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Terror Out of Zion: The Fight for Israeli Independence Paperback – January 1, 1996
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About the Author
J. Bowyer Bell (1931-2003) was professor of international relations at Columbia University and president of International Analysis Center. He focused on problems of unconventional law, terrorism, deception, and crisis management. He was also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and recipient of more than seven Guggenheim Fellowships. Bell’s consultancy firm, The International Analysis Centre, which he founded, focused on problems of terrorism, deception, risk analysis, and crisis management and had many governmental clients including the United States Department of the State and the Central Intelligence Agency.
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Bell shows that the ETZEL was the most effective anti-British group of all in the history of the British Empire. By 1947, NO British soldier was safe ANYWHERE in the country except in certain heavily fortified security zones such as the so-called "Bevingrad" zone in central Jerusalem which was surrounded by barbed wire, concrete barriers and constant army patrols. Soldiers could only move around the country in heavily armed large groups with armored vehicles. No where else in the British Empire had rebel groups caused such a situation of insecurity for the Occupation forces. Even in places where there were major uprisings against British Imperial rule, there were certain "no-go" areas but the rest of the occupied country was considered safe. By 1947, there were 100,000 (ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND) British troops and police in the country, including the elite 6th Airborne Division paratroopers to keep an eye on only 600,000 Jews, yet the British were completely unable to suppress the Jewish uprising and they failed to apprehend the leaders of the ETZEL and LEHI in order to attempt to break up their leadership. The British had lost control of the country almost completely.
After the Second World War, the British had intended to hand the country over to Arab rule, with the Jews having limited autonomy and with no further Jewish immigration or settlement to be allowed. The
problem was that Britain was bankrupt after the war and was forced to pay heed to American concern about Palestine in order to keep American money coming in to keep Britain financially afloat. By early 1947, the British admitted they were incapable of getting agreement between Jews and Arabs for a settlement which was designed to get the Americans off their back. Thus, in what they thought was a shrewd move, they announced they were handing the problem over to the UN. THEY WERE CERTAIN the UN would deadlock, counting on the fact that Stalin's virulent antisemitism and anti-Zionism would get the Soviet Bloc to oppose any partition proposal that the British didn't want even if the Ameircans did want one, and so, in frustration, the UN would then hand the whole mess back to the British and with the Americans thus neutralized, they could impose Arab rule on the entire country without any unpleasant American backlash. To the surprise of everyone, Stalin decided to back a Jewish state and partition. This directly lead to the UN General Assembly Resolution 181 of 29 November 1947.
This was not the end of British hopes though. It must be remembered that the British felt they needed military bases in Palestine because they knew they were going to forced to remove their military presence from the Suez Canal Zone due to Egyptian pressure and so they could manipulate the Arab-Jewish conflict ("we have to remain to prevent them from fighting each other") to enable them to keep the bases in nearby Palestine. Even if the UN supported partition, they assumed that the Arab onslaught against the Jews would force the Jews to come crawling on their knees back to the British, asking them to stay and protect the Jews IF they could get the Jews to give up their struggle against them. Bell shows that the British were sure this would happene and he points out that the British were recruiting for their Palestine Police Force right up to the time they were supposed to pack up and leave in May 1948. Thus, the effective attacks by the ETZEL and LEHI made immense pressure back home in Britain to bring their troops home in any event. As one British newspaper put in its headline "RULE OR GET OUT!". While it is true that the political efforts of the Establishment Jewish Left was important in creating the infrastructure of the state and the political atmosphere in the UN for the partition vote, the pressure applied by the ETZEL and LEHI was no less crucial in getting the British to finally throw in the towel. Bell's book is an important contribution to correcting the historical record.
Let’s start from there. The Jews did not invent terrorism.
But, terror was a means of resistance in pre state of Israel. J. Boyer Bell, brings clarity to that subject in “Terror out of Zion: the fight for Israeli independence,” published by Transaction Publishers: New Brunswick (US) and London (UK), 1996.
Bowyer Bell, had also written the same kind of expose on the Irish Republican Army, Spain, South Africa, and Cyprus. So, as much as one can have experience in bringing forth a terrorist history he was not a novice on the subject.
He covers only the revisionist factions of Jewish Palestinian politics in the 30s and 40s. Only the Urgun, (ETZEL) and the Sternists (LEHI) are discussed, leaving Haganna and Palmach the other side of that complicated democratic form to another discussion.
In my opinion this is the most comprehensive, complete and informative history of Jewish pre state revisionist terror in existence, at least in English. There might be others in Hebrew but I am not aware of them. Not on this level, and not on this non subjective approach. It is a scholarly work, in that it makes no judgments about the subject matter only presents the facts from all sides from current available sources.
Those sources according to the author are continuing to come to the surface. Boyer Bell wrote the first treatise on this subject back in 1977, basing it pretty much on interviews with Jewish participants, British soldiers and Arabs if he could get them to talk. But, the 1996 Transaction publication includes much more than the original. Compelled by what he termed “an enormous amount of material, including the year-by-year revelations from British archives, have produced a far richer array of sources. “
He also states that the original while a bit scant in corroborating sources, his original edition “confirm rather than to vitiate the text.” And, those sources continue to be declassified even today. The story of violent Jewish resistance to British colonialism, is compiled and choreographed perfectly in “Terror out of Zion.”
The idea here was to present the history, not to condemn or praise the participants in that history. If that is what you wish go elsewhere because you won’t get that here. For this reason some might not appreciate the scope of this work. For historians and interested parties in Israeli prestate history it is a must to have on your reference shelf. For all others I would still recommend it, but you will have to decide for yourself if it is something you must know about in that particular detail.
The book is divided into four parts, 1) the Jabotinsky years of formation and building, 2) a section on Avraham Stern and the breakaway from ETZL to LEHI, 3) Menachem Begin’s rise as leader of ETZL and 4) the revisionists response to the Arab attack in the months before the British left, from November 1947 to May 1948.
So, the time frame runs from around mid 1929 to just before the British left on May 14, 1948. That is a wide area of history for a scholar to cover, but Bowyer Bell does a good job of packing more detail into the 374 pages of the book than you would think. Primary and secondary sources are listed as end notes at the end of each chapter.
Throughout the pages of these now famous historical actions which have only been told in brief are given space to develop, with the appropriate amount of detail, the people involved, and results of those particular actions, some of which reach startling brutal conclusions for both sides.
The breakout of Acre Prison for example.
Acre prison, a 1000 year old Crusader fortress used by the British to house criminals of all sorts, was thought by all to be impossible to escape. The walls were three feet thick with stone and masonry. Windows only graced the upper echelon floors, too high to make an escape, and the British manned the prison so that even if you could traverse, the 12th century construction British oversight would have made the attempt extremely difficult.
Many of the underground were sentenced to serve there. The breakout was one of the standout situations of the post World War II rise of Jewish resistance to force the British to leave Palestine.
Boyer Bell’s recount of the history of how that escape took place is nothing short of magnificent.
Escape had been discussed but it had been decided that without outside participation it would be impossible. The logistics of planning were just too much from the fortified Crusader castle to the mess of little alley ways going nowhere and ancient streets of Acre which could not be easily navigated. But that changed when a stroke of luck came upon the prisoners in February of 1947.
An Arab inmate whose job it was to deliver Kerosene from a special storage room to the kitchen on a daily basis happened to hear women’s voices from the other side of the wall of the room. That could only mean there was some kind of thoroughfare on the other side. The Arab then happen to mention it in passing to Eitan Livni, Urgun operations officer, and the father of Tzipi Livni, the Israeli labor politician. Livni thought the information vital so he passed it on to others, and names out of the past, Mordechai Zettler, Mattiyahu Shmulevitz of LEHI and Dov Efrat, Manchem Shiff and Arie Malatsky of the Irgun went and listened for themselves.
This prompted getting a message back to Menachem Begin through a number of sources. The inmates wrote on toilet paper, rolled into small wads so as not to arouse British suspicions, passed them first to the Irgun’s personal postman inside the prison who had access to everywhere. The postman passed them to an Arab hospital employee, (not an inmate) who was well paid for his efforts and directed to take the message to a particular address in Haifa. Jabotinsky’s niece, a trusted source for Urgan movements, then picked up the message and took the wad to Begin’s own safe house. Begin then approved the plan to look into the other side of the wall where the women’s voices were heard.
And, the plan moved forward from there. Out of 41 Sternists and Urgun to escape, only 21 made it. The rest being killed or recaptured. But, the escape made worldwide attention. Jews planned and executed an escape from what was thought to be an impregnable fortress. It served Jewish morale well.
This is a classic bit of Jewish pre state history. The book is filled with this kind of detail, names, dates and places. Many unusual and rare photographs also are included.
Boyer Bell’s "Terror out of Zion," argues with proficiency and detail that the underground resistance on the revisionist side moved with a single minded purpose, to liberate Palestine from British rule. In the beginning of the third section of the book during Menachem Begin’s rise to succeed Zeev Jabotinsky as overall leader of the Urgun, his own definition of ETZL’s simple motives, probably sums it up best, “we fight, therefore we are.”