Israeli History/From World War II to Partition
Intensifying violence: Arabs v. Jews, Jews v. Arabs
British did not allow Jews to form a fighting unit till Sept. 1940 with 200 men. Sept. 20, 1944 Jewish Brigade formed. to restrict enlistment number of Jews was supposed to equal number of Arabs. Arabs did enlist, mainly inactive during war. end of 1941 more than 10,000 Palestinian Jews joined army. also in 1941 Palmach - peluggot mahaz - "Shock Companies" - created by Haganah Elite Strike Force designed to defen Yishuv in an emergency
Jews increasingly aware that British would not implement Balfour Declaration, i.e., giving Jews a state. May 1942 Zionists meeting at Biltmore Hotel in NY urged Britain to allow Jewish Agency power to form a Jewish State. state not a separate country until a Jewish majority. Agency responsible for country's agriculture and industry
Jews v. British
Feb. 1, 1944 Menachim Begin, leader of Irgun declared a Jewish revolt against British. Irgun attacked military targets. Late Feb. 1944 Irgun attacked the offices of Immigration Department in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Haifa. protested closed gates of Palestine
Nov. 1943 20 members of Lehi a.k.a. Stern Gang escaped from Latrun prison. Nathan Friedmans-Yellin among them, and resurrected Lehi and became its leader. Lehi believed British wouldn't leave because of oil refinery in Haifa. They threatened British army installments, camps, interrupted transportation with mines, intimidated soldiers with death threats, patrolled streets till they found a group of British police or soldiers and opened fire on them.
British response: a. curfews on Jewish cities b. mass arrests c. instituting death penalty for carrying firearms d. underground Jewish forces intensified attacks
Chaim Weizmann sent letter of condolences to a wounded British soldier. Jewish leadership appalled by killings; afraid violence would jeopardize the creation of a Jewish State. The Jewish Agency feared for their own positions. April 2, 1944 Agency officially declared a policy of opposition -prevent activities -increase negative propaganda against "terrorists"
Yom Kippur 1944
Begin announced that shofar will be blown at the Western Wall. this had been prohibited since 1929 riots. Sept. 27 shofar sounded and at the same time Irgun attacked 4 different British fortresses. Psychological victory. British did not retaliate.
Radical elements among the Zionists aimed to assassinate key British leaders as punishment for complicity in Holocaust. 4 attempts on Sir Harold MacMichael all failed. British minister of Cairo, Lord Moyne, former Colonial Secretary.. Nov. 6, 1944 Eliahu Hakim and Eliau Bet-Zouri assassinated Moyne. assassinators both tried and hanged.
Israel after the Holocaust
Jewish survivors of the Holocaust were not taken to Israel but rehabilitated in camps in Europe. However, many of these survivors were strongly motivated to leave Europe. Without a legal means of emigration, they turned to "Aliyah Bet" in even greater numbers than before, a movement called Berihah. Britain opened internment camps in Cyprus to house Holocaust survivors they had captured; some were held until 1949. In the SS Exodus incident, the British Royal Navy seized one of the Berihah ships and sent it back to Germany, causing a media scandal.
Thousands of people, young and old, had been torn from their loved ones during the Nazi occupation and never knew what had become of them -- in the ghettos, the deportations, the death camps, the forests. In Israel, they found one another purely by chance, or through advertisements in the papers or with the aid of the heartrending radio program Who Recognizes, Who Knows? "Aryeh Kantrowitz, now in Kibbutz Hazorea, is looking for his mother Fanya, nee Margolin," the announcements would run. "Bluma Langer, nee Wasserstein, formerly of Kovno, now in the immigrant hostel in Raanana, is looking for her husband, Aharon Langer. Leah Koren of Lublin, now in Israel, is looking for her sister Sheina Friedman, nee Koren." All were recent immigrants on the threshold of a new life.—Tom Segev, 1949: The First Israelis. 1998. pp.ix-x
Holocaust survivors (DPs) and Zionist militancy
The continuing flow of refugees enraged Arab leaders and, in the eyes of the British, threatened the stability of the region. The British thus refused to accept 100,000 refugees in 1946. In response, militant elements among Hagana, the Irgun, and Lehi kidnapped British officers and bombed the King David Hotel, killing 91 British, Jewish, and Arab employees. The response from leaders in Britain was actually helpful from the Zionists: Churchill announced that he did not see much of a British interest in Palestine, and the general British public began to weigh the costs of a continued occupation.
In October 1946, U.S. President Truman announced his support for the Jewish Agency's partition plan. For the Zionists, a long-awaited victory seemed to be on the way; however, the road from partition to statehood would be a rocky one.
- Charles D. Smith. Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict. 2004.
- Tom Segev, 1949: The First Israelis. 1998