Jewish plot to kill Bevin in London
By Peter Day
Times" -- -- JEWISH terrorists plotted to
assassinate Ernest Bevin, the foreign secretary, in 1946, as
part of their campaign to establish the state of Israel, newly
declassified intelligence files have shown. The plan was devised
by Irgun, the insurgent group led by Menachem Begin, who went on
to become a Nobel peace prize winner and prime minister of
Begin, whom MI6 believed was backed by the Soviet Union, planned
to send five terrorist cells to Britain to carry out bombings
and assassinations that would “beat the dog in his own kennel”.
The Jewish insurgents aimed to force British occupying forces
out of Palestine, enabling the founding of the Jewish state.
Details of the plot are included in MI5 files released at the
National Archives in Kew, London.
Lord Bethell, author of The Palestine Triangle and an expert on
Soviet intelligence, said Bevin was detested by Zionist groups.
He added, however: “Zionists would be very angry if you compared
these people with terrorists now. You have to remember that
Irgun were the grandfathers of today’s ruling politicians.
“They would say they were at war with the British and behaved
well, fighting under Marquess of Queensberry rules. They would
say that they didn’t target civilians.”
Before the establishment of Israel in 1948, Britain governed the
whole of Palestine under a mandate from the United Nations.
Agitation among the Jewish population for a separate state
escalated immediately after the second world war as refugees
flooded in from Europe.
It reached its most intense point in July 1946, when the British
headquarters at the King David hotel in Jerusalem was bombed by
Jewish fighters dressed as Arabs with explosives contained in
milk churns. Ninety-one people, 28 of them British, were killed.
The MI5 files contain a report suggesting that Irgun carried out
the attack after drawing lots with two other militant groups,
Stern and Hagana. Stern drew the lot to attack British ships in
the Mediterranean while Hagana were chosen to attack army camps.
In August 1946, the month after the King David attack, Major
James Robertson, head of MI5’s Middle East section, warned
London that both Begin’s group and Stern were sending five
terrorist cells to the capital to mirror IRA tactics of bombing
Roberston added: “In recent months it has been reported that
they have been training selected members for the purpose of
assassinating a prominent British personality. Special reference
has been several times made to Mr Bevin.”
Bevin, the Labour foreign secretary, was an opponent of the
creation of a Jewish state and had recommended that Jewish
refugees in Europe should be forcibly prevented from emigrating
The planned terrorist campaign ended up being restricted largely
to letter bombs. In 1947, 20 were sent to leading figures in
Britain including Bevin and Anthony Eden, his Tory predecessor.
After the establishment of Israel, Begin, who died in 1992,
dissolved Irgun and turned to politics. He became prime minister
in the 1970s and was awarded the Nobel prize in 1978 jointly
with Anwar Sadat, the president of Egypt, for signing the Camp
David peace accords.
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