“I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy. And I am very angry with the nations that are at ease; for while I was but a little displeased, the helped for forwards the affliction and disaster.” (Zechariah 1)
(Shmuel Katz memoirs)
The Administration acted at once (to the Irgun’s retaliation to the Arab attacks in 1937).
It fell on the Revisionists. It was the natural thing to do. The Revisionists were openly critical of the policy of “havlage.”
The party newspaper, though often ingeniously circumspect in its language, did not conceal an obvious militancy.
At packed mass meetings in the cities, Altman, Lubotsky, and other spokesmen not only attacked the British Government but denounced the Jewish Agency policy.
The British closed down the party newspaper and prohibited public meetings except by permit.
* * *
Dawn raids were carried out at the homes of scores of Revisionists who were arrested and promptly sentenced by the District Commissioners without trial, to imprisonment.
There they were given the treatment accorded by the old barbaric Ottoman regime to convicted criminals – a tradition the British had purposefully inherited.
They were forced to sleep on vermin-infested mattresses laid out on the stone floor.
Their food was that deemed suitable by a harsh prison regime for Arab felons from the slums of Jaffa or Jerusalem.
In any approach to the prison Governor they were expected to crouch outside his door until he was ready to receive them. This neat Ottoman crouch soon went by the board when they refused to comply.
The British chose their victims with undiscriminating latitude.
Having to prove nothing, they made broad guesses.
They had long-standing lists of Revisionists who at different times had fallen foul of them.
*The first candidates were the associates of Dr. Abba Achimeir who six years earlier had been the first to proclaim and teach that resistance to the British Administration was a Zionist imperative, and that indeed going to gaol for such resistance was itself a contribution to the ultimate breakdown of the anti-Zionist regime.
Achimeir and his Brit Habiryonim had at the time put this prescient teaching into effect, and carried out a number of demonstrative acts against the regime. They had already tasted the joys of the Palestine gaols. Though long inactive as a group, their names and addresses were ready to hand.
To these the British now added long lists of names of men active in the Party.
Against some no doubt there was some special suspicion.
Some were the victims of Jewish collaboration, official or unofficial.
The overriding principle seemed to be numbers, perhaps determined by the amount of space available in the gaols.
Certainly if enough arrests were made there was a fair prospect that some of those actively associated with the acts of retaliation would be caught in the net.
(see ELIAHU WEZBULOWSKY bio-sketch)
In one of the round-ups I was given the opportunity of judging the British method at close quarters.
One Friday midday, on the point of leaving the office for the week-end, I had an unexpected visitor, a young Jewish policeman named “Bubby” Bergman. He was a Betari from Latvia whom I had met once or twice.
He was attached to the police station over the way from the Generali Building. In charge of the station was a Jew, Inspector Gordon. By his public habits it seemed Gordon was obsessed by the desire to be taken for an Englishman. He was certainly determined to identify himself absolutely with British objectives.
On that Friday he had told his second-in-command Inspector Langer that he had an order to arrest forty Revisionists by Sunday morning.
He himself was about to leave Jerusalem for the week-end and the execution of the order devolved on Langer. Moreover, Langer, unlike Gordon, was veteran resident of Jerusalem and so knew who all the important Revisionists were.
Compiling the list should therefore present no difficulty.
Langer protested against this indiscriminate method of arrest. A warm Jewish patriotism no doubt added to his distaste for the task.
Gordon however was firm and emphatic; and went off for his week-end.
Langer indeed had no difficulty in compiling the list from his own knowledge. Bergman showed it to me: thirty-eight men whose arrest would effectively have paralyzed the party in Jerusalem.
They wrote to be arrested in the early hours of Sunday morning.
His message was a simple one: Langer had no alternative but to carry out arrests, but he would be prepared to submit any other list.
If the Revisionists wished, they could substitute other less important names.
I copied the list, and took it to Hayyim Shalom Halevi – one of the early colleagues of Raziel in the Irgun and a member of the Party Committee.
No substitute list was of course submitted.
When the police arrived in the pre-dawn hours of Sunday morning to effect the arrests, all but one of the bids had flown.
There was in those days no follow-up.
The proscribed victims all filtered back within a few days to Jerusalem, and resumed their pursuits without molestation – at least until the next round-up. Maybe the number was made up elsewhere.
In the main, the Revisionist population of the prisons was kept up to strength.
* * *
THE GALLOWS BEGIN:
(Shlomo Ben-Yosef in Rosh Pina) decided that he must do something, by some demonstrative act make a protest somehow to rouse his generation to the mortal danger and to their duty.
Together with two younger members of the pelugah, Avraham Shein and Shalom Zuravin, he went out one afternoon in April 1938 to the main road and fired at an Arab bus.
Nobody was hit.
He then went back with his friends to a shed in the village, and waited, rifle in hand, to be arrested.
For this, two months later, the British hanged him.
(see GALLOWS theme)
The organization and financing of the defense of Ben-Yosef and his comrades bore heavily on David Bukspan and Binyamin Lubotsky, in charge after Dr. Altman left the country to join Jabotinsky on his third mission to South Africa.
The mustering of the “evidence” which ultimately saved the lives of Shein and Zursavin was no easy task.
When they were convicted Shein had to be proved to be under eighteen, though he himself, only a few months earlier in an application for naturalization, had claimed he was twenty. Documents were concocted.
The plea make for Zuravin was mental deficiency.
They both spent long years in confinement.
* * *
The British were not slow to act (when the Irgun retaliated to Arab violence).
Every Revisionist became a fair target.
Administrative orders for imprisonment were issued wholesale.
The prisons were filled to overflowing.
* * *
THE MACDONALD WHITE PAPER 1939:
In May 1939 Mr. Malcolm MacDonald, the British Colonial Secretary published his White Paper on British policy in Palestine.
There was no ambiguity in it.
***The Jewish restoration in Palestine was to be brought to an end.
*In the proximate five years the final seventy-five thousand Jews were to be allowed into Palestine.
*After ten years an independent State would be set up – on two tongue-in-cheek conditions:
*That peace had been fully restored;
*and that Jews and Arabs could work together.
In short, British rule was to last forever.
*Zionism was to be smothered; and the Jews of Europe (except for the seventy-five thousand) were officially sentenced to become dust.
The Jewish reaction was an outburst of pain and rage.
It was echoed by all the British opponents of the Government’s Palestine policy on both sides of the House of Commons.
The Labour Opposition even proclaimed that should it come to power it would not be bound by this policy.
The Mandates Commission of the League of Nations withheld its consent.
For any nation respecting its international obligations the White Paper was thus illegal; indeed it was never even formally legitimized.
In mid-February 1940 they published the Land Regulations envisaged by the White Paper. These prohibited the purchase by Jews of land in all but five percent of the area of Western Palestine – in the area, that is, already largely in Jewish hands.
Nor did the outbreak of war lessen the silent ferocity of the British Government’s pursuit of the pitifully few Jews who succeeded in making the effort to flee from Europe to Palestine. Indeed it grew more intense.
* * *
TESTIMONY OF THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT’S CONCERN FOR THE TRAPPED JEWS / ss STRUMA
(See DARK CLOUDS theme)
* * *
“HELL OUT OF HELL”:
When the War ended the British Government humanely hastened and intensified the measures, which had begun while hostilities were still in progress, of relaxing restrictions and discomforts from the long-suffering back of the people in Britain.
***In Europe the survivors of the tortures of hell in the death-camps waited 220 days, still herded together in the Displaced Persons’ camps set up by the victors, before even being told what the British Government thought ought to happen to them now.
When at last the long awaited “Statement of Policy” was made the only coherent idea in it for the ears of the “Displaced Persons” was that they should remain in Europe and help to build up its ruins.
That was the opening theme of the British Foreign Secretary’s statement in the House of Commons on 13 November 1945.
That was indeed not the only message in the statement.
From its mass of words the certainty emerged that in the six years since 1939 the only discernible change in British policy on Palestine was perhaps a coarsening of tone and a greater vagueness of recollection of British obligations and undertakings to the Jewish people.
After four months of renewed consideration of the problem, the British Government now announced a new Commission to investigate.
Only this time, of its twelve members, six would be Americans.
In deep humanitarian concern the British Government asked the Commission to work with speed and to report within 120 days.
***The “Displaced Persons” might then, after only 340 days of liberation learn what twelve chosen Gentiles thought should be done with them.
* * *
For the first time the Zionist leaders demonstrated that they were not deceived by a British time-gaining device.
The Haganah, which on 1 November 1945 (when the contents of the Statement were already known) had in collaboration with the Irgun and the Lehi proclaimed the launching of a Resistance Movement, did not now retract.
As in fact the decision of the British Government had little to do in its foundations with either Jews or Arabs but was the solvent, as always, of the various elements of British imperial strategy – all that was implied in the statement of 13 November was that, in the broad, the British view of its Imperial interests had not changed since 1939.
**It was still essential for her to control Palestine.
**She was persuaded that she could do so only as long as the Jews remained a minority.
Round this central if unmentionable theme all else revolved.
The war had ended in a state of considerable tension between the Anglo-Americans and their Soviet Allies.
The air was filled with suspicion and with the fear that at any moment it might be necessary to fight the Soviet Union.
***This was the bait offered to the Americans, whose possible pro-Zionist ardor might reasonably be expected to cool when they were shown that Zionism was inimical to their global interest of British control of Palestine.
This newly furnished version of entrenched British policy need have come as no surprise.
Yet it constituted the most blatant perfidy our generation had experienced outside of the totalitarian states.
For the Government which made the Statement of November 1945 was a Labour Government.
It was manned by the very men who had damned the White Paper bell, book and candle, denounced it as a breach of faith which, moreover, would not bind them if they came to power.
That was indeed in remote 1939.
A single year before the end of the war, in April 1944 the Labour Party Conference had reiterated its opposition to the White Paper, exerted itself in unprecedented vigour to produce a policy alternative to the White Paper.
It had then committed itself to the clearest declaration of support for the Zionist aim over-uttered by the Labour Party.
Indeed it even proposed transferring the Arab population form Palestine – which was not a Zionist demand.
The Labour Party Conference of 1944 had altogether been marked by the measure of warm sympathy it evinced for the Jewish people in its tribulations and the uninhibited support it expressed for the Jews’ claims to Palestine.
This was not all. A year later, in May 1945, a fort-night after the end of the war in Europe, another Labour Party Conference took place.
Questions were asked about the Palestine policy of the party, now on the eve of a General Election campaign.
Hugh Dalton, replying to the debate on behalf of the Executive, said –
“The Executive has made its position abundantly clear. Having regard to the unspeakable horrors the Jewish people have suffered it is morally wrong and politically indefensible to restrict entry to Palestine to Jews desiring to go there.”
He then went on to insist that the Americans and the Russians cooperate in dealing with the Palestine problem.
“It is indispensable” he said “that steps be taken to get common support for a policy leading to the establishment of a free happy and prosperous Jewish State in Palestine.”
***No Labour leader ever thought it necessary to explain or even excuse the speedy, complete and, in the circumstances, brutal reversal of policy.
Bevin himself, at a Press Conference held to explain his statement the very day he made it in Parliament, did indeed dispose of this embarrassing question by a very childish lie –
“There is not one resolution carried by the Labour Party that I know of” he said “that promised a Jewish State. If ever it was done it was done in the enthusiasm of a Labour Party Conference.”
(see BEVIN’S FOREIGN POLICY theme)
* * *
BRITAIN’S MIDDLE EAST IMPERIALISM POST WWII:
Endangered was her whole carefully planned structure (under which Jewish restoration too was incidentally to be crushed).
General de Gaulle openly accused the British of having fomented Syrian and Lebanese opposition to the French proposals for a treaty.
What he described as “a numerous crowd” of British agents had made difficulties for the French authorities.
Damascus and Beirut rejected the French proposals outright, and without further warning resistance broke out.
Armed groups, helped by gendarmes and police (and carrying arms supplied over the years, despite French warnings, by the British) attacked French posts and personnel.
France took swift, drastic action.
The resistance was quickly overwhelmed. Within a few days she had the situation under control.
Precisely now the British delivered an ultimatum to the French Government – on what legal basis was not explained -
If the French forces were not withdrawn the British forces would – regretfully – be sent into action against them.
The French withdrew.
At the time of the clash they had in the Levant some four to five thousand men.
The British had at their disposal, within striking distance, over half a million.
* * *
PALESTINE EMERGENCY REGULATIONS 1946:
The British in 1945 had tightened the regulations of 1936.
Now in 1946 they had expanded them still further.
The regulations were very comprehensive indeed.
They left no loophole for anybody who infringed the “law and order” of the Palestine Government.
Only in the Nazi and Fascist regimes in Europe had there been a comparably draconian code of laws, so absolute a suppression of the accepted rights of the individual, such a concentration of power in the hands of the Government, so indiscriminate a conferment of authority on every soldier and every policeman in the street.
The ferocity of the British drive against the Jews of Europe was most clearly enshrined in its regulations on “illegal” immigrants.
*Any soldier, policeman or even immigration official was empowered to arrest without warrant anybody he suspected of being an “illegal” immigrant.
*The High Commissioner or his representative could thereupon clap him into gaol by administrative order, that is without trial.
*Should they decide to bring him to trial they did not have to trouble to bring evidence. He had to prove his innocence.
*Anybody harbouring an “illegal” immigrant, even if its was his own father or mother, was liable to go to gaol for eight years. By comparison, for harbouring a murderer you were liable to three years prison, and to no punishment at all if it was a relative you harboured.
*Every private right had been abolished.
*You could be arrested at will, imprisoned without trial, sentenced for an indefinite period.
*You could be exiled, and held in detention in exile for year after year without ever having been asked a single question, let alone called to appear in Court.
*The censorship was complete.
*All written material, including letters and telegrams, was subject to it. Nothing might be printed that the censor thought could be harmful to “law and order.”
*Every newspaper was censored.
*Any excision by the censor had to be concealed from the readers.
*Your movements could be restricted or controlled, without your even being told why.
*Any organization or society could be declared an illegal body without reason or explanation or right of appeal.
*The High Commissioner could confiscate all your property if you were as much as suspected of having broken an Emergency regulation, any Emergency regulation.
*Here too no trial was necessary. It was enough that the High Commissioner had reason to believe.
*Any Army officer had authority to confiscate whole streets, whole suburbs, indeed whole towns if he had reason to believe that from a house in that street or suburb or town a shot had been fired.
*Any civilian could be tried on any charge before a military court.
*The sentence of the Court had indeed to be confirmed by the person who appointed its members – that is the Commander-in-Chief – but the accused himself had no right of appeal from its decisions – except perhaps to the House of Lords in Britain.
*The crowning glory of the Regulations resided in those dealing with the specific crimes for which you were actually accorded a trial before a military court.
*The death sentence could be imposed
1) on anybody shooting at somebody, or at a place where people were to be found;
2) on anybody throwing or placing a bomb or inflammable material with intent to injure people or damage property;
3) on anybody carrying arms, ammunition, a bomb or explosive or inflammable material without a license from a Military Officer;
4) on any member of a group or body of people one of whose other members had committed one of these capital crimes.
*For the lesser crime of being in possession of arms, ammunition or bombs, you could be given a life sentence – or if you just belonged to the same club as somebody else found guilty of this crime.
There were many gradations in the 150 paragraphs of the Regulations.
Taken together, they provided the frame, now that Hitler’s Reich was dead, for the most complete police state in the world.
* * *
The British had by any civilized political standard or legal system long forfeited the right to rule Palestine.
***Their presence, buttressed by eighty thousand soldiers, was merely that of a ruthless regime of Occupation maintaining itself by brute force.
***Quite apart from the implications of Jewish restoration and its betrayal by Britain, it was a moral imperative to overthrow such a regime.
* * *
ASSAULT ON THE KIBBUTZIM:
The British authorities were meanwhile giving added point to their single-minded purpose in enthusiastic searches for Haganah arms.
They suspected that large quantities were to be found in the Kibbutzim.
Operations were carried out throughout the country.
In the search for underground hiding places a degree of damage to the kibbutzim was inevitable.
This however was not regarded as adequate for demonstrating the ascendancy of British power.
The searches were accompanied by vandalistic destruction of property and by maltreatment of the inhabitants, which attained excessive proportions in two kibbutzim in the Negev: Ruhama and Dorot.
RUHAMA WAS ALL BUT COMPLETELY DESTROYED, ITS PEOPLE SUBJECTED TO VIOLENCE AND THE KIND OF HUMILIATING “FATIGUES” THE NAZIS USED TO FORCE UPON THEIR VICTIMS AS A SPORT.
IN VALEDICTORY EMPHASIS THE WALLS OF WRECKED HOUSES WERE DECORATED WITH ANTI-SEMITIC SLOGANS EMBELLISHED BY SWASTIKAS.
The members of this Hasomer Hatzair Kibbutz, who had always been only too willing to live at peace with their British rulers, were utterly bewildered by this behaviour.
They were (or should have been) enlightened when they were informed that the soldiers had been sent in with orders not only to search for arms but to treat the Kibbutz as “occupied enemy territory.”
* * *
While the Jewish Agency was debating whether to surrender, the British Army continued to terrorize Kibbutzim in their searches for arms.
Now they gave the screw a further turn, extended the front of their war on the Jews.
THE FULL FORCE OF A MAJOR CAMPAIGN WAS LET LOOSE AGAINST THE SURVIVORS OF HITLER’S CONCENTRATION CAMPS TEMERARIOUSLY SEEKING TO ESCAPE THE FATE MR. BEN GURION HAD ASSIGNED THEM.
(see ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION theme – ALIYAH B)
* * *
ATTACK ON THE IRGUN AND LECHI AUGUST 1946:
The British, while still engaged on their violent searches for arms in kibbutzim and other mopping-up operations, but already certain of their victory over the “official” forces, now prepared a shattering attack on the Irgun and the Lehi.
It was delivered as a riposte to the blowing-up of the King David Headquarters.
Vociferous propaganda on the “outrage” did not alter the bitter truth that had sustained a major blow, perhaps unprecedented in the history of partisan revolt.
They would therefore now once and for all crush its perpetrators.
They suspected, rightly, that the heart of resistance was in Tel Aviv.
Early one morning in August they made a sudden swoop.
Twenty thousand troops – infantry, supported by tanks – occupied the town.
Its approaches were sealed off.
A continuous curfew, which lasted for four days, was imposed, with a bullet promised for any breach.
The life of Tel Aviv was brought to a halt.
The Trap was complete.
Every house and apartment was searched.
Batch by batch the whole adult male population was led to screening centres set up throughout the town.
C.I.D. officers armed with lists and photographs, eyed and identified more than a hundred thousand people.
***Among them were almost all the leaders and staffs of the Irgun and the Lehi, and the total Tel Aviv manpower of both organizations.
Nearly eight hundred people were indeed led away to detention, and a British communiqué claimed the capture of many important terrorists.
In fact, no fiasco could have been more complete.
The total haul of “important terrorists” was precisely two: Yitshak Isernitsky (Shamir), a member of the Lehi commanding triumvirate – who had grown a suspicious-looking beard – and Zusia Kromiers, and Irgun officer.
* * *
THE MORRISON PLAN, 1946
(BRITAIN’S) ASSAULT ON THE IMMIGRANTS, ACCOMPANIED BY A WORLD-WIDE PROPAGANDA AND DIPLOMATIC CAMPAIGN, WENT ON UNABATED.
Moreover it had at least produced its plan for the settlement of the Palestine problem.
It was called the Morrison Plan, Herbert Morrison having been its sponsor in the House of Commons. In the face of Jewish distress neither the White paper of 1939 nor the Land Regulations of 1940 had been so vicious or so callous.
The plan did not pretend to make a gesture of accommodation even to the Zionists whose spirit was inexorably chained to the vision of eternal British patronage.
It gave them not the semblance of a hint of a concession.
IT PROVIDED FOR THE ESTABLISHMENT OF FOUR ZONES IN THE COUNTRY:
1) To the Arabs it assigned the eastern area mainly populated by them.
2) To the Jews it assigned a strip along the coast, an area of about 1500 square miles.
3) To both it proposed to grant a kind of provincial autonomy. The central authority over the whole country would remain British, and would also determine whether any more Jews should be allowed into their ghetto.
4) The whole of the Negev and the Jerusalem area would be held by the British for purposes unspecified.
THE JEWS WERE THUS FROZEN WHERE THEY STOOD; AND PALESTINE WOULD BECOME A LIGHTLY-CAMOFLAGED BRITISH COLONY.
***The Morrison Plan had the one virtue of spelling out in unmistakable terms, and with only the lightest cover for its nakedness, the long established British purposes: the virtual ammonization of Palestine, and the castration of our future as a nation.
As the proposal of one nation to another it most resembled the terms of a predatory conqueror to a defeated enemy.
* * *
The High Commissioner, summarily summoned London together with Barker, was called into conference with the Cabinet and with the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, Field Marshal Montgomery.
From this conference there emerged clearly inspired reports of decisions to “crush the terror once and for all”; and Palestine was filled with rumours, fed by the British Press, of the condign punishment that would be visited on the whole Jewish community if it did not help destroy the terrorists: martial law would be proclaimed.
In the meantime the British troops were ordered to take greater care of themselves.
They were not to move around except in pairs and they were not to visit cafes, bars or places of entertainment.
I spent many hours with Begin in the little room in the Oppenheimer apartment.
I told him of what I had seen and heard and done in Europe, of the repercussions and undertones in London after the Rome attack.
Together we peered around and beyond the harsh glare of the immediate reality of British power, and examined once again the weakness eating at its source.
The analysis was one often repeated.
Now the crucial outline of the psychological terrain was sharp and clear.
Our task was to intensify the struggle, increase it s scope, deepen its impact and, as each new and sharper weapon was used by the British, to break it in their hands.
To the threats of Martial Law, the Irgun published and broadcast a laconic response:
“We have simple reply to the threats of the British terrorists. You will not frighten us. Even in the most difficult circumstances we shall find ways of delivering blows at the enemy.”
These words were backed by the knowledge of the plans even then being made to sharpen and broaden the immediate struggle.
Underlying them was the confidence born of the Irugn’s concept of the contending forces in the clash with Britain, a concept central to the strategy of insurrection from its outset: that the ending of British rule was within our power, that Britain could be forced to evacuated Palestine.