Menachem Begin - IRGUN - Jewish Underground
FBI/British Intelligence/CIA/Department of Defense Files
2,260 pages of FBI, British Intelligence MI5 MI6, CIA, Department of Defense files, and international press monitoring covering Menachem Begin and IRGUN, the Jewish Underground and the establishment of the State of Israel,.
Menachem Begin was born in Brest-Litovsk, Poland on August 16, 1913. He was educated at the Mizrachi Hebrew School and the Polish Gymnasium (High School). In 1931, he entered Warsaw University and earned a law degree in 1935. Until the age of 13 he belonged to the Hashomer Hatza'ir scout movement, and at the age of 16 joined Betar (Brit Trumpeldor), the nationalist youth movement associated with the Zionist Revisionist Movement. In 1932 he became head of the Organization Department of Betar for Poland traveling on its behalf throughout the country. In 1937 he returned to Poland, and for a time was imprisoned for leading a demonstration in front of the British Legation in Warsaw, protesting against British policy in Palestine. He organized groups of Betar members who went to Palestine as illegal immigrants, and in 1939 became the head of the movement in Poland. On the outbreak of World War II, he was arrested by the Russian authorities and in 1940-41 was confined in concentration camps in Siberia and elsewhere, but was released under the terms of the Stalin Sikorski agreement.
Menachem Begin came to prominence as an advocate of the view that mainstream Zionist groups were too accommodating with the British authorities in pre-1948 Palestine, and advocated the use of force to establish a Jewish state. On his release he joined the Polish army and was transferred to the Middle East. After demobilization, in 1943, he assumed command of the Irgun Zvati Leumi (National Military Organization), known by the initials of its Hebrew name as "Etzel". Claiming that the British had reneged on their original promise of the Balfour Declaration, and that the White Paper of 1939 restricting Jewish immigration was an escalation of their pro-Arab policy, he decided to break with the Haganah, which continued to cooperate militarily with the British as long as they were fighting Nazi Germany. Soon after he assumed command, a formal 'Declaration of Revolt' was publicized, and armed attacks against British forces were initiated. The IRGUN's attacks on British targets in Palestine made him one of the most wanted men in the region. The Palestine Government offered a reward of £10,000 for information leading to his arrest.
As the leader of Irgun, Begin played a central role in Jewish military resistance to the British Mandate of Palestine, but was strongly deplored and consequently sidelined by mainstream Zionist leadership. Begin issued a call to arms and from 1945 to 1948 the Irgun launched an all-out armed rebellion, perpetrating hundreds of attacks against British installations and posts. The Jewish Agency, headed by David Ben-Gurion, did not take kindly to the IRGUN's independent agenda, regarding it a defiance of the Agency's authority as the representative body of the Jewish community in Palestine. Ben-Gurion openly denounced the Irgun as the "enemy of the Jewish People", accusing it of sabotaging the political campaign for independence. Growing numbers of British forces were deployed to quell the Jewish uprising, yet Begin managed to elude captivity, at times disguised as a Rabbi.
In 1947, Begin met in secret with several members of the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine as well as the foreign press, to explain the outlook of his movement. In November 1947, the UN adopted the Partition Plan for Palestine, and Britain announced its plans to fully withdraw from Palestine by May 1948. Within days of the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948 Begin broadcast a speech on radio calling on his men to put down their weapons and join with the Haganah to form the newly established Israel Defense Forces (IDF). It was the first time that the public had ever heard his voice. As the Israeli War of Independence broke, IRGUN fighters joined forces with the Haganah and Lehi militia in fighting the Arab forces. Notable operations in which they took part were the battles of Jaffa, Haifa, and the Jordanian siege on the Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem.
The Irgun formally disbanded. However tensions with the IDF persisted over Ben-Gurion's uncompromising insistence on the IRGUNS's total surrender to the provisional government which he headed. These culminated in the confrontation over the Altalena cargo ship, which secretly delivered weapons to the Irgun in June 1948. The government demanded that the cargo be handed over to it unconditionally, however Begin refused to comply. Rather than negotiating, Ben-Gurion was determined to make this event an exemplary demonstration of the state's authority. He eventually ordered the IDF to take the ship by gunfire, and it sank off the shore of Tel Aviv. Begin, who was on board as the ship was being shelled, ordered his men not to retaliate in an attempt to prevent the crisis from spiraling into civil war. The Altalena Affair established Ben-Gurion as Israel's indisputable leader.
After the establishment of the State of Israel, Begin founded the right-wing political party Herut ("Freedom"), which would eventually evolve into the present-day Likud party. On June 1, 1967, Begin joined the Government of National Unity in which he served as Minister without Portfolio until August 4, 1970. Suffering eight consecutive defeats in the years preceding his premiership, Begin came to embody the opposition to the Labor Party, Ashkenazi Mapai-led establishment. On June 20, 1977, Mr. Menachem Begin, head of the Likud party, after having won the Knesset elections on May 17, 1977, presented the new Government to the Knesset and became Prime Minister of Israel. Despite having established himself as a fervent conservative ideologist, Begin's first significant achievement as Prime Minister was to negotiate the Camp David Accords with President Sadat of Egypt, agreeing on the full withdrawal of the Israel Defense Forces from the Sinai Peninsula and its return to Egypt in 1978. Together with Anwar Sadat, the two won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1978.
Yet in the years to follow, especially during his second term in office from 1981, Begin's government was to reclaim a nationalist agenda, promoting the expansion of Jewish settlements in the Israeli-occupied territories. In 1981, Begin ordered the bombing and destruction of Iraq's Tammuz nuclear reactor in Osirak by the Israeli Air Force, in a successful long-range operation called Operation Opera. Begin launched a limited invasion into southern Lebanon in 1982, which quickly escalated into full-fledged war. Begin resigned as the sixth Prime Minister of Israel in 1983. Menachem Begin died in Tel Aviv in 1992.
101 pages of CIA files dating from 1945 to 1948.
Files contain Palestine situation reports discussing: Strategic considerations in relation to U.S. interests; Political Situations; Economic Situations Foreign Affairs; Military Situations.
A 1947 report examines the consequences of partitioning Palestine. Topics include: Political consequences, Religious pressures, Tribal pressure, probable attitudes of Arab governments, probable actions of Arab governments, Aims of a Jewish state, Attitude of the Soviet Union, and Military consequences. The report contains information about the strengths of Irgun, Haganah, and the Stern Gang.
A CIA report titled, "Report on Clandestine Air Transport Operations Outside US Continental Limits Involving US Citizens and US-Owned Aircraft," examines Americans arranging for flights of arms to assist the Jewish underground movement in Palestine.
Other report titles include, "Possible Developments from the Palestine Truce" and "Probable Effects on Israel and the Arab States of a UN Arms Embargo."
BRITISH SECURITY SERVICE MI5 MI6 FILES
253 pages of British Security files on Menachem Begin dating from 1929 to 1955. These files were not released until 2006.
British Security files on Menachem Begin composed of compiled reports on Begin's movements, contacts and activities drawn from various sources. The files include details about Menachem Begin's early life. The files contain conflicting content on whether or not Begin served in Spain with the International Brigade. The file includes a photograph purportedly of Begin with comrades in Spain, but also information from other sources suggesting that he was elsewhere for the duration of the Spanish Civil War.
The files contain: Information, from a informant code named CHEST, on Begin's activities. Extracts from intercepted letters from underground leaders including Begin. Reference reports of information gained from interrogation of IRGUN members. Intelligence report on Begin's relationship with Ben Gurion. Information concerning his political activity in Israel. Surveillance reports on Begin's political party the Herut Group.
The possibility of Soviet control of Begin´s Irgun organization is one of the key concerns of the file. The files record various terrorist acts attributed to that organization. The file includes a Polish Security Middle East group report on Jewish terrorist activities, dated April 1945; and a report of intelligence sourced from Chilik Weizmann by the Secret Intelligence Service that Begin had undergone cosmetic surgery in February 1947 to conceal his identity (the SIS report comments dryly that "We have no description of the new face").
Later files focus on Menachem Begin´s post-war travels and meetings in Europe and the Americas. There is an April 1953 case summary, including details of the possible connections between Begin and the Russian intelligence service in which an agent writes, "…the answer would appear to be that Begin was probably not a Soviet agent in the sense that he was working for the RIS…but that there is some slight possibility that during 1947 he might have accepted or even sought Soviet financial assistance for the terrorist organization."
293 pages of FBI files dating from 1947 to 1949 covering IRGUN and Hagnah. Files contain approximately 85 narrative pages. Files give basic background information on Irgun and Hagnah. Topics include: Possible violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act and the Neutrality Act. Publicity for a planned Begin 1948 visit. FBI investigation into whether Begin should be admitted into the US. The files contain a collection of FBI newspaper articles on militant acts against British targets.
U.S. Government Foreign Press Monitoring
5,100 pages of foreign press monitoring containing 1,370 pages of related to Menachem Begin.
Media monitoring reports from 1977 to 1982, produced by the U.S. government's National Technical Information Service's U.S. Joint Publication Research Service. These 5,100 pages of reports focuses on the Middle East and North Africa. They contain information primarily from foreign newspapers, periodicals and books, but also from news agency transmissions and broadcasts. Materials from foreign-language sources are translated into English.
These 5,100 pages of serial reports contains information on socio-economic, government, political, and technical developments in the countries of the Near East and North Africa. Press coverage from and about Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Mauritania, Morocco, People's Democratic Republic of Yemen, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Spanish North Africa, Sudan, Sultanate of Oman, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Western Sahara, Yemen Arab Republic.
It includes Arab and Israeli press reaction to the Camp David Accords. This reporting contains samples of Arab and Israeli press reaction to the results of the Camp David Summit Conference. All the material is in the form of editorials, commentaries, and cartoons; and it is selected from some of the most important Arabic, Hebrew, French, and English language newspapers and periodicals published in most of the Arab states and in Israel. Some of
the material is from Arabic-language sources published in Paris and London.
Other major news event include reporting to the 1977 Israel general elections bringing Begin to the head of the Israeli government. Israel's 1982 invasion into Lebanon. Reports include over 100 cartoons from the Arab press on the Lebanon Crisis. Israeli political events toward the end of Begin's Premiership.
DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE FILES
244 pages of Department of Defense Reports.
Israel's Attack on Osiraq: A Model for Future Preventive Strike
Israel's Attack on Osiraq: A Model for Future Preventive Strike, a 79 page thesis by Major Peter S. Ford, United States Air Force. This thesis examines Osirak for lessons from a preventive attack on a non-conventional target. Ford conducted a personal interview with retired IAF Colonel Dov 'Doobi' Yoffe at his home in Israel after viewing the Heads Up Display (HUD) video of the 7 June 1981 strike. The video was a compilation of all Israeli Air Force F-16 aircraft that participated in the raid. It included take-off, ingress, pre-strike maneuvering, footage of the attack, post-strike defensive maneuvering, and egress back to Israel. The thesis contains information from personal interviews about the Osirak mission and the domestic political interaction preceding the strike. Aside from these first-hand sources, the thesis draws from select books on the subject. It also incorporates numerous scholarly articles, government documents, declassified information, foreign policy speeches, and media sources worldwide.
INSURGENCY IN IRAQ: AN HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE
This 27 page monograph considers the patterns of insurgency in the past by way of establishing how much the conflict in Iraq (2003-2005) conforms to previous experience. In particular, the author compares and contrasts Iraq with previous Middle Eastern insurgencies such as those in Palestine, Aden, the Dhofar province of Oman, Algeria, and Lebanon. He suggests that there is much that can be learned from British, French, and Israeli experience. Comparisons are made with IRGUN's 1947-1949 campaign against British occupation of Palestine.
The origins and formation of the Israeli defense forces: 1948
A 1971 Industrial College of the Armed Forces (U.S.) report by Lieutenant Colonel John Morgan Browder. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) were formed out of the armed groups which were present in the Jewish community in Palestine in 1948. This 65 page report covers the role of the Haganah, the Palmach, the Irgun Zvati Leumi, and the Stern Group, in the development of the IDF. This paper examines their origins, politics, strengths, and military ability. It also examines the process by which they were drawn into a single unified force. The paper supports the view that this process was pragmatic in nature, taking advantage of opportunities as they came along, yet making certain not to alienate an element while its contribution was still needed. Conclusions and general observations are presented on the evolutionary and cyclic nature of the formation process.
Israel: Problems and Viability
A 42 page National War College student report by Colonel W.W. Connor on the outlook of the partition and the creation of the State of Israel. Covered are agreements from Balfour to Bunche, conflict of Jewish and Arab convictions, immediate problems, social and economic impact of immigration into Israel, political aspects, and the future of Israeli-Arab relations.
THE ARAB POSITION ON PALESTEIN by Kermit Roosevelt
A National War College transcript of a November 24, 1948 lecture presented by secretary of the Committee for Peace and Justice in the Holy Land, Kermit Roosevelt, in which he mentions IRGUN and Begin.
Also included is an Australian Broadcasting Authority report of an investigation of an airing of a TV news program. The investigation was initiated over a complaint of inaccuracy of comparisons between Jewish underground militant actions and Palestinian militant actions.
The disc contains a text transcript of all recognizable text embedded into the graphic image of each page of each document, creating a searchable finding aid.
Text searches can be done across all files.