Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Moshe Sneh's Role in the King David Explosion

Recently, a new biography on Moshe Sneh has appeared, authored by Nir Mann, dealing with the period of his life when he commanded the Hebrew Resistance Movement.

Based on a review by Yossi Kister that appeared in Ha'Umma, in its issue 234, I summarize some new material on the King David Hotel explosion, portions which appeared in various articles Mann published.

Sneh pushed a line that was termed "activist" in those days in the Yishuv which meant that the fighting forces would attack rather than respond. As a result, between the end of 1945 and the summer of 1946, relatively large-scale and well-coordinated insurgency operations took place against British installations, rail lines, bridges and othe targets.

Already in May 1946, Sneh managed to get its Committee 'X' to authorize a new series of objects, one of which included the King David Hotel's southern wing. It was that section of the hotel that had been appropriated by the Mandate Government already in 1939 for offices. In 1946, senior officials, both in the civil and military departments, were in that wing.

However, on May 8, 1946, David Ben-Gurion had written of his unwillingess to continue offense actions. Sneh's policy was saved, as it were, by Britain's unwillingness to permit increased immigration which undermined the position furthered by Moshe Sharett and other moderates. In reaction to the "Black Sabbath" operation of the British, a further decision was taken to act in a triple operation.

Some ten days prior to the King David operation, the personal political secretary of Chaim Weizmann, Meir Wesigal, visited Sneh and instructed him to cease all military operations. As a result, Sneh tendered his resignation on July 17. However, despite the initial authorization given to both the Irgun and the Lechi for the planned actions at the Hotel and the nearby Royal Air Force Intelligence offices, Sneh did not inform neither Menachem Begin or Natan Yellin-Mor regarding his resignation.

His handwritten note to Begin of July 19 simply asked Begin, a second time, to delay the operation for a few days. Begin waited a few days and the new date was fixed for July 22. However, Begin was not apprised of the resignation. Moreover, he was unaware that Sneh on the day of the explosion was in Haifa sneaking aboard a commercial ship and the next day left the country clandestinely for Paris, there to join Ben-Gurion for a Zionist conference.

In a sense, Begin, and the Irgun, were left "holding the bag". The Hagana-led United Resistance Movement had insisted that the Irgun assume all responsibility even though the regular policy was that only the URM would appear as the sponsoring organization in announcements.

If Sneh had informed Begin of all the background, had told him he was no long the head of the URM (to one interviewer in his later years he said he didn't tell Begin to further delay the operation as he was no longer in command (!)) or even ordered him to halt the plans, there may have been a difference although I am not sure. 

In any case, the King David Hotel explosion was a joint Hagana-Irgun operation authorized by the highest echelons.



Viator said...

So Stern gang and Irgun are the same, was there not a split and didn't the Stern gang continue independent of Irgun?

Viator said...

Maybe off topic, but I find the plan to bomb London interesting in an ironic way. Nobody thinks of Jews when hearing terrorists mentioned.

YMedad said...

Avraham Stern disagreed with the Irgun's cessation of anti-British activity following the outbreak of World War II. Earlier, he was already more of a revolutionary activist thinker than the Revisionist Movement and so the Lechi (Stern Group) and Irgun/Etzel remained two separate organizations.

Viator said...

Interesting, thank you.

Viator said...

So Avraham Stern was for continued attacks on the nazis enemies following outbreak of ww2. Was he per chanche involved in the negotiations that eventually fell through, of deporting Jews from Germany to Israel?

Viator said...

... sorry I mean nazi enemy, singular. Meaning the British.

YMedad said...

Stern's outlook was that the true enemy of the Jews was the power who prevented Jewish liberation of the homeland, a result which would allow Jews to flee Europe (as the British in 1939 restricted Jewish immigration to 15,000 annually). He was killed in February 1942 and so was lacking a true understanding of the enormity of the Nazi planned Holocaust.