TEA TIME MEETING 20TH July 2015
Dr Noy's lecture on Jewish Resistance during the British Mandate given on 20th July 2015 for the IBCA gathering at the Seven Stars retirement home in Herzliya Pituach
After a delightful afternoon tea we were introduced to Dr Yitzchak Noy, a leading Israeli historian and broadcaster who has authored a number of books.
In discussing the Jewish resistance to the Mandate Dr Noy explained that there were three different organizations; the Hagana and the Etzel and the Lehi.
British policy was summed up in three White Papers - one passed in 1922 initiated by Winston Churchill, one passed by Passfield after the 1929 riots as well as the more well known one of 1939. After the first White paper of 1922 Zeev Jabotinsky established the Revisionist Zionist movement. He referred to England as "Albiona Rasha" -" Evil England," as 90,000 sq.kms of the original land promised to establish a Jewish homeland was locked off. The Passfield White Paper started to limit Jewish immigration and the availability of land for Jews to purchase. Thus Britain continued to evade the promises of the League of Nation's Mandate. Dr Noy set the notorious White paper of 1939 (It prohibited Jewish land purchase and severely limited Jewish immigration) in the context of Britain's isolation and vulnerability and the threat from Hitler. He recorded how none had been listening to Churchill but after Munich Chamberlain confided in his Cabinet, " I met Hitler and he is insane. In a year there will be war."
Dr Noy explained that most of the Jewish population in "Palestine" were members of the Hagana, and felt that though they hated the British being there they felt that they shouldn't fight the British as the British were leading the struggle against Hitler. The Etzel organization started by Jabotinsky supported this position at first, fighting alongside the British between 1941 and 44.
During 1941 there were fears in London that the German army would reach Palestine and therefore the British Government and army gave weapons and started training the soldiers of the Palmach. Thankfully the British prevailed at El Alamein. However there was still a threat from the Grand Mufti who wanted to establish a pro-Nazi Government in Palestine and the British sent the RAF to Iraq to attempt to assassinate him.
We were enlightened about some of the activities of the Lehi. It was founded by Avraham Stern, as a split from the Etzel. They were more extreme in their ideology and believed that " the hand of providence forced them to clear the holy land of foreign legions as the land belongs to the Jewish people and only the Jewish people." A representative of the Lehi Naftali Lubinchik was sent to Beirut to meet with the German consul. He shared with them a plan stating that the Jews of Palestine would welcome Hitler's army in return for the Jews of Eastern Europe being moved to Palestine. Though the Germans never responded to the plan, this is a dark chapter of Israeli history where it seems that Lehi were willing to collaborate with the Nazis to bring an end to British rule. Lubinchik was caught and taken to a POW camp in Eritrea where the British held members of Lehi, Etzel and the Hagana.
In May 26th David Ben Gurion declared the State of Israel and 12 days later he signed an order to start the IDF and all other military factions were declared illegal. Many criticized David Ben Gurion including the Palmach whom Dr Noy said never forgave him for dismantling it. However one major historian who had headed the camp attacking Ben Gurion now admits that Ben Gurion was right. The Hagana's policy of acting with restraint against the British and not punishing the innocent was the only way to go in Dr Noy's opinion. He ended by acclaiming Ben Gurion as the "greatest leader the Jewish people could have had" because he " looked over the horizon".
A fascinating lecture by a man very conversant with this subject which has been carefully avoided by many in Britain.