A History Lesson: What ISIS Learned from Irgun
by William A. Cook - Dissident VoiceMarch 18th, 2015
When the history of the first half of this (20th) century comes to be written – properly written – it will be acknowledged the most stupid and brutal in the history of civilization. — Sir Thomas Beecham
Imbedded in Sir Thomas Beecham’s observation is an assumption, if you will, that civilizations advance, that humankind progresses in time to higher levels of intelligence as we shed ancient superstitions that locked our ancestors into barbaric acts, that our creativeness in application of scientific knowledge improves the human condition, perhaps even, that as time passes, we grasp the one underlying reality of human advancement that will truly fulfill that assumption, all are one in a shared universe or we all are doomed. We have been witness in this new century to ancient superstitions committing barbaric acts as hooded hangmen of old decapitate a fellow human, fulfilling in the act a vengeful retaliation against their perceived enemy. We like to think that this is a retrograde act retreating to an inferior state of centuries past making it easy to condemn as both barbaric and uncivilized. But it is not so.
There is an unstated corollary imbedded in Beecham’s quote that explains his note –”properly written” – ; unless the historian accounts for the hidden truth, that omitted from the “accepted” lists of contemporary civilizations, the omitted truth, the controlled truth, the truth allowed by those in power, then the citizen’s perception will be guided by ignorance determined by forces beyond her or his control. The appearance of the advanced civilized society is often just that, an appearance dressed to fashion intellectual advancement wrapped in the perceived splendor of modern progress: business class in international travel, Vogue fashion in business suits for the businessman and the businesswomen, the estate homes attainable because of this perceived advanced excellence – the dress of advancement not the reality of its being.
Why, then, in our advanced intellectual state do we shrink from the ISIS marketer who inflames the Western mind by recreating the vengeful retaliation of centuries past? What the marketer knows is the power behind the message — the horrifying image executed by an unknown assailant immune to justice. It is an act perpetrated by unconstrained aggression defying the “advanced” civilizations political and legalistic systems that are the perception of our accomplishments and achievements. It is as well the expression, the arrogant, blatant expression that knows it can act in full defiance of the West and its imposed control over the states of the mid-East. Finally, and most horribly, it is learned, learned imitation of terrorist acts used by the ruthless “gangs” that forced the British Mandate to leave Palestine because they realized that no reasoning, no logic, no appeal to civilized behavior, no expression of concern for the plight of the Jews destroyed by Nazi Germany would deter the Irgun, the Stern and the Haganah “rebel” terrorist forces from killing at will British Mandate police and soldiers.
Terrorism with a Vengeance
Sixty-four years ago in the middle of the 20th century, ten years short of the Biblical age granted to each of us, “civilized” men cemented their clandestine bands of hundreds and thousands to bring Israel into existence regardless of the consequences to those in authority or those residents in Palestine. Both the Haganah and the Irgun imposed such oaths that in an intellectual liposuction removed the individual’s conscience and made that person a robot of the “gang” (see Marton, Kati. A Death in Jerusalem. for Irgun oath, 44; and for the Haganah oath see Cook. The Plight of the Palestinians. Catling, Appendix XVIA.157. 19).
These gangs struck when they determined to strike, at times they determined, by methods they designed. No policeman, no soldier, no Arab, no resident in Palestine knew who might be a target or where their execution might take place; fear rode rampant across the land. The British authorities had no such freedom of movement or of execution of desired ends. They were helpless against the utter and savage ruthlessness of these terrorists. Daily, news clips carried stories of policemen and soldiers assassinated, bridges bombed, roads destroyed, trains derailed and robbed, infrastructures made inoperable. The list is endless; but descriptions of things destroyed do not do justice to the mercilessness of their acts. It is in the details that we see what ISIS learned.
Two examples should suffice. In 1947 the Stern gang attacked and wrecked a train carrying civilians and troops “near Rehovoth and then calmly machine gunned the survivors” (A Job Well Done 309). This was followed by an attack by the Irgun terrorists on the Acre prison in May, a prison that housed 460 Arabs and 163 Jews, all convicted of crimes of violence. Forty-one Jews escaped and were given arms as they fled the prison. The gang had mined roads leading out of Acre and mortared the 2nd Battalion Parachute Regiment to deter capture. Most of the Jews in the prison were members of the Irgun and Stern gangs, some under sentence of the courts.
The brazenness of these acts graphically illustrates the ruthlessness of the Stern forces, a total disregard for innocent life and a disregard for law in a refusal to let the legal system operate. The calm machine gunning of the survivors, unable to protect themselves in the wreckage of the train, defines the warped mind of those obedient to Stern’s irrational mindless behavior if judgment of sanity is based on awareness of one’s fellow humans. Remember, these men had no right to commit themselves to such destruction and deny and defy the structures others had put in place but the arrogance of belief in their righteous cause that erased the rights of all whether child, mother, wife, daughter, husband, father or son.
Several of the attackers were killed by the British and three arrested: Yaakov Weiss, Meir Nakar, and Haviv Avshalom. Following their day in court, they were sentenced to death; they were hanged.
“As soon as the sentences were proclaimed, the Irgun seized two British army sergeants, named (Marvin) Paice and (Clifford) Martin, whom they held captive with threats of execution if the judicial sentences were carried out. The three terrorists were hanged on 29th July and the following day the bodies of Paice and Martin were discovered hanging from a eucalyptus tree in a government owned grove near Nathanya. When Captain D. H. Galatti of the Royal Engineers went to cut down one of the bodies, a mine exploded on the ground from which the officer was wounded in the face and shoulder. The body was blown to pieces. It was then that the whole area was found to be booby trapped. It was later discovered that both bodies had been hanging for two days prior to the discovery and may have been murdered before the judicial hangings were carried out” (Horne, A Job Well Done 311).
Once again the brutality of the Stern and Irgun forces reveals itself as they arbitrarily kidnap two innocent men in khaki casual dress visiting a café, but known to them as soldiers willing to talk to Jews about British activities, yet two that had nothing to do with the events described above. They were expendable humans to wreak Irgun vengeful retaliation on the Mandate government for daring to kill a Jew, guilty or not. They alone should determine guilt not their proclaimed enemy, the British government. But the barbaric action goes deeper; not only grab two innocents but booby trap their bodies so that those sent to the scene might be blown up or those who, in mercy and sorrow, help bring their hanged and mutilated bodies down from this place of silent fruit die as well in their very act of mercy. No compassion here, no concern for the weeping of the living or the dignity of the dead, no love for their fellow man, nothing but selfish pride and destructive ego to salve their soul if soul they have. Who led these terrorists? Menachem Begin, a future Israeli Prime Minister and a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize together with Egypt’s Anwar Sadat. Begin confessed in an interview that his decision to hang the two sergeants was a “cruel revenge” against the British authorities; two words to bury beside Paice and Martin to salve the sorrow of their parents and family (Ofer Aderet, August 7, 2012. Haaretz).
Rule of Law or Defiance
The Mandate Police in Palestine originally served as Constables for the Palestine Government’s High Commissioner in the towns and villages of the Mandate as designated by His Majesty’s Government under authorization of the League of Nations and later the United Nations. As events evolved during the 1940s the Police took on a para-military role necessitated by the terrorism engulfing them. His Majesty’s Government established a Military Court System to ensure justice in Palestine, an equitable system that applied to Arabs, Jews and the British citizen resident in Palestine. It is a system we expect to exist in a civilized state: an individual is charged with a crime, evidence is gathered and shared with the defense, a trial is held, a judgment made, and punishment imposed or freedom from punishment established. It is recognition of a person’s inherent rights; in England such rights were granted to the people of England by King John in 1215.
The above two paragraphs establish the dilemma of the “western civilized” society against the ancient tribal society that ruled by fiat. Here is the oath the Irgun “gang” member took when he cemented his allegiance to the Irgun Zvat Leumi (fighters for the freedom of Israel): “I do solemnly swear full allegiance to the Irgun Zvat Leumi, and to its commander, to its goal, and its aims, and I am ready to make every sacrifice even of my life, giving first preference at all times to the Irgun, above my parents, my brothers, my sisters, my family…until we achieve a sovereign Israel. So help me, God” (see Morton 44). This is a commitment of life to an idea embodied in a commander right or wrong without regard for any other living being’s rights. Perhaps it’s appropriate to quote here from the leader of the Stern ‘Gang,” Avraham Stern, whose beliefs determined the actions of those who obeyed his strange conception of the place of Israel in the affairs of the world:
We are struck with the madness for kingdom (not democracy I would note)…the Jewish people are unlike any other people…Their country is the Land of Israel, with its frontiers as promised Abraham in the Bible-stretching from the Nile to the Euphrates” (as quoted by Morton 57). Stern, when caught by the British Police and soldiers in February 1942, was shot as he tried to escape. Ironically in light of today’s condemnation of Islamic martyrdom, he became a martyr for the Zionist cause, Olei Hagardom, and celebrated as such (Ofer Aderet. “The ‘cruel revenge’ that helped drive the British out of Palestine. Haaretz 8/7/2012).
Considered in light of today’s “advancement” in civilization to recognition of individual rights, the significance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the blind obedience of the Irgun terrorists to their idea of Israel’s “freedom” as the only right, determined by them as the only right, and to the Stern gangs’ commitment to his “kingdom” determined by his God as written by Moses (perhaps) of land given to the “seed” of the Jews, and to the absoluteness of the Haganah oath on all its followers, the British acceptance of a state ruled by law is anathema, an impediment to be destroyed at all costs by whatever means necessary to carry it out. There is no law but their law, no rights but their rights, no obligation to any but their own. Theirs is the Jewish State of Eretz Israel, the forerunner of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
Now consider the dominant issues encased in this confrontation: to the terrorists, Britain’s control of Palestine is control by a foreign power on its rightful owners the Jews (strangely they did not consider themselves foreigners). The confrontation is one of ideologies: rule of law as determined by the League of Nations and subsequently by the United Nations with the UN Conventions, Declarations and Accords as accepted by that organization’s members versus a tribal kingdom or in the case of ISIS a Caliphate, rules imposed by fiat from above. In either case the progress of civilized society as determined by the West is not seen as progress by these two opposing forces; rather they find rule by the west to be weak lacking assertiveness, absoluteness in determining obedience to behavior, an absence of beliefs since all are tolerated and none imposed on all. They also see the system of laws and the establishment of the jury system as curtailing the power of the state to aggressively pursue its ends when its right to rule should be and must be unquestioned.
What ISIS Learned
ISIS knows now how to act. Each and every recruit must commit himself to the cause of the Caliphate or face the threat of death. Because their crusade is one of absolute belief, there are no exceptions to the rule of the Commanders who determine the enemy, the behavior, and the means to accomplish their end. They also determine how to present the power they assume to their enemy through graphic visuals that create shock and awe, not unlike Donald Rumsfeld’s use of that phrase in the American attacks on the innocent people of Baghdad. Consider that America’s occupation and oppression of the Iraqi people, its devastation of Afghanistan and its cooperative destruction with the Israelis of Palestinians have made it a contemporary image of the British Mandate Government’s occupation of Palestine, the land that belongs to the Jews as Begin, Stern and Ben Gurion believed absolutely. There are no democratic concerns here for the rights of individuals any more than there was for the rights of Paice and Martin or the civilians or troops on the train. This is a land into which one is born regardless of individual beliefs; it is a place of unquestioned faith and allegiance. It is not a place of tolerance, yet to achieve its ends it will testify the opposite.
Today the reality that created the state of Israel from the intellectual loins of fanatics offers us an opportunity to understand a critical political issue confronting the nations of the mid-East and indeed the nations that comprise the United Nations. The existence of ISIS appears on the surface to be a new phenomenon; it is not. It arises from smoldering emotions resident in thousands of Arabic people who have endured decades of Western colonialism and humiliation as the West found in the natural resources of Arab lands the oil needed to fuel their economic machine. That was a right the West accepted as a right of might. At first it was done by physical presence of forces in the countries colonized; then it was done by controlling the Princes or dictators that governed the areas. Always it was done on the backs of the people.
To confront this oppression requires something other than military force. That force is visible in the years following 1939 in Palestine, and it is rising from the ashes of the countries devastated by the United States and its “state” in the mid-East, Israel. Prior to 1948 and the “Declaration of Independence” of a new Nation in Palestine, the United States did not appear in the Arab countries as a Colonizer, a nation that threatened their existence or way of life. Once Israel was established, once its aggression began to glow on the sand dunes of Palestine, then the Sinai, then in Lebanon, and in Syria, once it became obvious that Israel is a different place with a different agenda, or as Ariel Sharon famously stated, “We don’t worry about America, we run America and America knows it,” then the people realized they were under the control of the greatest military machine ever devised run by a mentality totally different from their own.
ISIS is a threat to JSEI precisely because it is driven by the same deep rooted beliefs that drove the moderates of Zionism to accept the absolutism of their god given right to another’s land after thousands of years of absence. In the process they forced the British Government to abandon its attempt to control the absolute power that resides in personal commitment to a force that has chosen them to do His will. Before the British Government issued a “White Paper” with restrictions on the importation of Jewish immigrants into Palestine in 1939, there were Zionists who accepted a slow and steady importation of Jews to live beside those who already lived there. Indeed the Jewish Agency initially acted in such a way, cooperating with the Mandate Government in the importation and settlement of new immigrants from European countries. From 1939, the fanatical forces of the Irgun and Stern and Haganah, impatient to create their own rightful state, issued in a reign of terror that by 1946 made Palestine uncontrollable because rule by law must give way to rule by unrestrained belief. Consequently, the Jewish Agency was forced to accept the “reality on the ground,” the existence of terroristic acts against the British government or condemn and betray their fellow Jews who were “fighting for the freedom of Israel.” They chose to “condemn” but never betray.
Deceit as Strategy
In a Telegram from the British Secretary of State on May 11, 1946 to the High Commissioner for Palestine, marked “No. 2131, Secret. Important,” the following appears:
…Following is text of statement to be made by Colonial Secretary in the House of Commons. Begins:
The government recently had conversations with the representatives of the Jewish Agency on serious state of affairs in Palestine and the possibility of reducing the present tension. These conversations were reported by the Agency representatives to the Inner Zionist Council meeting in Palestine on October 29th. One of the resolutions subsequently issued by that body was in the following terms:
‘The Inner Zionist Council declares that the Zionist Movement has always rejected and continues to reject terrorist bloodshed as an instrument of political struggle. The banner of Zionism must be pure and enbesmirched (sic). The Inner Zionist Council denounces without reservation bloodshed by groups of terrorists who defy national discipline and thereby place themselves outside the ranks of the organized community. These deeds defile the struggle of the Jewish people and distort its character; they strengthen the hands of the opponents of Zionism and the enemies of the Jewish people. Council calls upon the Yishuv to isolate these groups and to deny them all endorsement support and assistance.’
…In view of the condemnation of terrorism embodied in the resolution announced at the meeting on October 29th by the Inner Zionist Council which is accepted as an earnest intention of the Jewish Agency and of the representatives of the Jewish institutions in attempting to dissociate themselves entirely from the campaign of violence and to do their utmost to root out this evil His Majesty’s Government have concurred in the release by Palestine authorities of the detained Jewish leaders. (from documents copied by this writer from the files of High Commissioner Alan Cunningham at St. Antony’s Middle East Center archives in October 2014).
The release of the Jewish leaders changed nothing on the ground. Terrorism continued, yet the Agency did nothing to quell it. Indeed it could not since it was the organizing force of the Jewish resistance against the Mandate. The evidence for this rests in files in the Rhodes House archives and corroborated by recent evidence gained from the British Archives and the Middle East Center at Oxford. The point we are emphasizing here is the total commitment of the Jewish Agency to the cause of creating the state of Israel regardless of the political and moral consequences of that goal. Knowing this is effective strategy against standard Western states provides ISIS an historical reality that worked. The ensuing paragraphs are taken from the Introduction of The Plight of the Palestinians and establishes the facts that brought about the demise of the mandate and the rise of the Jewish State of Eretz Israel.
Deceive the Benefactor
Nothing makes more obvious the reality and meaning of the “Zionist Juggernaut” than Sir Richard C. Catling’s TOP SECRET “Memorandum of the Criminal Investigation Division” of July 31, 1947, a three inch thick file filled with seized Jewish organization documents collated to provide evidence on each of the sections detailed in the cover report of 43 pages.
The purpose of this memorandum is to furnish documentary evidence of the extent to which the supreme Jewish national institutions in Palestine and their principal officials have been parties to acts of sedition, violence, incitement and other offences against the laws of Palestine….The bulk of the memorandum concerns the war and post war years….The trends which thenceforth led up to serious outbreaks of active resistance towards the end of 1945 and early 1946 are well known and the memorandum will therefore concern itself solely with an attempt to establish the links between the supreme Jewish bodies and illegal activity…(Memorandum 1-2)
Catling’s memorandum begins with an understanding of the “intricate Jewish political, social and economic structure in Palestine.” A series of appendices chart these structures marking in passing that “…the Palestine Royal Commission Report of 1937 understood ‘The Agency is obviously not a ‘governing body'; it can only advise and cooperate in a certain wide field.’ But allied as it is with the Vaad Leumi, and commanding the allegiance of the great majority of the Jews in Palestine, it unquestionably exercises, both in Jerusalem and in London, a considerable influence on the conduct of government.” Catling’s frustration with the actual control of Jews over British policy in Palestine glares through this document. “This powerful and efficient organization amounts, in fact, to a government existing side by side with the Mandatory Government…” (2-3) [emphasis mine].
What Catling doesn’t state in that sentence, but what he demonstrates in the memorandum, is that the Jewish Agency and its affiliated organizations are at war with the UN authority in Palestine, the British Mandate Palestine Government. The appendices include detailed information on the personnel in interlocking Jewish organizations and the function of each, noting specifically the presence of leading Jewish personalities. Special emphasis is given to the power of the Mapai (Palestine Labor Party) as it controls key executive positions so that it in effect controls the Yishuv and directs its policies. “Ben Gurion stated, ‘In a Jewish Community of some 600,000 there are more than 170,000 organized workers, men and women…’ Evidence will show how these organized workers are penalized if they dare to oppose the arbitrary commands of the national institutions” [emphasis mine]. The British Mandate Government had long suspected that the subversive activities against the Palestine Government were not the sole responsibility of the “gangs,” like the resistance groups, the National Military Organization and the Stern Group. With the evidence provided in this memorandum it became obvious that the “Jewish national institutions, or (by) groups of their officials (who) have placed the legally constituted framework and organs of these bodies at the discreet disposal of the para-military organization, ‘Irgun Haganna’.”
The memorandum goes further. It notes that the activities of the Jewish Agency through its controlled organizations send emissaries and instructors abroad “to stir up Zionist sentiments among the Jewish communities and displaced persons, to bring pressure to bear upon the Palestine problem, to organize illegal immigration and engage in espionage.” As a result of its investigations, the Division itemizes six areas of subversive activities undertaken by the Jewish Agency against the British Mandate Government:
- Maintenance of a secret army and espionage system;
- theft and manufacture of arms;
- Illegal immigration;
- Violence and civil disobedience;
- Seditious and hostile propaganda;
- Encroachment upon the civil rights of Jewish citizens.
In short, the Zionist controlled Jewish Agency, the Yishuv, actively undermined the legal authority in Palestine even as it operated to undermine support for that government in Britain, placing UK forces in harm’s way as they attempted to fulfill their authorized responsibilities in Palestine. It also demonstrates the determination of the Agency’s leadership in undermining the very nation that gave it a means of establishing a “homeland” in Palestine through the Balfour Declaration. Needless to say, Catling and his CID forces recognized the impossible position this defiance placed them in and understood the deception and violent means used by the Zionists to ensure that their will and theirs alone would be fulfilled at any cost. On page 74 of the appendices, this assertion by the unnamed Head of Command, The Jewish Resistance Movement, March 25, 1946, establishes the reality of this point:
But if the solution (i.e. that Britain would not repeal the White Paper) is anti-Zionist, our resistance will continue, spread and increase in vigor. …There are precepts in Jewish ethics which oblige a man to be killed rather than trespass. The precept of defense of our national existence is at the head of these. We shall not trespass. …Our resistance is liable to result in the creation of a new problem in this country – the British problem, the problem of British security in Palestine, and this problem will be resolved only by the Zionist solution. It would be better if the Zionist solution were proclaimed in recognition of the world Jewish problem and the justice of our work in Palestine. We do not threaten. We only wish you to know our intentions clearly.
The chutzpah represented by this statement, that in effect declares open war against the Mandate Government, receives confirmation in the following words from page 75:
We shall not accept the status of a minority in our own land, whether the minority is 33% or 49%. …We shall not accept a symbolic independence in a dwarflike token state which will not give us the chance of developing all the resources of the country and creating here a safe asylum for all Jews who are compelled or wish to come (75). … In all the crises of the past and until today, the Arabs have always acquiesced in the facts we have created here and have expressed their opposition only to the creation of a new state of affairs. If they were to be faced now with the fait accompli of the Jewish State, they will at length acquiesce in that too (76).
Recognize the absoluteness of these comments: “resistance will continue,” “result in the creation of a new problem – the British problem,” “the problem of British security in Palestine,” “this problem will only be resolved by the Zionist solution,” “our land,” “developing all the resources of the country, “Arabs have always acquiesced in the facts we have created,” and “they will … acquiesce in that too.” There is no alternative but the total takeover of the land of Palestine regardless of the existence of an indigenous people or an existing government.
It is not the purpose of this paper to provide all the particulars of the CID Memorandum, but it is important to provide an understanding of what these papers reveal about the conditions that existed from 1941-1948 as the mandate Government had to contend with the terrorism of Jews in Palestine. What they reveal is a Zionist mindset that has a pre-determined intent of full acquisition of the land of Palestine regardless of the Balfour Declaration intent, the British Mandate Government’s responsibilities as the authorized government until May of 1948, Resolution 181 as it set borders by partitioning Palestine for two peoples, or the rights of the indigenous population to their homes and villages. These papers also provide insight into the processes used by the Zionists to gain their ends including violence, civil disobedience, seditious acts, deception, and encroachment on civil and human rights of Jews and Palestinians.
There is an irony growing out of this conundrum: ISIS in Syria borders the Israeli state; the Islamic State as envisioned by ISIS includes areas designated for Eretz Israel. A battle of beliefs looms in the mid-East with both sides committed to their respective god given lands, both driven by fanatical believers in the righteousness of their cause, both determined to prevent the other from succeeding. Sir Thomas Beecham’s woeful observation condemning the twentieth century to the doldrums of stupidity and barbarity might well be trumped by the stupidity and barbarity of the 21st century as predicted in the superstitious books of the old and new testaments with the forces of Satan in the guise of Jehovah, the god of war, battling it out with Saklas, the god of mindlessness, Jehovah’s other self, in the Valley of Megiddo.
William A. Cook is a Professor of English at the University of La Verne in southern California. He edited The Plight of the Palestinians: A Long History of Destruction (2010). He can be reached at: email@example.com. Read other articles by William A., or visit William A.'s website.