Haganah (Hebrew: הַהֲגָנָה, lit. The Defence) was a Jewish
paramilitary organization in the British Mandate of Palestine
(1921–48), which became the core of the
Israel Defense Forces (IDF).
1.2 1920 and 1921 Arab riots
1.4 1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine
1.5 1939 White Paper
1.6 Patria Disaster
World War II
World War II participation
Lord Moyne assassination and the Season
1.9 Post World War II
1.11 War of Independence
1.12 Pal-Heib Unit
2 See also
5 Further reading
6 External links
The evolution of Jewish defense organisations in Palestine and later
Israel went from small self-defense groups active during Ottoman rule,
to ever larger and more sophisticated ones during the British Mandate,
leading through the
Haganah to the national army of Israel, the IDF.
The evolution went step by step from Bar-Giora, to Hashomer, to
Haganah, to IDF.
The Jewish paramilitary organisations in the New
Yishuv (the Zionist
enterprise in Palestine) started with the
Second Aliyah (1904 to
1914). The first such organization was Bar-Giora, founded in
September 1907. It consisted of a small group of Jewish immigrants who
guarded settlements for an annual fee. At no time did
more than 100 members. It was converted to Hashomer
(Hebrew: השומר; "The Watchman") in April 1909, which operated
British Mandate of Palestine
British Mandate of Palestine came into being in 1920.
Hashomer was an elitist organization with narrow scope, and was mainly
created to protect against criminal gangs seeking to steal property.
During World War I, the forerunners of the Haganah/IDF were the Zion
Mule Corps and the Jewish Legion, both of which were part of the
British Army. After the Arab riots against
Jews in April 1920, the
Yishuv's leadership saw the need to create a nationwide underground
defense organization, and the
Haganah was founded in June of the same
Haganah became a full-scale defense force after the
1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine
1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine with an organized structure,
consisting of three main units—the Field Corps, Guard Corps, and the
Palmach strike force. During
World War II
World War II the successor to the Jewish
World War I
World War I was the Jewish Brigade, which was joined by many
Haganah fighters. During the 1947–48 civil war between the Arab and
Jewish communities in what was still Mandatory Palestine, a
Haganah managed to defend or wrestle most of the territory
it was ordered to hold or capture. At the beginning of the ensuing
1948–49 full-scale conventional war against regular Arab armies, the
Haganah was reorganised to become the core of the new
1920 and 1921 Arab riots
After the 1920 Arab riots and 1921 Jaffa riots, the Jewish leadership
in Palestine believed that the British, to whom the League of Nations
had given a mandate over Palestine in 1920, had no desire to confront
local Arab gangs that 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 kibbutzim. 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,
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, 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 grenades and simple
military equipment, transforming from an untrained militia to a
capable underground army.
Haganah fighters objected to the official policy of havlagah
(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
counterattacks against Arab gangs or their communities. This policy
appeared defeatist 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" (or by its Hebrew acronym,
1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine
Haganah fighters guarding Migdal Tzedek, 1936
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 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
Jewish Supernumerary Police
Jewish Supernumerary Police and
Special Night Squads, 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 had issued the White Paper, which severely
restricted Jewish immigration to Palestine, deeply angering the
Zionist leadership. David Ben-Gurion, 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
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.
In 1940 a
Haganah bomb sunk the SS Patria, killing 267 people
In 1940 the
Haganah sabotaged the Patria, an ocean liner being used by
the British to deport 1,800
Jews to Mauritius, with a bomb intended to
cripple the ship. However the ship sank, killing 267 people and
World War II
World War II participation
Marching Jewish troops in the British army (1942)
In the first years of World War II, the British authorities asked
Haganah for cooperation again, due to the fear of an Axis breakthrough
in North Africa. After Rommel was defeated at El
Alamein 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. 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
Jewish Brigade Group consisted of 5,000 soldiers and was
initially deployed with the 8th Army in North Africa and later in
Italy in September 1944. The brigade was disbanded in 1946.[citation
needed] All in all, some 30,000 Palestinian
Jews served in the British
army during the war.
On May 14, 1941, the
Haganah created the
Palmach (an acronym for
Plugot Mahatz—strike companies), an elite commando section, in
preparation against the possibility of a British withdrawal and Axis
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 1,000, continued as an
underground organisation with its members working half of each month
as kibbutz 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 not only received physical and
military training, but also acquired leadership skills that would
subsequently enable them to take up command positions in Israel's
Lord Moyne assassination and the Season
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,
Irgun members. This action, which lasted from November 1944 to
February 1945, was called the Saison, or the Hunting Season, and was
directed against the
Irgun and not the Lehi. Future
Teddy Kollek was later revealed to be a Jewish Agency
liaison officer working with the British authorities who had passed on
information that led to the arrest of many
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, 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 of the
Yishuv becoming more obvious to the public and increased opposition
Post World War II
Haganah members in training (1947)
Haganah Ship Jewish State at Haifa Port (1947)
The Saison officially ended when the Haganah,
Irgun and the Lehi
formed the Jewish Resistance Movement, in 1945. Within this new
framework, the three groups agreed to operate under a joint command.
They had different functions, which served to drive the British out of
Palestine and create a Jewish state.
Haganah was less active in the Jewish Rebellion than the other two
groups, but the
Palmach did carry out anti-British operations,
including a raid on the
Atlit detainee camp
Atlit detainee camp that released 208 illegal
immigrants, the Night of the Trains, the Night of the Bridges, and
attacks on Palestine Police bases. The
Haganah withdrew on 1 July
1946, but "remained permanently unco-operative" with the British
authorities. It continued to organize illegal Jewish immigration
as part of the
Aliyah Bet program, in which ships carrying illegal
immigrants attempted to breach the British blockade of Palestine and
land illegal immigrants on the shore (most were intercepted by the
Royal Navy), and the
Palmach performed operations against the British
to support the illegal immigration program. The
bombed British radar stations being used to track illegal immigrant
ships, and sabotaged British ships being used to deport illegal
immigrants, as well as two British landing and patrol craft. The
Palmach performed a single assassination operation in which a British
official who had been judged to be excessively cruel to Jewish
prisoners was shot dead. The
Haganah also organized the Birya
affair. Following the expulsion of the residents of the Jewish
settlement of Birya for illegal weapons possession, thousands of
Jewish youth organized by the
Haganah marched to the site and rebuilt
the settlement. They were expelled by British shortly afterward while
showing passive resistance, but after they returned a third time, the
British backed off and allowed them to remain.
In addition to its operations, the
Haganah continued to secretly
prepare for a war with the Arabs once the British left by building up
its arms and munitions stocks. It maintained a secret arms industry,
with the most significant facility being an underground bullet factory
underneath Ayalon, a kibbutz that had been established specifically to
cover it up.
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. After the British army, the
Haganah was considered the
most powerful military force in the Middle East.
In July 1947, eager to maintain order with the visit of
Palestine and under heavy pressure from the British authorities to
resume collaboration, the
Jewish Agency reluctantly came into brief
conflict with the
Irgun and Lehi, and ordered the
Haganah to put a
stop to the operations of the other two groups for the time being. As
Palmach members refused to participate, a unit of about 200 men from
Haganah units was mobilized, and foiled several operations
against the British, including a potentially devastating attack on the
British military headquarters at Citrus House in Tel Aviv, in which a
Haganah member was killed by an
Irgun bomb. The
Haganah also joined
the search for two British sergeants abducted by the
Irgun as hostages
against the death sentences of three
Irgun members in what became
known as the Sergeants' affair. The
Jewish Agency leadership feared
the damage this act would do to the Jewish cause, and also believed
that holding the hostages would only jeopardize the fates of the three
Irgun members. The attempts to free the sergeants failed,
and following the executions of the three
Irgun members, the two
sergeants were killed and hanged in a eucalyptus grove. However, the
campaign soon disintegrated into a series of retaliatory abductions
and beatings of each other's members by the
Haganah and Irgun, and
eventually petered out. The campaign was dubbed the "Little Season" by
Theatre of Operation of each
After 'having gotten the
Jews of Palestine and of elsewhere to do
everything that they could, personally and financially, to help
Yishuv,' Ben-Gurion's second greatest achievement was his having
Haganah from being a clandestine paramilitary
organization into a true army. Ben-Gurion appointed
to the position of head of the High Command counsel of
Haganah into 6 infantry brigades, numbered 1 to 6, allotting a
precise theatre of operation to each one. Yaakov Dori was named Chief
of Staff, but it was Yigael Yadin who assumed the responsibility on
the ground as chief of Operations. Palmach, commanded by Yigal Allon,
was divided into 3 elite brigades, numbered 10–12, and constituted
the mobile force of Haganah. Ben-Gurion's attempts to retain
personal control over the newly formed IDF lead later in July to The
On 19 November 1947, obligatory conscription was instituted for all
men and women aged between 17 and 25. By end of March 21,000 people
had been conscripted. On 30 March the call-up was extended to
men and single women aged between 26 and 35. Five days later a General
Mobilization order was issued for all men under 40.
"From November 1947, the Haganah, (...) began to change from a
territorial militia into a regular army. (...) Few of the units had
been well trained by December. (...) By March–April, it fielded
still under-equipped battalion and brigades. By April–May, the
Haganah was conducting brigade size offensive.
The brigades of the
Haganah which merged into the IDF once this was
created on 26 May 1948:
The northern Levanoni Brigade, located in the Galilee, was split on
February 22, 1948 into the 1st and 2nd Brigades.
The 1st or
Golani Brigade – was deployed in the Lower Galilee
The 2nd or Carmeli Brigade – was deployed in the north and took its
name after its commander, Moshe Carmel
The 3rd or
Alexandroni Brigade – formed on December 1, 1947 and
dismantled in the summer of 1949
The 4th or
Kiryati Brigade – formed in 1948 in the
Tel Aviv area
The 5th or
Givati Brigade – formed in December 1947. During civil
Givati Brigade was deployed in the central region, and during
the conventional war in the south as the 5th Brigade
The 6th or Etzioni or
Jerusalem Brigade – headquartered in Netanya,
it covered the area from
Tel Aviv to Zichron Ya'akov
Haganah mobilized Jewish youth for military training
To the initial six brigades, three were added later during the war:
The 7th Brigade, in Hebrew "Hativat Sheva" – formed in 1948, manned
Holocaust survivors and including a number of Machal
troops. Almost annihilated at Latrun, then re-formed in the north. It
had tanks and mounted infantry.
The 8th Brigade – founded on May 24, 1948 and subordinated to
Yitzhak Sadeh as the IDF's first armoured brigade, headquartered near
The 9th or
Oded Brigade – headquartered in Jerusalem.
Palmach brigades which merged into the IDF:
The 10th or
Harel Brigade – established on 16 April 1948
The 11th or Yiftach Brigade
The 12th or
Negev Brigade – established in March 1948
War of Independence
Main article: 1948 Palestine War
Haganah fighters in 1947
Haganah female officer in 1948
After the British announced they would withdraw from Palestine, and
the United Nations approved the partition of Palestine, the 1947-48
Civil War in
Mandatory Palestine broke out. The
Haganah played the
leading role in the Yishuv's war with the Palestinian Arabs.
Initially, it concentrated on defending Jewish areas from Arab raids,
but after the danger of British intervention subsided as the British
Haganah went on the offensive and seized more territory.
Israeli Declaration of Independence
Israeli Declaration of Independence and the start of the
1948 Arab–Israeli War
1948 Arab–Israeli War on May 15, 1948, the Haganah, now the army of
the new state, engaged the invading armies of the surrounding Arab
On May 28, 1948, less than two weeks after the creation of the state
Israel on May 15, the provisional government created the Israel
Defense Forces, merging the Haganah, Irgun, and Lehi, although the
other two groups continued to operate independently in
abroad for some time after. The re-organisation led to several
conflicts between Ben-Gurion and the
Haganah leadership, including
what was known as
The Generals' Revolt
The Generals' Revolt and the dismantling of the
Famous members of the
Haganah included Yitzhak Rabin, Ariel Sharon,
Rehavam Ze'evi, Dov Hoz, Moshe Dayan,
Yigal Allon and Dr. Ruth
Museum of Underground Prisoners
Museum of Underground Prisoners in
Jerusalem commemorates the
activity of the underground groups in the pre-state period, recreating
the everyday life of those imprisoned there.
Some Bedouins had longstanding ties with nearby Jewish communities.
They helped defend these communities in the 1936–1939 Arab revolt in
Palestine. During the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, some Bedouins of Tuba
formed an alliance with the
Haganah defending Jewish communities in
Upper Galilee against Syria. 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".
History of Israel
Jewish Agency for Israel
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