Zionist Terror Groups in Pre-Israel Palestine (Irgun, Haganah and Lehi)

What can I say? I have a morbid interest in Jewish terrorist groups of Pre-Israel. It was only about a year ago that I actually first read about The Irgun (AKA: The Etzel), and The Lehi (AKA: The Stern Gang). My initial reaction was something along the lines of “What? There were Jewish terrorists? All this time I’ve been led to believe that terrorism is an exclusively Arab activity.” Well, we can’t deny that this belief is propagated and reinforced by the Western Media which seems to be so utterly loathe to say anything at all seeming like criticism of Israel.

The story of the Irgun and Lehi is a story of in-fights, splits, and splinter groups due to a constant and steady growth of militant radicalism in Zionist currents. It begins with the first Jewish Para-Military Group in Pre-Israel Palestine. The Haganah.Prior to the 30’s the Haganah was a fairly rag-tag, disorganized group. More of a militia that anything. Following the 1929 Palestine riots, in which 116 Arabs and 133 Jews were killed, the Haganah became a much larger, well organized force.

The espoused policy of the Haganah (which means “Defence”) was primarily one of restraint. However there were those in the organization who had other ideas and in 1931 a group of Haganah commanders formed their own group, “Irgun Beth.” In 37, during the Arab riots, Irgun Beth itself split and half its members returned to the Haganah. The remaining members changed the group’s name to “Irgun Zeva’i Le’umi” (abbr. Etzel).

The group was a violent organization, which was ideologically influenced by the Revisionist Zionism of  Ze’ev Jabotinsky.

Ze'ev Jabotinsky

After forming, the Irgun carried out attacks against both Palestinian Arabs and British Soldiers. Some were shooting attacks. Other attacks involved bombs being detonated on buses, in cafes and in marketplaces to ensure the maximum number or civilian casualties.The Irgun is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Palestinian Arab civilians and British Soldiers and Police. Its violence and ruthless tactics  prompted the Irgun to be condemned as a terrorist organization by the UN and the US and British Governments. Check out the vintage New York Times reference an Irgun attack.

Among the more famous attacks include

-July 26, 1946 The bombing of the King David Hotel, killing 91 people.

-July 25 1947 The kidnapping and brutal murder of 2 British Sergeants.

-April 1948 Deir Yassin Massacre in which 107-120 Palestinian Villagers were killed.

In 1948  Albert Einstein  27 Jewish intellectuals wrote a letter to the New York Times condemning the Irgun and its activities. They also took a moment to call the former Irgun Commander, Menachem Begin, a Fascist. Note this in the last paragraph. Well, it’s a good thing that Fascist Begin never got any power…. wait a minute!

Menachem Begin, last leader of the Irgun and former Israeli PM

As Begin was transformed from a terrorist leader to a ‘legitimate’ politician and leader, so was the the Irgun legitimized and absorbed into the Haganah and the IDF. The same principles and practices of violence against civilians (like the Gaza Massacre) and foreign nationals (such as Emily Henochowicz or the brave activists slain on the Freedom Flotilla) continue.

16 thoughts on “Zionist Terror Groups in Pre-Israel Palestine (Irgun, Haganah and Lehi)

  1. Unlike the author, I do not “have a morbid interest” in the topic, but rather, I treat the issue as a scholar, seeking facts and differing views. In this context, I have found an endless sequence of factual errors in the article.

    For starts, LEHI is described as a “Jewish Terror Groups”, but in fact, many of its celebrated members were Arabs; the best example is Shaikh Yusuf abu-ghosh, who took part in rescuing Israel Sheib from British captivity. You can find the details by googling.

    The next issue concerns using inflammatory terms like “terrorist” and “gang” for LEHI. By all accounts, this organization fought to remove the British imperial presence from mandatory Palestine; how does it differ from the anti-coionial organizations in Cyprus, Ghana, Kenya and (more generally) in post-WW II Asia and Africa? Were Kwame Nkrumah and Jomo Kenyatta terrorists too, or is this term reserved for Jews only? How about Michael Collins and de Valera?

    The un-scholarly and inflammatory tone of this article reaches a crescendo with such terms as “The kidnapping and brutal murder of 2 British Sergeants”. In fact, the British declared a policy by which possessing arms is a capital offence, whether or not the arms are used or not. At the time, the British held a number of freedom fighters whom they intended to hang. The British were warned that should they execute the fighters, their sergeants would be hanged too. The British hanged the freedom fighters and the freedom fighters hanged the British sergeants; after this action, there were no more hangings of freedom fighters: this too is a verifiable fact.

    The “Deir Yassin Massacre” is also presented in a distorted manner. I am refraining from elaborating here since I am not sure whether my comment will be posted at all, but let me tell you on the honour of an unbiased scholar – it is not at all as presented here.

    A final note: I am neither Jewish nor an Israeli citizen, and I started studying the Middle East conundrum out of scientific curiosity. My investigations have led me to facts and conclusions that differ markedly from those presented here.

  2. Firstly, thank you for your comment.

    This post is concerned with the Irgun. I have another post concerning the LEHI, so please comment there in order to avoid confusion.

    You wrote that many members of the Lehi were Arabs. I googled Shaikh Yusuf abu-ghosh, as you suggested. That name does not yield any results in its entirety. I could find mention of the Abu-Ghosh family, but they were mentioned in respects to their relationship with the Haganah. This post is about the Irgun, not the Haganah. If you could specifically direct me to information about Shaikh Yusuf abu-ghosh and his involvement with the Irgun or LEHI, I would appreciate it. It sounds interesting, and is not something you hear a lot about.

    Even with the Haganah, though: Yes, like any other group, there were collaborators, but that is neither here nor there. That does not make the group any less Jewish. There were Korean collaborators in Japan Occupied Korea, but that did not make the Occupation any less Japanese. If there is a good reason for me not to refer to the Irgun (or LEHI) as Jewish Terrorist Groups, then I have not heard it, yet.

    You also raised concerns about the use of the word “Terror”. You said that this group sought to remove the British from Mandatory Palestine. Well, the Irgun (and LEHI) DID fight to push the British out of historic Palestine. This is correct. However, the Irgun (and LEHI) also attacked and murdered, Arab Palestinians and Palestinian Jews and sought to extend Jewish control over historic Palestine. Carrying out mass killings against the indigenous population is not really “fighting to remove colonialism”. It is “killing to remove the indigenous occupation.”

    You then continued by lumping the Irgun and LEHI in with a bunch of Anti-Colonial Resistance groups and asking me to compare them.
    It is not the purpose of this article to examine and pass judgement on the IRA or any other anti-colonial organizations. Furthermore, it is completely bizarre to compare an organization comprising, and headed by, mostly immigrants from Eastern Europe to an indigenous Anti-Colonial Movement.

    Also, Please elaborate as to how this description of the Seargents Affair is incorrect. In what way is it incorrect to suggest that kidnapping, killing then hanging two young men from a tree with explosives attached to their corpses is not brutal?

    Whether you are Jewish/Israeli or not, is really of no relevance, whatsoever. Though, you keep referring to yourself as an “unbiased scholar”, whilst referring to the Irgun and LEHI as “Freedom Fighters”. Simply claiming scholarly disinterest in the issue and repeating words like “unbiased” and “verifiable fact” does not make it any less obvious that you have simply picked up the Zionist narrative and run with it.

    Your comment has been approved and posted, so please elaborate about Deir Yassin.

    1. I should answer every statement you made in your comment but like most people who are not on the payroll of the Petrodollar Arabs, I have other engagements. For this reason, I will answer but two points.

      1. You say that “I googled Shaikh Yusuf abu-ghosh, as you suggested. That name does not yield any results in its entirety.” Well, I know little about Korean google, but I have had no difficulty in finding references by goodling “yusuf abu ghosh”. Here is one example:

      Article: Lehi fighter Abu Ghosh dead at 77


      If you need the full text of this reference and of the other hundreds that came up, please let me know.

      I should add that your reference to collaborators is, at best, unfortunate. The Arabs who joined the anti-British underground knew what they were doing: they participated in an anti-colonial struggle and were no “collaborators”. Indeed, the village of Abu Ghosh, just outside of Jerusalem, supported Israel from day one. The villagers have been enjoying a prosperous life in democratic Israel to this day (I personally visited this thriving Arab community). This puts the lie to those who say that the Jews drove out the Arabs in the 1948 war – if that were so, how would you explain Abu Ghosh and scores of Arab/Druze villages and towns that remained in Israel? Initially 150,000 strong, the Israeli Arabs numbered 1.2 million in 2001 – some “ethnic cleansing”, eh?

      2. You state, “you have simply picked up the Zionist narrative and run with it.” In my studies of the Middle East conundrum, I started by concentrating on non-Jewish sources. Did you know that there exists a body of ‘Muslim Zionists’, just as there exist ‘Christian Zionists’? (Go ahead, google these two terms; Google to find out more, or ask me for specific references if you cannot find sources on your own). Are you aware that people like former Spanish PM Jose Maria Aznar have founded “Friends of Israel Initiative” to support Zionism? Why do you think these people (and yes, me too) support Zionism? Could it be that we believe that Jews, like Koreans, have a right to a homeland? And may I suggest that you read the work of the eminent US jurist Doug Feith, “Mandate for Israel”,


      which establishes definitively that Israel is founded on irrevocable international law.

      A final comment. In my perpetual search for more facts and opinions, I read tons of anti-Israel tracts and I cannot possibly answer even a small fraction. I made an exception for this Korean site because my country participated in the war to ensure Korea’s freedom from Communist tyranny; in fact my country suffered hundreds of casualties for your freedom. To then see Koreans attack our sister democracy, Israel, is a painful sight indeed. Still, I would be pleased to share with you my information, tackling one issue at a time (unlike your comment which warrants an answer to at least 32 points).

  3. Thank you. How interesting. Would be good if I didn’t have to pay the Jerusalem Post in order to see it all, though.

  4. Reply to tomclaro:

    I read over 150 pieces per diem, incl pieces posted on the J’lem Post and Wall Street Journal, and I have never paid a cent; hence, I don’t fully understand your comment.

    Should you be interested in continuing our discussion, one point at a time, please post your response to my arguments or please provide me with an email address.

  5. You posted a response, starting with the words “Firstly, thank you for your comment” to my initial comment. I responded with an answer that is still “awaiting moderation”, which you have probably not seen. This latter answer had a wrong link, so I sent a correction – the correction was posted, but not my answer itself which, as I said, “awaits moderation”. If you wish to see my answer, either contact the webmaster or give me an email address.

    1. Excuse the late reply. I was off doing other shady and questionable misdeeds in the service of the Petrodollar Arabs.
      Seriously though, let’s stay on topic. This little back and forth is going all over the place. If you want to talk about the Nakbah, you can either wait till I write a post on it, or find one of the many other blogs and sites run by people in the service of the Petrodollar Arabs and have a rant, there.

      Remember, this is not a forum. It is a comments page on a blog. You’re invited to comment on and debate over the article and you’re asked not to troll.
      Confiding in me how pained you are by the fact that the US helped in Korean War, and some of the ungrateful little Koreans ran off and formed Palestinian Solidarity Groups, is neither here or there. Actually, it’s completely underhanded and disgusting.

      So, the problem you had with the article was that I referred to the LEHI/Irgun as Jewish Groups? Is this correct? I know you also had a problem with the term “terrorist”, right? Well, I gave my reasons for that, above. Then there was the issue of calling the murder of Paice and Martin “Brutal”. Again, see above.
      I think it would be great to see a Wikipedia Stub on Yusuf Abu Ghosh (you could make it as I’m sure you could reach a wide audience there). Pretty Interesting stuff, though do you really think that this makes it null and void to call the Lehi and Irgun “Jewish Terrorist groups”?

  6. Responding directly to the questions you ask:

    1. In order for a text to be credible, the minimal requirement is to refrain from loaded nouns and avoid inflammatory adjectives. When you say (as you did) “The kidnapping and brutal murder of 2 British Sergeants” you violated both these requirements.

    2. A second requirement is to provide context and counter views. For example, when you refer to the execution of the two British sergeants, the context of the British colonial powers hanging Irgun and Lehi fighters is missing entirely. In fact, the entire context of the anti-colonial struggle is missing from your piece.

    3. What you consider an answer, I don’t. For example, I asked why you think that the killings done by such anti-colonial movements as the Mao Mao are legitimate, but the equivalent actions by the Palestine anti-colonial movements like Lehi and the Irgun are not; where is your answer?

    4. As I noted, each of your points should be refuted, an easy task but one is time-consuming. With regard to the sergeant affair, in particular, you should read the Wikipedia review, which I find fair and authoritative (judging by corroborations in other texts):


    Similarly, with regard to Deir Yassin, see comprehensive article by Historical and Investigative Research at:


    On the basis of my own research, I have come to the conclusion that Prof Gil-White (the article’s author) is right, and the supposed “massacre” is tendentious fiction.

    All this is out there on the web so I need not go into details. You are free to believe and publish what you wish, but a measure of objectivity is needed for the sake of credibility.

  7. 1. HOW? You claim these terms are loaded, but they’re just facts. I invite you to prove to me that these men were not kidnapped or murdered brutally.

    2. See below as to why the “Anti-Colonial” struggle part was missing from my piece. Funny you should mention the Wikipedia Review, though. If you click on the link “the kidnapping and brutal murder”, it will navigate you to that exact page. Maybe you should have read my post more extensively before commenting.

    3. What you consider a valid question, I don’t. I never mentioned the “Mao Mao”. I especially did not attempt to legitimize any killings. You’re still referring to the Irgun and LEHI as an anti-colonial movement. It’s absurd. I already asked (and received no answer) how you reconcile that with the fact that they carried out large scale attacks on the indigenous Palestinian Arab population or that they were predominately foreign. Go on, ignore it again.

    4. See number 2.
    -Deir Yassin. Really? I’m not going to get drawn into a debate about that until I write a post on it.
    You’re right, it is time consuming.

  8. 1. The sergeants were kidnapped but they were executed just like their colleagues executed the anti-British underground fighters. “Brutally murdered” is your interpretation, using loaded terms. These are not facts.

    2. It is not enough to link to a source, one also has to note what the source said. In this case, the Wikipedia article says nothing about “brutal murder” – rather it gives the background which is missing from the article by Tom Claro (just wondering – is this a common Korean name?)

    3. A book on the Arab-Israel conundrum by David Meir-Levi is appropriately titled “History upside down”, reflecting the reality that anti-Israel arguments turn truths on their head. The statement “large scale attacks on the indigenous Palestinian Arab population” is a good example. It was the Arabs who attacked the Jewish communities in 1920, 1921, 1922, 1936-9, 1947-9 and subsequently. The Jewish underground merely defended the Jewish communities. The argument that the Jews were “foreign” is another example. As Joan Peters demonstrated in “From time immemorial”, the Arabs were the foreigners who gravitated to Palestine after 1880, when the Zionist pioneers created an economic boom. I hope that this answers the challenge, “Go on, ignore it again”.

    4. No further comment, except to note another example of “history upside down”.

    Final note: This is my last comment to the article in question. I am disengaging for several reasons, among them (1) the author is resorting to inappropriate ad hominem statements such as “you should have read my post more extensively before commenting”; (2) the exchange no longer contributes from the viewpoint of heuristics and hermeneutics; (3) in view of recent news, the historical discussion about the anti-British underground in Palestine becomes irrelevant: see AP report at http://apnews.myway.com/article/20110312/D9LTLMD00.html

  9. Firstly, addressing the article you posted. I told you not to troll. That has absolutely nothing to do with Jewish Terrorism in Pre-Israel Palestine. Along with the other article you posted about Gazans celebrating. Have you now sunken to the level of spamming this blog?

    As for “From Time Immemorial”:
    This book is actually famous for being discredited. If you ask anyone involved in the field of Middle Eastern Studies about this book, the first thing they will probably bring up is the book’s unreliability as a source.
    No one actually talks about it, anymore. It’s as if I were to quote the “protocols of the Elders of Zion.” No one would take me seriously.
    I’m almost convinced you brought this up as satire.

    Anyway, Here is what Yehoshua Porath, Israeli historian and professor emeritus of Middle East history (who lectures at the Hebrew University, Israel) says about the book:

    “I am reluctant to bore the reader and myself with further examples of Mrs. Peters’s highly tendentious use—or neglect—of the available source material. Much more important is her misunderstanding of basic historical processes and her failure to appreciate the central importance of natural population increase as compared to migratory movements. Readers of her book should be warned not to accept its factual claims without checking their sources. Judging by the interest that the book aroused and the prestige of some who have endorsed it, I thought it would present some new interpretation of the historical facts. I found none. Everyone familiar with the writing of the extreme nationalists of Zeev Jabotinsky’s Revisionist party (the forerunner of the Herut party) would immediately recognize the tired and discredited arguments in Mrs. Peters’s book. I had mistakenly thought them long forgotten. It is a pity that they have been given new life.”

    Here’s a link to the article in the NY times:

    Noam Chomsky wrote an interesting article (http://www.chomsky.info/books/power01.htm) which touched on the book’s initial success and subsequent ousting as a fraud. Here’s a piece:

    “Anyhow, by that point the American intellectual community realized that the Peters book was an embarrassment, and it sort of disappeared—nobody talks about it anymore. I mean, you still find it at newsstands in the airport and so on, but the best and the brightest know that they are not supposed to talk about it anymore: because it was exposed and they were exposed.”

    The wikipedia article contains plenty of other great reviews:

    So, no. That doesn’t address my question to account for the LEHI/Irgun’s attacks on the Indigenous population. And that was your argument? To somehow prove that the Palestinian civilians who were bombed in marketplaces and Cafes were not indigenous. By referencing a book which is famous for being shunned by the intellectual community from New York to Tel Aviv?

    So, Let’s be clear on something. Regardless of all your posturing, it has been glaringly obvious that you do not wish to contribute to a greater understanding of the situation. You simply want to control the language used in such a way that it benefits your viewpoint. Your arguments don’t come off as neutral and disinterested, at all. You let the façade slip when you referred to the LEHI as “Freedom Fighters” (Any real proponent of scholarly disinterest would have laughed you off right away, for that). It’s probably a bit rich to take issue with loaded language, when speaking in this way.

    Anyway, I think that is a fitting goodbye for you. After all the effort invoking the image of the “disinterested scholar” who holds aloft the sacred academic values of “heuristics” and reasoned debate, you showed just how unconcerned with good scholarship you really are. Responding to you is a complete waste of time. So I would appreciate it you kept your promise.

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