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From Diplomacy to Resistance: A History of Jewish Palestine, 1939-1945

by Yehuda Bauer

Bibliographic information

TitleFrom Diplomacy to Resistance: A History of Jewish Palestine, 1939-1945
AuthorYehuda Bauer
PublisherVarda Books
Publication Date2001


The Second World War was a crucial period in the history of Jewish Palestine. Between 1939 and 1945, the Zionist movement and Jewish Palestine underwent considerable transformation. This carefully documented work recounts the events of that period of time.

By way of background, the author describes how and why Britain moved from the pro-Zionism of the 1917 Balfour Declaration to the essentially pro-Arab policy of the 1939 British White Paper. The major themes of the World War II era are dealt with in careful detail: the Jewish reaction to the White Paper; the intricate interrelations between the various Jewish underground movements Hagana, Irgun, Stern group; the Palestine Jewish volunteer movement to the British Army; the development of Hagana commando units in the face of the German threat to Egypt and the Middle East; the internal disputes in the Zionist movement which resulted in the rift between Chaim Weizmann and Ben-Gurion; the ultimate failure of Zionisms attempt to move Britain to abandon her anti-Zionist policy.

After the British victory at El Alamein, Palestine Jewry made frantic efforts to come to the aid of European Jews. The book tells about those efforts. It examines the growing tension and strife between Hagana and Irgun, describes the effects of the murder of Lord Moyne, and contains a detailed account of the rise of the Hagana commando units that were later to form the nucleus of the Israeli Army in the 1948 War of Independence.

From Diplomacy to Resistance is a well-written and meticulously researched exploration into a turbulent and fateful period of modern Jewish history.

About the Author 

Yehuda Bauer ---

Yehuda Bauer was born in 1926 in Prague. He immigrated to Palestine in 1939 and received his Ph.D. in 1960 from the Hebrew University, where he is now a professor. He is currently head of the Institute of Contemporary Jewry and head of its Department of Holocaust Studies. He is a member of Kibbutz Shoval in the Negev. He is the author of From Diplomacy to Resistance, Flight and Rescue, and other works.




1 The White Paper Policy and the Beginning of the Struggle

2 Years of Stagnation

3 The Beginnings of an Independent Jewish Force

4 Difficulties of the First Year

5 The Danger of German Invasion (1942)

6 Biltmore

7 Under the Sign of Indecision

8 Renewed Crisis and Its Solutions

9 At the Parting of the Ways








With the German invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, the imminent direct danger to Britains position in the Middle East during 1941 passed. Indeed, in August 1941 the British, in cooperation with the Soviets, took Iran. Thus, a further front was created (the British Ninth Army front), which stretched from the Indian border to Syria. The British forces were drawn thin throughout this entire expanse.

Very soon the fear arose that the Germans would come through the Ukraine to the Caucasus, attack Turkey (or pass through its territory without encountering resistance), and capture the oil fields of Iraq. From there, they would likely turn south toward Suez, and east toward the Persian Gulf. In 1941 this peril seemed more real than the possibility of the Suez Canals being taken from the direction of Libya. After all, the Germans could employ their entire powerful army in Russia and Turkey, while on the Libyan front they would meet t the obstacles of fortified Malta and the British Mediterranean Fleet. The British, therefore, planned to withdraw from Iraq and the Turkish border (if forced to do so) and concentrate their forces in Lebanon and the Jebel ed Druz region. Then, if they were unable to defend even that line, they would try to hold the Lebanon Mountains as an enclave within the territory captured by the Germans.

In the summer of 1941, the British began to prepare suitable defensive positions in this region. As we have previously noted, Professor Rattner was already taking part in working up these plans in the spring of 1941. In the summer of 1941, the British began taking measures to ready Palestine and Syria for the possibility of German conquest.

From available material, it seems likely that British intelligence proposed (at the end of July or the beginning of August) that the Jewish Agency establish several small radio stations to serve as centers for spy groups, should Palestine be taken by the Germans. The assignment was delegated to Moshe Dayan, who had just been released from the military hospital after losing an eye in the Syrian campaign. Dayan proposed (August 15) the establishment of broadcasting stations in the south, in Samaria, Haifa, and the Beit Shean district. Each station would be tied in with three or four men (including a group head) who would supply it with information. The English approved the plan on general lines.

On September 2, 1941, the Jews suggested that the British D Branch set up a course for twenty men. The course was opened on September 26 and ran until December 27, 1941. Twenty-three men took part, learning receiving and transmitting as well as electricity and radio theory. Sixteen of those enrolled (eight from the city or village, two from cooperatives, and six from kibbutzim) passed the course, and seven failed. D Branch, represented in Palestine by Squadron Leader G. S. Reed, agreed to carry out the original program, but it opposed various enlargement proposals that came with frequency from Moshe Dayan and Shaul Avigur, Dayans superior.

One of the interesting expansion proposals was an idea offered by Dayan on October 20, 1941, to create units of Arabists and Germanists (Jews masquerading as Germans) that would operate within the framework of the Palestine Scheme (P. S. as the radio network was called by the British). Moshe Dayan asserted that

in light of the harsh persecution to which the Jews have been subjected in the conquered countries, there is a strong basis on which to assume that, after the enemy conquest of Palestine, the Jews will have severe difficulty visiting or working in various areas. Even if the most optimistic guess proves correct, life will be possible only for those Jews who can be exploited for the needs of the war and its economy; and such people will, certainly, be under the pressure of backbreaking labor and strict control. Should there be acts of sabotage, the number of free work areas will be reduced to a minimum (in contradistinction to working c concentration camps). A drastically limited number of Jews will be permitted to work in such free areas. Without going into detail, one can assume that information collecting would be adversely affected and, over large areas, completely impossible, unless a number of people who appear to be Arabs are not employed in the job.

Similar statements were made on the need to prepare a group of Germanists. The English did not accept these suggestions until July 1942, by which time circumstances were very different (a subject to which we shall return later). At any rate, it was Moshe Dayan, apparently, who first suggested the creation of a group of Germanists.

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