The Underground Arises to Overthrow the British

Personal Archive
posted on:
19 In july 1977
States - Britain/England. Underground - British Mandate, Etzel, Gallows Martyrs, Underground Operation. Security - purity of arms. Aliyah - Return to Zion. Foreign Policy - UN
A reprinting of a chapter from Begin's book, THE REVOLT, which appeared as part of a series of reprints of Begin's book in the New York Post. Begin describes the two most pressing issues facing the Jews during WW2: the Nazi Holocaust and the British closure of Palestine Jews fleeing the Holocaust. This closure made the revolt inevitable. The Etzel had no desire for any conflict with the Arabs of Palestine and warned them to not interfere with the fight against the British. Some Arabs even helped the Irgun in the revolt. It was only after the UN decided to partition Palestine that the Arabs rose up against the Jews. The British thought they were 'omnipotent' and therefore a revolt which they could not suppress would be a terrible blow to their prestige, and indeed the Etzel's revolt was such a blow. The Etzel did not want to use violence, but the British regime left it no choice. It was the Etzel's commitment to morality that led it to triumph over the superior British forces.
keywords: 207643
selected quotes from article new search

The underground arises to fight the British


Two predominating facts determined the condition of the Jewish people at the height of the Second World War.  Hitler was exterminating millions of Jews in Europe and-in spite of this-Britain continued to keep the gates of the Jewish "National Home" tightly shut against the Jews.

The rising was inevitable.  For many years the Zionist leaders had decried the idea of Hebrew independence, and of Statehood.  But Vladimir Jabotinsky warned them that nobody would believe their protestations, neither British nor Arabs nor the world in general.  All of them, he said. Had read the Bible and knew that once we Jews started coming back to Eretz Israel, our aim must be clear: that Eretz Israel should be ours again.  And that, after all, was our aim.  It was in our blood.

We told the Arabs that we had no desire to fight or harm them; that we were anxious to see them as peaceful citizens of the Jewish-State-to-be: we pointed to the undeniable fact that our operations in Arab areas there had been not the slightest intrusion on Arab peace or security.  We warned them that it was the object of the British officially to enflame them against us and to get us to fight each other.  We hoped earnestly they would they would not heed propaganda of this kind.  If they did, however, and raised a hand against the Jews, we would have no option but to move against them with all dispatch and severity.

But great as may have been the influence of our literature, it is certain that deeds had a greater effect. The fact that the mighty British government not only failed to put an end to our struggle but, on the contrary, continued to be subjected to blows of ever –increasing severity, exercised a very healthy influence on the Arabs.  Their imagination did the rest.

Some helped

The Arabs not only refrained from hindering us in our attacks on the regime; some of them actively helped us.  Their aid, it is true, was not given gratis, but it was vital.  Of the few arms we had some were bought from Arabs.  Until we found our own means of manufacturing substantial quantities of explosives-the main weapon in the struggle for liberation-and apart from what we "borrowed" from the British themselves, the major part of our T.N.T. was acquired from Arab suppliers.

Only after the United Nations Organization had come to its decision on the future of Eretz Israel (a decision which was the direct result of the Jewish revolt), did the Arabs raise their hand against us.  They did so because they were promised that the regular armies of the Arab states would be thrown into battle to vanquish or destroy the Jews.

They anticipated that Tel Aviv, its buildings and its daughters would be delivered up to the Palestine Arabs.  But even during the period of fighting which opened on Nov. 30, 1947, and during the invasion which began on May 15, 1948, the attitude of respect mingled with fear, which Jewish arms had evoked among all Arabs during the revolt against the British, had its effects.

History and our observation persuaded us that if we could succeed in destroying the government's prestige in Eretz Israel, the removal of its rule would follow automatically.  Thenceforward we gave no peace to this weak spot.  Throughout all the years of our uprising, we hit at the British government's prestige, deliberately, tirelessly, unceasingly.

The very existence of an underground, which oppression, hangings, torture, and deportations fail to crush or to weaken must, in the end, undermine the prestige of a colonial regime that lives by the legend of its omnipotence.  Every attack which it fails to prevent is a blow at its standing.  Even if the attack does not succeed, it makes a dent in that prestige, and that dent widens into a crack which is extended with every succeeding attack.


Most of our attacks were successful, but there were some failures.  We learned how to avoid them.  But we knew that they were failures only in the military sense.  Politically, every attack was an achievement.  And there were military attacks which had a special disintegrating effect on the government's prestige.  Foremost among them was the storming of Acre Prison, which compelled the chief of the occupation government to publish a bewildered apologia.  It was an admission of failure to destroy the underground or to prevent its attacks.

Our enemies called us terrorists.  People who were neither friends nor enemies, like the correspondents of the New York Herald Tribune, also used this Latin name, either under the influence of British propaganda or out of habit.

The underground fighters of the Irgun arose to overthrow and replace a regime.  We used physical force because we were faced by physical force.  But physical force was neither our aim nor our creed.  We believed in the supremacy of moral forces.  It was our enemy who mocked at them.  That is why, notwithstanding the enemy's tremendous preponderance in physical strength, he is the one who was defeated, and not we.


From "The Revolt," y Menachem Begin.  Copyright by Menachem Begin.  Reprinted by permission of Nash Publishing.