Zionism/Political Violence

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The term Zionist Political Violence covers acts of violence on civilians or government officials or property aimed at advancing the state of Israel. Some have been free-lance but many have been sanctioned by the Zionist leadership, both before and after independence. This article concentrates on events from the late 30s until 1948, but Israel continues to carry out assassinations and random killings in many parts of the world.

Note - the equivalent Wikipedia article on these events is thin with much biased and irrelevant "background", see details below. Wikipedia justifies entitling the article "Zionist Political Violence" because only two of the groups were ever labelled "terrorist" in Israel and the Western media. (Though there is also an understandable concern to avoid using inflammatory language). This article will attempt to follow WP guidelines in most respects.

Four groups

The terrorists were in four main groups, with varying degrees of support from the community. The Haganah (though still technically illegal) and the Palmach (legal for one year in 1941) were funded by the community and considered mainstream while the Irgun and the Lehi were considered more extreme and funded themselves by extortion and robbery. All of them attacked, or supported attacks on, Palestinian civilians (Jews and Christians often suffering as much as Muslims), British Mandate authorities, security forces and UN personnel.

They laid IEDs, attacked civilian infrastructure, released prisoners and murdered hostages, booby-trapping the bodies in one famous case. The number of deaths is difficult to track, but they murdered many 100s of British soldiers alone.

1948 assassination of Count Bernadotte

Folke Bernadotte had negotiated and helped save around 31,000 prisoners[1] including between 6,500 and 11,000 Jews[2] from German concentration camps towards the end of World War II, a rescue second only to that of Raoul Wallenberg. The martyred Wallenberg (he is thought to have held until his death, perhaps in 1947, in a Soviet prison camp) is widely memorialised in Israel and elsewhere while the assassinated Bernadotte's reputation was attacked after his death, probably falsely.

The UN. already very unhappy at the turn of events and having forbidden any party to make political changes (eg declare Independence)[citation needed] at the last moment (14th May 1948) passed UN General Assembly Resolution 186 (II) to create the position of United Nations Mediator (legal successor to the British Mandate authorised by the League of Nations in 1922)[citation needed] in Palestine. 6 days later, they appointed Folke Bernadotte to this important post.

Bernadotte was initially very sympathetic to Zionism, and he imagined that his new mission, like the one he had performed during the war, would be more humanitarian than political, involving the exchange of prisoners, the repatriation of refugees, helping the sick, the needy and the homeless. Peace, he thought, would eventually follow.[3] In the event, he encountered the most bitter hositility from the entire Zionist community, and direct threats from public demonstrations by the most extreme of the Zionists, the Stern Gang[4] (known to Zionists and the Wikipedia as LEHI). He was murdered 4 months after being appointed, by militants disguised as regular soldiers on 17 September 1948. No blue Israeli plaque marks the spot (on a road now called "Palmach Street"), as it does for many other military and terrorist exploits of the period.[1]

The hatred of Bernadotte came about partly because the UN believed that Jerusalem must be internationalised and Bernadotte reported:

Jerusalem stands in the heart of what must be Arab territory in any partition of Palestine. To attempt to isolate this area politically and otherwise from surrounding territory presents enormous difficulties. The special condition of Jerusalem - its large Jewish population and its religious associations - needs special consideration, and the way for discussion of these questions was left open. Arab domination of legitimate Jewish and other non- Arab interests in Jerusalem was never intended or implied in the suggestions. Moreover, while I fully appreciate that the question of Jerusalem is of very great concern, for historical and other reasons, to the Jewish community of Palestine, Jerusalem was never intended to be a part of the Jewish State. In this sense, the position of the Jewish State is unaffected and the question of Jerusalem has no relationship to its status. The status of Jerusalem, therefore, is separate from the question of the constitution and boundaries of a Jewish State. My suggestions fully safeguard the historical and world-wide religious interests in Jerusalem."

The late Times columnist Sulzberger recalled that, in the summer '48, two "handsome khaki-clad members of the Stern gang knocked on his door and made a vow that they were going to kill Bernadotte - "just the way Sternists had murdered (my word, not theirs) Lord Moyne because it was necessary to frustrate the UN effort to confine Israel within artificially constricted borders. At first I couldn't believe them... inclined to dismiss this as just another one of the absurdities that are so commonplace here."[5]

1924 killing of Jaacob de Haan

While the Zionists had behaved with great violence towards the native Palestinians (the Jews and Christians suffering as much as Muslims), this killing of a fellow Jew is the first one that can be directly linked to the community leadership.

Background, Jewish Opposition to Zionism

The Zionists faced great opposition from the native Jews of Palestine, for whom Jaacob de Haan was emerging as a leader eg a letter of 22nd February 1922 from Arthur Ruppin states that the Orthodox and the Sephardim, who were Zionism's open opponents in the past and are now its concealed opponents ... the Elected Assembly has had to he adjourned ... this has immediately brought about a recognizable decline of its authority. I fear that thus the organization of the Jewish population of Palestine, which was proceeding well, has again been impeded. The hope that the Jewish population - as an organized community - would be empowered to levy taxes has also been disappointed once more.[6]

De Haan (also known as Jacob Israël de Haan) attempted to stop the Zionists being granted the valuable power to raise taxes arguing that, if the Jewish Community (ie the Zionists, little more than 10% of the population) were so rewarded then the Arabs would want to have funding for their projects as well. Defeated on this point, de Haan came back to fight and win the right for the devout native Jews of Palestine to be allocated a portion of the new bread tax in proportion to their numbers.[6] The Agudat Israel organisation successfully blocked adoption by the British authorities of legislation intended to give the Zionists full control over religious life. This control of the religious life of the community/state was an important freedom and has tended to mask the opposition to a Jewish state that had been unanimous amongst practicing Jews.

The rabbis of the Old Yishuv, very alarmed by the trouble being caused by often violent Zionists, established contact with Arab leaders such as King Hussein of the Hejaz and extracted from his son a signed document welcoming Jewish immigrants to Palestine, providing that they not evince any exclusivist political ambitions (such as setting up a Jewish state). Abdullah's letter was read out to the Congress of Agudat Israel held in Vienna in 1923 but this important treaty vanished in a burglary of De Haan's house following his assassination a year later.[7]

De Haan warned and killed

In May 1923 De Haan wrote to Colonel Kisch of the Zionist Executive telling him that he'd received a letter (in a government envelope) warning him to leave Palestine before the 24th of that month or he would be murdered and he had predicted his assassination by the Zionists to visitors some months earlier. His lectures were disrupted by Zionist hooliganism and there was pressure on the Dutch newspaper for whom he wrote to sever its connection with him.[6]

De Haan enjoyed high-level contacts in the West and was preparing to travel to London when he was killed. Had he reached there, he might well have stopped the Zionists positioning themselves as the exclusive representative of the Jews in Palestine in their relations with British decision-makers.[8]

De Haan was shot dead as he left the synagogue in the Sha'arei Sedeq Hospital, where he had been in the habit of praying twice daily, on Monday, 30th June, 1924. Everyone at his funeral recognised a case of "Jew stretched out his hands against Jew". Representatives of the Arab Executive and the Muslim-Christian Association paid visits of condolence to the leader of the Haredi Jews in Palestine, Rabbi Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld[9] and an eloquent eulogy was published in the communal fortnightly from Musa Kazim Pasha alHusayni, the Mayor of Jerusalem.

Cover-up and blame the victim

Despite expressions of shock by the Government and the Zionist Executive, they openly sought to protect the killers. Only one Zionist of note published an unequivocal condemnation, and that in restricted circulation.

Most Zionist editorial writers found it easier to condemn De Haan All evidently agreed that in papers read exclusively by Jews there was little point in pretending that the assassination had been instigated, planned and carried out by non-Jews. (For external consumption, the event was generally reported as "shrouded in mystery").[8]

Although the Zionist immigrants had used violence on the natives (and the native Jews) freely since they started arriving in 1982 (drawn in part by the very different colonialism of Baron Rothschild) the killing of Jaacob de Haan was the first act of "terrorism" authorised and carried out by their political agents and their "self-defence" force, the Haganah. The Wikipedia version of this article, Zionist political violence implies that there is still doubt "According to Israeli journalists Shlomo Nakdimon and Shaul Mayzlish, Dutch Jew Jacob Israël de Haan was assassinated ...".

Admitted 40 years later

The Zionists waited until 1964 before confessing in their official history that this was indeed their work.[10] However, they blame just one man within their organisation, Joseph Hecht, for the killing and he is said to have used a couple of (anonymous) immigrants, too recently arrived to have heard of De Haan. The writer of the history cites the case of Colonel Redl, an Austro-Hungarian staff officer who was blackmailed into selling military secrets to the Russians, and implies that De Haan had been similarly induced to collaborate with the Arab Executive.[6]

Zionist newspapers and a book[11] have since named the assassins as Abraham Krichevski (Giora) and Abraham Silberg (Tahomi/Avraham Tehomi) - the former is said to have died in Tel Aviv in 1942, the latter to have emigrated to California - and identified Isaac Ben-Zwi (Yitzhak Ben-Zvi) as having ordered the killing for his anti-Zionist political activities and contacts with Arab leaders.[12] Isaac's wife, Rachel Yanait, Moses Eisenstadt and Aviezer Yellin are named as prominent in the Haganah's Jerusalem branch at the time[6]

The Wikipedia article on Jaacob de Haan covers more of his life and dwells rather more on his alleged homosexuality than the political angle. However, it confirms that his murder was indeed carried out by the Haganah and his sexual preference was not an issue.

Selected attacks from Wikipedia

Wikipedia attempts to gloss over the attacks by providing this abbreviated list in many cases with no links:

  • January 5-6, 1948 The Semiramis Hotel bombing, carried out by the Haganah (or, according to some sources, Irgun) resulted in the deaths of 24 to 26 people.
  • April 1948 the Deir Yassin massacre carried out by the Irgun and Lehi, killed between 107 and 120 Palestinian villagers.[13] The number of deaths is the figure widely accepted by scholars[14][15], though Wikispooks can see no reason to doubt the observers at the time, who seem to have counted a minimum of 254 bodies under conditions made difficult by the perpetrators.
  • December 1947 - March 1948 Numerous attacks on Palestinian Arabs in the context of 1947-1948 Civil War in Civil War after the vote of the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine. [This is the wave of attacks that became the Nakba].
  • July 25, 1947 The Sergeants affair: When death sentences were passed on two Irgun members, the Irgun kidnapped Sgt. Clifford Martin and Sgt. Mervyn Paice and threatened to kill them in retaliation if the sentences were carried out. When the threat was ignored, the hostages were murdered. Afterwards, their bodies were taken to an orange grove and left hanging by the neck from trees. An Improvised Explosive Device was set. This went off when one of the bodies was cut down, seriously wounding a British officer.[16]
  • October 31, 1946 The bombing by the Irgun of the British Embassy in Rome. Nearly half the building was destroyed and 3 people were injured.[17]
  • 1946 Railways and British military airfields were attacked several times. [Wikipedia no details, in fact the attacks were very serious and destroyed railways and bridges].
  • July 26, 1946 The bombing of British administrative headquarters at the King David Hotel, killing 91 people - 28 British, 41 Arab, 17 Jewish, and 5 others. Around 45 people were injured. The biggest terrorist attack ever carried out until the downing of the Pan-Am 103 over Lockerbie.
  • 1944-1945 The killings of several suspected collaborators with the Haganah and the British mandate government during the Hunting Season.
  • November 6, 1944 Lehi assassinated British minister Lord Moyne in Cairo. The action is condemned by the Yishuv at the time, but the bodies of the assassins are brought home from Egypt in 1975 to a state funeral and burial on Mount Herzl. (Wikipedia article marked [citation needed]).
  • 1937-1939 The Irgun conducted a campaign of violence against Palestinian Arab civilians resulting in the deaths of at least 250. (Wikipedia article marked [citation needed]).

Wikipedia bias

The Wikipedia version of this article, Zionist political violence, contains weasel word statements such as "Actions were carried out by individuals and Jewish paramilitary groups such as the Irgun, the Lehi, the Haganah and the Palmach as part of a conflict between Zionists, British authorities, and resident Arabs, regarding land, immigration, and Jewish national aspirations." This treatment differs markedly from that on terrorist attacks carried out against Israel.


  1. a b Israel's forgotten hero: The assassination of Count Bernadotte - and the death of peace negotiator of the release of about 31,000 prisoners including thousands of Jews from German concentration camps and No blue Israeli plaque marks the spot The Independent, 2008-09-18.
  2. Sune Persson, Folke Bernadotte and the White Buses, Journal of Holocaust Education, Vol 9, Iss 2-3, 2000, 237-268. Also published in David Cesarani and Paul A. Levine (eds.), Bystanders to the Holocaust: A Re-evaluation (Routledge, 2002). The precise number is nowhere officially recorded. A count of the first 21,000 included 8,000 Danes and Norwegians, 5,911 Poles, 2,629 French, 1,615 stateless Jews and 1,124 Germans. The total number of Jews was 6,500 to 11,000 depending on definitions. Also see A. Ilan, Bernadotte in Palestine, 1948 (Macmillan, 1989), p37.
  3. David Hirst "The Gun and the Olive Branch" (1977 Faber & Faber, 2nd Ed 1984, new Foreword 2003) p.272
  4. In the Shadow of Stern: The Inside Story of a LEHI Intelligence Officer The LEHI voiced their opposition to United Nations' policies specifying Count Bernadotte as their target. LEHI members, lead by Israel Eldad, carried signs reading "Remember Lord Moyne!" (a direct reference to the successful execution of the British Mandate official in Cairo by the LEHI ) and "Stockholm Is Yours; Jerusalem Is Ours!" B’tzedek.com 1997.
  5. C.L. Sulzberger's memoir, A Long Row of Candles. cited Mondoweiss blog "Killed 60 Years Ago, Folke Bernadotte Sought ‘Ironclad’ Guarantees Against Israeli Expansion" Sept 16, 2008.
  6. a b c d e A Martyr's Message, To commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the murder of Professor De-Haan Pirqe Hayyay, Tel Aviv 1968, III p.32, cited by Ibid Israel vs Judaism London 1975.
  7. Rabkin, Yakov M., "A threat from within" (sub-titled "Jewish Opposition to Zionism"), Professor of History, University of Montreal. Published in French 2004, translated 2006. p.137.
  8. a b Ibid. Rabkin p.140
  9. Jewish Post, 6th May 1960, cited Ibid Israel vs Judaism.
  10. Toledoth Ha-Haganah, Vol. 11 Part 1 1964 pp.251-3, details killing of Jaacob de Haan, cited Ibid Israel vs Judaism 1975.
  11. Deh Han : ha-retsah ha-politi ha-rishon be-Erets Yisra'el (De Haan: The first political assassination in Palestine). Hebrew, 1985.
  12. The Rosenthaliana's Jacob Israel de Haan Archive University of Amsterdam Library.
  13. Kana'ana, Sharif and Zeitawi, Nihad (1987), "The Village of Deir Yassin," Bir Zeit, Bir Zeit University Press
  14. The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited, Benny Morris, Chapter 4: The second wave: the mass exodus, April-June 1948, Section: Operation Nahshon, p.238.
  15. History of the War of Independence IV: Out of Crisis Came Decision. Uri Milstein, 1987/1998, Hebrew, English version available. Chapter 16: Deir Yassin, Section 12: The Massacre, page 377
  16. The Sergeants affair. Well known incident, though the Wikipedia reference is only to "Britain Since 1945" David Childs P.34 para 1
  17. Jewish Terrorists Admit Bombing Embassy in Rome St Petersburg Times. 5th Nov 1946.