For the first few years of World War Two, most Jews in Palestine played nice with the British. If Britain was victorious in the larger conflict, the Zionists would have some chance to continue their immigration in Palestine and achieve their hoped-for state. If Germany was victorious, there was no chance of this.
This approach did not survive the war.
One Palestine, Complete: Jews and Arabs Under the British Mandate, by Tom Segev
Immigrants and Refugees
Jews were dying in Europe. The British held little concern for this; the Jews in Palestine felt the same:
“I was not well-versed on matters of saving of the Jews of Europe, even though I was chairman of the Jewish Agency,” Ben-Gurion wrote a few years later. “The heart of my activity was enlisting Jewry in the demand to establish a Jewish state.”
The Arabs, in the meantime, saw the risk:
“We all sympathize with the Jews and are shocked at the way Christian nations are persecuting them. But do you expect Moslems of Palestine…to become more Christian or more humanitarian than the followers of Christ: Germany, Italy, Poland, Romania, etc. etc.? Have we to suffer in order to make good what you Christians commit?”
Ben-Gurion was troubled by the possibility that Jewish survivors in Europe might not want to come to Palestine, but would choose to settle elsewhere.
“I think we should not treat this danger lightly. It is the greatest danger not only to Zionism but to the Yishuv.”
But the Jews from Europe came – before the war, during the war, and after the war; the number of Jews in Palestine increased eight-fold during the Mandatory period, to one-third of the total population; Muslims and Christians doubled.
“The revolt sprang from the land and from the blood,” wrote Menachem Begin, Etzel leader. Despite its name, though, Etzel’s action was not a revolt, but rather a decision to resume terrorist activities, largely against the British.
Menachem Begin was one of those immigrants turned terrorist, arriving in Palestine in May 1942.
Etzel (Irgun) announced the beginning of terrorism on February 1, 1944. The more radical among the Zionists decided it was time to run the British out.
Etzel’s funds came from robbing banks or extorting money from local businessmen; the organization received contributions as well, mostly from America.
The terrorism was not just for the benefit of driving out the British; Etzel hoped to magnify their standing when compared to other, less violent, Zionist organizations. Ben-Gurion would refer to Etzel as a “Nazi gang,” Jewish Nazis.” He compared Begin to the fuehrer, Etzel’s supporters as a bubonic plague.
In August 1944, an assassination attempt was made on British High Commissioner Harold MacMichael. They threw a bomb at his car, he was slightly wounded. His driver was seriously injured. This was the second attempt on MacMichael’s life.
A few months later, Britain’s senior representative in Egypt, Lord Moyne, was murdered. This cost the Zionists the “friendship” of one of their most important supporters, Winston Churchill.
An attempt was made to murder Police Superintendent Raymond Cafferata; his secretary was a secret agent for the Zionists, copying every one of his memos to pass along. The 1946 bombing of the King David Hotel – administrative headquarters for the British in Palestine – was planned.
The British ordered 100,000 soldiers and policemen to surround dozens of Jewish settlements; a curfew was imposed, even in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. They arrested some 3000 people. The bombing of the King David Hotel was executed four weeks later. The attack resulted in over 90 dead.
The British in Palestine quickly turned hostile toward the Jews, promising they would finish what Hitler had started. The Jews would refer to the British as the Gestapo. Churchill would note that most British officers in Palestine were pro-Arab.
MacMichael recommended dismantling the Jewish Agency – he warned of war in Palestine once World War Two was brought to an end. His suggestion was filed away by the British government.
Instead, the British just wanted out.
From Terrorism to War
The United Nations declared partition, unacceptable to the Arabs and some Jews.
In any case, the British left. “The sooner we go the better.” They described their Mandatory presence as “stupidity.”
No one believed in the U.N.’s map; everyone knew there would be war.
While some Arabs from outside Palestine came to fight, the numbers were relatively few; wealthy Arabs offered little to no financial support; the politicians were incompetent and corrupt; while war raged, the leaders bickered about their salaries.
Had the Arabs united, the Jews would have almost certainly been driven from Palestine. The Jews understood the value of “tribe”; the Arabs did not.
In the words of one British official: “Little has been achieved.”
That was true, of course, only for the British. The Jews, for their part, had achieved independence.
And the Palestinian Arabs, having lost their home, achieved permanent refugee status.
From the comment section to my post “The Soros Dilemma,” I offered:
The NAP requires the term "aggression" to be defined. Many will say that the only place to draw a solid line is physical aggression, else the NAP is rendered meaningless - yet even this definition isn't completely free of gray.
Rothbard (in his later years) has offered (paraphrased): spouting theory without consideration of the ramifications in the real world is for dummies.
We want to think of aggression in three dimensions: height, width, depth. Perhaps Rothbard is suggesting we might want to think about a fourth dimension - time. To do so, we must consider human nature in the equation.
Where along that fourth dimension did Jewish immigration into Palestine turn into aggression? We cannot pick a moment, we only see the result - the reality that it happened.
I have seen those who prefer the early Rothbard - much more hard-core, plumb-line. What happened to him in his later years?
I say, the man developed basically the entirety of libertarian theory from scratch; I don't hold it against him that it took him some years to fully get from point A to point ZZ.