. On 27 ships, they were met with some level of resistance, including 13 cases of violent resistance, during which boarding parties were opposed by passengers armed with weapons such as clubs, iron bars, axes, firebombs, scalding steam hoses, and pistols. Royal Navy ships would ram transports, and boarding parties forced their way onto the ships and engaged in close-quarters hand-to-hand fighting to gain control. In five instances, firearms were used. During these encounters, two Royal Navy warships were damaged in collisions with immigrant ships. Seven British soldiers were killed during battles to take control of immigrant ships – most of whom drowned after being pushed overboard by passengers. Six passengers were also killed. From 1945 to 1948, some 80,000 illegal immigrants attempted to enter Palestine. About 49 illegal immigrant ships were captured and 66,000 people were detained. Some 1,600 others drowned at sea.
In 1945, the Atlit detainee camp was reopened. The camp had been built in the 1930s to hold illegal Jewish immigrants fleeing Europe, and during World War II it had been used to hold Jewish refugees fleeing the Holocaust, who were often held for an extended period of time before being released. As more and more illegals began arriving in Palestine, the camp was reopened. In October 1945, a raid by the Palmach freed 208 inmates. One week after the King David hotel bombing in July 1946, four ships carrying 6,000 illegal immigrants arrived in Haifa, completely overflowing the Atlit camp. The British government, which had known for some time that it would be unable to contain Jewish immigration, established internment camps on the island of Cyprus to detain all illegal immigrants. About 53,000 Jews, mostly Holocaust survivors, passed through these holding facilities.
British officials in the liberated zones tried to halt Jewish immigration, and did not recognize the Jews as a national group, demanding that they return to their places of origin. Jewish concentration camp survivors (displaced persons or DPs) were forced to share accommodation with non-Jewish DPs some of whom were former Nazi collaborators, now seeking asylum. In some cases former Nazis were given positions of authority in the camps, which they used to abuse the Jewish survivors. Food supplies to Jewish concentration camp survivors in the British zone were cut to prevent them from assisting Jews fleeing Eastern Europe. In the British zone they were refused support on the grounds that they were not displaced by the war.
Troops in the U.S. zone were also not helping survivors but in 1945, U.S. President Harry S. Truman sent a personal representative, Earl G. Harrison, to investigate the situation of the Jewish survivors in Europe. Harrison reported,
[S]ubstantial unofficial and unauthorized movements of people must be expected, and these will require considerable force to prevent, for the patience of many of the persons involved is, and in my opinion with justification, nearing the breaking point. It cannot be overemphasized that many of these people are now desperate, that they have become accustomed under German rule to employ every possible means to reach their end, and that the fear of death does not restrain them.
The Harrison report changed U.S. policy in the occupied zones, and U.S. policy increasingly focused on helping Jews escape Eastern Europe. Jews escaping post-war anti-Semitic attacks in Eastern Europe learned to avoid the British zone and generally moved through American zones.
In April 1946, the Anglo-American Committee of Enquiry reported that given a chance, half a million Jews would immigrate to Palestine:
In Poland, Hungary and Rumania, the chief desire is to get out.... The vast majority of the Jewish displaced persons and migrants, however, believe that the only place which offers a prospect is Palestine."
A survey of Jewish DPs found 96.8% would choose Palestine.
The Anglo-American Committee recommended that 100,000 Jews be immediately admitted into Palestine. U.S. President Truman pressured the British to accede to this demand. Despite British government promises to abide by the committee's decision, the British decided to persist with restrictions on Jewish migration. Foreign Secretary Bevin remarked that the American pressure to admit 100,000 Jews into Palestine was because "they do not want too many of them in New York". Prime Minister Clement Attlee announced that 100,000 Jews would not be permitted into Palestine long as the "illegal armies" of Palestine (meaning the Jewish militias) were not disbanded.
In October 1946, in fulfillment of the recommendation of the Anglo-American Committee, Britain decided to allow a further 96,000 Jews into Palestine at a rate of 1,500 a month. Half this monthly quota was allocated to Jews in the prisons on Cyprus, due to fears that if the number of Jewish prisoners in the Cyprus camps kept growing, it would eventually lead to an uprising there.
On July 18, 1947, the Royal Navy intercepted the Exodus-1947 a ship laden with 4,515 refugees en route to Palestine. The passengers resisted violently, and the boarding ended with two passengers and one crewman dead. Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin decided that rather than being sent to Cyprus, the immigrants on board the Exodus would be returned to the ship's port of origin in France. Bevin believed that sending illegal immigrants to Cyprus, where they then qualified for inclusion into legal immigration quotas to Palestine, only encouraged more illegal immigration. By forcing them to return to their port of origin, Bevin hoped to deter future illegal immigrants. However, the French government announced that it would not permit the disembarkation of passengers unless it was voluntary on their part. The passengers refused to disembark, spending weeks in difficult conditions. The ship was then taken to Germany, where the passengers were forcibly removed at Hamburg and returned to DP camps. The event became a major media event, influencing UN deliberations, damaging Britain's international image and prestige, and exacerbating the already poor relationship between Britain and the Jews.
Lehi and Irgun begin an insurgency campaign
There is a general agreement among historians that the Jewish underground in Palestine refrained from an opened struggle against Britain, as long as the joint enemy of Germany was still at large. This approach changed towards the beginning of 1944, with withdrawal of Axis forces from the Mediterranean and the advances of the Red Army in Eastern Front. With the general feeling that the Axis forces in Europe were nearing their defeat, the Irgun decided to shift its policy from cease-fire to an active campaign of violence, as long as it would not be hurting the war effort against the Nazi Germany.
In the autumn of 1943, the Irgun approached Lehi and proposed jointly carrying out an insurrection. In February 1944, the Irgun now led by Menachem Begin, ended the wartime truce and declared an uprising. Begin believed that the only way to save European Jewry was to compel the British to leave Palestine as fast as possible and open the country to unrestricted Jewish immigration. Irgun and Lehi began a bombing campaign against British intelligence, immigration, and tax collection offices, and police stations. However, they avoided attacks against British soldiers and military targets until the war was over, as they did not want to hurt the war effort against Germany in any way.
In November 1944, the Lehi (Stern Gang) assassinated Lord Moyne, the British minister in Cairo. The Jewish Agency Executive condemned terror attacks and after Ben-Gurion made a Histadrut address condemning 'murder, robbery, blackmail and theft' and insisting there be no compromises with terrorists within the ranks, a campaign known as The Hunting Season was conducted by the Haganah with British assistance from November 1944 to February 1945, often helped by the British, rounded up Irgun members.
Jewish Agency and Lehi leaders met in secret before the start of the Season. While the exact contents of the meeting were disputed by both sides, it is known that Lehi suspended its activities for six months, and the Season was not extended to Lehi. Some 1,000 Irgun members were arrested, 250 of whom were interned in camps in Africa. They were released in July 1948, two months after Israeli independence.
The Jewish Resistance Movement and after, 1945–47
In October 1945, the Haganah entered into an alliance with the Irgun and ceased cooperation with the British. In November 1945, units from the Palmach, the Haganah's elite fighting force, as well as Lehi, carried out the Night of the Trains, sabotaging railway networks across Palestine, and blowing up British guard boats in Jaffa and Haifa. The operation symbolized the founding of the Jewish Resistance Movement. In December 1945, Irgun carried out attacks against the British Intelligence Offices and raided a British Army camp.
In 1946, attacks against the British intensified, and now included military targets. On June 16, 1946, Haganah forces carried out attacks against bridges linking Palestine to the neighboring Arab countries, hoping to stop the transfer of weapons to the Palestinian Arabs.[dubious ] This operation, known as the Night of the Bridges, as well as other attacks around this time, prompted the British to launch Operation Agatha, also known as the Black Sabbath. British military and police forces imposed curfews around the country and conducted searches for arms caches and militants in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, and in several dozen Jewish settlements. The British raided the Jewish Agency headquarters in Jerusalem, confiscating large amounts of paperwork, and arrested Jews suspected of being involved with "terrorism", including leading members of the Jewish Agency, holding them without trial. The British hoped to deter the Haganah, as well as the more extreme Jewish underground groups Irgun and Lehi, from carrying out further attacks. The Haganah stopped carrying out anti-British operations, officially withdrawing from the Jewish Resistance Movement on July 1, 1946. From then on, the Haganah would focus mainly on organizing illegal Jewish immigration to Palestine through its Mossad LeAliyah Bet branch. However, Irgun and Lehi reacted by intensifying their attacks. As a response to Operation Agatha, Irgun carried out the King David Hotel bombing, an attack on the building where the central branches of the civil and military administration of Palestine were based, killing 91 people. Although the Haganah had initially approved the attack, this had been withdrawn, a fact which the Haganah's contact with the Irgun failed to make clear. The approval had also been based on the attack being carried out in the evening, whereas it was carried out at the height of the working day when the hotel was most busy. The Irgun blamed the British for not evacuating the hotel, in spite of a warning sent by telephone. The British government stated that no warning had been received by anyone in a position to act on it. Rather than contacting the British authorities, the warning had been sent to the hotel's own switchboard, where it was ignored, perhaps because hoax warnings were rife at the time. Due to the Irgun not understanding how temperature affected the fuses, the bomb exploded early. Pedestrians outside the hotel were killed as well as people inside it.
The commander of the British forces in Palestine, General Sir Evelyn Barker, who was having an affair with the Katy Antonius, the wife of the late George Antonius (a leading Arab Nationalist), responded to the King David Hotel bombing by ordering British personnel to boycott all:
"Jewish establishments, restaurants, shop, and private dwellings. No British soldier is to have social intercourse with any Jew.... I appreciate that these measures will inflict some hardship on the troops, yet I am certain that if my reasons are fully explained to them they will understand their propriety and will be punishing the Jews in a way the race dislikes as much as any, by striking at their pockets and showing our contempt of them "
Barker, whose forces participated in the capture of the Bergen Belsen concentration camp, made many antisemitic comments in his letters to Katy Antonius and was relieved of his post a few weeks after issuing the statement. A few months after his return to England, Barker was sent a letter bomb by the Irgun, but detected it before it exploded.
The Jewish Agency was issuing constant complaints to the British administration about antisemitic remarks by British soldiers:
"they frequently said "Bloody Jew" or "pigs", sometimes shouted "Heil Hitler", and promised they would finish off what Hitler had begun. Churchill wrote that most British military officers in Palestine were strongly pro-Arab."
A major insurgency erupted, and the Jewish underground was engaged in constant attacks against British military and police forces. The Jewish Agency Executive, led by David Ben-Gurion, the leading authority of the Jews in Palestine, stayed out of the campaign, but mostly refused to cooperate with the British authorities. The Jewish civilian population, which was hostile to the British, was also largely uncooperative. The main perpetrators of these attacks were the militant groups Lehi (also known as the Stern Gang) and Irgun. The two groups, which financed their campaigns through bank robberies, extortions, and private donations, attacked British military and police installations, government offices, and ships being used to deport illegal migrants, often with bombs. In at least one case, a police station was attacked with a large truck bomb. They also sabotaged infrastructure such as railroads, bridges, and oil installations. Some 90 economic targets were attacked, among them 20 trains which were damaged or derailed and five train stations which were attacked, and about dozen attacks against the oil industry were carried out, including a March 1947 Lehi raid on the Shell Oil refinery in Haifa which destroyed some 16,000 tons of petroleum. Jewish insurgents regularly staged killings of British soldiers and police officers throughout Palestine, employing booby traps, ambushes, snipers, vehicle bombings, and shooting attacks. British armored vehicles faced attacks by remotely detonated IEDs disguised as milestones which blew vehicles off the road and killed or injured occupants. They were seen by the insurgents as their most cost-effective weapon. The Jewish civilian population of Palestine, encouraged by Zionist groups, engaged in riots, strikes, and demonstrations against the British authorities. The British Army, which eventually had one soldier for every five Jews in Palestine, responded with extensive search operations and raids to arrest militants and uncover illegal arms caches. They regularly imposed curfews, cordons, and collective punishments, and enacted a series of draconian emergency regulations which allowed for arbitrary arrests, to the point that some observers called Palestine a police state. They supplemented their large operations with smaller ones that had the advantage of surprise, including surprise searches of houses and apartments, random identity and baggage checks on public transportation, mobile checkpoints established quickly following attacks, night patrols, and small-scale raids mounted immediately on new intelligence. The British even deployed special forces in the conflict. Although these operations never managed to quell the insurgency, they did succeed in keeping the insurgents off-balance. In 1947, the British withdrew their personnel into barbed-wire enclosures known as "Bevingrads" for their own security. Even then, Irgun managed to penetrate one such security zone in March 1947 and stage a bombing attack on the British Officers' Club in Jerusalem, in the heart of a security zone. Despite extensive efforts, the British were never able to stop the insurgency. British security forces found it extremely difficult to detect and counter activities by Irgun and Lehi due to the structure of these groups; they were divided into individual cells, whose members were unknown to those in other cells. Furthermore, the extreme loyalty of the operatives of these groups made it almost impossible for British intelligence to infiltrate them, and made it difficult for British interrogators to extract information from captured members.
In addition to the militant campaign in Palestine, Irgun and Lehi attacked British targets in Europe and launched bombing attacks Britain itself. In late 1946 and early 1947, Irgun carried out a series of sabotage attacks on British Army transportation routes in occupied Germany. At around the same time, an attempt was made by Lehi to drop a bomb on the House of Commons from a chartered plane flown from France; this attempt was stopped just before it was to be carried out, when French police discovered Lehi members preparing to cross the English Channel in a plane that was found to be carrying a large bomb. In October 1946, Lehi bombed the British Embassy in Rome, injuring three people. A number of bombs exploded in London, including one at London's Colonial Club, an establishment catering to soldiers and students from British colonies in Africa and the West Indies. The bombing caused no fatalities but injured some servicemen. An attempt was also made to destroy the Colonial Office in London with a large bomb, which malfunctioned after its timer broke. According to a senior police official, it would have caused a death rate similar to that of the King David Hotel bombing had it gone off. Some 21 letter bombs were addressed to senior British political figures, including Prime Minister Clement Attlee and Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin. Many were intercepted, while others reached their targets but were discovered before they could go off. An Irgun explosives factory was also discovered in London.
The British arrested thousands during their counterinsurgency campaign, often imposing severe prison terms, including for weapons-related offenses. They also began using flogging as a judicial punishment. However, in late December 1946, after an Irgun member was flogged, the group, delivering on a previous threat, abducted and flogged several British soldiers in return, an event that became known as the Night of the Beatings. While this caused the British to end the use of flogging, they then began to apply the death penalty against convicted insurgents. Within months, four imprisoned Jewish fighters, including three Irgun men that had been arrested during the Night of the Beatings, were hanged. In some instances, Irgun abducted British soldiers and police officers, and in one instance a judge, and threatened to kill them if executions took place. This tactic succeeded in stopping a few executions. In May 1947, a large prison break was staged when Irgun fighters, in a coordinated attack, blasted a large hole the prison wall, and Jewish prisoners blasted their way out through the doors with smuggled explosives. Some 28 Jewish prisoners and 182 Arab prisoners escaped. During the operation, nine fighters and escapees were killed, most of them when a getaway truck ran into a British roadblock, and five Irgun fighters and eight escapees were captured. Three out of the five fighters captured were sentenced to death in June; Irgun responded by kidnapping two British sergeants from the Intelligence Corps and threatening to kill them should the sentences be carried out. The British Army carried out extensive search operations. The Haganah cooperated with the British search effort. Efforts to locate the hostages proved fruitless. The British authorities decided to carry out the executions despite the danger to the hostages. On July 29, 1947, the three were executed, and the next day the two British sergeants were killed in response. Their bodies were then hanged from trees in an orange grove near Netanya, and were booby-trapped with a bomb, which later injured a British officer attempting to cut one of the bodies down. Following this incident, British soldiers and police officers attacked civilians in Tel Aviv, killing five people, and a wave of anti-Semitic rioting swept Britain over the course of several days; the rioting began in Liverpool and spread to other major British cities, including London, Manchester, Cardiff, Derby and Glasgow, causing widespread damage to Jewish property. Following this incident, the British government ordered an end to the use of the death penalty in Palestine.
The insurgency was coupled with a local and international propaganda campaign to gain sympathy abroad. The Yishuv authorities publicized the plight of Holocaust survivors and British attempts to stop them from migrating to Palestine, hoping to generate negative publicity against Britain around the world. Ben-Gurion publicly stated that the Jewish insurgency was "nourished by despair", that Britain had "proclaimed war against Zionism", and that British policy was "to liquidate the Jews as a people." Of particular significance was the British interceptions of the blockade runners carrying Jewish immigrants. The SS Exodus incident in particular became a major media event. Propaganda against the British over their treatment of the refugees was disseminated around the world, including claims that the Exodus was a "floating Auschwitz". In one incident, after a baby died at sea aboard an Aliyah Bet ship, the body was publicly displayed to the press after the ship docked in Haifa for transfer of the passengers to Cyprus, and journalists were told that "the dirty Nazi-British assassins suffocated this innocent victim with gas."
Through a well-organized international propaganda campaign, Irgun and Lehi reached out to potential international supporters, particularly in the United States and especially among American Jews, who became increasingly sympathetic to the Zionist cause and hostile to Britain. Their propaganda claimed that: Britain's restrictions on Jewish immigration were a violation of international law, as it violated the terms of the mandate; British rule in Palestine was oppressive and had turned the country into a police state; British policies were Nazi-like and anti-Semitic; the insurgency was Jewish self-defence; and the insurgents were winning and British withdrawal from Palestine was inevitable. This propaganda, coupled with statements and actions by British officials and members of the security forces interpreted as anti-Semitic, gained the insurgents international credibility and served to further tarnish Britain's image.
Britain was at this time negotiating a loan from the United States vital to its economic survival. Its treatment of Jewish survivors generated bad publicity, and encouraged the U.S. Congress to stiffen its terms. Many American Jews were initially politically active in pressing Congress for a suspension of the loan guarantees, but Jewish groups and politicians later retracted their support and came out in favor of the loan, fearing accusations of disloyalty to the United States. U.S. President Harry S. Truman put extensive pressure on the British government over its handling of the Palestine situation. The post-war conflict in Palestine caused more damage to Anglo-American relations than any other issue.
The British decide to leave Palestine
During the insurgency, the British government organized a conference in London between Zionist and Arab representatives, and attempted to mediate a solution. However, these talks proved fruitless. The Arabs were unwilling to accept any solution except a unified Palestine under Arab rule, and while the Zionists adamantly refused this proposal, instead suggesting partition. After realizing that the Arabs and the Jews were both unwilling to compromise, Bevin began considering turning the Palestine question over to the United Nations.
Britain increasingly began to see its attempts to suppress the Jewish insurgency as a costly and futile exercise, and its resolve began to weaken. British security forces, which were constantly taking casualties, were unable to suppress the insurgents due to their hit-and-run tactics, poor intelligence, and a non-cooperative civilian population. The insurgents were also making the country ungovernable; the King David hotel bombing resulted in the deaths of a large number of civil servants and the loss of many documents, devastating the mandatory administration, while IED attacks on British vehicles began to limit the British Army's freedom of movement throughout the country. The Acre Prison break and the floggings and hangings of British soldiers by the Irgun humiliated the British authorities and further demonstrated their failure to control the situation. At the same time, attacks carried out on economic targets cost Britain almost £2 million in economic damage; meanwhile, Britain was paying about £40 million a year to keep its troops in Palestine, while at the same time the country was going through a deep economic crisis as a result of World War II, with widespread power cuts and strict rationing, and was heavily dependent on American economic aid. There were also indications, such as several successful bombings in London and the letter-bombing campaign against British politicians, that the insurgents were beginning to take the war home to Britain. In addition, British treatment of Holocaust survivors and tactics in Palestine were earning Britain bad publicity around the world, particularly in the United States, and earned the British government constant diplomatic harassment from the Truman administration.
In January 1947, all non-essential British civilians were evacuated from Palestine. On February 14, 1947, British Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin informed the House of Commons that the Palestine question would be referred to the United Nations. Meanwhile, depending on perspective, a low-level guerrilla war, or campaigns of terrorism, continued through 1947 and 1948. Eventually, Jewish insurgency against the British was overshadowed by the Jewish-Arab fighting of the 1947–48 Civil War in Mandatory Palestine, which started following the UN vote in favor of the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine.
In 1947, the United States chapter of the United Jewish Appeal raised $150 million in its annual appeal – at that time the largest sum of money ever raised by a charity dependent on private contributions. Half was earmarked for Palestine. The Times reported that Palestine brought more dollars into the sterling zone than any other country, save Britain.
In April 1947 the issue was formally referred to the UN. By this time over 100,000 British soldiers were stationed in Palestine. Referral to the UN led to a period of uncertainty over Palestine's future. A United Nations committee, the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) was sent to investigate the problem. On August 31, 1947, UNSCOP recommended that Palestine be partitioned into Jewish and Arab states. On September 20, 1947, the British cabinet voted to evacuate Palestine.
Although the insurgency played a major role in persuading the British to quit Palestine, other factors also influenced British policy. Britain, facing a deep economic crisis and heavily dependent on the United States, was facing a massive financial burden over its many colonies, military bases, and commitments abroad. At the same time, Britain had also lost the centerpiece of the rationale of its Middle East policy after the end of the British Raj in Colonial India. Britain's Middle East policy had been centered around protecting the flanks of its sea lines of communication to India. After the British Raj ended, Britain no longer needed Palestine. Finally, Britain still had alternative locations such as Egypt, Libya, and Kenya to base its troops.
Partition and civil war
The United Nations Special Committee on Palestine recommended partition, and on 29 November 1947 the United Nations General Assembly voted to recommend partition of Palestine into two states – an Arab and a Jewish one. The partition resolution (181) intended administration of Palestine to be in the hands of five UN representatives and assumed free Jewish immigration into the Jewish area even before the creation of a Jewish state:
The mandatory power shall use its best endeavours to ensure that an area situated in the territory of the Jewish state, including a seaport and hinterland adequate to provide facilities for a substantial immigration, shall be evacuated at the earliest possible date and in any event not later than 1 February 1948.
Britain refused to comply with these conditions on the grounds that the decision was unacceptable to the Arabs. It neither allowed Jewish immigration outside the monthly quota, nor granted control to the UN representatives (who became known as the "five lonely pilgrims"). A statement issued by the British Ambassador to the UN stated that the inmates on Cyprus would be released with the termination of the mandate. The British also refused to cooperate with the UN commission that was sent to monitor the transition; when the commission's six members arrived in Palestine in January 1948, British High Commissioner Alan Cunningham allotted them an unventilated Jerusalem basement from which to work out of. They were gradually reduced to foraging for food and drink, and prevented from carrying out their duties.
Over the remaining period of British rule, British policy was to ensure that the Arabs did not resist Britain or blame it for partition. Convinced that partition was unworkable, the British refused to assist the UN in any way that might require British forces to remain on Palestinian soil (to implement it) or turn their army into a target for Arab forces. On the other side, "The Yishuv perceived the peril of an Arab invasion as threatening its very existence. Having no real knowledge of the Arabs' true military capabilities, the Jews took Arab propaganda literally, preparing for the worst and reacting accordingly."
As the British began to withdraw during the closing months of the mandate, civil war erupted in Palestine between the Jews and Arabs. During this period, as well as restricting Jewish immigration, Britain handed over strategic military and police positions to the Arabs as they abandoned them, and froze Jewish Agency assets in London banks. However, the British generally stayed out of the fighting and only intervened occasionally. Even so, they were still sometimes caught in the crossfire or deliberately attacked for their weapons. There is little evidence that Bevin, despite his hostility to Zionism, wanted to strangle the incipient Jewish state at birth. Instead, his main concern seems to have been to ensure that Egypt retained control of the parts of the Negev they were occupying, so that Britain had a land link between Egypt and Jordan.
On 22 February 1948, as part of the civil war, Arab militants detonated a truck laden with explosives in Ben Yehuda Street in Jerusalem, killing about 60 people. Two British deserters assisted in this attack; Eddie Brown, a police captain who claimed that his brother had been killed by the Irgun, and Peter Madison, an army corporal. They had been recruited by Holy War Army commander Abd al-Qadir al-Husayni. In revenge, Lehi mined two trains. The first such attack, which took place on 29 February, hit the military coaches of a passenger train north of Rehovot, killing 28 British soldiers and wounding 35. Another attack on 31 March killed 40 people and injured 60. Although there were soldiers on board, all of the casualties were civilians.
The Haganah had previously spared the railway bridge at Rosh HaNikra during their 1946 Night of the Bridges operation. Following the late-1947 announcement that the British would withdraw from Palestine months ahead of schedule, however, the bridge was destroyed by the 21st Battalion under the Palmach in late February 1948 to hinder Lebanese arms shipments to Arab forces opposing the UN Partition Plan. As repairs were prohibitively expensive, the tunnels were later completely sealed. This ended the only connection between the European and North African standard gauge railway networks.
Five and a half months of civil war in Palestine saw a decisive Jewish victory. Jewish forces, led by the Haganah, consolidated their hold on a strip of territory on the coastal plain of Palestine and the Jezreel and Jordan Valleys, and crushed the Palestinian Arab militas. Palestinian society collapsed.
Aftermath: British policy during the 1948 War
As all the League of Nations mandates were to be taken over by the new United Nations, Britain had declared that it would leave Palestine by 1 August 1948, later setting the date for the termination of the mandate as 15 May; on 14 May 1948 the Zionist leadership announced the Israeli Declaration of Independence. Several hours later, at midnight on 15 May 1948, the British Mandate of Palestine officially expired and the State of Israel came into being.
Hours after the end of the Mandate, contingents of the armies of four surrounding Arab states entered Palestine, setting off the 1948 Arab–Israeli War. As the war progressed, the Israeli forces gained an advantage due to a growing stream of arms and military equipment from Europe that had been clandestinely smuggled or were supplied by Czechoslovakia. In the following months, Israel began to expand the territory under its control.
On 28 May 1948, the United Nations Security Council debated Palestine. The British proposed that the entry of arms and men of military age into Palestine should be restricted. At the request of the United States, the ban was extended to the whole region. A French amendment allowed immigration so long as soldiers were not recruited from immigrants.
The British had by this time released almost all inmates of the Cyprus internment camps, but continued to hold about 11,000 detainees, mainly military-age males, in the camps. Authorities in the British, as well as American occupation zones in Germany and Austria imposed restrictions on the emigration of Jews of military age attempting to emigrate during the war.
In October 1948, Israel began a campaign to capture the Negev. In December 1948, Israeli troops made a twenty-mile incursion into Egyptian territory. Under the terms of the Anglo-Egyptian treaty the Egyptians could appeal for British help in the event of an Israeli invasion, however the Egyptians were concerned to avoid any such eventuality. During this period, the Royal Air Force began mounting almost daily reconnaissance missions over Israel and the Sinai, with RAF planes taking off from Egyptian airbases and sometimes flying alongside Egyptian warplanes. On 20 November 1948, the Israeli Air Force shot down a British reconnaissance plane over Israel, killing two airmen.
On 7 January 1949, Israeli forces shot down five British fighter planes after a flight of RAF planes overflew an Israeli convoy in the Sinai and were mistaken for Egyptian aircraft. Two pilots were killed and one was captured by Israeli troops and briefly detained in Israel. The UK Defence Committee responded to this incident and a Jordanian request by sending two destroyers carrying men and arms to Transjordan. Israel complained to the UN that these troops were in violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 50. Britain denied this, claiming the resolution did not apply to Britain and that the troops were not new to the region as they had been transferred from Egypt. The British also managed to prevent shipments of aviation spirit and other essential fuels from reaching Israel in retaliation.
As the IDF drove into the Negev, the British government launched a diplomatic campaign to prevent Israel from capturing the entire area. Britain viewed the Negev as a strategic land bridge between Egypt and Transjordan that was vital to both British and Western interests in the Middle East, and were anxious to keep it from falling into Israeli hands. On 19 October 1948, Sir Alexander Cadogan, the British representative to the United Nations, pressed for sanctions against Israel. The British believed that it would be in their and the West's strategic interest if they maintained de facto control of a land bridge from Egypt to Transjordan, and Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin tried to persuade the US government to support his position and force Israel to withdraw. In particular, Bevin hoped to restrict Israel's southern border to the Gaza-Jericho-Beersheba road. The British ambassador in Cairo, Sir Ronald Campbell, advocated military intervention against Israel to stop the IDF's drive into the Negev in a January 1949 cable to Bevin. However, the British diplomatic campaign failed to persuade the US government to take action against Israel, with US President Harry S. Truman referring to the Negev as "a small area not worth differing over". Mounting international and domestic criticism forced an end to Britain's attempts to intervene in the war, and Bevin ordered British forces to stay clear of the Israelis in the Negev.
The British cabinet ultimately decided that action could be taken to defend Transjordan, but that under no circumstances would British troops enter Palestine.
On 17 January 1949 the Chief of Staff briefed the cabinet on events in the Middle East. Minister of Health, Aneurin Bevan, protested at the decision to send arms to Transjordan, taken by the Defence Committee without cabinet approval. He complained that British policy in Palestine was inconsistent with the spirit and tradition of Labour Party policy and was supported by the Deputy Prime Minister, Herbert Morrison and Chancellor of the Exchequer, Stafford Cripps.
In January 1949, the British cabinet voted to continue supporting the Arab states, but also voted to recognize Israel and release the last Jewish detainees on Cyprus. The last detainees began leaving Cyprus in January, and shortly afterward, Britain formally recognized Israel.
- June 12 – A British explosives expert was killed trying to defuse an Irgun bomb near a Jerusalem post office.
- August 26 – Two British police officers, Inspector Ronald Barker and Inspector Ralph Cairns, commander of the Jewish Department of the C.I.D., were killed by an Irgun mine in Jerusalem.
- February 12 – British immigration offices in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Haifa were attacked by Irgun.
- February 14 – Two British constables were shot dead when they attempted to arrest Lehi fighters pasting up wall posters in Haifa.
- February 18 – A police patrol shot and killed a Jewish civilian who had not replied swiftly enough to its challenge.
- February 24 – A British police official and four CID officers were wounded in bombings.
- February 27 – Simultaneous bombing attacks were launched against British income tax offices.
- March 2 – A British constable was shot and severely wounded after coming upon Irgun fighters putting up a poster.
- March 13 – Lehi killed a Jewish CID officer in Ramat Gan.
- March 19 – A Lehi member was shot dead while resisting arrest by the CID in Tel Aviv. Lehi retaliated with an attack in Tel Aviv that killed two police officers and wounded one.
- March 23 – Irgun fighters led by Rahamim Cohen raided and bombed the British intelligence offices and placed explosives. A British soldier and Irgun fighter were killed. An Irgun unit led by Amichai Paglin raided the British intelligence headquarters in Jaffa, and Irgun fighters led by Yaakov Hillel raided the British intelligence offices in Haifa.
- April 1 – A British constable was killed and another wounded.
- July 13 – Irgun fighters broke into and bombed the British intelligence building on Mamilla street in Jerusalem.
- September 29 – A senior British police officer of the Criminal Intelligence Department was assassinated by Irgun in Jerusalem.
- November 6 – Lehi fighters Eliyahu Bet-Zuri and Eliyahu Hakim assassinated British politician Lord Moyne in Cairo. Moyne's driver was also killed.
- November 1944 to February 1945 – the "Hunting Season": the Haganah actively cooperates with the Mandate authorities in the suppression of the Irgun
- January 27 – A British judge was kidnapped by Irgun and released in exchange for Jewish detainees.
- February/March – end of the so-called "Hunting Season", the Haganah cooperation with the authorities against the Irgun.
- March 22 – Lehi members Eliyahu Bet-Zuri and Eliyahu Hakim were hanged in Cairo.
- August 14 – Irgun fighters overpowered and disarmed two British sentries, and then blew up the Yibne Railway Bridge.
- October – The Jewish Resistance Movement, a cooperation between the Haganah, Irgun, and Lehi is activated by the Jewish Agency until August, 1946
- October 10 – Haganah fighters raid the Atlit detainee camp, which was being used by the British to hold thousands of illegal Jewish immigrants from Europe, freeing 208 inmates. The raid was planned by Yitzhak Rabin, commanded by Nahum Sarig, and executed by the Palmach.
- November 1 – Night of the Trains – Haganah fighters sabotaged railroads used by the British, and sank three British guard boats. At the same time, an Irgun unit led by Eitan Livni raided a train station in Lod, destroying a number of buildings and three train engines. One Irgun fighter, two British soldiers, and four Arabs were killed.
- December 27 – Irgun fighters raided and bombed British Intelligence Offices in Jerusalem, killing seven British policemen. Two Irgun fighters were also killed. Irgun also attacked a British Army camp in Northern Tel Aviv. In the exchange of fire, a British soldier and Irgun fighter were killed, and five Irgun fighters were injured.
- January 19 – Jewish fighters destroyed a power station and a portion of the Central Jerusalem Prison with explosives. During the incident, two persons were killed by police.
- January 20 – Palmach attacked the Givat Olga Coast Guard Station. One person was killed and ten were injured during the raid. A Palmach attempt to sabotage the British radar station on Mount Carmel was thwarted. Documents seized by the British indicated that the attacks were retaliation for the seizure of a Jewish immigrant ship two days before.
- February 22 – Haganah fighters attacked a police Tegart fort with a 200 lb bomb. In the firefight that followed, Haganah suffered casualties.
- February 23 – Haganah fighters attacked British mobile police forces in Kfar Vitkin, Shfar'am and Sharona.
- February 26 – Irgun and Lehi fighters attacked three British airfields and destroyed dozens of aircraft. One Irgun fighter was killed.
- March 6 – A military truck carrying 30 Irgun fighters disguised as British soldiers approached a British army camp at Sarafand, where the fighters infiltrated into the armoury and stole weaponry. An exchange fire began after the fighters were discovered. The remaining weapons and ammunition in the armoury were destroyed by a mine, and the truck then drove off at high speed. Four Irgun fighters were captured, two of them women. Two of the captured fighters were wounded.
- March 25 – The Jewish immigrant ship Wingate was fired on by British police as it docked in Haifa, killing a Palmach member.
- April 2 – Irgun launched a sabotage operation against the railway network in the south, inflicting severe damage. The retreating fighters were surrounded after being spotted by a British reconnaissance aircraft. Two British policemen were killed, and three British soldiers were wounded. Two Irgun fighters were killed, four wounded, and 31 arrested.
- April 23 – Dozens of Irgun fighters disguised as British soldiers and Arab prisoners infiltrated the Ramat Gan police station, then ordered the policemen into the detention cell at gunpoint, blasted open the door to the armoury and looted it. Irgun porters loaded the weapons onto a waiting truck. A British policeman on the upper story shot dead the Irgun Bren gunner covering the raid from a balcony on the building opposite the police station, then fired at the porters, who continued to load weapons under fire. One Irgun member was killed as he ran to the truck, and Irgun commander Dov Gruner was wounded and subsequently captured by the British. After the weapons had been loaded, the truck drove off to an orange grove near Ramat Gan.
- April 25 – Lehi fighters attacked a Tel Aviv car park that was being used by the British Army's 6th Airborne Division, killing seven British soldiers and looting the arms racks they found. They then laid mines and retreated. Some British soldiers retaliated by damaging Jewish property.
- June 16–17 – Night of the Bridges – Haganah carried out a sabotage operation, blowing up ten of the eleven bridges connecting British Mandatory Palestine to the neighbouring countries, while staging 50 diversion ambushes and operations against British forces throughout Palestine. Haganah lost 14 dead and 5 wounded in the operation. The British responded with raids on Kfar Giladi, Matsuba, and Bet HaArava, encountering only minor resistance. Three Jews were killed, 18 wounded, and 100 detained.
- June 17 – Lehi attacked railroad workshops in Haifa. Eleven Lehi members were killed during the attack.
- June 18 – Irgun fighters took six British officers hostage. They were later released after the death sentences passed on two Irgun fighters were commuted.
- June 20 – British troops searching for the six officers abducted on June 18 killed two Jewish militants.
- June 29 – Operation Agatha – British military and police units began a three-day operation, searching three cities and Jewish settlements throughout Palestine and imposing curfews, arresting 2,718 Jews and seizing numerous arms and munitions which were found unexpectedly. The Jewish Agency building was raided, and numerous documents were confiscated. During the operation, four Jews were killed and 80 injured.
- July 22 – King David Hotel bombing – Irgun fighters bombed the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, which was home to the central offices of the British Mandatory authorities and the headquarters of British forces in Palestine and Transjordan. A total of 91 people were killed, including 28 British soldiers, policemen and civilians. Most of the dead were Arabs. Another 46 people were injured. Irgun suffered two casualties when British soldiers became suspicious and fired at a group of Irgun fighters as they fled from the scene, wounding two. One of them later died from his injuries.
- July 29 – British police raided a bomb-making workshop in Tel Aviv.
- July 30 – Tel Aviv was placed under a 22-hour curfew for four days as 20,000 British soldiers conducted house-to-house searches for Jewish militants. The city was sealed off and troops were ordered to shoot curfew violators. British troops detained 500 people for further questioning and seized a large cache of weapons, extensive counterfeiting equipment, as well as $1,000,000 in counterfeit government bonds that was discovered in a raid on the city's largest synagogue.
- August – The Haganah ceases its cooperation with the Irgun, and Lehi (the "Jewish Resistance Movement")
- August 13 – A crowd of about 1,000 Jews attempted to break into the port area of Haifa as two Royal Navy ships departed for Cyprus with 1,300 illegal immigrants on board, and a ship with 600 more was escorted into the port. British soldiers fired on the crowd, killing three and wounding seven.
- August 22 – Palyam frogmen attached a limpet mine to the side of the British cargo ship Empire Rival, which had been used to deport Jewish immigrants to Cyprus. A hole was blown in the ship's side.
- August 26 – British troops searched two Jewish coastal villages for three Jews involved in the Empire Rival incident. During the operation, 85 persons, including the entire male population of one of the villages, were detained.
- August 30 – British soldiers discovered arms and munitions dumps in Dorot and Ruhama.
- September 8 – Jewish fighters sabotaged railroads in fifty places in Palestine.
- September 9 – Two British officers were killed by an explosion at a public building in Tel Aviv. A British police sergeant, T.G. Martin, who had identified and arrested Lehi leader and future Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, was assassinated near his Haifa home.
- September 10 – British forces imposed a curfew and searched for militants in Tel Aviv and Ramat Gan, arresting 101 people and wounding four.
- September 15 – Jewish fighters attacked a police station on the coast near Tel Aviv, but were driven off by gunfire.
- September 20 - Bombed Haifa Station
- October 6 – A member of the Royal Air Force was shot and killed.
- October 8 – Two British soldiers were killed when their truck detonated a mine outside Jerusalem. A leading Arab figure was wounded in another mine attack, and mines were also found near government house.
- October 30 – Irgun launched an attack in the Jerusalem Railway Station, killing two British guards.
- October 31 – The British embassy in Rome was damaged by a bomb.
- November 1–2 – Palmach sank three British naval police craft.
- November 9–13 – Jewish underground members launched a series of land mine and suitcase bomb attacks against railroad stations, trains, and streetcars, killing 11 British soldiers and policemen and 8 Arab constables.
- November 17 – Three British policemen and a Royal Air Force sergeant were killed when their truck hit a mine near Lydda.
- November 18 – British police in Tel Aviv attacked Jews on the streets and fired into houses in retaliation for the mine attack that occurred the previous day. Twenty Jews were injured. Meanwhile, a British engineer trying to remove mines planted near an RAF airfield was killed and four other men were injured when one of the mines exploded.
- November 20 – Three people were injured when a bomb exploded in the Jerusalem tax office.
- November 25 – The Jewish immigrant ship Knesset Israel was captured by four British destroyers. Efforts to force the Jewish refugees onto deportation ships were met with resistance. Two refugees were killed and 46 wounded. Haganah attacked the Givat Olga police station and the Sydna-Ali coastal patrol station, wounding six British and eight Arab policemen.
- November 26 – The British launched a massive search operation and established a 1,000-man cordon on the Plain of Sharon and in Samaria, looking for the perpetrators of the previous days attacks and illegal weapons. Jewish settlers put up violent resistance to the soldiers. The British reported 65 soldiers and 16 policemen wounded, while the Jews had 8 dead and 75 wounded.
- October 8 – Two British soldiers were killed and three wounded when their truck hit a mine.
- October 31 – The British embassy in Rome was bombed by the Irgun, wounding three.
- December 2–5 – Six British soldiers and four other persons were killed in bomb and mine attacks.
- December 28 – An Irgun prisoner who had been sentenced to 18 years in prison and 18 lashes was whipped.
- December 29 – Night of the Beatings – Irgun fighters kidnapped and flogged six British soldiers. The British responded by ordering their soldiers back into army camps and setting up roadblocks. A car with five armed Irgun men carrying a whip was stopped. British soldiers opened fire, killing one Irgun fighter. The remaining four were arrested.
- January 2 – A British soldier was killed when the Bren gun carrier he was riding was hit by a mine. The Irgun also launched a flamethrower attack against a military car park in Tiberias.
- January 8 - Twelve Irgun members were arrested in Rishon LeZion.
- January 5 – Eleven British soldiers were injured in a grenade attack on a train in Banha carrying British troops to Palestine from Egypt.
- January 12 – A Lehi member drove a truck bomb into a police station in Haifa, killing two British and two Arab constables, and wounding 140.
- January 26 – A retired British major, H. Collins, was abducted in Jerusalem, badly beaten, and chloroformed. A British judge was kidnapped the following day. Both men were released when British High Commissioner Alan Cunningham threatened martial law unless the two men were returned unharmed. Collins subsequently died from chloroform poisoning, as the chloroform had been improperly administered by his captors.
- March 1 – Irgun bombed the Officers Club on King George Street in Jerusalem, killing 17 British officers and wounding 27, resulting in martial law that lasted 16 days. Immediately after martial law was declared, two Jews were shot and killed, one of them a four-year-old girl standing on the balcony of her home. During the period of martial law, 78 Jews suspected of membership in the Jewish resistance were arrested.
- March 2 – Three British soldiers were killed by a landmine disguised as a stone that detonated as their vehicle was passing on Mount Carmel.
- March 3 – A mine blew up a British scout car near Tel Aviv, killing three soldiers and injuring one.
- March 4 – Five British soldiers were injured when their truck was wrecked by a mine near Rishon LeZion, and four Arabs were injured when a Royal Air Force vehicle was blown up by a mine near Ramla. A British military office in Haifa was bombed, and a small-scale raid hit an army camp near Hadera.
- March 9 – A British Army camp was attacked in Hadera.
- March 11 – Two British soldiers were killed.
- March 12 – Irgun attacked the Schneller Camp, which was being used as a barracks and office of the Royal Army Pay Corps. One British soldier was killed and eight were wounded. A British camp near Karkur was also raided, shots were fired at the Sarona camp, and a mine exploded near Rishon LeZion.
- March 23 – One British soldier was killed when a train on the Cairo-Haifa line hit a mine in Rehovot.
- March 29 – A British officer was killed when Jewish fighters ambushed a British cavalry party near Ramla.
- April 2 – The Ocean Vigour, a British freighter used to transport captured illegal immigrants to Cyprus, was damaged in a bomb attack by Palyam, the naval force of the Palmach.
- April 3 – A British military truck was damaged and blown off the road by a mine in Haifa, injuring two soldiers of the 6th Airborne Division. The British transport ship Empire Rival was damaged by a time-bomb while en route from Haifa to Port Said.
- April 7 – A British patrol killed Jewish militant Moshe Cohen.
- April 8 – A British constable was killed in retaliation for Cohen's death. A Jewish boy was also killed by British troops.
- April 13 – The Jewish immigrant ship Theodor Herzl was captured by the British. Three Jewish refugees were killed and 27 injured during the takeover.
- April 14 – The Royal Navy captured the Jewish immigrant ship Guardian. Two Jews were killed and 14 wounded during the takeover.
- April 17 – The British Army leave centre in Netanya was attacked by three Jewish fighters who shot a sentry dead, tossed three bombs and then escaped.
- April 19 – Four Irgun fighters (Dov Gruner, Yehiel Dresner, Mordechai Alkahi and Eliezer Kashani) were hanged by British authorities. Irgun retaliated with three attacks; a British soldier was killed during a raid on a field dressing station near Netanya, a civilian bystander was killed during an attack on a British armoured car in Tel Aviv, and shots were fired at British troops in Haifa.
- April 21 – Irgun member Meir Feinstein and Lehi member Moshe Barzani killed themselves in prison with grenades smuggled to them in hollowed-out oranges, hours before they were to be hanged.
- April 22 – A British troop train arriving from Cairo was bombed outside Rehovot, killing five soldiers and three civilians, and wounding 39. In a separate incident, two British soldiers were killed in Jerusalem.
- April 25 – Lehi bombed a British police compound, killing five policemen.
- April 26 – A British police official was assassinated.
- May 4 – Acre Prison break – Irgun members working with Jewish prisoners inside Acre Prison managed to blow a hole in the wall, and assault the prison, freeing 28 Jewish prisoners. Nine Irgun and Lehi fighters, including commander Dov Cohen, were killed during the retreat. Five Irgun fighters and eight escapees were later captured.
- May 6 – A British counter-terrorism unit led by Roy Farran abducted 16-year-old Lehi member Alexander Rubowitz, later torturing and killing him.
- May 12 – Two British policemen were killed by Jewish fighters in Jerusalem.
- May 15 – Two British soldiers were killed and seven injured by Lehi. A British policeman was also killed in an ambush.
- May 16 – A British constable and a Jewish police superintendent were assassinated.
- June 4 – Eight Lehi Letter bombs addressed to high British government officials, including Prime Minister Clement Attlee, were discovered in London. A British soldier was killed in Haifa.
- June 28 – Lehi fighters opened fire on a line of British soldiers waiting in line outside a Tel Aviv theater, killing three soldiers and wounding two. One Briton was also killed and several wounded in a Haifa hotel. A Jewish fighter was also wounded.
- June 29 – Four British soldiers were wounded in a Lehi attack at a Herzliya beach.
- July 17 – Irgun carried out five mining operations against British military traffic in the vicinity of Netanya, killing one Briton and wounding sixteen.
- July 16 – A British soldier was killed by a vehicle mine near Petah Tikva.
- July 18 – A British soldier was killed.
- July 19 – Irgun attacked four locations in Haifa, killing a British constable and wounding twelve. A British soldier was also killed.
- July 20 – A British soldier was killed.
- July 21 – A Haganah raid knocked out a British radar station in Haifa that was being used to track Aliyah Bet ships. Elsewhere, mortar shells were fired at the headquarters of the British 1st Infantry Division in Tel Litwinsky, a British staff car near Netanya was fired on, and a British soldier was killed when his truck hit a mine near Raanana.
- July 25 – A British soldier was killed and three others were injured when their jeep hit a mine near Netanya. Jewish fighters also blew up railway track near Gaza and damaged a railway bridge near Binyamina.
- July 26 – Two British soldiers were killed by a booby trap.
- July 27 – Seven British soldiers were wounded in an ambush and mine explosions.
- July 29–31 – The Sergeants affair – British authorities hanged Irgun fighters Avshalom Haviv, Yaakov Weiss and Meir Nakar. In retaliation, Irgun hanged British intelligence corps sergeants Mervyn Paice and Clifford Martin, who had previously been abducted and held as hostages, afterwards re-hanging their bodies from trees in a eucalyptus grove near Netanya. A mine laid underneath exploded as one of the bodies was being cut down, injuring a British officer. In a separate incident, two British soldiers were killed and three wounded by a land mine near Hadera planted by Irgun fighters. British soldiers and policemen reacted by rampaging in Tel Aviv, breaking windows, overturning cars, stealing a taxi and assaulting civilians. Groups of young Jews then began stoning British foot patrols, causing them to be withdrawn from the city. Upon learning of the stonings, members of mobile police units drove to Tel Aviv in six armored cars, where they smashed windows, raided two cafes and detonated a grenade in the second one, and fired into two crowded buses. Five Jews were killed and fifteen wounded.
- August 1 – An anti-British riot broke out during the funeral procession of the five Jews killed the day before, and 33 Jews were injured. In Jerusalem, an attack by Jewish fighters on a British security zone in Rehavia was repulsed. One attacker was killed and two captured.
- August 5 – Three British police officers were killed by a bomb at the Jerusalem Department of Labor building.
- August 9 – Irgun bombed a British troop train north of Lydda, killing the Jewish engineer.
- August 15 - 2 Arabs (including 13-year-old boy) killed in Jaffa, 1 Jew killed in Kfar Saba, 1 Arab killed in [Ramat Gan].
- August 15 - Orange Grove attack by Haganah: 11 Arabs, including 4 children (3 girls and a 3-year-old boy), their parents and adult sibling were killed in an orange grove outside Tel Aviv. The Haganah claimed responsibility, four workers were killed by machine gun fire and the family of seven when the house they were sleeping in was dynamited.
- August 18 – A British police cadet was killed on Mount Zion.
- August 22 – Two British soldiers were injured when the military truck they were traveling in was hit by a mine.
- September 3 – A postal bomb sent by either Irgun or Lehi exploded in the post office sorting room of the British War Office in London, injuring two.
- September 21 – A British messenger was killed.
- September 26 – Irgun fighters robbed a bank, killing four British policemen.
- September 27 – A Jewish illegal immigrant was killed by the British.
- September 29 – 10 killed (4 British policemen, 4 Arab policemen and an Arab couple) and 53 injured in Haifa police headquarters bombing by Irgun. One ton of explosives in a barrel was used for the bombing and Irgun said it was done on the first day of Sukkot to avoid Jewish casualties.
- September 29 - Irgun bombed the Cairo-Haifa train, twenty miles south of Haifa partially derailing it. One person was hospitalized.
- October 13 – Two British soldiers were killed in Jerusalem.
- November 12 – A total of 21 were killed in British-Jewish clashes.
- November 14 – Four Britons were killed in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
- November 17 - 2 Britons (a soldier and a constable) killed and 28 others wounded in bombing/shooting at Jerusalem cafe.
- December 8 - 4 Arabs and 4 Jews (including a woman and a 3 year old) were killed during an Arab attack on Beit Yaakov outside Tel Aviv (this was the first mass Arab attack on a Jewish village).
- December 9 – 7 Jews and 1 Arabs died in clashes in Haifa. A British soldier was also killed in Haifa and another seriously wounded by molotov cocktails thrown at their cars by Jewish insurgents.
- December 10 – A British soldier was killed and another wounded in Haifa. Two Arabs wounded in an Irgun bombing in Haifa later died.
- December 11 - 11 Jews and 9 Arabs were killed and 46 Arabs and 14 Jews injured, one British soldier wounded died later.(AP reported 41 total deaths, other sources reported 35). Nine of the Jewish deaths along with four injuries occurred during an attack on a bus convoy near Hebron. Four of the Arab deaths and 30 of the wounded were from bombing of a Lebanese-Arab bus in Haifa.
- December 12 – Jewish underground bombing attacks on buses in Haifa and Ramla killed 2 British soldiers, 20 Arabs and 5 Jews. Thirteen of the Arab deaths occurred during a Jewish attack on the village of Tira near Haifa. One Arab was wounded in another Jewish attack on the village of Shefat. A British Airways bus was attacked and burned near Lydda by Arabs, four people (including one Czech official) were killed.
- December 13 - Irgun bombings: 3 Arabs killed and 22 wounded (3 critically) by bombs thrown from taxi at Jerusalem's Damascus Gate, the casualties included children. A bomb thrown from a car into a Jaffa cafe killed 6 Arab adults (including an 11-year old) and injured 40 others (three were under 12). 24 armed Jewish men dressed as soldiers attacked the village of Yehudiya near Petah Tikva shooting guns and blowing up houses, 7 Arabs were killed (two women and two children, 3 and 4 years old among them) and 7 others seriously wounded (two women and girl of 4 among them).
- December 14 - 14 Jews were killed and 9 injured along with 2 British soldiers when troops from the Trans-Jordan Army fired on a bus convoy near Beth Nabala. The Jordanian troops were said to be responding to a grenade attack from the convoy. An 18 month old Arab toddler was killed and a man wounded by a grenade thrown at an Arab bus in Jerusalem. A Jeiwsh policeman was killed near Beersheba
- December 16 - 2 Jews and one Arab killed near Beersheba. Three Arabs killed near Gaza (reportedly by Arab assailants).
- December 18 - Haganah attack on [Al-Khisas]: 10 Arabs including five young children were killed when two cars of gunmen drove through the village firing guns and blew up two houses. The raid was ordered by Haganah as a reprisal attack for the killing of two Jewish settlement policemen.
- December 24 - 4 Arabs and 2 Jews killed, 26 wounded in shootings on streets and buses in Haifa.
- December 25 – Lehi members machine-gunned two British soldiers in a Tel Aviv cafe.
- December 29 – Two British constables and 11 Arabs were killed and 32 Arabs wounded when Irgun members threw a bomb from a taxi at Jerusalem's Damascus Gate.
- February 12 – A British soldier was killed by a sniper in Haifa.
- February 19 – Two British soldiers were killed.
- February 23 – Two British policemen were killed.
- February 29 – As part of the Cairo-Haifa train bombings, Lehi fighters mined a train that included coaches used by British troops north of Rehovot, killing 28 British soldiers and wounding 35.
- March 3 – A British soldier was killed by a Jewish sniper.
- March 29 – A British soldier was killed by a vehicle mine in Jerusalem.
- April 6 – Irgun fighters led by Ya'akov Meridor raided the British Army camp at Pardes Hanna, killing seven British soldiers.
- April 20 – Jewish snipers attacked British soldiers and policemen throughout Haifa, wounding two policemen and a soldier. British forces returned fire and killed five snipers.
- April 28 - British troops intervened to stop Operation Hametz, leading to a small battle with the Irgun. The intervention succeeded in preventing a Jewish takeover of Jaffa, while it failed to expel the Irgun from Menashiya due to stiff resistance. To put pressure on Ben-Gurion to rein in the Irgun, British planes flew over Tel Aviv and also bombed Haganah positions in Bat Yam. Eventually the British issued an ultimatum to Ben-Gurion, threatening to bomb Tel Aviv if he didn't stop the Irgun offensive. The next day, an agreement was reached in which Haganah fighters would replace the Irgun in Menashiya, and the Haganah pledged not to attack Jaffa until the end of the Mandate. British troops were allowed to reoccupy the police fort in Menashiya, but the town remained in Jewish hands.
- May 3 – A Lehi book bomb posted to the parental home of British Major Roy Farran was opened by his brother Rex, killing him.
Effect upon mutual British–Arab interests
Anglo-Arab relations were of vital importance to British strategic concerns both during the war and after, notably for their access to oil and to India via the Suez Canal. Britain governed or protected Oman, Sudan, Kuwait, the Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Yemen, had treaties of alliance with Iraq (the Anglo-Iraqi Treaty (1930) and the Anglo-Iraqi Treaty (1948)) and Egypt (Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of 1936). Transjordan was granted independence in 1946 and the Anglo-Jordanian Treaty of 1948 allowed Britain to station troops in Jordan and promised mutual assistance in the event of war.
Effects upon independence movements worldwide
According to the BBC documentary The Age of Terror: In the Name of Liberation, the successful Jewish struggle for independence in Palestine inspired numerous violent campaigns for independence in other countries of the world at the time, such as by the Malayan Communist Party in the Malayan Emergency and the FLN in the Algeria War. EOKA also used Irgun tactics in the Cyprus Emergency. Political scientist John Bowyer Bell, who studied both the Irgun and the Irish Republican Army, noted that many IRA men whom he interviewed in the 1960s had studied Menachem Begin's memoir The Revolt, and used it as a manual for guerilla warfare. Nelson Mandela had also studied the book, and used it as a guide in planning the ANC's guerrilla campaign against the apartheid government of South Africa. The Palestine Liberation Organization also drew inspiration from the Irgun's success.
- 6th Airborne Division in Palestine
- Israel-United Kingdom relations
- List of Irgun attacks
- List of modern conflicts in the Middle East
- Suez Crisis
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A British soldier was injured yesterday when a military vehicle was blown up by a mine at Petah Tikva, north of Tel Aviv. A police bomb disposal squad at Haifa discovered a bomb attached to the Shell Oil Company's pipe line across the Kishon River, five miles east of Haifa, and removed and detonated it. An engine pulling a goods train from Haifa was de railed early yesterday morning.
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He was convicted following a bank hold-up In September. Irgun Zvai Leumi broadcast a threat that if the sentence were confirmed, British Army officers would be flogged in retaliation.
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DP conditions: http://bcrfj.revues.org/document269.html Jews on Cyprus: http://news.pseka.net/index.php?module=article&id=8199 DP camps (personal accounts): http://www.virtualmuseum.ca/Exhibitions/orphans/english/themes/pdf/the_dp.pdf