1936-1939, the years of the Arab Revolt, were the years in which the Haganah matured and developed from a militia into a military body. Although the British administration did not officially recognize the Haganah, the British Security Forces cooperated with it by establishing HaNotrim (Jewish Supernumary Police - J.S.P., and an elite unit within it, the Jewish Auxiliary Police - the ghafirs), which was a civilian militia that grew from 6,000 to 14,000 and became absorbed into the British Army during the Second World War, and was at the core of the Yishuv's demand for a separate Jewish Unit within the British armed forces. In the summer of 1938 Special Night Squads - S.N.S. were extablished, under the command of Captain Orde Wingate (Plugot Sadeh, Yitzhak Sadeh).
During the years of the riots, the Haganah protected the establishment of over 50 new settlements in new area of the country (see Homa Umigdal - Stockade and Watchtower Settlements). As a result of the British government anti-Zionist policy, expressed in the White Paper of 1939, the Haganah supported illegal immigration and organized demonstrations against the British anti-Zionist policy.
With the outbreak of World War II, the Haganah was faced with new problems. It headed a movement of volunteers, from which Jewish units were formed for service in the British army (see Jewish Brigade Group). It also cooperated with British intelligence units and sent its personnel out on various commando missions in the Middle East. Another example of this cooperation was the dropping of 32 Jewish parachutists in 1943-44 behind enemy lines in the Balkans, Hungary and Slovakia. Europe (see also Hannah Szenesh, Enzo Sereni, Haviva Reik).
At the same time, the Haganah further strengthened its independent basis during the war. A systematic program of training was instituted for the youth of the country. In 1941, the Haganah's first mobilized regiment, the Palmach came into being. At the end of the war, when it became clear that the British government had no intention of altering its anti-Zionist policy, the Haganah began an open, organized struggle against British Mandatory rule in the framework of a unified Jewish Resistance Movement, consisting of Haganah, Irgun Zevai Le'umi - Etzel, and Lohamei Herut Yisrael - Lehi.
Haganah branches were established at Jewish D.P. [displaced person] camps in Europe and Haganah members accompanied the "illegal" immigrant boats. In the spring of 1947, David Ben Gurion took it upon himself to direct the general policy of the Haganah, especially in preparation for impending Arab attack. On May 26 1948, the Provisional Government of Israel decided to transform the Haganah into the regular army of the State, to be called "Zeva Haganah Le-Yisrael" - The Israel Defense Forces.
Armed Jewish underground organization, founded in 1931 by a group of Haganah commanders, who left the Haganah in protest against its defense charter. In April 1937, during the Arab riots, the organization split - about half its members returned to the Haganah. The rest formed a new Irgun Zeva'i Le'umi (abbr. Etzel), which was ideologically linked with the Revisionist Movement and accepted the authority of its leader, Vladimir Jabotinsky.
Etzel rejected the "restraint" policy of the Haganah and carried out armed reprisals against Arabs, which were condemned by the Jewish Agency. Many of its members were arrested by the British authorities; one of them, Shlomo Ben Yosef, was hanged for shooting an Arab bus. After the publication of the White Paper in May 1939, Etzel directed its activities against the British Mandatory autorities.
At the outbreak of World War II, the organization declared a truce, which led to a second split (see Lohamei Herut Yisrael). Etzel members joined the British Army's Palestinian units and later the Jewish Brigade.
From 1943 Etzel was headed by Menahem Begin. In February 1944, Etzel declared war against the British administration. It attacked and blew up government offices, military installations and police stations. The Jewish Agency and the Haganah moved against the Etzel in a campaign nicknamed the Sezon. Etzel joined the Jewish Resistance Movement and after its disintegration in August 1946, Etzel continued attacks on British military and government objectives.
In April 1947, four members of the organization were hanged in Acre prison. In May 1947, Etzel broke into the fortress at Acre and freed 41 prisoners. In July 1947, when 3 other Etzel members were executed, the I.Z.L. hanged two British sergeants.
After the Declaration of Independence, the Etzel high command offered to disband the organization and integrate its members into the army of the new Jewish state. It was subsequently disbanded and full integration was achieved in September 1948.
Lohamei Herut Yisrael (abbr. Lehi)
Armed underground organization founded by Abraham Stern in June 1940, after the Irgun Zeva'i Le'umi decided on a truce on armed activities against the British during the war. Lehi declared a continuation of the struggle against the British, opposed the voluntary enlistment of Jews into British Army, and even attempted to contact representatives of the Axis.
During January and February 1942, clashes between members of the "Stern group" and the British authorities reached their peak. The British forces reacted by arresting and killing leading members of the group. Abraham Stern himself was caught and killed by British police officers. In early 1944, Lehi resumed its operations, joining in the struggle against the British through affiliation to the Jewish Resistance Movement. During and after this period, Lehi carried out sabotage operations and armed attacks on British military objectives and government installations. In April 1947, Lehi began organizing sabotage operations outside Palestine, mailing bombs to British statesmen.
In May 29, 1948, two weeks after the establishment of the State of Israel, members of Lehi joined the Israeli army. In Jerusalem, however, they continued to fight separately. After the assassination of the U.N. mediator, Count Folke Bernadotte, in Jerusalem in September 1948, an act which a group of Lehi members were suspected of carrying out, the Israeli authorities enforced the final disbanding of Lehi in Jerusalem. Lehi ceased to exist.
The Jewish Resistance Movement
At the end of world War II, when it became clear that the British government had no intention of altering its anti-Zionist policy, the yishuv organized the Jewish Resistance Movement, which was run by the Haganah in cooperation with Etzel and Lehi.
The movement carried out its first operation on Oct. 1945, when a Palmach unit attacked the Atlit internment camp and liberated the 208 "illegal" immigrants held there. In Nov. 1945, the Movement showed its strength by launching a major attack on railroads all over the country and sinking several coastal patrol launches. In the following months, the Movement carried out attacks upon British police posts, coast guard stations, radar installations and air-fields.
In June 1946, the Jewish Resistance Movement blew up the bridges linking Palestine with neighboring states. The British authorities reacted to this attack on June 29, 1946 ("Black Saturday"), by arresting the members of the Jewish Agency Executive. Military forces conducted searches for arms caches in the settlements and thousands of people were arrested. The Jewish Agency ordered a halt in the armed operations against the British, but Etzel and Lehi refused to comply. In July 1946, Etzel blew up the central government offices at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. 80 people were killed - government officials and civilians, Britons, Jews and Arabs. After this operation, condemned outright by the Jewish Agency and by the Haganah, the Jewish Resistance Movement ceased to exist.
The Jewish Brigade Group
The only military unit to serve in World War II in the British Army - and, in fact - in all the Allied forces - as an independent, national Jewish military formation, the Jewish Brigade Group comprised mainly of Jews from Eretz Yisrael and had its own emblem. The establishment of the Brigade was the final outcome of prolonged efforts by the yishuv and the Zionist Movement to achieve recognized participation and representation of the Jewish people in the war against Nazi Germany.
In 1940, the Jews of Palestine were permitted to enlist in Jewish companies attached to the East Kent Regiment (the "Buffs"). These companies were formed into three infantry battalions of a newly-established "Palestine Regiment". The battalions were moved to Cyrenaica and Egypt, but there, too, as in Palestine, they continued to be engaged primarily in guard duties. The Jewish soldiers demanded to participate in the fighting and the right to display the Jewish flag.
It was not until September 1944, however, that the British government agreed to the establishment of a Jewish Brigade. It consisted of Jewish infantry, artillery, and service units. After a period of training in Egypt, the Jewish Brigade Group - approximately 5,000 soldiers - took part in the final battles of the war on the Italian front. In May 1945, the Brigade was moved to North East Italy where, for the first time, it encountered survivors of the Holocaust. The Brigade became a major factor in the "Illegal Immigration" (see also Berihah). In the summer of 1946, the British authorities decided to disband the Brigade.