The Palestine Police had yet another problem on their hands.
After Rommel had been defeated and the Palmach had reinvented themselves, the Irgun decided it was their turn to re-organise. They looked for a new leader. At this point, Menachem Begin entered the scene.
Menachem Begin had been a leader of Polish Betar, before being sent to a labour camp in Siberia by the Soviets at the start of WW2. When Germany attacked Russia he along with all imprisoned Poles, was released under the Soviet-Polish treaty and joined General Anders' Free Polish army. He travelled with the Polish Army Palestine via the Caspian Sea.
(If anyone wishes to known more about the Free Polish Army and their members' horrendous route from Siberia to Palestine, I recommend Kazia Myers splendid novel 'The Journey'.)
Once in Palestine, Begin reported to the Irgun but refused to desert the Polish army. However, a Polish General , sympathetic to Zionism, put Begin on permanent leave so he could take command of Irgun. (The picture on the left shows Menachem Begin in the uniform of Anders' army. )
Begin established a new Irgun General HQ and new commanders, but kept the Irgun as an equal opportunities organisation. There were women on all their commanders' courses.
At its first meeting, the new commanders passed two resolutions:
- to launch an armed struggle against the British.
- to detach Irgun from the Revisionary Party so it could follow its own path.
On 1st February 1944 the police found an Irgun proclamation pasted on buildings throughout Palestine.
Text of the Irgun Proclamation(See next page)
The Irgun cut all official ties with the New Zionist Organization and began a militant operation against the symbols of government in an attempt to harm both the regime's operation and its reputation. They armed themselves by robbing British armouries and cached the stolen weapons in secret hiding places.
The Irgun's first attack on the civilian administration came on Saturday February 12, 1944 against government immigration offices in Palestine's three main cities: Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Haifa. The attacks took place at night so the buildings were empty and there were no casualties.
On February 27th they bombed income tax offices, also at night and prior warnings were put up near the buildings.
On March 23rd they attacked the national headquarters building of the British police in the Russian Compound in Jerusalem. The Irgun went on to attack police stations and headquarters, and even the Tegart at Latrun .
One relatively complex operation was the takeover of the radio station in Ramallah, on May 17 th, 1944.
Before Yom Kippur of 1944 they plastered notices around town, warning that no British Police should come to the Western Wall on Yom Kippur. For the first time since the mandate began, no British police officers prevent the traditional Shofar blowing at the end of the fast.
After the fast the Irgun attacked four police stations in Arab settlements.
The organized leadership of the Yishuv and The Jewish Agency condemned the Irgun actions as dangerous provocations.
Next - Irgun Proclamation