Friday, October 09, 2020

Dr. Bernard Joseph at the American Consulate 1945

Class Four State Department offical Malcolm P. Hooper who served as Consul at the US Consulate-General in Jerusalem since end of December 1943, received for an interview Bernard Joseph, Acting Head of the Political Department of the Jewish Agency in the absence of Mr. Shertok. I reproduce a large part of his November 3 report back to Washingtion. But first some background.

The Hebrew Resistance Movement, coordination armed attacks of sabotage against the Britih Mandatory regime, launched its first military stirke against the country's railway system on the night of October 30-November 1. The Palmach damgaed the raillines at 153 locations, the Irgun raided the Lydda train station and the Lechi failed to damage the oil refineries near Haifa due to a premature explosion. 

The formation of this framework had been in the works for more than two months.

By the way, at the Palmach site you can read

Palmach members participated, among others, in the following anti-British operations (not personal terror)

Not quite true. They assassinated Willim Henry Bruce.

To get back to Joseph, the record of the interview:

Dr. Joseph asked for an appointment...the Jewish Agency had nothing to conceal from the American Government and that he wished to tell the Consul in Charge whatever he knew of the unfortunate events involving attacks on the railway system and other acts committed during the night of October 31—November 1, 1945.

Dr. Joseph appeared highly excited and under considerable nervous strain. He inferred that the whole matter was being investigated by the Jewish Agency but that he had no positive knowledge as to who the perpetrators were. Although he more or less refrained from point-blank indication that the Hagana had been the responsible body, he repeated several times that an operation of such vastness could only “have been carried out by a large number of people, inferring beyond any doubt that the existing terrorist organizations—Stern and Irgun Zvei Leumi—had no adequate manpower to operate on such a large scale. He indicated that at least 3,000 people must have taken part in the operation.

The conversation revolved around the Palestine Post editorial of the same day....

Dr. Joseph, in disclaiming positive knowledge Hagana’s part in the outrages, very readily admitted that sentiments expressed in the editorial were the true sentiments of the Yishuv as a whole. In questioning Dr. Joseph on the connection between the Jewish Agency and the Hagana, Dr. Joseph stated that as far as the Jewish Agency was concerned Hagana existed solely for the protection of lives and property of the Yishuv, and if the Hagana should choose to branch into other fields of activity, of offensive nature for example, the Jewish Agency would hardly be able to exercise any control over that body. He insisted that no fusion had taken place of Hagana and the terrorist organizations and pointed to the fact that the Jewish Agency cooperated closely with the Government in breaking up terrorist activities [the Saison] during the past year. He admitted that some members of Hagana have joined the Irgun Zvei Leumi...

Dr. Joseph, ordinarily a somewhat emotional person, appeared in an exceedingly high state of excitment. His occasional outbreaks in the defense of the outrages belied many of his more formal statements but left little doubt in the minds of the interviewing officers as to the part played by the Jewish Agency and the organizations it controls.



P.S. Follow-up in London, two days later

Dr. Weizmann, accompanied by Mr. Shertok, came to see Mr. Bevin on November 2nd. Mr. Bevin asked them whether the outrages committed in Palestine on the previous day were to be taken as an indication that the Jews intended to settle the question by force, and whether we were to regard the effort that we have been making for conciliation as at an end. Dr. Weizmann said that he deprecated these outrages, and quoted a published resolution of the Jewish Agency, repudiating recourse to violence but adding that it found “its capacity to impose restraint severely tried by the maintenance of a policy which Jews regard as fatal to their future”. Mr. Bevin pointed out that these last words were in effect a condonation of violence.


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