Jews and World War II | Jewish immigration and the Partition of Palestine | War of Independence | Jews Flee from their Arabic Homelands | The Muslim Brotherhood against Nasser | Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United States in 1953 | Mawdudi and Qutb: two Anti-Western Intellectuals | Raids against Israelis and the Suez Crisis of 1957 | King Faisal of Saudi Arabia | The 1967 (Six-Day) War
The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini was opposed to British rule in Palestine. He fled Palestine in 1937, evading an arrest warrant. By 1938 he was in Germany, where he would spend most of World War II, broadcasting anti-British and anti-Jewish commentary for the Germans.
The British recruited 136,000 Jews from Palestine into their armed forces. Zionists and Jewish leaders in Palestine were not happy with British rule or policy limiting Jewish immigration, but they put fighting Hitler first. In 1942, the British sent 1,500 specially trained Jewish Palestinian guerrillas against the Germans in Libya – training that would contribute to the creation of Haganah and the Israeli army. Meanwhile, derelict ships were carrying Jews from German-controlled Europe, and the Haganah and other Palestinian Jews struggled to land the refugees while British and mostly Arab police worked to catch and deport the "illegals."
By May 1942, Hitler's death camps became common knowledge among the Zionists and Jews in Palestine. Zionists demanded that Britain's White Paper of 1939 be scrapped, that Palestine be opened to unlimited Jewish immigration and land purchase and that Palestine be divided into two separate states, one Jewish and one Arab.
In the late summer of 1943, Prime Minister Winston Churchill – who had been supporting the Jews against the advice of members of his cabinet – changed British policy, allowing several thousand Jewish refugees to enter Palestine. Anyone who could get to Turkey could proceed to Palestine, despite quotas. And, by 1944, Churchill was talking about a state in Palestine for the Jews, and this added to hostility toward Churchill among Palestinian Arabs.
Among the Jews in Palestine was an underground army called the Irgun Zvai Leumi (IZL), or simply the Irgun. The Irgun wanted liberation from British rule and the establishment of a Jewish state. They saw armed struggle as the only way to achieve these. The Irgun's leader, Menachem Begin, was a conservative from Poland who had been imprisoned in the Soviet Union. In association with the British he arrived in Palestine in 1943 for training with members of the Free Polish Army. He saw the Allied war against Germany as most important, and during that war he refrained from attacking British military installations, but he sent the Irgun against British police stations in search of weapons.
In September, 1944, Churchill announced the creation of a Jewish Brigade to be trained by the British, while the Grand Mufti al-Husseini was meeting with Hitler's deputy and camp and extermination manager, Himmler, and advocating the creation of an Islamic army for Germany. Two months later, two Palestinian Jews assassinated Britain's minister-resident to Cairo, Lord Moyne. Churchill was outraged. So too were many Palestinian Jews. The assassins were members of from Palestine, reputed to be members of the Stern Gang, an organization that had broken from the Irgun. Their act accomplished nothing for the Jews.
Copyright © 1998-2015 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.