July 22, 1946
Members of the Jewish defense organization the Irgun bombed the British administrative headquarters in Palestine, based in the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. Ninety-one people were killed; among them were twenty-eight British, forty-one Arabs, and seventeen Jews. The Irgun’s goal was to drive the British out of Palestine. The British did decide to withdraw six months later, when they turned Palestine over to the United Nations.
The Irgun had been founded in 1931 by Vladimir “Ze’ev” Jabotinsky, who strongly believed that the Haganah (official defense organization of the Yishuv) was not sufficiently aggressive towards the British. Known commonly as “the Irgun,” the organization’s full name was Ha-Irgun HaTzevai HaLe’umi B’Eretz Yisrael (“National Military Organization”). It was also known by its Hebrew acronym, Etzel. Menahem Begin, prime minister of Israel from 1977-1982, was one of the Irgun’s early leaders. As commander of the Irgun in 1943, Begin is believed to have been responsible for planning and executing the King David Hotel attack.
The bombing took place after a team of Irgun fighters set up the explosives and two female Irgun members telephoned both the hotel’s operator and the editors of the Palestine Post. Intending to prevent casualties, they delivered this message: “I am speaking on behalf of the Hebrew underground. We have placed an explosive device in the hotel. Evacuate it at once – you have been warned.” Despite this warning, many officials stayed in the hotel. The attack was condemned by David Ben-Gurion, who was serving as head of the Jewish Agency at that time. He told a French newspaper that the Irgun was an enemy of the Jewish people.
For more information about the King David Hotel bombing see:
A 1946 British newsreel report of the attack: http://tinyurl.com/lxpyw3u.
The Irgun historical website has more background about the Irgun as well as the bombing: http://www.etzel.org.il/english/ac10.htm.
An article from July 2012 in Tablet magazine is about the author’s grandfather’s role in the King David Hotel attack: http://tinyurl.com/coczyo6.
The photo shows the King David Hotel in ruins on July 22, 1946.