25 July 2012

Irgun was right and everyone else wrong, says journalist's grandfather!

Now here's something to get you arguing! This is from The Tablet, that US newish and Jewish online paper I've linked to before. The author, Niv Elis tells us the story of his grandfather, Saba Shraga, a foot-soldier in Irgun, and among those responsible for the King David hotel explosion. Where's the argument? Well, how about this: "There were a handful of Jewish resistance groups, but the Etzel was the only one actively fighting the British. The other groups did not want to divert British resources from fighting the Nazis. 'The British at that time were worse than the Germans, my grandfather says."

There's a huge amount to be said against the British during the Mandate period, but nowhere have I read that they were establishing death camps, forming whatever the British equivalent of Einsatzgruppen would have been, rounding up Jews wholesale and herding them into ghettoes, followed by supplying them only starvation rations...

I don't really want to argue, even by proxy, with a 91 year-old survivor of this period of history (I hope to get that one day, with all my marbles like Saba Shraga, and I'm not as far away from there as I'd like!), but we really do have a clash of the interpretation of evidence here. This really does belittle the efforts of the Jewish Agency and ben Gurion and his colleagues to try and get Jews out of Europe. They knew how little they could achieve, but they also believed that to fight the British at that time could only make matters worse. Further, I'm not sure what survivors of Palmach and the nascent Haganah will think of this. I hope that my friend Karl Pfeifer reads these pages, because he will have personal memories of this time to add to the debate.

We're in "Looking -Glass" land here, where everything looks the same at first sight, but is actually a mirror image of what we usually see. I also feel that back in Allan Siegel land - to understand that, you need to go to Engage, and explore their archive (top right of every page) putting in the words allan siegel and the bund: you may find what comes up interesting.

Anyway, here's the link for you to read this article for yourselves.

I'll be very interested in your comments!

By Brian Goldfarb.


Dick Stanley said...

The Brits didn't build gas chambers or round up Jews, true enough, but they sure turned back boatloads of refugees and used their warships to threaten others with destruction. They were clearly on the side of the Arabs at the time.

SnoopyTheGoon said...

I agree that this comparison was an exaggeration that somehow diminishes the Holocaust. However, as Dick here mentions, there were some mitigating circumstances that made Jews to hate Brits.

And I realize that Arabs of the time described had their own reasons to hate Brits too. The eternal burden of a colonial power. Brits shouldn't complain, that's one thing I am sure about...

Karl Pfeifer said...

Having been at the time a member of Palmach (based at
the time in Kibbutz Schaar Haamakim) I remember how we rejected this kind of
fight against the British rulers.
One has to remember, that the British
issued in May 1939 the infamous “White Paper” restricting the number of Jewish
emigrants to be allowed to come to the land of Israel. During the war about 30.000 Jews
volunteered to the British Army. However the British broke their word and did
not abolish the white book. In Europe hundred
thousands survivors wanted to come to the land, but the British did not let them
come legally. So the Hagana concentrated on illegal emigration of Jews and
constructing new settlements which was really strengthening our position while
the senseless terror of Ezel (Abreviation of Irgun Zwai Leumi) had
contra-productive effects: the sympathy of so many British with our cause was
jeopardized. While Palmach bombed railway lines and bridges and did not kill
British soldiers and policemen, Ezel and the Stern gang was advocating all the
worse so much the better and engaged in individual terror. My position on that
is one of principle.

I rejected Jewish terror starting already during the war
in 1944 and I reject also Arab terror

Karl Pfeifer, Vienna

shaun downey said...

"The British at that time were worse than the Germans, my grandfather says"... Bullshit. I would not defend British actions, particularly trying to stop stopping refugees after the war but where in 20th century Britain were jews subject to a Kristallnacht like event, Nuremburg Laws, a final sulution...?