Middle-East terrorism and the Palestine Mandate

Malcolm Redfellow

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Here's one that might, just might tickle the penchants of some p.ie-sters. It comes from a book that has lurked, unappreciated, on a shelf for several years. I begin at pages 76-77:
If the British intelligence community faced an uneasy situation in the post-war period, with reduced funding, greater responsibilities, awkward relations with the Labour government and scanty intelligence on their new Soviet enemy, MI5 was confronted with an even more urgent threat. Recently declassified intelligence records reveal that at the end of the war the main priority for MI5 was the threat of terrorism emanating from the Middle East, specifically from the two main Jewish (or Zionist) terrorist groups operating in the Mandate of Palestine, which had been placed under British control in 1921. They were called the Irgun Zevai Leumi ('National Military Organisation', or the Irgun for short) and the Lehi (an acronym in Hebrew for 'Freedom Fighters of Israel'), which the British also termed the 'Stern Gang', after its founding leader, Avraham Stern. The Irgun and the Stern Gang believed that British policies in Palestine in the post-war years, blocking the creation of an independent Jewish state, legitimised the use of violence against British targets.

As the Second World War came to a close, MI5 received a stream of intelligence reports warning that the Irgun and the Stern Gang were not just planning violence in the Mandate of Palestine, but were also plotting to launch attacks inside Britain. In April 1945 an urgent cable from S[ecurity] I[ntelligence] M[iddle] E[east] warned that Victory in Europe (VE-Day) would be a D-Day for Jewish terrorists in the Middle East. Then, in the spring and summer of 1946, coinciding with a sharp escalation of anti-British violence in Palestine, MI5 received apparently reliable reports from SIME that the Irgun and the Stern Gang were planning to send five terrorist 'cells' to London, 'to work on IRA lines'. To use their own words, the terrorists intended to 'beat the dog in his own kennel'. The SIME reports were derived from the interrogation of captured Irgun and Stern Gang fighters, from local police agents in Palestine, and from liaisons with official Zionist political groups like the Jewish Agency. They stated that among the targets for assassination were Britain's Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin, who was regarded as the main obstacle to the establishment of a Jewish state in the Middle East, and the Prime Minister himself. Before his retirement as MI5's Director-General, Sir David Petrie warned that the spike of violence against the British in Palestine, and the planned extension of lrgun and Stern Gang operations to Britain, meant that the 'red light is definitely showing'. MI5's new Director-General, Sir Percy Sillitoe, was so alarmed that in August 1946 he personally briefed the Prime Minister on the situation, warning him that an assassination campaign in Britain had to be considered a real possibility, and that his own name was known to be on a Stern Gang hit-list.
The Irgun and the Stern Gang's wartime track record ensured that MI5 took these warnings seriously. In November 1944 the Stern Gang assassinated the British Minister for the Middle East, Lord Moyne, while he was returning to his rented villa after a luncheon engagement in Cairo. Moyne, an heir to the Guinness dynasty, was a wealthy and well-connected figure …
Lord Moyne was Walter Guinness, who managed the feat among the peripatetic Guinnesses of being born in Dublin, third snd youngest son of Edward Guinness, Earl of Iveagh. Despite what it says above, I've reckoned it was two Lehi agents ( Eliyahu Bet-Zuri and Eliyahu Hakim) who did for our Walter — and in Cairo, not Palestine. By all accounts our Walter was no great afficiando of things Jewish.

After that came Menachem Begin's bombing of the King David Hotel (22 July 1946), killing 91 and causing 45 further casualties. Both MI5 and SIS had their stations in the hotel.
  • The follow-up was Irgun bombing the British Embassy in Rome (31 October 1946) and a series of attacks on British military in occupied Germany.
  • On 7 March 1947 Lehi claimed the bombing of the Colonial Club in London's St Martin's Lane: the totemic name was really little more than a hostel for visiting African and West Indian students and military.
  • The biggie was meant to be Irgun taking out the Colonial Office (16 April 1947) — but the clockwork broke.
  • Finally Lehi resorted to a letter-bomb campaign. This provided more black humour than effect: one letter reached the desk of Stafford Cripps, and started fizzing, so his secretary dunked it in a fire bucket. Anthony Eden carried a letter around for a full day, before the police warned him, on MI5 advice. The wife of General Evelyn Barker, former head of ground forces in Palestine, recognised the smell of gunpowder and called the police.
All of this occupied the attention of UK's 'intelligence' and security between the end of WW2 hostilities and the arrival of the full-on Cold War.

I mention all this to suggest there is little really new under the sun.
 
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Barroso

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font

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Eventually Britain was kicked out from the land, designed to be a national home for the Jewish people.
 

Lumpy Talbot

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Churchill had warned the Americans that setting up a jewish state in Palestine would bring foreseeable consequences in terms of destabilisation of the region (mentioned in Roy Jenkins' excellent biography of Churchill).

Churchill suggested Madagascar instead.
 

Lumpy Talbot

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Might have been better when you think of it with Madagascar the only real terrorist threat is the aerial threat of the drunken Lemur.

I have heard that the little buggers like to get pissed as newts off fruit fallen to the ground and fermented in the sun.

Sometimes it is said in Madagascan corners that the only sound one can hear out in the bush of an afternoon/late evening is the sound of lemur bodies falling out of the lower limbs of trees drunk as lords and climbing their way complainingly back up the tree again.

I believe the locals refer to it a the season of the 'Ard Fheis'.
 

owedtojoy

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Churchill had warned the Americans that setting up a jewish state in Palestine would bring foreseeable consequences in terms of destabilisation of the region (mentioned in Roy Jenkins' excellent biography of Churchill).

Churchill suggested Madagascar instead.
Notice he did not suggest Northumbria, or Queensland, or any place white people had settled.

Theodore Herzl's first proposal for a Jewish state was in Uganda. The land for Jewish settlement was always going to be someone else's first, and that someone else was going to be brown or black, and vulnerable. In an era rife with racism and imperialism, that is no surprise.

The Palestinians were the patsies for European and American guilt.
 

Lumpy Talbot

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That would have been in keeping with much of the attitude among the British upper middle class toward the jew at the time.
 

owedtojoy

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Might have been better when you think of it with Madagascar the only real terrorist threat is the aerial threat of the drunken Lemur.

I have heard that the little buggers like to get pissed as newts off fruit fallen to the ground and fermented in the sun.

Sometimes it is said in Madagascan corners that the only sound one can hear out in the bush of an afternoon/late evening is the sound of lemur bodies falling out of the lower limbs of trees drunk as lords and climbing their way complainingly back up the tree again.

I believe the locals refer to it a the season of the 'Ard Fheis'.
For a while, the Nazis proposed dumping European Jews in Madagascar, whether the natives liked it or not. Or whether the Jews liked it or not.

A friend of mine, an Anglican priest, was posted to Madagascar. He was surprised to find a Commonwealth War Grave - a relic of the Allied invasion of the island in May, 1942, against the Vichy French.

The invasion was more part of the war against the Japanese. After the British lost Singapore, the battleships Repulse and Prince of Wales, and the aircraft carrier Hermes, the entire Indian Ocean was considered vulnerable.


Anyway, my friend taught the place fantastic. The climate was great, the people friendly and the food superb.

The biggest fly in the ointment was corruption and gangs, who are hand in had with the politicians. My pal raised his voice a bit too loudly, and suddenly found himself jailed and deported. I heard from acquaintances in Mauritius that he was lucky - some unfortunates doing business in Madagascar have been murdered.
 

Lumpy Talbot

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Strange how politics goes over time. There was a definite anti-semitism in the more conservative of voters at one time, at least up until WWII and all the horrors of that era.

Now it is the Labour Party in the UK which is having an internal battle on the subject.
 

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Theodore Herzl's first proposal for a Jewish state was in Uganda.
"He then turned to Great Britain, which seemed favourable to the establishment of a Jewish settlement in British territory in the Sinai Peninsula. When this project failed, the British proposed Uganda in East Africa."
 

Lumpy Talbot

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Remarkable how the social engineering of Imperial powers tends to snap back over time.

I've thought for a long time that there is a great danger in instructing civil servants around a treaty or postwar situation to use a pencil to describe a new artificial border on a map.

Many of the violent and destabilising battles of our generation can ultimately be traced back to arbitrary political map-making. The Iron Curtain, the Balkans, Yugoslavia, Northern Ireland, I'm sure there are more in Africa, India, Pakistan.

It seems to be ultimately more dangerous an occupation over time than sowing forgotten landmines.
 

tsarbomb

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Classic British ineptitude. They were the ones who called for the creation of a Jewish majority nation state in the eastern Mediterranean, but then ridiculously enough they tried to stop Jewish immigration to the region. Is it really any wonder that they faced armed opposition?

By the way, suggesting that the Jews by forcibly relocated to Madagascar was an idea the Nazis had. It's pretty strange that people can advocate Nazi plans for ethnic cleansing, but would probably baulk at the idea that they're anti Semitic.

 

parentheses

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Recently I read about Major Roy Farran. He was a SAS officer who had a distinguished war record. After the war he went to Palestine. He led an undercover unit there, quite similar to units which later operated in NI. In 1946 he was accused of the murder of a Jewish boy. He was put on trial but was acquitted.

The Jewish group Lehi swore to kill Farran. In 1947 a parcel bomb was sent to his family home in England and his brother was killed when it exploded.
 

McTell

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Golah veNekhar

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Eventually Britain was kicked out from the land, designed to be a national home for the Jewish people.
Designed by who to be a national home for the Jewish people?
 

McTell

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From the 1930s it seems their plan was to let a few thousand jews into palestine every year. The only reason was to stop an arab revolt.



Then after the holocaust and the end of ww2, the trickle became a flood, and the yanks told the brits to take in more refugees.

As the arab leader had been a nazi stooge, that left the arabs in a much weaker position from 1945,having no big voting bloc in the USA.
 

Malcolm Redfellow

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Recently I read about Major Roy Farran. He was a SAS officer who had a distinguished war record. After the war he went to Palestine. He led an undercover unit there, quite similar to units which later operated in NI. In 1946 he was accused of the murder of a Jewish boy. He was put on trial but was acquitted.

The Jewish group Lehi swore to kill Farran. In 1947 a parcel bomb was sent to his family home in England and his brother was killed when it exploded.
Time is of the essence.

The UK decision to revoke the Mandate, and pass the tar-baby back to the UN, was taken in February 1947. The withdrawal began on 14 May 1948. There is the story (I cannot verify it) of the Chief Secretary of the British Administration, Henry Gurney, being asked by a journalist: 'To whom do you intend to leave the keys to your office?' His reply, 'To nobody. I shall leave them under the mat.' Gurney was then posted as High Commissioner in Malaya, where (6 October 1951) he was ambushed and killed by Communist insurgents.

The last British High Commissioner in Palestine was Rathmines-born Sir Alan Cunningham, brother of the Admiral Andrew Cunningham. The bold Sir Alan was ferried around Jerusalem in the armour-plated Rolls originally provided for George VI in the London Blitz.

Before the British formally departed, the 1948 Arab-Israeli War was already well-brewed. I'd not engage in the Basil Fawlty, 'You started it!' blame-game. For sure Arabs displayed severed hands and decapitated corpses around the Temple Mount. Irgun massacred 250 Arab civilians at Deer Yassin (9 April 1948). Ben-Gurion was caught speaking of an 'ethnic clean-out'.

It took the UN until 11 December 1948 to formulate Resolution 194, partitioning Palestine. The US Government were already strongly backing the Jewish interest, and that support, more so than any action by the British, created the Jewish state rather than any 'homeland' for Jews in Palestine. Let's not taint Arthur Balfour with the wilful policy of George Marshall.

Two small additions:
  • [See parentheses' post 13] Roy Farran 'confessed' (or didn't: the Court Martial never quite decided) to the murder (May 1947) of 16-year-old Alexander Rubowitz; and Lehi did send the letter-bomb that killed Farran's brother, Rex. Farran emigrated to Canada to get out of the way, but Lehi sent him a Christmas card for the rest of his life.
Farran was instrumental in devising the use of paramilitary 'snatch-squads' — first employed in Palestine, then in Malaya, Kenya, Cyprus and nearer home. Terrorism and counter-terrorism feed on each other: Irgun's revenge for Rubowitz was the brutal killing of Sergeants Martin and Paige at Nathanya (July 1947), hanging their booby-trapped bodies from a tree (and causing serious injury to another serviceman). The British squaddies counter-attacked with a grenade in a Tel Aviv café, driving an armoured car through a Jewish funeral procession, and firing at a bus stop.​

  • Yitzhak Shamir's code-name in Lehi was 'Michael', in admiration of Big Mick Collins.
As I implied above, what goes around, comes around.
 
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parentheses

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Time is of the essence.

The UK decision to revoke the Mandate, and pass the tar-baby back to the UN, was taken in February 1947. The withdrawal began on 14 May 1948. There is the story (I cannot verify it) of the Chief Secretary of the British Administration, Henry Gurney, being asked by a journalist: 'To whom do you intend to leave the keys to your office?' His reply, 'To nobody. I shall leave them under the mat.' Gurney was then posted as High Commissioner in Malaya, where (6 October 1951) he was ambushed and killed by Communist insurgents.

The last British High Commissioner in Palestine was Rathmines-born Sir Alan Cunningham, brother of the Admiral Andrew Cunningham. The bold Sir Alan was ferried around Jerusalem in the armour-plated Rolls originally provided for George VI in the London Blitz.

Before the British formally departed, the 1948 Arab-Israeli War was already well-brewed. I'd not engage in the Basil Fawlty, 'You started it!' blame-game. For sure Arabs displayed severed hands and decapitated corpses around the Temple Mount. Irgun massacred 250 Arab civilians at Deer Yassin (9 April 1948). Ben-Gurion was caught speaking of an 'ethnic clean-out'.

It took the UN until 11 December 1948 to formulate Resolution 194, partitioning Palestine. The US Government were already strongly backing the Jewish interest, and that support, more so than any action by the British, created the Jewish state rather than any 'homeland' for Jews in Palestine. Let's not taint Arthur Balfour with the wilful policy of George Marshall.

Two small additions:
  • [See parentheses' post 13] Roy Farran 'confessed' (or didn't: the Court Martial never quite decided) to the murder (May 1947) of 16-year-old Alexander Rubowitz; and Lehi did send the letter-bomb that killed Farran's brother, Rex. Farran emigrated to Canada to get out of the way, but Lehi sent him a Christmas card for the rest of his life.
Farran was instrumental in devising the use of paramilitary 'snatch-squads' — first employed in Palestine, then in Malaya, Kenya, Cyprus and nearer home. Terrorism and counter-terrorism feed on each other: Irgun's revenge for Rubowitz was the brutal killing of Sergeants Martin and Paige at Nathanya (July 1947), hanging their booby-trapped bodies from a tree (and causing serious injury to another serviceman). The British squaddies counter-attacked with a grenade in a Tel Aviv café, driving an armoured car through a Jewish funeral procession, and firing at a bus stop.​

  • Yitzhak Shamir's code-name in Lehi was 'Michael', in admiration of Big Mick Collins.
As I implied above, what goes around, comes around.
So far as I know, Palestine was the only place where the British high-tailed it out, leaving nobody in charge.

Normally they would hand over to some type of provisional government, as happened in Ireland.
 

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It took the UN until 11 December 1948 to formulate Resolution 194, partitioning Palestine.
The United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine was adopted as Resolution 181on 29 November 1947.
The US Government were already strongly backing the Jewish interest, and that support, more so than any action by the British, created the Jewish state rather than any 'homeland' for Jews in Palestine.
The US Government didn't care about "the Jewish interest".
 


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