Celebrations took place in Israel a few years ago to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Haganah, the Jewish paramilitary organisation which prepared the ground for the establishment of the state of Israel and the Israel Defence Forces. A headline in the Jewish Chronicle referred to “the generations that established Israel” above a photograph of some elderly veterans rather sadly wearing military uniforms.
Describing the veterans as the “heroes of Israel”, the IDF’s then Chief of General Staff, Gabi Ashkenazi, was quoted by the JC as saying, “You were the ones to pave the way for the IDF as the army of the Jewish people, and as a body that can promise ‘never again’.” This was, of course, a pointed reference to the atrocity of the Holocaust.
This was in 2010, when celebrations were also taking place for the diminishing band of survivors from the Second World War. History is written by the victors, and it is probably true to say that the exploits of Allied troops in that war were not all entirely devoid of unacceptable actions long since covered up by official historians. While not exactly a whitewash, it has the same effect.
The same is true of the Haganah “heroes”, to the extent that it was surprising to see a British newspaper lauding an organisation which at first cooperated with — and was trained by British army officers — and then agitated and carried out a terrorist campaign against British Mandate rule in Palestine.
Once the British were out of the picture as the main obstacle to the creation of the state of Israel in Palestine, the Haganah turned its not inconsiderable military skills and manpower (up to 80,000 well-trained and armed soldiers) against the largely civilian Palestinian population. As we are seeing today, the IDF has taken this infamous legacy to heart as it bombs Palestinian civilians in the besieged Gaza Strip in the fourth major offensive since 2008, killing men, women and children — particularly children — in the process. Israeli historian Ilan Pappe called the 1948 military offensive the “ethnic cleansing of Palestine” in his 2006 book of the same name. It is clear to any reasonable person that this ethnic cleansing remains ongoing after 75 years.
Ostensibly formed to defend early Jewish settlements in Palestine, by 1939 the Haganah was helping to organise illegal Jewish immigration to Palestine. Post-Second World War it joined with two extremist splinter groups, Irgun and Lehi (“the Stern Gang”) to form the “Jewish Resistance Movement”. It was the Stern Gang which murdered Lord Moyne, the British Minister for the Middle East, in 1944. The Haganah and its elite Palmach commando unit, along with the Stern Gang and Irgun, carried out numerous terrorist acts against British governmental installations across Palestine between 1944 and 1947, some of which are listed below. Israel was born out of this terrorism, and its state terrorism has seen massacres of Palestinians committed with sickening frequency over the past seven decades.
Although efforts have been made to distance the Haganah from the overtly terrorist actions of the Irgun and Stern Gang, Robin Corbett claimed that “Zionist armed resistance… included the much larger, but more moderate, Haganah self-defence force [sic]” in his 1986 book Guerrilla Warfare. David Ben-Gurion “insisted” to the British and US governments that “his Jewish Agency and the Haganah were opposed to the Irgun and its terrorism.”
According to Alan Hart in Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews, though, this was plainly not true: “The truth was not only that the Haganah and so the Jewish Agency were colluding with the terrorists. After initially saying ‘No’ to Operation Chick — the codename for the plan to blow up the King David Hotel [in 1946] — the Haganah ordered the Irgun to execute it.”
Ben-Gurion went on to become Israel’s first prime minister. The brains behind the bombing of the hotel in which 91 people were killed, was Menachem Begin. He was one of Ben-Gurion’s successors as prime minister at the helm of the Israeli government. To his dying day, Begin was wanted by the British government for terrorist crimes, as was another ex-Israeli prime minister, Yitzhak Shamir, a leading figure in the Stern Gang; this was why neither ever visited the UK.
In a foretaste of what was to come, Hart points out that money was donated “by organisations… across America to support illegal Jewish immigration into Palestine and to raise funds for Zionist terrorism.” He also gives a detailed account of the circumstances which led to the Haganah supplying weapons and ammunition to the Irgun and Stern Gang to use in the assault and massacre of Palestinians in the village of Deir Yassin in April 1948. According to a report by the International Red Cross, 254 Palestinians, of whom 145 were women (and 35 were pregnant at the time), were murdered by the Zionist terrorists.
Deir Yassin was but one of many massacres committed by “Jewish terrorists” (as Corbett calls them) in the months before the state of Israel came into being, and Haganah personnel were involved in many of them. “The Haganah, the Palmach and the Irgun were the forces that actually occupied the [Arab] villages” prior to the expulsion (or worse) of their residents, writes Pappe. “The Haganah would enter villages looking for ‘infiltrators’ (for which read ‘Arab volunteers’) … Any resistance to such an incursion usually ended up with the Jewish troops firing at random and killing several villagers.” The Haganah was well-schooled in such tactics. British officer Orde Wingate “had instructed the Haganah in the use of this terrorist method against Palestinian villagers in the 1930s.”
One Palmach commander — the elite of the Haganah, remember — sent his troops into Khisas, a mixed Muslim and Christian Palestinian village, in December 1947 and “randomly started blowing up houses at the dead of night while the occupants were still fast asleep. Fifteen villagers, including five children, were killed in the attack.” At first, Pappe records, the Haganah denied responsibility, but “eventually admitted it.” Ben-Gurion apologised publicly.
Moreover, the 75,000 Palestinians living in Haifa were chosen as the target for “a campaign of terror jointly instigated by the Irgun and the Haganah.” Explosives, fireballs and machine-gun fire were all employed in the terrorist campaign.
More than 500 Palestinian towns and villages have been wiped off the map since 1948, and the Haganah was responsible for a major part of that ethnic cleansing. For that reason alone, the state of Israel erected a memorial to the Haganah on the site of a village called Qastal near Jerusalem. The plaque makes no mention that it stands on what was an ethnically-cleansed Palestinian village. Instead, in a grotesque distortion of the truth by Israeli propagandists, the like of which we still see and hear almost daily, the Haganah terrorists are described as “heroes”, and Qastal is described as an “enemy base”. Thus, says Pappe, “Palestinian villagers are dehumanised in order to turn them into ‘legitimate targets’ of destruction and expulsion.” This rings as true today as we watch events in Gaza unfold, as it did when Qastal was depopulated and destroyed.
The Israel Defence Forces are adept at targeting and killing Palestinian civilians, so it is perhaps fitting that their roots lie in a group which was itself responsible for terrorist acts against the people of Palestine. What is not so fitting is that this is largely ignored by the US, British and other governments in the West who give Israel a green light to kill and maim Palestinians indiscriminately.
We now have the obscene situation of Britain’s Royal Navy apparently being ordered to cover Israel’s back while it bombs civilians in Gaza. Is this, I wonder, what the British sailors and their officers signed up to do? How does that protect Britain? This is monkey see, monkey do politics by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak following the deployment of a US Navy aircraft carrier strike force to the Eastern Mediterranean. And where does the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court stand on this as he watches the genocidal bombing campaign? His silence is deafening.
The irony is that supporters of Israel are putting pressure on the BBC for not describing Palestinian resistance fighters as “terrorists”. The BBC insists that to do so would be to take a political position on the issue, and it has to be neutral. Palestinian resistance against Israel’s military occupation is legitimate under international law, and yet it is labelled “terrorism” by people who really should know better. Sunak and his advisers either don’t know the history of Zionist terrorism against British targets and the Palestinians, or simply don’t care.
When General Ashkenazi called members of the Haganah “heroes”, it spoke volumes about the “purity of arms” morality of the Israel Defence Forces. The truth is that they don’t know the meaning of the word, and nor do Israel’s supporters.
List of Zionist/Israeli terrorism since 1944
British Mandate occupation period
12 February, 1944 Immigration office bombed, Haifa district.
12 February, 1944 Immigration and tax offices bombed, Jerusalem district.
27 February, 1944 Tax offices bombed, Haifa district.
23 March, 1944 Police station bombed, Haifa district.
23 March, 1944 British policeman killed in Tel Aviv by Stern Gang (Lehi), Zionist terrorist group.
23 March 1944 Police station bombed, Jerusalem district.
29 September, 1944 British policeman killed in Jerusalem.
31 October, 1945 Police launches mined in Haifa harbour.
6 November, 1944 Stern Gang murdered British Minister Lord Moyne in Cairo.
25 July, 1945 Railway bridge bombed, Haifa district.
27 September, 1944 Four police stations attacked in Jerusalem district.
28 September, 1945 British policemen killed when Zionist terrorists robbed a bank in Tel Aviv.
29 September, 1944 British policeman killed, Jerusalem district.
27 December, 1944 Police HQ attacked, Jerusalem.
31 October, 1945 Several hundred bombs exploded on railways all over Palestine.
25 April, 1946 Seven British soldiers killed in Tel Aviv by Stern Gang.
10 June, 1946 Three trains destroyed.
16 June 1946 Eight railway bridges destroyed around the borders of Palestine.
22 July, 1946 Irgun Zionist terrorist group bombed King David Hotel in Jerusalem, killing 91 people.
9 September, 1946 British policeman killed in Haifa by Stern Gang (Lehi).
29 December, 1946 British army officer captured and flogged, Netanya district.
24 October, 1946 Bombs explode at roadblocks around Jerusalem.
30 October, 1946 Suitcase bomb left at railway station, Jerusalem.
2-17 March, 1947 Martial law imposed; 14 Britons killed in Tel Aviv/Jaffa district.
21 March, 1947 Oil refineries destroyed, Haifa.
26 April, 1947 Senior British police officer killed, Haifa.
29 July, 1947 Two British sergeants hanged in Netanya by Irgun; bodies booby-trapped.
18 December, 1947 Palmach Zionist terrorists killed 10 Palestinians, five of them children, in Al-Khisas.
31 December, 1947 Palmach Zionist terrorists killed up to 70 Palestinians in Balad Al-Shaykh.
4 January, 1948 Stern Gang terrorists killed 26 Palestinians in truck bombing in Jaffa.
5 January, 1948 Zionist terrorists blew up Semiramis Hotel in Jerusalem, killing 26 civilians, including the Spanish consul.
7 January, 1948 Zionist terrorists killed 20 Palestinians at Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem using a barrel bomb.
14 February, 1948 Palmach Zionist terrorists killed 60 Palestinians inside their houses in Safed, including small children.
13-16 March, 1948 Palmach Zionist terrorists killed at least 30 Palestinians, including women and children, in Al-Husayniyya, Safed.
9 April, 1948 Irgun and Lehi terrorists killed 254 Palestinian villagers, including women and children, despite having agreed to a peace pact.
13-14 May, 1948 Zionist terrorists of the nascent Israel Defence Forces (IDF) killed up to 52 men, women and children in Abu Shusha; one young woman “was raped and disposed of”.
Israel, founded in Palestine, 15 May, 1948
22-23 May, 1948 IDF soldiers killed up to 200 Palestinians in Tantura. A beach car park now covers a mass grave.
11-12 July, 1948 Palmach Zionist terrorist forces killed up to 500 Palestinians in Lydda. Hundreds of Palestinians died on the “death march” after being expelled from the town.
17 September, 1948 Stern Gang Zionist terrorists killed UN mediator Count Folke Bernadotte in Jerusalem.
29 Oct – 6 Nov, 1948 Israel Defence Forces (IDF) killed up to 94 Palestinian men, women and children in a mosque in Saliha.
29 October, 1948 IDF soldiers killed up to 70 Palestinian men and rape four women in Safsaf. The men were tied up when they were killed.
29 October, 1948 IDF soldiers killed ten prisoners of war and “a number of villagers, including a woman and her baby” in Jish. Later reports mention a mass grave of “two dozen” bodies.
29, October, 1948 IDF soldiers killed up to 200 men, women and children in Al-Dawayima.
30 October, 1948 IDF soldiers killed 14 Palestinians, mainly Christians, in Eilabun.
31 October, 1948 IDF soldiers killed 58 Palestinians in Hula.
2 November, 1948 IDF soldiers killed 14 Palestinians in Arab Al-Mawasi.
29 October, 1956 IDF soldiers killed 49 Palestinians in Kafr Qasem, including women and children.
3 November, 1956 IDF soldiers killed 275+ Palestinians in Khan Yunis, Gaza Strip.
16-18 September, 1982 The IDF facilitated massacre of 3,500 Palestinian civilians by Maronite Christian militia in Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Lebanon.
25 February, 1994 Illegal Jewish settler Baruch Goldstein killed 29 Palestinians praying in Ibrahim Mosque, Hebron, in occupied West Bank. A further 125 were wounded in the attack.
3-11 April, 2002 The IDF siege of Jenin refugee camp killed at least 52 Palestinians. Some sources say the real figure is covered up by Israel.
27 Dec./18 Jan. 2008/9 The IDF launched a massive military offensive — Operation Cast Lead — against the Gaza Strip. White phosphorous was used in residential areas, in contravention of international law. Almost 1,400 Palestinians were killed, including 344 children and 110 women.
31 May, 2010 IDF commandos attacked the Freedom Flotilla lead vessel MV Mavi Marmara in international waters, killing nine humanitarian activists taking aid to Gaza; a tenth died later of his wounds.
14-21 November, 2012 The IDF launched Operation Pillar of Defence against the Gaza Strip. Four Israelis and 174 Palestinians were killed.
8 July – 26 Aug. 2014 The IDF launched Operation Protective Edge against Gaza. More than 2,250 Palestinians were killed, 500 of whom were children, and 11,000 were wounded.
16 July, 2014 The IDF fired a missile at four boys playing football on a Gaza beach and killed them. All four were from the same family.
30 March – 31 Dec. 2018 IDF snipers shot and killed 189 Palestinians, 35 of whom were children, taking part in the Great March of Return protests in Gaza. At least 20,000 were wounded, some with life-changing injuries.
6-21 May, 2021 The IDF attacked Gaza, killing 254 Palestinians, including 66 children, 39 women and 17 elderly. Almost 2,000 Palestinians were wounded, including 380 children and 540 women. Tens of thousands of homes were damaged or destroyed.
This list does not include the very many daily killings of individuals in the West Bank and Gaza Strip by the Israeli security services, army and settlers. Atrocities such as the shooting on live television of 12-year-old Mohammed Al-Durrah as his father tried to shield him from Israeli bullets, and the arson attack which burned to death 18-months-old Ali Saeed Dawabsheh and his parents in July 2015 received a lot of publicity. Ali’s brother Ahmed was badly burned and orphaned by the attack.
Many more killings go unrecorded by the mainstream media. A notable exception was the killing of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh by an Israeli sniper in Jenin last year. The Palestinian American’s funeral was even attacked by Israeli security services.
This is an updated version of an article first published in Aqsa Journal, Autumn 2010.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.