Mata Hari of British Palestine


War Hero
On 58th Independence Day, Israel

According to legend, as the British forces evacuated, leaving Arabs and Jews to fight over Palestine, they deliberately left behind three tanks for the Zionist forces on the orders of General Hugh Stockwell, who had become a late convert to their cause after a stormy love affair with the beautiful Jewish wife of a junior officer. British Officers in Palestine were mostly unsympathetic to the Zionist cause. One such was General Hugh Stockwell commander of the Haifa area in 1947-8, who later commanded the Allied ground forces in the Suez invasion of 1956.

This was probably the only case in which sex affected the course of Israel's history.


Dockside scenes as the British Troops leave Palestine

Haifa, Israel / Palestine

click image to play video

Duration: 05 mins 58 secs
Black & White, Mute


General Sir Hugh Stockwell (1903-1986) was the stuff of anecdotes, but he exercised a great deal of control over so many people's affections as he revealed a tenderness and humanity which did not fit in with the accepted role of a former Commandant of Sandhurst. That dark and saturnine man Field Marshal Gerald Templer, always needed Hughie near at hand, even to the extent of getting him into drag at the Field Marshal's annual New Year's Eve parties during the Malaya crisis.

Stockwell looked like Douglas Fairbanks and had the humorous eyes of David Niven. He was a tall man, and fair, with blue eyes, a beaky nose and close-cropped moustache. He had a vivid personality, and a gift of forceful, incisive expression. His manner was of such engaging friendliness that all who met him found it irresistible. He was the most original of all the generals. Somehow he had avoided ever going on a course or even turning up at the Imperial Staff College. Yet the military establishment in extremis turned to him to fight rearguard actions, be it in Norway in 1940, Palestine, Malaysia, and eventually to mount the ill-fated Suez operation in November 1956.

In 1947 he took it to Palestine, where it played an active part in the maintenance of law and order in the last months of the British occupation. He was particularly successful in organizing the withdrawal of our forces from Haifa, arranging a five-day truce between Jews and Arabs to allow the peaceful evacuation of the Arab population. For these services he was made KBE.

The 'Haifa Turning Point': The British Administration and the Civil War in Palestine, December 1947-May 1948

As the British Mandate in Palestine neared its end in 1947-8, the city of Haifa became engulfed in intermittent violence that pitted Arab fighters, recruited locally as well as from neighboring Arab countries, against the Jewish underground organization known as the Hagana. The hostilities would reach their peak on April 21-22, 1948, when the British suddenly decided to evacuate most of the town and each of the two parties moved in quickly to try to fill the vacuum and assert control. But the first thing the documents show is that Arab flight from Haifa began well before the outbreak of these hostilities.

British commander Major-General Hugh Stockwell told the Arabs:

You have made a foolish decision. Think it over, as you'll regret it afterward. You must accept the conditions of the Jews. They are fair enough. Don't permit life to be destroyed senselessly. After all, it was you who began the fighting, and the Jews have won.

The next day, Haifa’s remaining Arab leadership met with Stockwell and his advisers to discuss their evacuation

While some Palestinian Arabs were expelled, such as those who resided in Ramle and Lod, the vast majority of Arabs fled of their own accord, many due to false rumors spread by Arab propagandists. For example, Hazem Nusseibeh, an editor of the Palestine Broadcasting Service’s Arabic news in 1948, admits that he and Hussein Khalidi, of the Arab Higher Committee (the representative body of the Arabs of British Mandate Palestine), fabricated atrocities in reporting about the battle at Deir Yassin “so the Arab armies [of neighboring countries] will come to liberate Palestine from the Jews.” Nusseibeh said in a BBC television series “Israel and the Arabs: the 50 Year Conflict” that: This was our biggest mistake. We did not realize how our people would react. As soon as they heard that women had been raped [which was a fabrication] at Deir Yassin, Palestinians fled in terror.

The Jerusalem Post

In memoriam, Judy Beilin

David Bar-Illan

SHE was a stunningly beautiful, Catholic actress in Manchester, England; hardly a person one would expect to play a pivotal role in Israel's War of Independence. Nor did she immigrate to British-ruled Palestine during the intifada of the 1930s for ideological reasons. She just fell in love with my uncle, Harry Beilin, and she left family, country, religion, and career to live as a Jew in her husband's strife-torn land.

She got a job as news announcer and "children's corner" host at the Palestine Broadcasting Service, the country's British-controlled radio station. A little later she also became the English news reader on the Hagana radio, beamed at British troops and colonial officials. Her stage experience helped: she disguised her voice well, and fans of radio's "Auntie Judy" never suspected she was the announcer on the underground radio with the changing frequencies. On May 14, 1948, it was her voice on the Hagana station, reading Israel's Proclamation of Independence in english, which was heard around the world.

But a far more challenging opportunity came her way when Harry, a Moshe Sharett protege at the Jewish Agency's Political Department, was appointed the provisional government's liason with the British authorities in Haifa. The country's only real port then, Haifa was the evacuating British troops' last stop. It was also a mixed town with a large Arab population whose strategic importance was second to none.

Had the British done in Haifa what they routinely did elsewhere - divulge departure schedules, and hand police fortresses and arms caches to the Arab "Najada" - the battle for Haifa would have been bloody indeed. It was the incredible friendship which British-born Harry and Judy, and their sabra friend Pita Wolf, developed with the British commander, Gen. Hugh Stockwell (the full story is yet to be told) which turned the liberation of Haifa into the greatest success story of the War of Independence. In Haifa, the British favored the Jews. They even conveniently forgot a couple of tanks in the harbor.
This is a most interesting post and one that reflects a current, and in my view regrettable, trend.

Consider this: Was Judith Ward, who blew up an army bus on the M62, killing 11 including 2 children a Mata Hari? What about the woman who lured three young RHF soldiers to their deaths in Belfast in the 1970’s? Surely what they were doing was OK because they were fighting for a cause they believed in? Anyway, if it’s a woman that makes it somehow more glamorous.

Let’s take a reality check here. Glamorous? If you believe that the end justifies the means then they are. However, if you believe that conflict must be conducted within the rule of civilian law or the law of armed conflict then they are nothing but terrorists.

In Palestine, the Irgun/Palmach/Hagenah/Stern Gang were surely terrorists, not freedom fighters. This is a difficult and emotive area given the Holocaust had only ended months before. However, a look at some of the means makes the end difficult to justify and we, as service personnel should remember that many of our comrades lost their lives.

91 people were killed when the King David Hotel was bombed in an attack ordered by David Ben Gurion and Menachem Begin, both future Prime Ministers. Another 12 were killed at Jerusalem railway station. Here, the bombs were planted by ‘the girl in red’ one Sima Fleischaker-Hoizman. (Another glamorous Mata Hari?). 7, mostly unarmed, British soldiers were murdered at the 6th Airborne Division Transport Depot and another 13 by a bomb at the Goldsmith Officers’ Club. Finally, we should not forget Field Security Sergeants Martin and Paice who were kidnapped, tortured and hanged like common criminals. When the bodies were discovered, an officer was severely wounded by a booby trap as he tried to cut them down. Indeed, British soldiers continued to be murdered even after the start of the British withdrawal in what was a nasty, vicious campaign that few Brits, after six years of war, had the stomach for.

You could argue that General Stockwell betrayed his men with his liaison, no matter whether he believed in her cause or not. Whatever his views, he was expected to obey the lawful commands of a democratically elected government. If he didn’t like it, he should have resigned. There is a parallel with Iraq here, in that while our officers might not believe in the cause they are there legally and owe it to their soldiers to do their best.

So let’s not get all misty-eyed over these Mata Haris. Most were just plain terrorists.
I don't think the three tanks story is true. I read that these fvirst Israeli AFVs (Cromwell tanks) were stiolen from a tank park and hidden in the basement of half finished buildings, which were then completed overnight. What are the other three?

And further more re Zionist terrorists the Irgun gang based its tactics on the IRA and used terorism during the war against the Germans. First by driving the muslims from the mixed religioun "Palestine Brigade" and then by assassimnating Lord Moyne in Cairo. The Irgun were co-beligerant with the nazis.
Zionists who tried to establish contact with the Nazis did so with only one intention: to rescue Jewish lives from Nazi occupied Europe. Stern group was a tiny fringe organiation (500 members at most), which hoped it could make a deal with the Nazis to save Europe's Jews by getting them to Palestine. As the 'final solution' was not adopted by the Nazis until 1942, they were not behaving wholly irrationally.

Compare that with the open admiration and support given to Hitler by the Arab Nationalists of the day, particularly the Mufti of Jerusalem, who spent most of the war in Berlin. The Mufti collaborated with the Nazis when the 'final solution' was in progress and used whatever influence he had to stop Jews escaping from the gas chambers.

On killing the the Lord Moyne:

In 1975, an interview with Nathan Yallin-Mor, one of the three leaders of Lehi (the Stern Gang). On the assassinated Lord Moyne in 1943 (Moyne was the British High Commissioner for the Middle East). Yallin-Mor said that during World War II the British refused to allow Jews fleeing the Nazi Holocaust to go to Palestine. This policy led to such tragic incidents as the steamship Sturma, which, after being refused permission to land its several hundred Jewish refugees in Palestine, was then sunk by a German U-boat off the coast of Turkey; only one person survived. Yallin-Mor stated that because of censorship, the plight of these Jewish refugees was not receiving any publicity, that this policy would be "forced into the open" by the coverage of the death of a prominent British official.

Lord Moyne accused to be an anti-Semite by the Jews of Palestine, after making an 'anti-semitic and anti-Zionist' speech in the House of Lord in June 1942

He talked than "of the purity of the Arab race and denigrated the attempts of the mixed Jewish race to establish control over Palestine" . He claimed that the Hebrew people was nothing more than "a haphazard mixture of races," while the Arab tribes represented people of pure Semitic stock and that, therefore, the Hebrew people had no claim whatsoever to the Land of Israel.

Yet this was not about simple revenge: killing Moyne was, to use the phrase of the Russian anarchists, 'propaganda by deed'. The youthful assassinations were Eliyahu Hakim and Eliyahu Bet Zouri.

But what justified his fate in the eyes of the Sternists was the tragedy of the Struma, a leaky steam ship that had been packed with 769 visa -less Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazis when it arrived at Istanbul in mid-December 1941. The Turkish authorities refused to let the passengers land and the British refused them visas to Palestine. Britain did agree eventually to take the children, but the boat put to sea and sank in February 1942, with only one survivor. Moyne had been Colonial Secretary at the time. Moyne asserted his prime rationale for turning back every Jewish refugee was "preventing the influx of Nazi agents under the cloak of refugees." although not one instance was ever found.

Despite relatively approving the Sephardim on his racist speech. The lead member of the the hit-team was the Sepharadi Beirut-born dark-skinned, Arabic-speaking Eliyahu Hakim

Eliyahu Hakim's speech at his trial:

My comrade and I were brought up in the spirit of the Bible which says: Thou shalt not kill. But there were no other means available by which we could assert our rights which had been trampled on, so we decided to act and our cause was supremely just. We now have to answer the accusation of conspiracy to kill Lord Moyne., We accuse Lord Moyne and the Government he represented, of the murder of hundreds and thousands of our brothers and sisters. We accuse him of robbing us of our homeland and looting our possessions. Is there any law by which they could be tried for their crimes? Is there any forum to which we could turn for justice? No such law exists as yet, so we had no option but to see that justice was done ourselves.

The two Eliyahu were sentenced to death, and on March 23, 1945 were hanged in Cairo.

British Foreign Office files on the Moyne affair were opened in the Public Record Office in the mid-1970s, but much of the above - without the benefit of the original documents - was recounted in 1963 in a remarkable book, The Deed, whose history, in a way, has become part of the Moyne story itself. Gerold Frank, its author, had covered the Cairo trial for American news magazines and had taken a leading role in reconstructing the defiant speeches from the dock when note-taking was forbidden in the courtroom. 'I was fascinated and moved by their story, by the moral dilemma it posed, by the struggle between means and ends,' he reflected later. 'These two boys, belonging to a people with such a tragic history as victims of violence, turning to violence. They - their lives - how they were tried, how they defied the world, how they were sentenced and how they went to their deaths, all made an extraordinary story.'

Yaffa Greenberg, one of the Stern Group members says 'Naturally when you're a 19-year-old girl the idea of killing a man is hard,'.'But don't forget we were at war. The British had closed the gates to our land and our people were dying. When you see so much death - it touches you. Not only do I have a clear conscience - now that I know that the British and Americans didn't bomb Auschwitz, I feel even more angry.

Britain, Zionism and the Holocaust

Concern for the fate of European Jews never at any point even figured in the priorities of the British Empire. Britain’s rulers were infinitely more concerned about their colonial possessions than they were at the fate of the Jews. “The trouble with Hitler,” said British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden in a 1942 radio broadcast “was not that he was a Nazi at home. The trouble with him was that he would not stay at home.”

This is the context in which Britain received, and suppressed, hard evidence that the Nazis were perpetrating systematic massacres of Jews. Marion Milne, co producer of a BBC documentary called “What did you do in the war, Auntie?”, wrote "The Holocaust was the best-kept secret of the war. " Suspicions of Jews continued during the war, when the government was apprehensive about the level of anti-Semitism in Britain and feared it could turn into anti-war and pro-Fascist sentiment. "It did everything to avoid the impression that Britain was at war on behalf of the Jews".

The chief specific accusation against Britain’s WW2 War Cabinet in relation to the Holocaust is that it didn't just stop at passively preventing Jewish refugees from entering Britain or any other territories under its dominion, but that it in fact took the lead in 'sealing the escape routes', consciously and cynically trapping millions in harms way. The first shots fired by British forces in WW2 were at a boat laden with 1,400 Jewish refugees

The nadir of the Jewish refugee crisis was reached at the Evian Conference in July 1938, convened by Roosevelt. The initiative came from President Roosevelt. In June of 1938, he proposed that there should be a meeting of governmental representatives from all the countries of America and Europe except Germany. The British Government took alarm and asked that the agenda should deal with refugees and not only with the Jewish problem in Germany, and, most urgently, that the subject of Palestine should not be discussed. Roosevelt agreed to all these conditions.

In January 1940 the Colonial Office considered it necessary, in order to preserve British security in the Middle East, to seek to prevent an American charity sending food to dying families who had been marooned for months on the frozen Danube.

During the first two years of the war the German Government was not the primary obstacle to Jewish emigration from Nazi-controlled areas of Europe. Meanwhile, boats laden with Jewish refugees continued to set sail into war zones with nowhere to go. A series of incidents both dreadful and shameful ensued, of typhus and starvation among refugees trapped for months on overcrowded boats, many times being forced to return to their fascist tormentors. A famous example was the St Louis, whose passengers endured months of hell on the high seas, were denied permission to enter Britain, the U.S., Cuba, Canada and countless other countries. They were eventually forced to return to German occupied Europe, where many were subsequently to die in concentration camps.

The not inconsiderable expanse of the British Empire was found, as one official put it, to have an 'absorptive capacity of nil' when it came to the admission of Jewish refugees. The Labour Home Secretary,Herbert Morrison, considered the danger of anti-Semitism in Britain during the war so menacing as to preclude the admission of any significant numbers of Jewish refugees to the United Kingdom. At the end of the war he urged that refugees from Germany should be compulsorily renationalized as Germans, and he is represented in Cabinet minutes as arguing for their return to Germany on the basis that “anti- Semitism was a lesser threat there than in Britain.”

A (non-public) statement handed to the American Ambassador in London in December 1943, when there appeared a possibility of securing the departure of seventy thousand Jews from Romania. The Ambassador was in formed that 'the Foreign Office are concerned with the difficulties of disposing of any considerable number of Jews should they be rescued from enemy-occupied territory'. When the fate of Hungarian Jewry hung in the balance in mid- 1944 the attitude of most ministers and officials was similar.

In the final year of the war, when escape from Europe again became a practicable proposition for a few of the Jewish survivors, the British Government resumed its practice of earlier years in seeking to prevent the departure of Jews from Europe.

Pleas to the Government to relax the economic blockade of Axis Europe to permit some food and medical relief to be sent to the ghettos and concentration camps met with little substantial success. The proposal for the bombardment of Auschwitz by the Allies, although favoured by Churchill and Eden, was obstructed by officials in the Foreign Office and the Air Ministry.

During the first two years of the war, when the German authorities bent their efforts to securing the exodus of Jews from the Reich and from Nazi-occupied territory, it was the British Government which took the lead in barring the escape routes from Europe against Jewish refugees. On the second day of the war an overcrowded hulk, carrying terrified refugees, including women and children, in flight from the terror of Britain's enemies, was fired on by British forces when those on board sought haven on British-held territory (in a country which Britain, under the different exigencies of a previous war, had thought fit to declare their 'national home'). The Government of Palestine, in December 1940, after the Patria explosion, was so anxious to get rid of the surviving passengers from the Atlantic, that it was not prepared to delay their deportation for a matter of days in order to isolate typhoid carriers: the result was an epidemic and many deaths.

The government line, echoed by the BBC, "We wanted to keep the Middle East quiet," says Sir Frank Roberts, a Foreign Office mandarin in charge of monitoring German activities. "It was an important part of our war effort. We had to be careful we didn't give the Arabs the impression that we had suddenly turned over into a pro-Jewish, pro-Zionist organisation."
hansvonhealing said:
Interesting to read an Israeli justifying terrorism....

Jorge Garvia Granados, a leading figure in the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine
(UNSCOP), on this issue

He referred to this incident

From "The UN Report Prepared in 1948 for Ralphe Bunche, New UN Commissioner to Palestine" on Jewish terrorism as reported by the British Authorities:

July 29, 1947, Palestine. The British authorities hanged three Irgunists in Acre prison despite appeals from Jewish leaders. The condemned, Myer Nakar, Absalom Habib and Jacob Weiss, had fought in the Czech underground during the war. They were convicted of blowing up Acre Prison on May 4 and liberating 200 Arabs and Jews.
Those three "terrorists" didn't kill anyone, had fought in the Czech underground during the war on behalf of the SOE. Their hanging referred by Sumner Welles (1892 – 1961), Under Secretary of State in US, as murder.

on July 29 1947 the British authorities in Palestine executed the three condemned Irgun prisoners . The executions did not receive much attention in the British media. The Irgun’s claim the following day, however, to have revenged the execution of their men by hanging
sergeants Martin and Paice certainly did capture the media’s attention.

I think you have missed what the three Zionist terrorists actiually did.

They ambushed and fired on a Palestinian school bus with a Bren gun. They may not have killed any of them, and they were incompetent enough to be caught. However their intent was murderous and would have been given no mercy under similar cicumstances today.

You have also missed the end to the Un investigations aboutg the Biritsh hanging. These concluded that the British had behaved properly and legally in trying and executing these men. Despite the Zionist spin on the stoiry the exhibition in the old Jail at Acco makes this same point. There was a vigourous attampt made by Zionist lobbyists to prosecute the British over this matter. The case was found for the British.

Exactly which pro israel lobby group do you work for?
Pteranadon said:

I think you have missed what the three Zionist terrorists actiually did.

They ambushed and fired on a Palestinian school bus with a Bren gun.
No, its not the case, you may refer to that case

Shlomo Ben-Yosef, the first Jew to be hanged by the British Authority.

In his study of the revolt Bowyer Bell provides an account of the situation.

Terror Out of Zion by J. Bowyer Bell p.40-41

There was a particularly unsavory incident when a taxi was ambushed. The driver stalled the cab. In a panic all five Jews leaped out and took cover in ain a roadside ditch. The Arabs rushed in with swords, slashing and stabbing They raped a young woman and mutilated her body. All five Jews were hacked to death. There were no security people about, and the murderers disappeared back into the hills and into their villages. The Jews of Galilee were horrified and largely helpless. No one knew which Arabs had been responsible, and both the Haganah and the Irgun still avoided indiscriminate retaliation.

Three young Betarim from the nearby Rosh Pinah settlement felt that somethingmust be done. One, Shlomo Ben-Yosef, who had come to Rosh Pinah from Poland had turned to Avraham Shein and Shalom Zurabin on hearing the news and demanded, “And what are we doing? We are sitting quietly doing nothing . They scoured about and found a revolver and an old grenade, and planned to ambush the Safad-Tiberias bus on April 21. Misjudging the speed of the bus going downhill, they missed with their shots. The grenade was a dud. All three were promptly arrested for what appeared a futile, bungled, and quite unimportant incident.

The British administration, however, took a different for view; here was a clear case of Jewish terrorism that would require an evenhanded response: there there needed to be an example of British impartiality to soothe Arab anxiety. Although it was pointed out that the Arab provocation was great and continuing. that all three young men were of good character without records of any sort ,had never been familiar with firearms, and had hurt no one, the court was not impressed.

Counsel did persuade the court that Zurabin was “mentally unbalanced,” so the case against him was dropped, but the other two were judged guilty. On June 5, both were condemned to death. Counsel managed to get Avraham Shein's sentence commuted because he was under eighteen, but the court would not relent on Ben Yosef .Still there was hope, for in a similar case in Gaza an Arab youth of good character whose act had injured no one was reprieved .

This time however the Palestine administration made it abundantly clear to the new GOC, Major General Haining, who had just taken over from Wavell, that it was the urgently expressed wish of those in authority that the sentence be confirmed. It was Ben Yosef would die. It was so patent that the sentence related not to Ben-Yosef's crime but to the furtherance of British policy that outrage spread far beyond the Yishuv. Not only did various Palestine Jewish parties and individuals plead for clemency, but also did the Jews of the diaspora. In Ireland Robert Briscoe, former IRA leader and later a Jewish mayor of Dublin, contacted first Jabotinsky then Lord Nathan in London and sought a legal loophole to stay the execution. All were refused. Ben-Yosef's counsel was refused a stay.

A plea for clemency by the Polish government in the name of Polish citizen Shlomo Tabachnik—who had made his way illegally from Poland into Palestine—was also ignored. It was obvious to everyone, including Ben-Yosef, that Britain was determined to set example. On the eve of his execution, a group of journalists visited Ben-Yosef in his cell in the Acre fortress.

Do not console me . . . I need no consolation.

I am proud to be the first Jew to go to the gallows in Palestine.

In dying I shall do my people a greater service than in my life.

Let the world see that Jews are not afraid to face death

As the noose was placed over his neck, he called out, “Long live the Jewish state!"

The noose was adjusted. The CID officer who had walked him to the gallows stepped back. There was a pause, then the lever was pulled. The trap opened with a heavy clunk and Ben-Yosef dropped into the pit, hanged by the neck until dead. On the wall of his cell he had scratched “To die or to conquer the height" and “Death compared with one's country is nothing.” The Irgun had a martyr. The British had their example, and a great deal more trouble than ever anticipated.

Now that there was evidence that the government was with them again, the Arabs unleashed a series of terrorist attacks on the Yishuv, and the Irgun responded in kind.

Terror Out of Zion by J. Bowyer Bell p.40-41

Columbia University scholar the late J. Bowyer Bell, writer of authoritative works on the Irish Republican Army and the Jewish underground reported in the epilogue to his Terror out of Zion - the first definitive study in English of the Irgun and Lehi (St. Martin's Press, 1977) - that he was given his copy of Menachem Begin's memoir The Revolt by an IRA cell commander in Derry, Northern Ireland. It had become, just as Collins's writings were to previous generations of Jewish rebels, "a handbook for aspiring revolutionaries."
Well mora, you certainlly know how to win friends and influence people. You criticise the British for fighting terrorism and describe the IRA as 'revolutionaries'...All in a British Army website. Who's a clever boy then!
Milan commemorating the 61st anniversary of Italy's liberation from fascism

Last update - 15:01 28/04/2006

Italian authorities investigate anti-Israel protests at Milan march

By The Associated Press

ROME - Italian authorities are investigating anti-Israeli protests that marred a march in Milan commemorating the 61st anniversary of Italy's liberation from fascism, a prosecutor said Friday.

Armando Spataro, an anti-terrorism prosecutor in the northern city, said a number of people have been placed under investigation for incitement to commit a crime, causing damage and holding an unauthorized demonstration.

Spataro refused to release the number of those investigated or their nationality, saying only that police had identified them as having taken part in Tuesday's protests, during which demonstrators trampled and burned Israeli flags and shouted slogans in support of the Palestinians.

The protests happened on the sidelines of a Liberation Day commemorative march and were apparently prompted by the presence in the march of Israeli flags in honor of members of the Jewish Brigade, an infantry unit that helped liberate Italy.

Commemorations are held throughout Italy on the April 25 national holiday in honor of the partisan uprising that began on that day in 1945 and ended with the execution of Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.

Italian politicians joined Jewish leaders and the Israeli ambassador to Italy in harshly condemning the flag burning as having marred the celebration. Center-left leader Romano Prodi, who will lead Italy's incoming government, called it a "vile demonstration of intolerance."

Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano wrote Wednesday that "to offend a flag means to offend the people for whom it is a symbol, and therefore in this case it was an offense to the entire Jewish people, precisely on the day in which we celebrate liberation from their infamous oppressors."

The protests happened on the sidelines of a Liberation Day commemorative march and were apparently prompted by the presence in the march of Israeli flags in honor of members of the Jewish Brigade, an infantry unit that helped liberate Italy.
With the outbreak of World War II, a push began to set up a Jewish Brigade on the side of the Allies. The President of the World Zionist Organization Chaim Weizmann offered the British government full cooperation of the Jewish community in British Mandate of Palestine and tried to negotiate the establishment of identifiably Jewish fighting unit (under a Jewish flag) under the auspices of British Army. His request was rejected, but many Palestinian Jews joined the British army, some in Jewish companies. Fifteen Palestinian Jewish battalions were incorporated into the British Army in September 1940 and fought in Greece in 1941.

Lifesavers of the Jewish Brigade

Shimon Behar

A platoon sergeant in the Jewish Brigade and later a Lt. Col. in the IDF, Shimon Behar describes how tells how the Jewish community in Palestine volunteered to fight fascism and then British immigration restrictions.

Germany's surrender in May, 1945, brought relief to all of the Allied soldiers in Europe; many were released from military service or given rotated leave and returned home to their countries and families.

Not so the Jewish volunteers in the British Army. For them a new, much tougher period commenced: that of searching for survivors of the Holocaust, coming face to face with the horrors of the concentration camps, and organizing rescue plans.

Thousands of these Jewish soldiers had relatives in Europe and they took leave to search for them. A huge mass of individual soldiers spread over Europe, meeting with survivors who could not at first conceive that after what they had been through there was still a Promised Land, and that its representatives - Jewish soldiers - were among those liberating them from the Nazi horrors.

Even before the German surrender, members of the British Army's Jewish Brigade Group and other units - each in its own location - organized life-saving relief operations. At first, each unit acted independently, but after a while something called "The Center for the Exiled," was set up in Italy to coordinate operations.

Representatives of the various units looked everywhere for survivors; Jewish children were removed from monasteries and Christian families that had sheltered them and all were transferred to the bases where they received food, clothing, aid and support, and were prepared for immigration to Palestine. The soldiers taught the children and adults Hebrew, Jewish history and instilled in them a love for the Holy Land. Youths were taught use of weapons and the geography of Palestine.

Doctors, nurses and para-medics from among the volunteers organized makeshift hospitals, sick-bays and nursing homes, where they took care of all those - and there were many - in need of medical assistance, medication and rehabilitation.

It did not take long before the bases where the units were stationed, especially the Brigade's base in Northern Italy, became a magnet for tens of thousands of survivors.

The British were not blind to these activities. In order to put a stop to them, it was decided to move the Jewish Brigade from Northern Italy to the Netherlands. When this did not achieve the desired result, the British decided to disband the Brigade and ship its volunteers back to Palestine.

In order to ensure the continuation of rescue operations, 120 soldiers in the Brigade took off their uniforms which, together with their military documents, they gave to young survivors who took their place and arrived in Palestine in their stead. The 120 remained in Europe to care for the rest of the survivors and to organize their immigration to Palestine.

The outbreak of the Second World War had placed the Jewish community in Palestine - less than 500,000 at the time - in a serious dilemma. On the one hand, it was threatened by Nazism with its declared goal of annihilating the Jewish People. On the other hand, imperial Britain, bent on appeasing wrathful Arabs throughout the Middle East, ruled Palestine with a marked anti-Zionist and sometimes anti-semitic policy.

For the three years prior to the outbreak of the War, the Arabs had renewed their attacks on Jewish settlements and communications between them, while the British Mandatory Government, in any case unfavorable to the idea of a Jewish National Home, took the opportunity to impose upon the Jews various limitations and prohibitions published in what was known as "The White Paper." Immigration was practically brought to a standstill and even those few who escaped the Nazis and came knocking on the doors of Palestine in search of asylum were refused entrance and forcibly sent back. Hundreds were drowned at sea and the rest killed by the Germans, as no Western nation would take them in.

In addition, Jews were forbidden to purchase land in most of Palestine, a decree aimed at strangling the community and ensuring it remained a minority, forever dependent on British goodwill.

The Jewish dilemma was resolved by the adoption by the community's leadership of David Ben-Gurion's statement, that "we must fight the Nazi enemy as though "The White Paper" did not exist; and continue our fight against British rule in Palestine as though there was no war with the Nazis."

The official expression of this policy was given in a letter from the President of the Jewish Agency, Dr. Chaim Weizmann (later the first President of Israel), to British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, in which - among other things - he wrote:

"The Jews feel they have a role to play in the defense of the values held most sacred at this hour of crisis, and I wish to reiterate the declaration we made - that the Jews stand by Great Britain and will fight shoulder to shoulder alongside the democratic countries ... wherefore we shall place ourselves, in greater as in lesser matters, under the direction of the British Government. The Jewish Agency has had, of late, disagreements with the Mandatory Government. We wish, however, to postpone such disagreements due to the more pressing needs of the hour."

And the Jewish Community did, in fact, commence to organize in face of the approaching storm. The Jewish authorities declared a "volunteer campaign" for three national emergency services: 1) Jewish Defense. 2) Fortification of the Jewish economy for the duration of the war. 3) Active participation in the war against the Nazis by volunteering for the British Armed Forces.

Exactly 136,063 men and women above the age of 18 answered the call: 12 percent of them volunteered for the task of fortifying the economy, 45 percent of them volunteered for internal defense an 41 percent declared their readiness to enlist in the British Armed Forces.

The offer to enlist in the British forces was greeted with mixed feelings on by sides. The British, too, were not delighted by the idea of enlistment, and were particularly opposed to the creation of Jewish fighting units, as they feared these would serve, after the war, as the kernel of a Jewish army that would fight "The White Paper" and even endanger the continuation of the British Mandate in Palestine.

It was Moshe Shertock (later Sharett), head of the Political Department of The Jewish Agency, who cleared the way for volunteer enlistment into the British Army; first into service units and later into all branches of the armed forces. Italy's entry into the war as Germany's ally and its air and sea attacks on Palestine and General Rommel's advances in the Western Desert also contributed to this tendency, which eventually saw some 30,000 young men and women, more than six percent of the Jewish Community in Palestine, enlisting in the British forces.

These volunteers were organized into various Jewish service units, such as The Pioneers, the RASC (transport), the RE (engineers), the RAOC (ordnance), the RA (artillery) (of which one company for the defense of Haifa port and the Haifa Bay, formed in September, 1939), the R.N. (navy), the ATS and the WAAF (women's auxiliary forces), the RAF (air force). In addition, "Palestinian" infantry companies were formed as part of the Buffs and retained largely in Palestine for guard duty, though some saw action in the Western Desert.

In the course of the war, units of Palestinian Jewish volunteers reached every front in North Africa and Europe and, as individuals, even the Far East. Early on in the war, the Pioneer units were sent to France and were among the first to come into contact with the enemy. They participated in the massive withdrawal to Dunkirk and the Allied evacuation; and later in the siege of Tobruk. Over 1,500 of the Pioneers and Port Operators Company 1093 were taken prisoner by the Germans in Greece and Crete; 140 men of Transport Company 462 were drowned when their Malta-bound ship was bombed. A Jewish commando unit under Orde Wingate received praise for its actions in the Ethiopia and Eritrea campaigns.

Jewish R.E. units participated in the Western Desert and later in Italy; their main occupation was clearing minefields. Montgomery's Chief Engineer was Brigadier Frederick Kisch DSO, who resigned as head of the Jewish Agency in Palestine in order to re-enlist; he was an expert in mine clearance but was eventually killed by one, just before his promotion to major-general was confirmed. A Palestinian camouflage company so excelled at its job that Churchill praised it during his speech in Parliament after the El-Alamein victory.

Jewish transport units covered desert routes for thousands of kilometers under German air bombardment, carrying ammunition, supplies and food to the front line. Over four thousand Jewish ATS and WAAF performed various jobs in hospitals, offices and warehouses, drove cars and trucks and performed a host of other auxiliary functions.

Thanks to the excellent record of the early volunteers and after a struggle of nearly five years led by Moshe Shertok, the British government eventually agreed to the official establishment of the 5,500 strong Jewish Brigade Group, whose emblem was the Star of David and whose colors were blue and white. The official name was The Fighting Jewish Brigade but to the Palestinian Jews it was known simply as The Brigade. Shertock made the following statement on Jerusalem radio:

"The Fighting Jewish Brigade is a reward for the effort of all the volunteers and a victory for the faith that burned in them. It is proof positive that there is reward for unwavering persistence and for an iron will ever bent on its goal ... that Jewish soldiers be given their heart's wish, to fight the Germans."

During September and October of 1944, three commando formations of the Brigade were concentrated at Bourg El-Arab in Western Egypt. These included artillery and transport units (Company 178), an RE unit with some non-Jewish personnel, a medical company with a field hospital and others. Following a short period of organization and training, they arrived in Italy in November, 1944, where they completed training and went to the front as part of the Eighth Army, where they took an active part in the battle on the Senio River - the last battle preceeding the collapse of the German military organization in Italy.

Elements of the Brigade marched in the Victory Parade in London at the end of the War, wearing their medals and carrying their colors - the Blue and White - thus representing the one and a half million Jews who served in the allied forces. Over 700 members of the Palestinian Jewish volunteers are buried in British Military Cemeteries that line the axes of advance and retreat of the British Army.

With the invasion of Palestine by Arab armies imminent the same volunteers were once again called to arms. They brought with them two unique gifts: they were the only ones with combat and organizational experience, invaluable in the formation and training of the I.D.F. One Brigade veteran, Chaim Laskov, eventually became Israel's chief-of-staff.

The Jerusalem Post

British fears blocked WWII Jewish Brigade records show

Daniel Simpson, Reuters

LONDON - For fear of creating a force that would fight for a Jewish state, British commanders blocked the formation of a Jewish army brigade for most of World War II, records released on Monday said.

Proposals from David Ben-Gurion, director of Palestine's Jewish Agency, were consistently sidelined because of British army fears over armed Jews' threats to political stability in Palestine, then under British administration.

Historians say the foundations of the future Israeli army were laid within the British forces.

Files released by the Public Records Office on Monday showed British commanders knew it could happen and tried to head it off.

A Jewish Brigade, launched in September 1944, won War Cabinet support only after Prime Minister Winston Churchill intervened.

Backing a suggestion from Chaim Weizmann, future president of Israel, for a Jewish Brigade flag of the Star of David on a white background between two pale blue bars in an August 1944 letter, Churchill told US President Franklin Roosevelt it "would be a message to go all over the world".

Wartime files show Field Marshal Sir John Dill told the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, Sir Alan Brooke, in an April 1942 briefing: "A Jewish Brigade would increase (the) internal security problem in (the) Arab world and moreover would undoubtedly lead to pressure for larger Jewish formations." He cited "ample evidence that extreme Zionist elements cherish (the) ambition to obtain (a) Jewish National Home by force and Jewish armed organizations already exist in Palestine to this end".

Britain's most famous general, Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, warned in a late 1946 letter to chiefs of staff: "The Jews in Palestine are fanatical about their cause and we will find both men and women fighting against us."

"They have made us dance to their tune for too long," he said as the security situation towards the end of the British mandate deteriorated.

Jewish Brigade in the British Army headquarters brigade in italy.jpg

Jewish Brigade soldiers observing Passover in Italy. The Zionist flag, which was to become the flag of Israel, was the official flag of the Jewish Brigade in the British Army

German Propaganda

Background: These are satirical comic strips from Das Schwarze Korps, the weekly newspaper of the SS. They were published in 1944 and 1945.

Title: "The Jewish Brigade" (16 November 1944)

See more photographs

Jewish Brigade
March 27-29, 1945

View historical film footage

Soldiers of the Jewish Brigade, British Eighth Army, in the Faenza area of Italy. The Jewish Brigade took part in the final stages of the Allied offensive in Italy.

Jewish refugees cross into Italy

View historical film footage

Jewish refugees cross into Italy

The postwar movement of about 250,000 mainly eastern European Jewish survivors to displaced persons camps and to the West, with the goal of reaching Palestine, was known as the "Brihah" ("flight"). Here, Jewish refugees cross illegally into Italy, probably to charter a ship to sail to Palestine. The British restricted Jewish immigration into Palestine and deported "illegal" immigrants to detention camps in Cyprus.
hansvonhealing said:
So, you're saying you don't agree with it then? So why include it??
.........Who are you working for?
Who are you?
hansvonhealing said:
So, you're saying you don't agree with it then? So why include it??
.........Who are you working for?
I recognise the picture in the signature - I've seen it before at I don't know if that helps to explain anything about this user though.
I've just found this insert from a site of John W Donaldson - The 6th Airborne Division

The final days of the British mandate in Palestine

We made it to Rafah a camp on the border with a few vehicles to spare and spent the night there. The next day we watched the Egyptian army mount a classic infantry tank attack on a small settlement with everything, including rocket firing Hurricanes. Incredible as it seemed to us the attack was unsuccessful. At that point I had no doubt that Israel would survive as a nation.
He apparently refers to Kibbutz Yad Mordechai ( or Kibbutz Negba)

Yad Mordechai is named in honor of Mordechai Anielewicz, a leader of the socialist-Zionist movement Hashomer Hatzair (The Young Guard) in prewar Poland. After the Nazi conquest of Poland, he became a leader of the Jewish resistance, organizing underground activities and ultimately becoming the commander of the Jewish Fighting Organization in the Warsaw Ghetto. He died during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943, at the age of 24.

Four days after Israel's declaration of independence on May 15, 1948, Yad Mordechai was attacked by an Egyptian armored column. The book entitled "Six days at Yad Mordechai" tells the story of how in May 1948 only a few days after Israel had declared independence around 100 kibbutzniks - held off the Egyptian advance by up to 10,000 regular troops with armour and air-support for six key days until they were forced to abandon the kibbutz. They brought Israel valuable time for her regular army to organise defensive positions and in time a counter attack that would change the tide of war in due course. An epic tale or Israel's Alamo if you like.

As P.J. O'Rourke wrote in The Atlantic:

The Atlantic Monthly | November 2001

On May 19, 1948, Yad-Mordechai was attacked by an Egyptian armored column with air and artillery support. The kibbutz was guarded by 130 men and women, some of them teenagers, most without military training. They had fifty-five light weapons, one machine gun, and a two-inch mortar. Yad-Mordechai held out for six days—long enough for the Israeli army to secure the coast road to Tel Aviv. Twenty-six of the defenders were killed, and about 300 Egyptians.

A slit trench has been left along the Yad-Mordechai hilltop, with the original fifty-five weapons fastened to boards and preserved with tar. Under the viscous coatings a nineteenth-century British rifle is discernible, and the sink-trap plumbing of two primitive Bren guns. The rest of the firearms look like the birds and cats that were once mummified—by Egyptians, appropriately enough. Below the trench is a lace negligee of barbed wire, all the barbed wire the kibbutz had in 1948, and beyond that are Egyptian tanks, just where they stopped when they could go no farther. Between the tanks dozens of charging Egyptian soldiers are represented by life-size, black-painted two-dimensional cutouts—Gumby commandos, lawn ornaments on attack.

Yad Mordechai has recreated the 1948 battle scene with figures representing Egyptian soldiers. In the foreground are some of the weapons used by the defenders.

Here's one the the Egyptian tanks they managed to stop

In the early days it was the Czechs who supplied the Israeli's with arms, and the British who armed the Arabs, including General Glubb Pasha and about 200 British Officers who led the Jordanian Arab Legion who organised the siege of Jerusalem and forced the Jewish evacuation of the Jewish Quarter of the Old City in East Jerusalem. In the first air dogfights of that War the Israeli's piloted captured Messersmidt against British supplied Egyptian spitfires.

Without the Russians involvement the modern state of Israel would not have come into existence!

Of course, today Israel is seen as a protege of the United States, but for the infant United Nations could clear the way for Israel’s creation was a possibility that existed only briefly, as it did in 1948, for Soviet Russia’s goodwill - and it must be remembered it permitted Czechoslovakia to send arms to Israel when it was invaded by Arab armies - would not survive the onset of the Cold War.

In fact, the US was far from enthusiastic about the creation of Israel as an independent nation in what was then the British mandate of Palestine. The State Department made its opposition clear even before the end of the Second World War, when Zionist groups were already active. Important US newspapers and periodicals at the time, especially in 1947 and 1948, reveal clear hostility to the idea of a Jewish home in Palestine. The US believed that such a state would act as a vehicle for left-wing ideas in a region dominated by feudal regimes which would be easier to control, and with it its considerable natural resources, particularly oil.

The Americans deeply distrusted the socialist aspirations of the founding fathers of Israel, and voted in favour of the partition plan proposed by the United Nations only after President Harry Truman, for personal and political reasons, instructed the US delegation to the UN to do so.

In the war that followed, Israel defeated the armies of Lebanon, Iraq, Egypt, Jordan and Syria thanks to the military aid provided by the countries of Eastern Europe, not the US. Indeed, the Soviet Union was one of the first countries to recognise the new Jewish state.

Remarks of Soviet Ambassador in the UN Partition Debate on Palestine
May 14, 1947
Crabtobe said:
hansvonhealing said:
So, you're saying you don't agree with it then? So why include it??
.........Who are you working for?
I recognise the picture in the signature - I've seen it before at I don't know if that helps to explain anything about this user though.
Good spot 'Crabtobe'. The Samizdata crew have kindly described themselves...''The Samizdata people are a bunch of sinister and heavily armed globalist illuminati who seek to infect the entire world with the values of personal liberty and several property....We are also a varied group made up of social individualists, libertarians, extropians, futurists, 'Porcupines', Karl Popper fetishists, recovering neo-conservatives, crazed Ayn Rand worshipers, over-caffeinated Virginia Postrel devotees, witty Frédéric Bastiat wannabes, cypherpunks, minarchists, kritarchists and wild-eyed anarcho-capitalists from Britain, North America, Australia and Europe.''

So certainly not pseudo-intellectual posers then......!
I can just imagine them tapping away in their Bed-sits, churning out their fanatical, semi-articulate ramblings while waiting to be recognised as great thinkers..........
fas_et_gloria said:
...ought we to say – this is not the way in which the British Army would respond to the intifada …
fas_et_gloria, what do you mean by "this is not the way in which the British Army would respond to the intifada? The British Army dealt with an Intifada ( now called the first intifada , 1936-39), not in a hypothetic way but in real. Could you elaborate?

There were many differences between British policy in the 1930s and Israeli policy today, but two stand out. The first is that the British, faced with a level of Palestinian Arab terrorism considerably less lethal than that which Israel faces today, nevertheless utilized anti-terror methods considerably harsher than those used by Israeli forces. The second is that when the situation became unbearable, the British could go home; the Israelis, by contrast, have no other place to go."

Copyright 2001 Newspaper Publishing PLC

The Independent (London)


'What did we not do that Israel does today?'

Andreas Whittam Smith, Editor of The Independent

FIGHTING TERRORISTS by punishing civilians, as Israel is doing on the West Bank of the Jordan, has a long history. I recently came across this incident. It took place in an Arab village, Halhoul, near Hebron.

Halhoul had been identified as a source of terrorist activity. The army was sent in. The villagers were rounded up and put into open-air pens, one for men and one for women. It was May and the sun was fierce. Neither water nor food were provided. In the end, eight people died from heat exhaustion. In explaining away the incident, the authorities said the village was "notoriously bad": 26 rifles and eight revolvers had been found. The eight people had died because of a "combination of unfortunate circumstances... the heat had been abnormally intense and the victims were elderly". Most unfortunate. No one had killed the villagers deliberately. There had been no deed that could be called an "atrocity".

Nobody any longer remembers this because it took place in 1939. However, it concerns us, the British. We then governed Palestine under a mandate from the League of Nations. We were attempting to put down an Arab rebellion. The comments on Halhoul were written by the British High Commissioner, Harold MacMichael.

My account comes from Tom Segev's excellent history of the British Mandate, One Palestine Complete. I shouldn't have been shocked - as I was - when I read it. Occupying powers always get involved in this sort of dirty business. We took to Palestine the harsh methods we had used in Ireland between 1918 and 1922. A Colonial Secretary of the period wrote that the comparison between Ireland and Palestine was "singularly complete". In fact, Mr Segev's book is full of uncomfortable truths for the Arabs and the Jews, as well as for the British.

Until now, the Mandate period, 1922-1948, has seemed a historical curiosity. The British governments of the time didn't really want the responsibility; Palestine served no Imperial purpose. Worse still, it cost money. Suppressing the Arab revolt required 25,000 British troops and police under the command of "Monty", later Field Marshal Montgomery.

Mr Segev's book is over 500 pages long, yet almost every paragraph finds echoes in Israel today. In the same way that the Halhoul deaths in 1939 weren't an atrocity in British minds, nor a violation of civil rights, so the measures that the Israeli army takes to combat Palestinian violence are described as merely self-defence. They are the terrorists; we are the defenders. The killing of 90 or so Palestinian children in the past five months, is, well, self-defence.

In our time, we had the embarrassment that Nazi propaganda was quick to highlight the suffering caused by British policy in Palestine. The British believed that their predecessor as great power in the region, Turkey, had invented the system. Colonial civil servants and army officers reminded themselves that the Turks had frequently arrested entire tribes for unlimited periods and flogged sheikhs and mukhtars.

Those were the days! We were more sophisticated. We erected a security fence along the northern border. We built dozens of police fortresses and concrete guard posts. We imported Dobermann dogs from South Africa. And we trained interrogators in torture. The British police chief in Jerusalem, Douglas Duff, described such methods in his memoir published in 1953. He tells how to apply physical force without leaving marks. We destroyed homes - 2,000 houses between 1936 and 1940 according to one estimate. We engaged in assassination. What did we not do that the Israeli army does today? It is hard to say.

One can trace the inheritance through a single soldier, the brilliant Orde Wingate, posted to Palestine as an intelligence officer in 1936. He became a fervent believer in Zionism. He was once described as a kind of Lawrence of the Jews. He set up Special Night Squads comprising British troops and Jewish volunteers that pursued terrorists by night. Their methods were brutal. Among his men was a future prime minister of Israel, Yitzhak Rabin, and the man who was to be Israel's most famous commander, Moshe Dayan. Churchill later described Wingate as "a man of genius and audacity". An official handbook of the Israeli Ministry of Defence states that the "teaching of Orde Charles Wingate, his character and leadership... and his influence can be seen in the Israel Defense Force's combat doctrine."

I am not saying that this ancient history should still all criticisms. Rather it should remove any notion of moral superiority, a very British fault.


LONDON - Atrocities committed by the British security forces in Palestine and the government's failure to halt them are detailed in a batch of secret 1938 Whitehall files that have been declassified over the past three weeks.

The release of the 50-year-old documents coincides, ironically, with this month's stream of British protests to the Israel government for condoning military excesses against the Palestinians in the territories.

The government papers would normally have been made public at the end of 1968, under Britain's "30 years rule." But, presumably because of their sensitive nature, they were held back an additional 20 years and quietly released this month.

Unearthed by the Independent newspaper, the papers detail massive British reprisals against the Arab residents of Jenin for the assassination of a British official; the use by British forces of Arab-driven "minesweeping taxis" to precede troop convoys in areas where land mines had been planted; the refusal by the British authorities in Palestine to abandon the practice of blowing up civilians' homes, and a report of an Arab prisoner being shot by policemen while handcuffed in Jaffa.

The papers show the government's reluctance to "protest squeamishly" to the commanding officers in Palestine about the excesses, and indicate that a cabinet minister sought to keep details of the atrocities from the House of Commons.

The Jenin reprisal episode dates from the summer of 1938, when a British district commissioner in the town was assassinated. The alleged murderer was apprehended, placed in custody and later shot while trying to escape, according to the government documents.

Despite his death, the military authorities decided that further punishment was merited - that "a large portion of the town should be blown up."

Accordingly, on August 25 a heavily armed convoy carrying 4,200 kilograms of gelignite made its way from Haifa to Jenin to carry out the demolition. "Actual demolition operations were commenced at 16:15," the papers record.

The government cables concerning this mission also contain the first references to the Arab-driven "minesweeping taxis," used "to reduce (British) land mine casualties."

When details of this stratagem were received in London, it was initially deplored as "revolting" by a low-level government official. But higher-ranking officials decided to condone it, with Colonial Office deputy under-secretary Sir John Shuckburgh noting that in Palestine, the British were dealing "not with a chivalrous opponent playing the game according to the rules, but with gangsters and murderers."

Another senior official, Lord Dufferin, supported this view, and wrote that, much as he disliked the implications of the "minesweeping taxi ... I do not feel that we have the right to interfere. British lives are being lost and I don't think that we, from the security of Whitehall, can protest squeamishly about measures taken by the men in the frontline."

Colonial Secretary Malcolm MacDonald repeatedly expressed concern over military atrocities in Palestine, the files reveal, protesting during one 1938 cabinet meeting over "action taken against civilians, as for example, blowing up houses." But the authorities in Palestine refused to abandon the practice, claiming that it was "an essential part of our military action."

MacDonald also accused one cabinet colleague of deliberately omitting any reference to the activities of the Palestine Police Force when claiming to the House of Commons that there was no evidence of troops committing atrocities in Palestine.

MacDonald said he feared a number of "undesirables" had slipped through the police "recruiting sieve," and cited the report of the shooting of a handcuffed prisoner by police in Jaffa. This report, he said, "seemed to rest on good evidence."

How the British fought terror in Jenin

By Rafael Medoff - April 22, 2002. From: Jerusalem Post

"Demolishing the homes of Arab civilians... Shooting handcuffed prisoners... Forcing local Arabs to test areas where mines may have been planted..."

These sound like the sort of accusations made by British and other European officials concerning Israel's recent actions in Jenin. In fact, they are descriptions from official British documents concerning the methods used by the British authorities to combat Palestinian Arab terrorism in Jenin and elsewhere in 1938.

The documents were declassified by London in 1989. They provide details of the British Mandatory government's response to the assassination of a British district commissioner by a Palestinian Arab terrorist in Jenin in the summer of 1938.

Even after the suspected assassin was captured (and then shot dead while allegedly trying to escape), the British authorities decided that "a large portion of the town should be blown up" as punishment. On August 25 of that year, a British convoy brought 4,200 kilos of explosives to Jenin for that purpose.

In the Jenin operation and on other occasions, local Arabs were forced to drive "mine-sweeping taxis" ahead of British vehicles in areas where Palestinian Arab terrorists were believed to have planted mines, in order "to reduce [British] landmine casualties."

The British authorities frequently used these and similar methods to combat Palestinian Arab terrorism in the late 1930s.

BRITISH forces responded to the presence of terrorists in the Arab village of Miar, north of Haifa, by blowing up house after house in October 1938.

"When the troops left, there was little else remaining of the once-busy village except a pile of mangled masonry," The New York Times reported.

The declassified documents refer to an incident in Jaffa in which a handcuffed prisoner was shot by the British police.

Under Emergency Regulation 19b, the British Mandate government could demolish any house located in a village where terrorists resided, even if that particular house had no direct connection to terrorist activity. Mandate official Hugh Foot later recalled: "When we thought that a village was harboring rebels, we'd go there and mark one of the large houses. Then, if an incident was traced to that village, we'd blow up the house we'd marked."

The High Commissioner for Palestine, Harold MacMichael, defended the practice: "The provision is drastic, but the situation has demanded drastic powers."

MacMichael was furious over what he called the "grossly exaggerated accusations" that England's critics were circulating concerning British anti-terror tactics in Palestine. Arab allegations that British soldiers gouged out the eyes of Arab prisoners were quoted prominently in the Nazi German press and elsewhere.

The declassified documents also record discussions among officials of the Colonial Office concerning the rightness or wrongness of the anti-terror methods used in Palestine. Lord Dufferin remarked: "British lives are being lost and I don't think that we, from the security of Whitehall, can protest squeamishly about measures taken by the men in the frontline."

Sir John Shuckburgh defended the tactics on the grounds that the British were confronted "not with a chivalrous opponent playing the game according to the rules, but with gangsters and murderers."

There were many differences between British policy in the 1930s and Israeli policy today, but one stands out - the British, faced with a level of Palestinian Arab terrorism considerably less lethal than that which Israel faces today, utilized anti-terror methods considerably harsher than those used by Israeli forces.

The writer is visiting scholar in the Jewish Studies Program at SUNY-Purchase. His most recent book is Baksheesh Diplomacy: Secret Negotiations Between American Jewish Leaders and Arab Officials on the Eve of World War II (Lexington Books, 2001)

The Independent (London) July 6, 1997, Sunday

Neal Ascherson

"Two tears for the empire and one for its corrupted guardians"

Officially, the Palestine Police had been much respected, and its morale was high. But somewhere during the struggle against Jewish terrorism in Palestine, a moral barrier had collapsed. I remember the late Sir Maurice Oldfield, who became head of MI6, ending a good lunch with a description of his techniques for torturing Jewish suspects into confession. In Malaya, East Africa and Rhodesia, I came across police intelligence officers who had served in Palestine and were feared even by their colleagues for their cruelty during interrogations.

Neal Ascherson: A Scot educated at Eton and Cambridge, he did national service in the Royal Marines commandos with whom he saw action in Malaya before becoming a journalist.
mora said:
fas_et_gloria said:
...ought we to say – this is not the way in which the British Army would respond to the intifada …
fas_et_gloria, what do you mean by "this is not the way in which the British Army would respond to the intifada? The British Army dealt with an Intifada ( now called the first intifada , 1936-39), not in a hypothetic way but in real. Could you elaborate?

For further reading in History and Militria board:
Okay, self-justification time. Since that thread is predicated on contemporary events and policies (I know since I started it...), my comments were written within this context. The British Army, through engagement in NI in an increasingly media-open environment, has developed a doctrine of highly restrictive RoE. Consider the outcome of the events Bloody Sunday - recrimination continues three and a half decades later, and that took place at the very beginning of the growing ubiquity of the tele-visual media. As the media (and popular access to them) have come to dominate the democratic process, the restrictions of RoE allow a measure of political oversight, which in turn allows for the development of the 'Strategic Corporal'. The up-shot is that many frustrated soldiers came home from NI without the psychological release of firing into the crowd of stone throwing youths. On the other hand the Republicans ended up being handed far fewer 'martyrs' as the troubles progressed and we developed a more democratically appropriate, and politically acceptable, level of response.

The death of al-Durrah is unlikely to have happened under contemporary British RoE. [Historical examples abound no doubt, and not geographically limited to the ME - Amritsar springs to mind as a cracking example of how not to win hearts and minds, but are rigthly not a topic for the thread from which your quote comes.] The Israeli soldiers shooting, at an un-armed man and his 12 year old son, were reacting personally, and not professionally. That they managed to do so in front of a live TV feed was catastrophic, that they then managed to shoot dead the driver of the ambulance which tried to recover them as casualties is verging on the farcical. It almost doesn't matter how much some parts of the international community try to re-engineer the events of the third day of the al-Aqsa intifada, the horse has bolted; it was already out of the stable before the boy died, arguably before he and his father were even hit. The global media lapped up the 'democracy kills small boy on shopping trip' story and the jihādis were handed the propaganda material which they were able to spin into justification for escalation - and not only in the PA and Israel. That's why this is so important an issue for the international community - the migrant jihādis in Iraq are responding as much to the face of one 12 year-old boy in Netzarim as to the infant mortality resulting from a decade of UN Iraqi sanctions, aren't they?

The British RoE in Iraq now are explicitly designed to mitigate against a recurrence of the al-Durrah saga. Arguably this might well cost British lives in the short term, but in an attempt to reduce 'soft-power' repercussions. My suspicion is that the most damaging thing which Hamas could do to Israel would be to bow to international pressure and give up the bomb: if they follow the Indian example in the aftermath of Amritsar, and go for the Ahimsa-Satyagraha option. If Imperial democracy couldn't deal with a violent British response to Indian pacific-disobedience in the early 20th Century, what outlook for international support for Zionism in the media environment of the Twenty First? What outlook for the future of a beleaguered Israel in the face of reduced international economic/military support? Bring on the cats and pigeons, I say.
Israeli leader, Yitzhak Ben-Aharon, who died last night, was British POW during the war : "We needed a much more sophisticated strategy against the British. We needed to win sympathy of the British people and to fight the regime, not to spill British blood."

Do you think non-violence was possible given Bevin and his FO's Arabists determination while the plight of Jewish refugees is so pressing? Was the Jewish arm straggle with the Brits necessity?

Israeli leader, Yitzhak Ben-Aharon (1906-2006) volunteered for the British Army early in the Second World War and was captured in Greece. He was a prisoner of war in Germany from 1941 to 1945.

The Jerusalem Post

You enlisted in the British army before World War II. What made you join the British when they were the colonial power here?

I joined to fight Hitler. I could only get to fight Hitler through the British. And when the Allies finally won and made the reckoning of who had and who had not helped them, we wanted to be taken into consideration.

What do you make of Etzel (the Irgun) and especially Lehi (Stern Gang), who fought the British?

They undermined Jewish solidarity and showed the world they didn't accept the Yishuv leadership - so why should anyone else? The Revisionists were always unrealistic and still are. We needed a much more sophisticated strategy against the British. We needed to win sympathy of the British people and to fight the regime, not to spill British blood.

German Propaganda
Title: "The Jewish Brigade" (16 November 1944)

Background: These are satirical comic strips from Das Schwarze Korps, the weekly newspaper of the SS.


Even after the Holocaust, anti-Semitic attitudes only grew worse, resonating at the highest levels of the British government. The first U.S. ambassador to Israel, James G. McDonald, writing in his diary on August 3, 1948, recorded the "blazing hatred" of British Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin for "the Jews, the Israelis, the Israeli government" as well as for American president Harry S. Truman. Richard Crossman, the Labor MP who knew Bevin intimately, concluded in 1947 that British policy in Palestine was excessively influenced by "one man's determination to teach the Jews a lesson." The refusal of Palestinian Jewry to conform to British plans for them had tipped Bevin over into "overt anti-Semitism," he said. The British foreign secretary was convinced that "the Jews were organizing a world conspiracy against poor old Britain" in which the Zionists, together with the Soviet Union, would seek to bring down the Empire.

On DP's (displaced) Issue

The report of the Anglo-American Commission was published which called for the entry of 100 000 Jewish refugees. Both Attlee and Bevin were outraged by what they regarded as Truman’s undermining of the British position for "domestic political reasons". Impatient Zionists, angered by Bevin's reluctance to open the country to 100,000 more Jews, moved to new violence.

Bevin followed this up with a press conference at which he warned that if Jewish refugees wanted to get to the head of the queue for resettlement then they risked the ‘danger of another anti-Semitic reaction’. This crass and offensive allegation of queue-jumping outraged Jewish opinion, both Zionist and non-Zionist . Mr. Bevin was already disturbed by a howl of anger from the U.S. which followed a remark of his at Bournemouth: that the U.S. wanted the 100,000 Jews in Palestine "because they did not want too many of them in New York."

Time Archive

Foreign News
Anglo-Jewish War?

Jul. 1, 1946

Last week TIME'S London Bureau cabled: "It is an undisguised fact that Britain is on the verge of an Anglo-Jewish war in Palestine." Westminster's lobbies rang with the muttered warnings and fears of pro-Zionist Labor members. Everything was piling up to transform what had been an Arab-Jewish conflict into an Anglo-Jewish fight.

In Palestine impatient Zionists, angered by Bevin's reluctance to open the country to 100,000 more Jews, moved to new violence. Haganah, the underground Zionist army (estimated at 80,000, with additional support from almost all the 550,000 other Jews in Palestine), in past months had blown up coastal radar stations to help illegal immigrants enter the country.Last week Haganah turned to violence not directly supporting immigration: its leaders boasted of destroying eight bridges into Syria and Trans-Jordan.

The British expected more trouble, and the Jews promised it. Said one leading British Jew last week: "The British Government can stop this thing only by exterminating the Jews."No one supposed that the British were preparing any such move.

Meanwhile Jews resumed their attempts to enter Palestine illegally. Three miles off the coast, a British minesweeper intercepted the 200-ton schooner Palmach, loaded with 800 refugees and quantities of TNT concealed in soap bars. A British boarding party was met with "a shower of missiles." Before fire hoses and tear gas ended the resistance, one illegal immigrant was killed and several British sailors were injured.

"Another Twelve Months"

Mar. 3, 1947

Winston Churchill asked why the Palestine case had not been referred to the U.N. a year ago. Weary Bevin replied: "After 2,000 years of conflict, another twelve months will not be considered a long delay."

Next day at a Laborite caucus, Bevin faced sharper questions from his own party critics. He told what a Laborite described as a "sob story": had he been able to deal solely with British Jewry, a solution could have been found long ago, but the dangerous influence of American Jewry had been at work and robbed him of any chance of success. Buck-toothed Konni Zilliacus, pro-Soviet Laborite, tossed a charge of "playing power politics," accused Bevin of letting the strategic Iraq-Palestine pipeline † stand in the way of any solution. Reported one M.P.: "Ernie in his most naive way threw up his hands and said, 'We never thought of the pipeline. It never entered our discussion. All we were concerned about was to come to a solution.' "

Offense. In Palestine, the Jewish Irgun Zvai Leumi ("Liberation Army") thought about the pipeline, blasted it apart in two places. That was a signal for renewed terror; four British soldiers were wounded in other incidents. Palestinians and Britons feared that they were in for another twelve months of bitterness and tension until U.N. acted.

Jul. 5, 1948

Positively Szyk

Sir: Not content with its own consistently anti-Zionist policy, TIME [June 14] finds it necessary to censure Cartoonist Arthur Szyk for his extremely appropriate cartoons on both Bevin and John Bull . . .

Mr. Szyk's . . . portrayal of the current role of Bevin and John Bull in the Middle East is without a grain of fiction ... As for the technicalities, the possibility that Bevin does not hold a Fascist Party card is irrelevant . . .

Sir: . . Just as the exaggeration of physiognomical characteristics serves to accentuate a bodily feature, so does the employment of a symbol or label emphasize the pursuance of a theory or method . . . The use of the swastika is merely an inference that Bevin and his government have adopted tactics which aid the opponents of Israel . . .

Sir: Those swastika-embellished anti-British cartoons . . . made me positively Szyk.

The slanderous pictorial caricature of a government which was Jewry's strongest ally against Naziism long before America, is bad enough . . . The deceitful caricature of fact (represented by a bristling British-supplied pile of Arab arms contrasted with a lone, harmless little Zionist child with a popgun) is most deplorable . . .

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