Irgun Zvai Leumi


High Command, Haifa
Irgun Zvai Leumi
Author and Historian

"The war of the Irgun was a political struggle combined with military actions."

It followed World War II and the Holocaust of our people.
"Palestine" was at the time occupied by British Colonial Military Rule.
In 1943 and 1944 Jews in Europe were massacred every day and those who escaped on boats to the Homeland were sent back into the sea to drown.

So in February of 1944 the armistice between the British and the Jews of Palestine established in 1940 was declared "over."


We are now entering into the final stages of this World War. At present each and every people is engaged in evaluating its national position. Which are its victories and which are its defeats? What course shall it embark upon in order to achieve its objective and fulfill its destiny? Who are its friends and who are its enemies? Who is a genuine ally and who is a traitor? And, who will participate in the decisive battle?
Similarly, the people of Israel is obliged to examine its course to survey the past and arrive at conclusions concerning its future. For, the last few years have been the most horrible in our history; the coming ones - the most crucial in our history.

Let us look at the facts:

1. In 1939 all the political movements in Israel proclaimed that our nation would stand alongside England, France, and Poland in their Holy War against the Hitlerite German aggression.

2. Germany proclaimed this World War a "Jewish War" and that the people of Israel was its Enemy Number One. Nevertheless, the British Government has continuously and stubbornly rejected all proposals to establish a Jewish fighting Force to engage the German armies in direct combat.

3. A truce has been declared between the government and the Jews in the Land of Israel. The Jewish community has offered its unqualified assistance to the Allied Nations in their war against the Hitlerite tyranny.

4. Over 25,000 young men and women volunteer s have joined the British Army in the hope that England would establish a Nations Jewish Army.

5. In 1941 the Arabs of Iraq exploited Britain's desperate position and with German assistance, attacked her armies; the Arabs of Syria supported Hitler's agents; the Egyptian fifth column exercised tremendous influence there; the Arabs of the Land of Israel awaited the coming of Rommel, the redeemer while their leader, the Mufti, dispatched orders from Berlin.

6. Jewry stood the test, remaining loyal during the crucial period of 1940-41. The expertise and industrial knowhow of the Jews in the Land of Israel has served the entire Middle East arena. Sons of Israel risked and sacrificed their lives in Syria, Egypt and Iraq.

7. Germany began to exterminate European Jewry. Poland was transformed into a slaughter house; German, Austrian, Dutch and Belgian Jewries have been destroyed; Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian Jewries lie in their own blood; the remnant of Polish Jewry is battling for its existence in the ghettoes; Roumanian Jewry is in danger of liquidation; Bulgarian Jews are on the verge of deportation. Hungarian Jewry is fearful of its fate. Sword and famine, epidemic and poison are annihilating our European brethren. Throughout all the communities of the diaspora - blood!

8. Our brethren enjoy no refuge. All countries have barred their doors to them. Even those who escaped from Poland, Roumania, and the Baltic countries to Russian Asia are dying of starvation, cold and epidemics. Yet no one will help them - because they are Jews!

9. In response to the horrible slaughter in Europe, the Allied Nations have merely issued a verbal declaration, worth no more than the paper on which it was written.

10. The British government has announced that rescue activities are not possible since they "would interfere with the achievements of victory." Yet, not satisfied with this malicious, satanic declaration alone, she personally authored the bloody chapters in the saga of Jewish immigration to the Land of Israel: Patria, Mauritius, Struma.

11. The government responsible for the White Paper has now attacked the Jewish population in the Land of Israel. Its agents have carried out lawless murders in the cities and villages. Its judges have invented lies and have sought to defame our people and sully its honor throughout the world.

12. The White Paper remains in force, implemented despite Jewish loyalty and Arab treachery; despite the mass mobilization of Jews into the British Army; despite the armistice and the calm prevailing in the Land of Israel; despite the mass slaughter of Jews in Europe. And despite the fact that even now, following the rout of Hitlerism, Jews have no future among the hate-ridden, anti-Semitic nations of Europe.

The facts are both simple and horrible. During the four war years, we have lost millions of the best of our people; other millions face annihilation. Yet the Land of Israel remains sealed because it is ruled by a British regime which enforces the White Paper and aims at destroying our people's last hope.

Sons of Israel, Jewish Youth!
We are now entering the final stage of the war. Our people's destiny shall be determined at this historic juncture. The British regime has violated the armistice agreement which was declared at the outset of the war. The rulers of The Land have disregarded loyalty, concessions and sacrifice. Instead they continue to work toward their goal - the eradication of Zionist efforts to achieve statehood.
Four years have passed. The hopes we had harbored since 1939 have been dashed. We have not been accorded international status; a Jewish Army has not been established; the gates of the Land of Israel have not been opened. The British regime has continued its shameful betrayal of the Jewish Nation and there is no moral basis for its continued presence in the Land of Israel.
Let us fearlessly draw the proper conclusions. There can no longer be an armistice between the Jewish Nation and its youth and a British administration in the Land of Israel which has been delivering our brethren to Hitler. Our nation is at war with this regime and it is a fight to the finish. This war will exact many and heavy sacrifices but we shall enter into it in the conviction that we have remained loyal to our slaughtered brethren, that we fight in their name, and remain true to their final testament.

This then, is our demand!

Immediately after its establishment, the Jewish government of the land of Israel, the only legal representative of the Jewish Nation, shall undertake the following:

A. Establish a National Jewish Army.,

B. Negotiate with all authorized bodies to organize the mass evacuation of European Jewry to the Land of Israel.

C. Negotiate with the Russian government for the evacuation of Jewish refugees from Poland and other countries.

D. Create conditions for the absorption of our sons returning to their homeland.

E. Effect and alliance with the Allied governments aimed at intensifying the war effort against Germany.

F. Propose - in behalf of the sovereign state of the Land of Israel, on the basis of the Atlantic Charter, and in recognition of the community of interests - a mutual assistance pact with Great Britain, the United States of America, the new French government and any other free nation who recognizes the sovereignty and international rights of the Jewish State. An honorable peace and good neighborliness shall be offered to all the neighbors of the independent Jewish State.

G. Implant the sanctity of the Torah into the life of an emancipated nation in its homeland.

H. Guarantee all citizens of the State employment and social justice.

I. Proclaim the extra-territorial status of all places sacred to Christians and Moslems.

J. Grant full equality to the Arab population.

The only way to save our nation, insure our survival and preserve our honor is to establish a Jewish government and implement this program. We shall follow this course for there is none other.
We shall fight. Every Jew in the homeland will fight.
The God of Israel, Lord of Hosts, shall be at our side. There is no retreat. Freedom - or death! Erect an iron wall around your fighting youth! Do not abandon them, for the traitor shall be cursed and the coward held in contempt!
And you too shall be called to raise the banner of this citizen's war. You will be called upon:
a. to refuse to pay taxes to the oppressive regime.

b. To demonstrate in the city streets day and night, demanding the establishment of a Jewish government in The Land.

c. To refuse to obey an order issued by the foreign ruler; you shall violate these orders declaring, "I shall only obey a Jewish government."

d. Workers shall be called upon to proclaim a general strike in al public and private enterprises. Be prepared for hunger and tribulation but under no circumstances break this strike, for it is a holy endeavor.

e. Student youth shall be called upon to boycott the schools and devote all their time and energy to this war.

This fighting youth will not be deterred by the prospect of sacrifices and suffering, blood and pain. It will not surrender, nor will it rest until it has succeeded in renewing our days as of yore until it guarantees our people a homeland, freedom, honor, sustenance, and true justice. And if, indeed, you lend them every assistance, very soon, in our own time, you shall behold the return of people to Zion and the restoration of Israel.
May God grant that this comes to pass.

The Irgun gave a call to war to defeat the British Administration and their rules against the Jewish people of Eretz Israel.
We wanted to "force" them to leave the country through political means by attacking symbols of British oppression.

The first major action by the Irgun was the bombing of the Immigration Offices in Haifa, Jerusalem, and Tel Aviv; symbol of the 1939 White Paper barring of Jewish immigration in to the Homeland when our people were being massacred in war torn Europe.

The second major action by the Irgun was the bombing of the Taxation Offices of Haifa, Jerusalem, and Tel Aviv; symbol of British economic oppression in Eretz Israel.

The Jewish Agency and their following in the Yishuv thought the British Mandate of 1922 should continue and they hoped the British Parliament Labour Party would support the Jewish state. Under the authority of the Jewish Agency was the Haganah defense organization.

After World War II the British continued to prevent immigration of survivors of the Holocaust into Eretz Israel.

For nine months in this period there was an alliance between the Irgun, the LECHI, and the Haganah to fight the British policies.

In July 1946 the British military invaded the Jewish Agency Office and took documents with names of leaders and members who were then arrested and many deported to Africa. The British Army took the documents to the Central Intelligence Division (CID). The documents were then taken to the British Army and Administration Headquarters at the King David Hotel.

Later, in July of 1946, the bombing of the King David Hotel was executed as a political military action against the symbol of British Military oppression in the Homeland.

In every action of the Irgun we did not intend to hurt people, just the symbols of British oppression.

In February of 1946 we attacked three air fields, destroying 30-40 British aircraft. Some of these aircraft were used to scout the seas for immigrant ships smuggling Jewish Holocaust survivors into Palestine. This was a major blow to the British as it demonstrated there was no "safe" place for them in Eretz Israel.

It was here that the British recognized the IZL to be a real resistance force, marking the beginning of British evacuation from Eretz Israel.

In March of 1946 in a combined LECHI/IZL action we attacked the largest weapons and ammunition depot of the British Military in Eretz Israel at Sarafand. This action brought our organization much needed supplies.
Two of our soldiers were captured in this attack, and then sentenced to execution by hanging by a British Military Court.

"When Ashbel and Simchon were sentenced we warned the British Government for the first time: Do not hang the captive soldiers. If you do we shall answer gallows with gallows." (The Revolt)

The Irgun captured five British officers as hostages against this warning.

British documents were sent to England about the hangings threat and the two sentences were commuted. The five British Officers were released.

In December of 1946 the British made a fatal mistake in their attitude towards the Jewish underground in Eretz Israel. This was the "Flogging Incident."

The Irgun had low financial reserves and so we would "take" weapons from British military camps to supply what we could not buy.

This involved "financial activities" by the "confiscation" of funds from Banks insured by British Insurance Companies so that the person losing the money was British. Sometimes it meant "confiscation" of our monies.

On one such robbery one of our 17 year old soldiers was captured and sentenced by British military court to 18 lashes and 18 years in prison.

The Irgun soldier replied, "Well, the 18 lashes I will receive ... but the 18 years you will not be here."

This showed the strong belief and faith of the Hebrew youth that the fight will succeed. That God promised this land to the Jewish people ... "Ubi patria. Ibi bene."

The humility in the act of flogging showed the British attitude that we could be treated as if we were natives of wild Africa, uneducated and uncultured. This act discredited the pride of the Hebrew people.

A pamphlet was issued the next day after the sentence was given warning the British not to flog the soldier.

"If the British Army whipped our boys, we would whip British officers in return. Every British officer in Eretz Israel would run the risk of similar punishment."
(The Revolt)
EIGHTEEN LASHES (Tavin/Alexander)
(A sentence of 18 strokes was carried out against a young soldier of the Irgun)

Eighteen lashes on the bare back of the youthful recalcitrant! Eighteen lashes to bring home to his inexperienced mind the austereness of British Justice, the force of its imperial might! A dozen lashes and yet another half dozen too to bruise his back, to crush rebellion form his heart: the crack of the whip, the victim's stifled moan to agonise his parents, to humble his race, to kill pride and spirit, to destroy the natural urge to shake the tyrant from his saddle.
One score of strokes minus two plied by puritans; the Empire's haughty counterblast against the right to want freedom, the right to speak for freedom, the right to fight for freedom, the right to strike at tyranny's shakles masquerading as a mandatory earnestly seeking a way out of a dilemma!
Let the sound of these lashes echo; let it reverberate: Hark, you who have survived the foul purposes of Hitler who in the light of contemporary events is slowly taking on the shape of a gentleman!
Listen to the fury of the British lash, you who are pining behind British barbed wire; you who are wondering in indignation behind British prison bars; you who weep for your sons and daughters, wives or husbands, your friends and dear ones; you who are in anguish, who chafe, who protest in every fibre of your being against the colonial concepts of human dignity, human law and human security. Listen and be tutored, you incorrigible ones! See the scouring flaying mission of the lash as it falls upon the stubborn back of unyielding youth! It has come to teach you the inviolable rights of Britons to maintain their Empire, to preserve their imperial routes to bask in the shimmering translucence of the most modern of Gods - Oil! The rights of a bureaucracy never in the wrong to make arbitrary decisions, arbitrary "laws," arbitrary and indiscriminate arrests; the rights of Britons to trample upon the sanctity of written promise, to trample upon the sanctity of the spoken promise, to violate the word spoken yesterday if it does not suit the purpose of today, the purpose of the drab, dreary fleeting hour! The sacred, the hallowed, the uncompromising right of Mistress England to shoot into the rooms - deliberately shoot - of a non-combattant population where women and children crouch against the walls or scramble under the furniture; the right, the noble right of self righteous England to hold women and children and all and sundry hostages against the rifle point.
Yes, let us drink fully the inspiring message of the eighteen strokes! England is now vindicated. Why should she be checked in her altruistic motives when all she asks is the mere sacrifice of a nation's right to freedom, air, the right to its track of territory under the sun and the right to fight for one's pride and one's place amongst the children of God!

The British disregarded this warning. On Friday, 28 December 1946 one of the Irgun soldiers was flogged.

The next day, upon hearing this news, British Majors were flogged in Netanya, Tel Aviv, and Richon Etzion.

The Irgun proved its word. There was never another flogging.

Two days later, on 01 January 1947, General Barker sentenced our severely wounded soldier, Dov Gruner, to execution by hanging.
On 21 January 1947 the military court issued the sentencing.
On 23 January 1947 General Barker confirmed the sentencing, setting the execution date for 28 January 1947.

In Britain's Parliament debates had begun as to the question of their military presence in Palestine. Churchill stated before Parliament that Britain "should leave Palestine" ... "take out the soldiers in Palestine" ... and other comments.

The Irgun would not tolerate hanging of its soldiers.

on 26 January 1947 British Intelligence Officer Collins was kidnaped as a hostage; hangings for hangings.

There was no British response.

On 27 January 1947 Judge Windham was arrested during his courtroom case in Tel Aviv as a second hostage.

Within hours General Barker broke his silence. This demonstrated to us how the British aristocracy is more important to them than their common citizens.

The execution was indefinitely postponed with less than 12 hours to spare.

Here we proved that British authority could not do everything they want to do in Eretz Israel.

In February 1947 the British administration declared if the Jewish Agency and Yishuv did not help stop the underground there would be "martial law."

This showed that the British could not handle the situation and bring order in Palestine through threats, curfews, and other forms of persecution.

The Irgun declared it was not frightened.


We broadcast to-night an account of the attacks carried out by I.Z.L. soldiers against British military targets in the last few days. The operations started after a warning had been widely distributed according to which inter alia, military vehicles moving on the roads of our country will be attacked:
1. On the night of January the 2nd the following attacks were carried out:

A. The Jerusalem concentrations of British troops were attacked with grenades and an armoured police car - with a flame-thrower.

B. In Tel-Aviv a concentration attack against British army H.Q. "Citrus House." A military armoured car park attacked and a police wireless vehicle blown up and destroyed.

C. In Haifa area an armoured car park attacked, a bren-carrier rushing to the scene of the attack destroyed and a big military armoured vehicle over thrown by a mine and heavily damaged.

D. In Hadera area army vehicle park attacked by explosives and two jeeps on the road blown up and destroyed.

E. In Tiberias armoured vehicle park attacked by flame-throwers.

2. On January the 3rd at 07:00 hrs. a military vehicle near Kfar Sirkin blown up and a jeep leading a military column destroyed near Raanana.

3. On January the 4th a military vehicle blown up on Jerusalem-Beth-Lehem road and a jeep destroyed on Mt. Carmel.
Enemy casualties: one Captain killed, 20 other ranks injured, 5 policemen wounded.
Our casualties: 2 soldiers wounded.
The flame-thrower used in the recent attacks by us was constructed and made by our specialists. It will be used also in future attacks.
Following constant attacks against British military lines of communication, the Occupation Government was compelled to lift the road curfew imposed in part of the country as a collective punishment against the population after the flogging-retaliation against British officers. On the other hand military traffic was brought almost to stand still.

Broadcasted by the Irgun Zvai Leumi on 9th February 1947

From the talks in London and the shameful ultimatums in Jerusalem it is evident that we face one alternative only: either unconditional capitulation or a war for liberation.
It is no less evident that we will not capitulate. Capitulation means destruction, whereas the struggle offers hope for freedom and peace.
The question now faces the Zionist institutions: what are they going to do after rejecting the enemy's demand to turn police informers and spys. The negative reply to this demand is not of course a proof on their side of adherence to a sacred principle. We remember too well that two years ago they frankly cooperated with the British secret police in locating the so called "suspects." Today they are not able to do it and they know it - because they would be sept away by an outburst of mass indignation. In any case, it is a fact that no organised spying and informing will take place in this country in the near future.
But is this sufficient? Must not the Zionist institution ask themselves why it was possible that a hostile power - the Government of the White Paper - dared to come forth with such a humiliation demand? Should they not remember that similar demands were put forward by the German Nazis only to their Quislings and Vichyites?
The time has come for our nation, which fights for its freedom, tho cease to be a "community," whose leaders are asked to "cooperate" with the enemy's secret police. Our nation must become a nation independent in its spirit in its fight and in its national institutions. This means the immediate creation of a national provisional Government, of an underground Parliament which would embrace all shapes of public opinion, of a united liberation army, a national treasury, and independent courts. Then normal relations will be created between us on the one side and the enemy on the other side and the foolish ultimatums will be a priori impossible.
As to the state of siege with which the British occupants are threatening our people - we have to make a simple and short statement. "Martial law" is probably an unavoidable stage in our struggle and we will pass through it as we did all trials in our long history of tears, blood and toil. But the enemy must know, that if he is going to turn our country into a hell, we shall turn his life into a hell. Not only in this country. Our soldiers will strike at the enemy all over the world. Obviously we are nearing the decisive stage of the struggle between our freedom-loving people and British serfdom. And serfdom cannot and will not win the day.

The Irgun did not want to bring more persecution upon the Yishuv, but freedom from British authority ... and they were ready to fight the British authority!

The British were ready to turn the Mandate over to the United Nations to resolve the situation in Palestine. The next session of the UN Assembly to "discuss" the issue of Palestine would be in October/November of 1947.

The Irgun did not want to wait.

On 01 March 1947 fourteen (14) military attacks on British military installations by the underground invited the threatened "martial law" to be declared.

The British bragged, "Now we will overpower the underground administration!"

General Gain declared, "We will catch all those terrorists ... the Navy will catch the ones who escape by the seas!"

The Irgun increased attacks on the British throughout all of Eretz Israel, saying among each other, "With God's help our activities will be stronger!"

On 16 March 1947 martial law was lifted.

During the martial law attacks by the Irgun and LECHI occurred 68 times a day for 16 days and this broke the British martial law.

Bevin replied to the UN to call an urgent meeting before November 1947, and the UN General Assembly set a date for 28 April 1947.

Our underground soldiers resistance against the martial law resulted moving forward a special session of the UN General Assembly to address the presence of British military authority in Palestine.

Back on 29 December 1946 one of our units was captured while trying to find British officers to kidnap for "flogging" as they broke the 6:00pm curfew. While Dov Gruner was under threat, on 10 February 1947 three more Irgun soldiers were sentenced to execution by hanging.

It was a very tense situation for hundreds of Irgun and LECHI prisoners in Acre Prison. Those prisoners sentenced to hang were sent to Jerusalem Prison. In Jerusalem Prison sat four of our soldiers, sentenced but without a date set.

It was illegal by international law and British law to execute a prison without setting a date so that clergy can come, family can have a last visit, and preparations can be made.

In the month of March 1947 many people from all over the world applied for clemency of the four Irgun soldiers. The British government applied to the UN.

The British requested the four Irgun prisoners to "sign" for clemency and their sentences would be commuted.

The reply of the four soldiers was emphatic -" NO!"

Letter of Dov Gruner to Irgun High Command: (Triumph on the Gallows)

"If you cannot prevent the British from carrying out their scheme of legal murder, we beg of you at least to leave us, their prisoners, alone and let us die in peace and with a clear conscience. Stop pressuring us into asking favors of an authority which we do not recognize as legal in our country."

You must envision what the gallows looked like all day, every day to the sentenced soldiers. At the end of a rope is a noose attached on the other end to a bag weighing the same pounds as the prisoner. At the end of another rope is a pen.

Our soldiers had such belief in the fight, such strength in God, and such conviction of the Hebrew right to the Homeland, not only to save our own life but the lives of Hebrews yet to be born in the Jewish Homeland, Eretz Israel.

On Friday (Shabbot Eve), 12 April 1947 a hand written, top secret note by General Barker was sent to Jerusalem Prison saying "the four prisoners from Jerusalem Prison will be transferred to Acre Prison where they will be executed on 16 April 1947.

On Sunday, 14 April 1947 Atty. Max Kritzman came to see the prisoners at Jerusalem Prison. He could not see them because they were not there. He asked specifically if a date had been set for their execution.

The British authority told Kritzman "the four prisoners would not be hanged."

I (Malatzky) was one of the prisoners at Acre during this time and we were planning a major escape for May from the fortress of Acre; the symbol of British persecution.

When the four soldiers arrived the night of 14 April 1947 we were excited to know they were with us and could escape with us, and were no longer at the gallows.

During the night of 15 - 16 April 1947, at 01:00 in the morning, the four were executed without warning.

The world was stunned.
No date had been set.
No clergy had been brought.
No families had been notified.

It was all done illegally.

We prisoners could only pray for their souls.
There was nothing to do.

On 28 April 1947 United Nations delegates came from 52 countries to debate the Palestine Mandate.

The Irgun voice roared on 04 May 1947. The impenetrable fortress, symbol of British oppression in Eretz Israel called Acre Prison was attacked and its walls broken.

What Napoleon could not do, our soldiers did.
We surrounded the prison.
We destroyed the wall.
We conquered the prison.

On 05 May 1947 the United Nations delegates heard of our attack on Acre.

"We destroyed not only the British wall around Acre, but virtually destroyed the walls of British control in Palestine."

The Irgun wanted a "political solution" not a military fight with the British Army.

We worked to make a situation in Palestine so that the British could not fulfill their aims in Palestine.

The "explosion" from the destruction of the British wall of Acre Prison symbolized the destruction of the wall surrounding the Jewish people in Palestine.

This "explosion" combined with the political networking of members of the Irgun outside of Eretz Israel (Eri Jabotinsky, Hillel Kook, and others) convinced the Russian delegate Gromyko to voice in the Assembly that "British imperialism must get out of Palestine to create a Jewish State."

On 15 May 1947 Gromyko stood to say "The Jewish people deserve a land for themselves ... Acre proves their fortitude."

The Eastern block of countries at the UN voted to form a committee to explore a proper resolution for what is to be done in Palestine.

On 29 November 1947 a resolution mainly done through the Acre action was voted on.

A political resolution was decided.

A State for the Jewish people is to be created in Israel.

This was the objective of the Irgun Zvai Leumi.

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