The Yishuv Responds

The Jews in Palestine respond to Nazi anti-semitism and genocide, 1929-1945.

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Youth movements and Zionist organizations set up transport systems to get Jews to small ports in southern Europe. From there, a part of the Haganah [the non-governmental Jewish military organization] called the Mossad L'Aliyah Bet tried to sneak boatloads of Jews into Palestine. By the end of 1939, thousands of Jews had arrived in Palestine illegally.

In 1936, despite all British attempts to placate them, the Arabs of Palestine set up a revolt against both the British and the Yishuv. Mobs attacked and ransacked the Jewish quarter of Jaffa.The Arabs declared a countrywide work strike, and the Yishuv took over all necessary civil occupations. With the permission of theBritish High Commissioner, the Yishuv established a port in Tel Aviv, thus replacing Jaffa, which was on strike.

The Arabs began a policy of terrorism against the British and the Yishuv. The Haganah announced a policy of restraint: defend but don't attack. The Yishuv developed a new defense measure. They chose sites which the Arabs would have to pass to get to a Jewish town or village. In the middle of the night, groups of young Jews would race to the selected site with prefab walls. Working through the night, they would set up a defense wall (made of the prefab wooden frames filled with gravel) and a watchtower with a searchlight. Protected from immediate Arab attack, they then added houses within the walls and planted fields, creating permanent settlements.

In this way, 52 settlements formed a fence around the older Yishuv neighbors, protecting them from Arab attacks. They were called tower and stockade settlements, and they saved many towns from possible massacres.

In addition, a British captain, Orde Charles Wingate, trained Jewish volunteers from the Haganah to counterattack against the Arabs and protect the British oil pipeline. Many of his students, such as Moshe Dayan and Yigal Allon, eventually became the military leaders of Israel. For his friendship with the Yishuv, Wingate was banished by the British from Palestine and never permitted to return. He was killed in Burma during World War II.

For one group of angry young Jews, the Haganah defense policy of restraint in the face of Arab attacks wasn't acceptable. Led by Zev Jabotinsky, who was still living in exile, this group broke away from the Haganah to create a separate Jewish military force called the Irgun Tz'vaei Leumi, referred to as either the Irgun or Etzel, the acronym of its full title.

The Irgun responded to every terrorist attack with its own terrorist attack. The Yishuv, fearing political reprisals from the British, and the loss of world sympathy if Jews were seen as terrorists, opposed the Irgun and their raids.

In 1939, when the Haganah and many in the Yishuv decided to help the British fight the Nazis, the Irgun declared that the British were as much an enemy as Germany or the Arabs, and they began terrorist raids against the British. Again the Yishuv and the Haganah opposed these actions.

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