Haganah was a Jewish paramilitary
A paramilitary is a force whose function and organization are similar to those of a professional military, but which is not considered part of a state's formal armed forces....

 organization in what was then the British Mandate of Palestine from 1920 to 1948, which later became the core of the Israel Defense Forces
Israel Defense Forces
The Israel Defense Forces , commonly known in Israel by the Hebrew acronym Tzahal , are the military forces of the State of Israel. They consist of the ground forces, air force and navy. It is the sole military wing of the Israeli security forces, and has no civilian jurisdiction within Israel...



The predecessor of Haganah was Hashomer
Hashomer was a Jewish defense organization in Palestine founded out of Bar-Giora in April 1909. It ceased to operate after the founding of the Haganah in 1920. The purpose of Hashomer was to provide guard services for Jewish settlements in the Yishuv, freeing Jewish communities from dependence...

  established in 1909, itself a successor of Bar-Giora
Bar-Giora was a Jewish self-defense organization of the Second Aliyah, the precursor of Hashomer.- History :On September 28, 1907, a group of Poalei Zion members gathered at Yitzhak Ben-Zvi's unfurnished apartment in Jaffa apartment formed Bar-Giora, a Jewish self-defense organization named for...

, founded in 1907. The Bar-Giora consisted of a small group of Jewish immigrants
Aliyah is the immigration of Jews to the Land of Israel . It is a basic tenet of Zionist ideology. The opposite action, emigration from Israel, is referred to as yerida . The return to the Holy Land has been a Jewish aspiration since the Babylonian exile...

 who guarded settlements for an annual fee. At no time did the group have more than 100 members.

1920 and 1921 Arab riots

After the 1920 Arab riots
1920 Palestine riots
The 1920 Palestine riots, or Nabi Musa riots, took place in British Mandate of Palestine April 4–7, 1920 in and around the Old City of Jerusalem....

 and 1921 Jaffa riots
Jaffa riots
The Jaffa riots were a series of violent riots in Palestine on May 1–7, 1921, which began as a fight between two Jewish groups but developed into an attack by Arabs on Jews during which many were killed...

, the Jewish leadership in Palestine believed that the British, to whom the League of Nations
League of Nations
The League of Nations was an intergovernmental organization founded as a result of the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War. It was the first permanent international organization whose principal mission was to maintain world peace...

 had given a mandate over Palestine in 1920, had no desire to confront local Arab gangs which frequently attacked Palestinian Jews. Believing that they could not rely on the British administration for protection from these gangs, the Jewish leadership created the Haganah to protect Jewish farms and kibbutz
A kibbutz is a collective community in Israel that was traditionally based on agriculture. Today, farming has been partly supplanted by other economic branches, including industrial plants and high-tech enterprises. Kibbutzim began as utopian communities, a combination of socialism and Zionism...

im. In addition to guarding Jewish communities, the role of the Haganah was to warn the residents of and repel attacks by Palestinian Arabs. In the period between 1920–1929, the Haganah lacked a strong central authority or coordination. Haganah "units" were very localized and poorly armed: they consisted mainly of Jewish farmers who took turns guarding their farms or their kibbutzim.

Following the 1929 Palestine riots
1929 Palestine riots
The 1929 Palestine riots, also known as the Western Wall Uprising, the 1929 Massacres, , or the Buraq Uprising , refers to a series of demonstrations and riots in late August 1929 when a long-running dispute between Muslims and Jews over access to the Western Wall in Jerusalem escalated into violence...

, the Haganah's role changed dramatically. It became a much larger organization encompassing nearly all the youth and adults in the Jewish settlements, as well as thousands of members from the cities. It also acquired foreign arms and began to develop workshops to create hand grenade
Hand grenade
A hand grenade is any small bomb that can be thrown by hand. Hand grenades are classified into three categories, explosive grenades, chemical and gas grenades. Explosive grenades are the most commonly used in modern warfare, and are designed to detonate after impact or after a set amount of time...

s and simple military equipment, transforming from an untrained militia to a capable underground army.

1931 Irgun split

Many Haganah fighters objected to the official policy of havlagah
HaHavlagah was a strategic policy used by the Haganah members with regard to actions taken against Arab groups who were attacking the Jewish settlement during the British Mandate of Palestine. Its core principles were fortification and abstention from taking revenge on Arabs by attacking innocent...

(restraint) that Jewish political leaders (who had become increasingly controlling of the Haganah) had imposed on the militia. Fighters had been instructed to only defend communities and not initiate counter attacks against Arab gangs or their communities. This policy appeared defeatist
Defeatism is acceptance of defeat without struggle. In everyday use, defeatism has negative connotation and is often linked to treason and pessimism, or even a hopeless situation such as a Catch-22...

 to many who believed that the best defense is a good offense. In 1931, the more militant elements of the Haganah splintered off and formed the Irgun Tsva'i-Leumi (National Military Organization), better known as "Irgun
The Irgun , or Irgun Zevai Leumi to give it its full title , was a Zionist paramilitary group that operated in Mandate Palestine between 1931 and 1948. It was an offshoot of the earlier and larger Jewish paramilitary organization haHaganah...

" (or by its Hebrew acronym, pronounced "Etzel").

1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine

During the 1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine, the Haganah worked to protect British interests and to quell Arab rebellion using the FOSH, and then Hish
The Hish was a corps formed by the Haganah in the British Mandate of Palestine in 1939 following the disbandment of the smaller mobilized force known as the Fosh. It was the Haganah's main surface corps, alongside Him and the Palmach....

 units. At that time, the Haganah fielded 10,000 mobilized men along with 40,000 reservists. Although the British administration did not officially recognize the Haganah, the British security forces cooperated with it by forming the Jewish Settlement Police
Jewish Settlement Police
The Jewish Settlement Police were a division of the Notrim established in Mandatory Palestine in 1936, during the Arab Revolt.-History:...

, Jewish Supernumerary Police
Jewish Supernumerary Police
The Jewish Supernumerary Police were a branch of the Guards set up by the British in Mandate Palestine in June 1936. Around 22,000 Notrim were appointed, armed and equipped by the British to act as a protective militia for Jewish settlements...

 and Special Night Squads
Special Night Squads
The Special Night Squads were a joint British-Jewish counter-insurgency unit, established by Captain Orde Wingate in Palestine in 1938, during the 1936-1939 Arab revolt. The SNS comprised British infantry soldiers and Jewish Supernumerary Police...

, which were trained and led by Colonel Orde Wingate. The battle experience gained during the training was useful in the 1948 Arab–Israeli War.

1939 White Paper

By 1939, the British has issued the White Paper
White Paper of 1939
The White Paper of 1939, also known as the MacDonald White Paper after Malcolm MacDonald, the British Colonial Secretary who presided over it, was a policy paper issued by the British government under Neville Chamberlain in which the idea of partitioning the Mandate for Palestine, as recommended in...

, which severely restricted Jewish immigration to Palestine, deeply angering the Zionist leadership. David Ben-Gurion
David Ben-Gurion
' was the first Prime Minister of Israel.Ben-Gurion's passion for Zionism, which began early in life, led him to become a major Zionist leader and Executive Head of the World Zionist Organization in 1946...

, then chairman of the Jewish Agency, set the policy for the Zionist relationship with the British: We shall fight the war against Hitler as if there were no White Paper, and we shall fight the White Paper as if there were no war.

In reaction to the White Paper, the Haganah built up the Palmach
The Palmach was the elite fighting force of the Haganah, the underground army of the Yishuv during the period of the British Mandate of Palestine. The Palmach was established on May 15, 1941...

 as the Haganah's elite strike force and organized illegal Jewish immigration to Palestine. Approximately 100,000 Jews were brought to Palestine in over one hundred ships during the final decade of what became known as Aliyah Bet. The Haganah also organized demonstrations against British immigration quotas.

World War II participation

In the first years of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, the British authorities asked Haganah for cooperation again, due to the fear for an Axis
Axis Powers
The Axis powers , also known as the Axis alliance, Axis nations, Axis countries, or just the Axis, was an alignment of great powers during the mid-20th century that fought World War II against the Allies. It began in 1936 with treaties of friendship between Germany and Italy and between Germany and...

 breakthrough in North Africa. After Rommel
Erwin Rommel
Erwin Johannes Eugen Rommel , popularly known as the Desert Fox , was a German Field Marshal of World War II. He won the respect of both his own troops and the enemies he fought....

 was defeated at El Alamein
El Alamein
El Alamein is a town in the northern Matrouh Governorate of Egypt. Located on the Mediterranean Sea, it lies west of Alexandria and northwest of Cairo. As of 2007, it has a local population of 7,397 inhabitants.- Climate :...

 in 1942, the British stepped back from their all-out support for Haganah. In 1943, after a long series of requests and negotiations, the British Army announced the creation of the Jewish Brigade Group
Jewish Brigade
The Jewish Infantry Brigade Group was a military formation of the British Army that served in Europe during the Second World War. The brigade was formed in late 1944, and its personnel fought the Germans in Italy...

. While Palestinian Jews had been permitted to enlist in the British army since 1940, this was the first time an exclusively Jewish military unit served in the war under a Jewish flag. The Jewish Brigade Group consisted of 5,000 soldiers and was deployed in Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 in September 1944. The brigade was disbanded in 1946. All in all, more than 30,000 Palestinian Jews served in the British army during the war.

On May 14, 1941 the Haganah created the Palmach
The Palmach was the elite fighting force of the Haganah, the underground army of the Yishuv during the period of the British Mandate of Palestine. The Palmach was established on May 15, 1941...

 (an acronym for Plugot Mahatz—strike companies), an elite commando section, in preparation against the possibility of a British withdrawal and Axis
Axis Powers
The Axis powers , also known as the Axis alliance, Axis nations, Axis countries, or just the Axis, was an alignment of great powers during the mid-20th century that fought World War II against the Allies. It began in 1936 with treaties of friendship between Germany and Italy and between Germany and...

 invasion of Palestine. Its members, young men and women, received specialist training in guerilla tactics and sabotage. During 1942 the British gave assistance in the training of Palmach volunteers but in early 1943 they withdrew their support and attempted to disarm them. The Palmach, then numbering over 1000, continued as an underground organisation with its members working half of each month as kibbutz
A kibbutz is a collective community in Israel that was traditionally based on agriculture. Today, farming has been partly supplanted by other economic branches, including industrial plants and high-tech enterprises. Kibbutzim began as utopian communities, a combination of socialism and Zionism...

 volunteers, the rest of the month spent training. It was never large — by 1947 it amounted to merely five battalions (about 2,000 men) — but its members had received not only physical and military training, but also acquired leadership skills that would subsequently enable them to take up command positions in Israel's army.

1944 Lord Moyne assassination

In 1944, after the assassination of Lord Moyne, (the British Minister of State for the Middle East), by members of the Lehi, the Haganah worked with the British to kidnap, interrogate, and in some cases, deport Irgun members. This action was called The Saison
The Hunting Season
The Hunting Season or The Saison was the name given to the Haganah's suppression of the Irgun's insurgency against the government of the British Mandate in Palestine.-Background:...

, or hunting season, and was directed against the Irgun and not the Lehi. Future Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek
Teddy Kollek
Theodor "Teddy" Kollek was mayor of Jerusalem from 1965 to 1993, and founder of the Jerusalem Foundation. Kollek was re-elected five times, in 1969, 1973, 1978, 1983 and 1989...

 was later revealed to be the official most responsible, under the code name Scorpion, for turning Irgun activists over to the British authorities.

Many Jewish youth, who had joined the Haganah in order to defend the Jewish people, were greatly demoralized by operations against their own people. The Irgun, paralyzed by the Saison, were ordered by their commander, Menachem Begin
Menachem Begin
' was a politician, founder of Likud and the sixth Prime Minister of the State of Israel. Before independence, he was the leader of the Zionist militant group Irgun, the Revisionist breakaway from the larger Jewish paramilitary organization Haganah. He proclaimed a revolt, on 1 February 1944,...

, not to retaliate in an effort to avoid a full blown civil war. Although many Irgunists objected to these orders, they obeyed Begin and refrained from fighting back. The Saison eventually ended due to perceived British betrayal becoming more obvious to the public and Haganah youth becoming increasingly vocal in their opposition to the policy.

Jewish Resistance Movement

The Saison officially ended when the Haganah, Irgun and the Lehi formed the Jewish Resistance Movement
Jewish Resistance Movement
The Jewish Resistance Movement , sometimes called United Resistance Movement , was an umbrella group for Jewish Resistance movements in the British Mandate of Palestine...

, in 1945. Within this new framework, the three groups had different functions, which served to drive the British out of Palestine and create a Jewish state
Jewish state
A homeland for the Jewish people was an idea that rose to the fore in the 19th century in the wake of growing anti-Semitism and Jewish assimilation. Jewish emancipation in Europe paved the way for two ideological solutions to the Jewish Question: cultural assimilation, as envisaged by Moses...


The Haganah officially withdrew from the Jewish Rebellion on 1 July 1946, but "remained permanently unco-operative."
British estimates of the Haganah's strength at this time were a paper strength of 75,000 men and women with an effective strength of 30,000.

Post World War II

After the war, the Haganah carried out anti-British operations in Palestine, such as the liberation of interned immigrants from the Atlit detainee camp
Atlit detainee camp
The Atlit detainee camp was a detention camp established by the British at the end of the 1930s on what is now Israel's northern coast south of Haifa. The camp was established to prevent Jewish refugees, mainly Holocaust survivors, from entering then-Palestine...

, the bombing of the country's railroad network
Night of the Trains
The Night of the Trains was a sabotage operation of the British railroads in Palestine on November 1, 1945...

, and sabotage raids on radar installations and bases of the British Palestine police. It also continued to organize illegal immigration.

On May 28, 1948, less than two weeks after the creation of the state of Israel on May 15, the provisional government created the Israeli Defense Forces which would succeed the Haganah. It also outlawed maintenance of any other armed force.

Famous members of the Haganah included Yitzhak Rabin
Yitzhak Rabin
' was an Israeli politician, statesman and general. He was the fifth Prime Minister of Israel, serving two terms in office, 1974–77 and 1992 until his assassination in 1995....

, Ariel Sharon
Ariel Sharon
Ariel Sharon is an Israeli statesman and retired general, who served as Israel’s 11th Prime Minister. He has been in a permanent vegetative state since suffering a stroke on 4 January 2006....

, Rehavam Zeevi
Rehavam Zeevi
' 20 June 1926 - 17 October 2001) was an Israeli general, politician, and historian who founded the right-wing nationalist Moledet party, mainly advocating population transfer....

, Dov Hoz
Dov Hoz
Dov Hoz was a leader of the Labor Zionism movement, one of the founders of the Haganah organization, and a pioneer of Israeli aviation.-Biography:...

, Moshe Dayan
Moshe Dayan
Moshe Dayan was an Israeli military leader and politician. The fourth Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces , he became a fighting symbol to the world of the new State of Israel...

, Yigal Allon
Yigal Allon
Yigal Allon was an Israeli politician, a commander of the Palmach, and a general in the IDF. He served as one of the leaders of Ahdut HaAvoda party and the Israeli Labor party, and acting Prime Minister of Israel, and was a member of the Knesset and government minister from the 10th through the...

 and Dr. Ruth Westheimer
Ruth Westheimer
Ruth Westheimer is an American sex therapist, media personality, and author. Best known as Dr. Ruth, the New York Times described her as a "Sorbonne-trained psychologist who became a kind of cultural icon in the 1980s...


The Museum of Underground Prisoners
Museum of Underground Prisoners
Museum of Underground Prisoners is a museum in Jerusalem, Israel, commemorating the activity of the Jewish underground - Haganah, Irgun and Lehi - during the period leading up the establishment of the State of Israel.-History of the building:...

 in Jerusalem commemorates the activity of the underground groups in the pre-state period, recreating the every day life of those imprisoned there.

Pal-Heib Unit

Some Bedouins had long standing ties with nearby Jewish communities. They helped defend these communities in the 1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine. During the 1948 Arab-Israeli War
1948 Arab-Israeli War
The 1948 Arab–Israeli War, known to Israelis as the War of Independence or War of Liberation The war commenced after the termination of the British Mandate for Palestine and the creation of an independent Israel at midnight on 14 May 1948 when, following a period of civil war, Arab armies invaded...

, some Bedouins of Tuba
Tuba-Zangariyye or Tuba az-Zanghariyya is a Bedouin town in the North District of Israel that achieved local council status in 1988. It was formed by the merger of two villages, Tuba and az-Zangariyye. Populated by the Bedouin tribe of El Heib, Tuba is situated near Kfar Hanassi, overlooking the...

 formed an alliance with the Haganah defending Jewish communities in the Upper Galilee
Upper Galilee
The Upper Galilee is a geographical-political term in use since the end of the Second Temple period, originally referring to a mountainous area overlapping the present northern Israel and southern Lebanon, its borders being the Litani river in the north, the Mediterranean Sea in the west, the Beit...

 against Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

. Some were part of a Pal-Heib unit of the Haganah. Sheik Hussein Mohammed Ali Abu Yussef of Tuba was quoted in 1948 as saying, "Is it not written in the Koran that the ties of neighbors are as dear as those of relations? Our friendship with the Jews goes back many years. We felt we could trust them and they learned from us too".

Further reading

  • Bregman, Ahron. Israel's Wars: A History Since 1947. London: Routledge, 2002. ISBN 0-415-28716-2.
  • Niv, David. The Irgun Tsva'i Leumi. Jerusalem: World Zionist Organization (Department for Education and Culture), 1980.
  • "Text of the British White Paper Linking Jewish Agency to Zionist Terrorism in Palestine," The New York Times, July 25, 1946, p. 8.
  • Zadka, Dr. Saul. Blood in Zion, How the Jewish Guerrillas drove the British out of Palestine. London: Brassey's, 1995. ISBN 1-85753-136-1.
  • Jim G. Tobias, Peter Zinke. Nakam - Jüdische Rache an NS-Tätern. Konkret Literatur Verlag, Hamburg 2000. 173 Seiten, ISBN 3-89458-194-8 (German, about 1944-1947)
  • Bergman, Ronen. Kollek was British informer. Ynet news. March 29, 2007. http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3382779,00.html

External links

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