16 May 2023

What is Irgun? – Meaning and activity of the Etzel during the British Mandate in Palestine

By Donald

During the British Mandate in Palestine, the political situation was extremely volatile. As tensions between Jews and Arabs rose, armed groups like the Irgun were emerging as significant forces in the struggle for control of the region.

Known for its commitment to Zionism and its controversial tactics, Irgun became a key player in the Arab-Israeli conflict that has lasted to this day. In this article, we will explore the meaning and activities of Irgun during the British Mandate in Palestine.

What does Irgún or Etzel mean?

‘Irgun’ is a Hebrew word meaning ‘organization’. It is the acronym in Hebrew for ‘Irgun Tzva’i Leumi’, which translates into Spanish as ‘National Military Organization’. ‘Etzel’ is the Hebrew acronym for the same expression, and refers to the same Jewish paramilitary group that was formed during the British Mandate in Palestine. Both terms are used interchangeably to refer to this Zionist armed group.

What was the function of the Irgun?

The main function of the Irgun, also known as Etzel, was to fight for the creation of an independent Jewish state in Palestine, which at that time was under the rule of the British Mandate. The Irgun considered that the British had broken promises made in the 1917 Balfour Declaration, which supported the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine.

In this context, Irgún carried out a series of armed actions and terrorist operations against British and Arab targets, with the goal of putting pressure on the British to allow Jewish immigration and the creation of the Jewish state in Palestine.

In addition, Irgun also fought against Arab militias in the region and tried to expel the Arabs from their homes in Palestine in order to establish a homogeneous Jewish state.

What are the characteristics of the Etzel?

The main features of the Irgun, also known as Etzel, include the following:

  • Commitment to Zionism: Irgun had a strong belief in Zionism, which is the political and cultural movement which seeks the establishment and support of a Jewish state in Palestine.
  • use of violence: Irgun used violence and armed force to fight for Jewish independence in Palestine. His actions included terrorist attacks, sabotage, targeted genocide, and other violent acts against Britons and Arabs.
  • disputes: Irgun tactics were the subject of controversy both within the Jewish community and in the international scene. Some Jews viewed the Irgun’s actions as detrimental to the cause of Jewish independence, while the international community viewed the Irgun as a terrorist group.
  • militarized organization: Irgún was organized as a paramilitary force highly structured and hierarchical, with its own system of training, command and control.
  • independence strategy: The main objective of Irgun was to achieve Jewish independence in Palestine, through pressure on the British and the fight against the Arabs. To do this, Irgún carried out a series of military and terrorist operations in order to weaken British control over the region.

How did the Irgun work?

The Irgun, also known as Etzel, functioned as a hierarchical and disciplined paramilitary organization. It had a centralized organizational structure and a network of cells throughout the country.

Its members received a intensive military training and they were taught to handle different types of weapons and combat tactics, as well as to gather intelligence information and carry out covert operations.

Irgun carried out a series of military and terrorist operations throughout the Palestinian territory, with the aim of achieve Jewish independence in Palestine and pressure the British to allow Jewish immigration and the creation of a Jewish state in the region.

For finance and equip their operations, the Irgun received support from various sources, including the Jewish diaspora, Zionist sympathizers, and arms dealers. His performance was marked by violence and forcefulness, with actions that included sabotage, bomb attacks, selective assassinations, and other acts of terrorism.

The Irgun became one of the most influential and active organizations in the struggle for Jewish independence in Palestine during the British Mandate. However, his extremist and violent approach generated controversy within the Zionist movement itself and led to the international condemnation.

Despite their ideological differences, the Irgun and the Haganah, another Jewish military doctrine, sometimes cooperated to achieve their common goals. Both organizations merged in 1948 to form the Israel Defense Forceswhich became the official army of the State of Israel upon its creation that same year.

Main activity of Irgun

The main activity of the Irgun was the armed conflict against the British authorities and the Arabs in Palestine during the British Mandate.

Irgún carried out a series of actions that included sabotage, bombings, targeted assassinations, and other acts of terrorism. He also carried out intelligence and propaganda operations to spread his message and win support both in Palestine and abroad.

On the other hand, the military and terrorist operations were not only aimed at fighting the British and Arabs in Palestine, but also against other Jewish targets who were considered ‘traitors’ to the Zionist movement.

In some cases, the Irgun carried out attacks against Jewish targets who opposed its agenda or were seen as collaborating with the British or Arabs. For example, in 1944, the Irgun carried out an attack on the King David hotel in Jerusalem, which at the time was the seat of the British government in Palestine, killing 91 people, including 17 Jews. This attack was condemned by Zionist leadership and the international community and generated controversy within the Zionist movement itself.

Other important information about the Irgun is that, despite its reputation as an extremist and violent organization, many of its members also participated in the construction of the State of Israel and in the creation of its political and military institutions.

Various leaders and members of the Irgun occupied important positions in the government and the Israeli armed forces after its creation in 1948. The Irgun’s legacy remains the subject of controversy and debate in Israel and around the world, and its history is a reminder of the challenges and dilemmas of the struggle for national independence. in a context of conflicts and ethnic and political tensions.

On the other hand, the Irgun relationship with Britain it was tense and contentious during the British Mandate for Palestine. The Irgun viewed the British as the illegitimate occupiers of Palestine and those responsible for preventing Jewish immigration and the creation of a Jewish state in the region.

However, the Irgun also had some contacts and negotiations with the British, especially after World War II, when the British were dealing with increasing international and nationalist pressure on Palestine. In 1947, the Irgun declared a ceasefire and agreed to cooperate with the British forces in the fight against the Arab forces.

In addition, some members of the Irgun also collaborated with the British forces in the Second World Wardespite the struggle of the Zionist movement against the British in Palestine.