Tel Aviv, Israel 61321
|The Scorpion File|
Teddy Kollek Was an Informer for British Intelligence
By Ronen Bergman, '7 Days' Magazine; Yediot Achronot; 30 March 2007, pg. 21-28
Photographs by Cohen Fritz
translated from Hebrew with minor editing and commentary by Historama.com
Theordore (Teddy) Kollek in a photo from 1956. The Foreign Ministry sent a special request to London to not open the file to the public.
|Secret documents of the British intelligence agency MI5, which have now been released for publication, reveal the secret which the legendary mayor of Jerusalem kept hidden: during the period of the Mandate, Teddy Kollek passed on to the British information on the Etzel and the Lechi which led to the arrest of scores of fighters from both undergrounds. His code name as an informer was "Scorpion"|
|Secret documents of the MI5, which were recently released for publication, reveal that before the establishment of the State, Teddy Kollek - once the legendary mayor of Jerusalem - worked in the service of the British intelligence agency.
According to the documents, over a period of years Kollek delivered to the British crucial secret information on the activities of the Etzel ["Irgun"] and the Lechi, which led to the thwarting of missions, the capture of weapons and the arrests of scores of fighters from both underground movements.
Kollek, whose code name as an informer was "Scorpion", also tried to assist the British in capturing the commander of the Etzel, Menachem Begin. Even so, Kollek did not receive favors from his activities but rather acted as a member of the Jewish Agency in her struggle against the Etzel and Lechi. His son, Amos Kollek: "Dad never elaborated on his deeds from that period".
Top Secret: a report from Kollek received by British intelligence in May 1945, according to which a watchman at Kibbutz Yagur stopped four men and a truck ladened with explosives.
1. Pre-State Israel had 3 main armed underground organizations: the Haganah, the Etzel and the Lechi.
The Haganah: whose name means "defense"; the semi-legal armed force of the Jewish community in Palestine (known as the 'Yishuv'); founded in 1920 and drawing upon earlier armed roots in Palestine; numbering about 50,000 members in permanent and reserve formations, and led by commanders closely identified with the political and ideological outlook of the quasi-government of the Yishuv, the Jewish Agency. The Haganah was a sort-of consensus organization championing socialist-Zionist tenants though during the Second World War supportive of the British war effort.
The Etzel: whose name is the Hebrew acronym for "National Military Organization" ('Irgun Zva'i Leumi' in Hebrew) and also known as the "Irgun". Founded as a splinter group from the Haganah in 1931, and guided by a 'Revisionist Zionist' ideology - less socialist, more militant than the Hagana. Formed during a time of Arab revolt and attack against Jewish immigration to Palestine, the Irgun took more forceful actions (some deemed terrorist) against the Arabs than the Haganah and was declared an illegal armed organization by the British; in light of rising anti-Semitism in Europe the organization also took more aggressive steps to facilitating Jewish immigration to Palestine in contravention to the British Mandatory government's policies. In 1940 the Irgun declared a truce with the British and supported Britain's war effort against Germany. In 1941, the Irgun leader, David Raziel, was killed in Iraq while on a mission for the British. In 1943, Menachem Begin became commander of the Etzel, and in February 1944, with the direction of the Second World War largely in favor of the allies, the Irgun resumed its struggle against British immigration policies and declared the Hebrew Revolt against the mandatory government.
The Lechi: whose name is the Hebrew acronym for "Fighters for the Freedom of Israel" ('Lokhamei Kherut Israel' in Hebrew) and also known as the "Stern Group" (by the Zionists) or the "Stern Gang" (by the British). A more radical splinter group formed from Etzel members in 1940, which opposed a truce with the British: the Lechi saw both Britain and Germany as enemies of the Jews and felt that the struggle for free immigration to Palestine (i.e. the saving of European Jews) should be the top priority of the Yishuv. Lechi was led by Avraham ('Yair') Stern until 1942, when he was killed during his arrest by the British. The Lechi continued to fight against the British (and the Arabs) throughout the period 1940 to 1948 in a manner which earned it the label of terrorism.
2. The base at Shuny was a key Etzel officers training course run under the guise of agricultural training. During the Second World War training also took place under the guidance of two Polish colonels. The base was also an imporant dispatch point for Etzel operations, among them the seizure of an arms train in Pardes Hanna (January 1946) and the break-in into Acre Prison (May 1947).
3. The Jewish Agency: also known as the "Jewish Agency for Palestine" or as the 'Sokhnut' ("Agency", in Hebrew), was formed in 1923 as a Zionist organization to represent the needs of the Jewish community in Palestine (i.e. the 'Yishuv') and to facilitate the immigration of Jews to Palestine. It received official recognition by the Mandatory government in 1929 and became the quasi-government of the Yishuv, assisting with Jewish immigration, purchasing land for immigrant settlement, running schools and hospitals and formulating the policies of the Zionist leadership of the Yishuv. As the representative body of the Yishuv, headed in the 1940s by David Ben-Gurion, the Agency was also responsible for defense policies of the community and so was involved in the coordination and cooperation of activities with the Haganah. Although the breakaway groups Etzel and Lechi did not align themselves with the Haganah or with the Jewish Agency, there did exist a temporary truce and collaboration between them from November 1945 until September 1946. Before and thereafter the Agency (and the Haganah) fought to moderate and arrest the activist elements of the two other breakaway groups, including cooperating with the British on this matter - the subject of this article. Following the attack on the King David, the British also raided and temporarily occupied the Agency building. With the declaration of independence in May 1948, the Jewish Agency under Ben-Gurion became the Provision Government of Israel.
4. Several factors made the trial of 20 of the Shuny arrestees noteworthy at the time: the sentences ranged from 3 to 7 years (12 received 7-year sentences); the arrestees were quite young, and in many cases their families were not supporters of the Etzel.
5. One researcher (Nachman Ben-Yehuda, "Political Assassinations by Jews"; State University of New York, 1993, p. 397) has found that during the period 1940-42, the Lechi assassinated 42 people - more than twice as many as those carried out by the Etzel and Haganah combined during that period; of those classed as political more than half were Jewish victims.
6. Ya'akov Meridor (Viniarsky) was involved in Etzel missions in Iraq for the British during the Second World War. When the Irgun's first commander, David Raziel, was killed in Iraq in 1941 Meridor took his place as the organization's leader until December 1943 when he appointed Menachem Begin to take his place and Meridor became his deputy instead. During the June 1948 'Altalena' Etzel arms-ship crisis Meridor was arrested by the new Israeli Provisional Government, and he claims that the future head of Israel's domestic security service offered him the position of Deputy Chief of Staff upon his release but Meridor declined. In later years Meridor was a member of the Israeli Knesset and government minister.
7. Though difficult to dispute secret intelligence information Kellar may have been sent, the supposition that Polish intelligence had a hand in creating or influencing the Etzel seems unlikely. Menachem Begin for his part was an early member of the Revisionist Zionist "Betar" movement from where Irgun ideology was derived, in Poland from 1928. When the Germans invaded Poland in 1939, Begin escaped to the Soviet occupied area and was arrested - ironically - for being a British agent, and deported to Siberia for two years. With the signing of the Polish-Soviet Sikorski-Mayski Agreement after the German invasion of the USSR, Begin was among the imprisoned Poles released from Soviet captivity, in September 1941. During his movements westwards Begin made contact with the Polish forces of Wladislaw Anders, joined them and reached Eretz Israel in March 1942. Begin remained with Anders' forces through to 1943 though he established contact with the Irgun himself in Eretz Israel, and it was through the connections and influence of the heads of the Revisionist Zionist movement in America with the Polish representatives in-country that Begin and others were released (he did not desert) from the Polish forces in order to garner greater American support for the Polish cause. Ironically Jewish desertion from Anders' army in Palestine was high anyway, but Irgunist departures from his forces does not look like it was a movement planned by the Poles themselves.
8. The British indeed began instituting security checks of their own and related soldiers: after the Second World War, many soldiers of the Polish Army in exile remained in the British Isles with Poland herself now being under Soviet/Communist control, and the British viewed these Poles with a degree of suspicion. Following the 1946 King David attack and a slew of letter bombs in Britain, the British exercised great caution with trained Jewish soldiers expressing interest in immigrating to Israel. In one well known instance, among the many Polish soldiers stationed in the UK, there were 245 who had just completed service in Palestine as the "Palestine Group" expressing a desire to remain/return there. The Home Office, leery of the impact these trained Jews would have both in Britain and in Palestine, asked that when the Palestine Group returned to the UK, they be kept as far from London as possible. With this goal in mind, the War Office posted this force to Thurso, Scotland, and held them there for security screenings through no mention of their specific segregation from other Polish forces was to be revealed. Their leave from base was also postponed for 2 weeks to give MI5 (British domestic security) a chance to investigate them. When the force members were given leave, the Home Office, MI5 and MI11 (British Field Security) all wanted to know about it.
9. The Etzel and Lechi saw in Lord Moyne an anti-Semite and a key figure responsible for the turning away of Jewish refugee boats fleeing Nazi Europe (although according to one source Moyne may have in the meantime become convinced of the need for a Jewish homeland). Nevertheless, the Lechi assassinated him in November 1944, triggering a domestic and international uproar. The Jewish Agency, keen to demonstrate reliability and balance with the British, voted to take action against the apparent "treachery" of the breakaway groups seen to be endangering the realization of a future independent Jewish state. The period of November 1944 to July 1945 was called the Saison, a reference to European hunting season, and marked a period of intense military activity by the Haganah against the Etzel and Lechi and close cooperation with the British authorities. By March 1945 the British reported the receipt of information on 830 individuals of whom 337 were arrested. Many of those arrested from the Etzel and Lechi were imprisoned in Eritrea, Kenya and Sudan and became known as the "African Exiles".
10. Geula Cohen was a former long-time Knesset member who joined the Etzel in 1942 and then moved to join the Lechi, where she was a broadcaster on the clandestine Lechi broadcasting service under the alias of "Ilana". Caught in this raid she was sentenced to 9 years and succeeded in escaping on her second attempt. She later went on to edit and be a board member of Lechi and national publications; her son is Tzachi Hanegbi, the former Environment Minister.
11. Some sources also speak of Britain's deployment of the then recently formed elite "Special Air Service" (SAS) in Palestine to combat the Jewish underground forces and assassinate their leaders. And regarding this critical King David attack, ironically all 3 underground movements were involved in its implementation, the event ocurring during their rare period of cooperation, but the resulting tragedy in human life made it convenient for Haganah to scapegoat the Etzel and the Lechi. As the timeline of events in this article also imply (regarding Jewish Agency involvement in Etzel arrests during the period of underground cooperation), the Haganah was not entirely subordinated to the Jewish Agency or to the Zionist political leadership either: Israel Galili of the Haganah High Command stated during an interview, "...we had no operative relations with the President of the Zionist Organization [i.e. Chaim Weizman]. There had never before been any direct intervention by the President... in decisions of the Head of the Haganah Command" (source: Lossin, pg. 437). Weizman himself opposed all forms of violent struggle to realize the Jewish State.
12. From the article it's unclear which warning / piece of information reached MI6, but being in such a sensitive highly undercover position as a double-agent it seems unlikely Philby would have wanted to become the pressure point for the resulting anger in the warning not being passed on by him. Therefore, the original explanation put forth in particular by Etzel and Menachem Begin is probably closer to the truth: the Etzel claimed to have phoned the Hotel front desk, the French Consulate next door and the English-language Palestine Post with a warning to evacuate the building before the bombs were detonated; Begin also claims the explosives carried a warning not to attempt to dismantle them otherwise they may go off. A key point of contention lays in whether John Shaw, the Chief Secretary, received the warning sent to the Hotel - he claims he did not receive them.
On the 16th of August, 1945, large forces of the British army and secret services raided a training camp of the National Military Organization - Etzel1 [or "Irgun"] - which was located then in total secrecy and out of sight, in abandoned buildings on the site of Shuny2, next to Binyamina. The unexpected raid which took place at dawn caught scores of underground fighters who stayed in the place by complete surprise. The results were correspondent: 27 fighters, among them three women and a few senior Etzel activists who had starred for some time on the wanted lists of the British secret services - were captured.
The haul of the British in that same raid also included large quantities of machines guns, rifles and guns, hand grenades and explosives. Much propaganda material of the organization and training manuals on warfare and manufacture of bombs were impounded, too. The arrested were quickly brought before a military tribunal of the British and sentenced to heavy prison terms. This was a strong blow to the Etzel, which lost for a long period some of its best fighters, and it sustained a severe blow to its prestige. The British made sure to publish prominently their successful operation in the press, something which dissuaded others youths from enlisting in the ranks of the underground organization.
Still today, 62 years after the difficult event, Etzel members didn't know how it became known to the Mandatory authorities the existence of the training camp in Shuny, and the raid at dawn remains an open wound in the collective memory of veterans of the organization. This targeted operation of the British joined a long list of "strikes" which the British succeeded in delivering on members of the Etzel and Lechi during those same bitter years, during which these organizations didn't obey the central national leadership headed by David Ben-Gurion, and which were nicknamed "the separatists". The leaders of the two underground movements had no leads which would solve the mystery: how time after time the British get the lead on them and capture their members. They of course blamed these deeds on the Jewish leadership of the Yishuv [Jewish community in Palestine-Eretz Israel] which in other instances did undertake open actions against them, but they didn't know beyond wild speculation who was actually delivering the information to the British.
Etzel members will certainly be surprised to know that two days after the raid on Shuny, on 18 August 1945, a coded telegram was sent from the offices of the British intelligence service in Jerusalem, the MI5, to supreme headquarters in London. The telegram is classified "Top Secret, Sensitive, For Addressee Only", and is written therein on a meeting with the informant who delivered highly valuable information and that "for your information", according to the document which is uncovered here for the first time, "the raid which was conducted as a result of information in paragraph 4 yielded positive results of a highly unusual standard".
This detail was revealed during a comprehensive study carried out by "7 Days" magazine in recent weeks of numerous documents dealing with the running of MI5 agents during the Mandatory period, which were released recently to the department open to the public of the British national archives in London. Among the material uncovered were found numerous documents dealing with the handling of agents of the British intelligence service until 1950, and of the broad cooperation [here and elsewhere I hesitate to use the other appropriate but judgmentally laden word "collaboration" as a translation of the Hebrew "shituf peula"] of the Jewish Agency with British intelligence for the purpose of smashing the two underground organizations - the Etzel and the Lechi. Searching through these documents reveals surprising details about the running of an especially active informant who passed on the information which led to the raid on Shuny, and also much additional information about members of the Etzel and the Lechi. According to the files which were released for publication, the person who passed on especially sensitive information to the British in the years before the establishment of the State is none other than "Mr. Jerusalem", the legendary mayor for 28 years (1965 - 1993), who during those same [pre-State] years was a senior intelligence man in the Jewish Agency - Teddy Kollek.
Secret File 66968
About a year ago members of the British Foreign Ministry contacted the Israeli embassy in London and spoke of the imminent release of file number 66968 which dealt entirely with the connections between Teddy Kollek and Her Majesty's Secret Service. The Israeli embassy replied that Kollek was still alive and delivered a special request on behalf of the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem to not open the file for public viewing.
The British, respectful of the policy to not reveal the identities of informers who are still alive, replied positively to the request. And indeed file number 66968 remained confidential until today, and of the few documents from it which were released for public viewing a great effort was made to erase all reference or detail which would identify Kollek. This effort was only partially successful, and "7 Days" obtained documents which connect Kollek to the delivery of much valuable information to the British about the activities of the Etzel and the Lechi during the years before the establishment of the State. However, recently, with the death of Kollek on the 2nd of January this year, at the age of 95, the British Foreign Ministry renewed its request whether it would be possible to reveal the full personal file of Kollek, and it will be apparently deposited in the British National Archives this coming September.
In the course of the years arose many times allegations against Kollek about his involvement in the turning over of Etzel and Lechi members. Things reached their climax in 1989 at the height of the campaign for the Mayorship of Jerusalem, in which Kollek was a contestant, when unidentified elements hung posters around Jerusalem in which they accused Kollek of attempting to turn Menachem Begin and additional underground leaders to the British. "Don't Vote for Teddy the Traitor", was written on the posters, "His Hands are Covered in Jewish Blood". Kollek reacted then to these allegations impassively and said: "I am used to threats and slanders".
Now, as stated, no longer are these mere accusations and speculations which gathered momentum over the years but rather confirmations in official documents which are released for publication. The documents are split into two types. In some of them which belong to the period up to June 1946, during which Kollek served as a senior member of the Jewish Agency3 in Eretz Israel, appears the name of Kollek explicitly as someone who reported to the British on the activities of members of the Etzel and the Lechi. In other documents from the period when Kollek was sent to London as a representative of the Jewish Agency, from the second half of 1946 and onwards, appears in these documents the code name of an informer called "Scorpion", as someone who conducted meetings in London with his British handlers. But the censoring of the papers regarding the connection between the informer "Scorpion" and Kollek were done with carelessness. In the documents held by "7 Days", in which appear the activities of "Scorpion", there is a direct reference to Kollek's file, including his personal number of the file, as the place in which is located the full copy without censoring.
It's important to point out that Kollek did not deliver the information to the British in exchange for favors or gratuities, but rather operated as part of the cooperation between the Jewish Agency and British intelligence, with the goal of eradicating the Etzel and Lechi organizations. That and more: the British also viewed the activities of Kollek and of the representative of the Agency as being sanctioned by the leaders of the Yishuv.
According to the documents which were released for publication in the British Archives, it transpires that on 10 August 1945 [a day after the atomic bomb on Nagasaki and four after the bomb over Hiroshima], Theodore Kollek, who served in those days as the "Head of the Special Assignments Department" and as deputy chief of the intelligence department of the Jewish Agency in the country, called on a member of the DSO - the Defence Security Office, basically the cover name of the MI5 branch in Palestine-Eretz Israel - and told him: "We haven't met now in two weeks and there's a lot about which to talk about".
According to the summary of the meeting which was conducted by a member of British intelligence, Kollek informed him that he and Agency members were adamantly opposed to the terror activities of the Etzel and the Lechi, adding that he knew that some of the British believed that "the Stern Gang" (the nickname given by British intelligence to the Lechi) existed today under the control of the Hagana and that this was not true. Kollek also mentioned in the same meeting that the Hagana had secured promises from the Etzel and the Lechi for a cease-fire, though he cast doubt that they would stand by it.
Kollek didn't just elaborate upon the distinction between the Hagana and the Etzel and the Lechi at this meeting. According to the summary of the meeting he communicated to his British handlers also valuable intelligence information. Thus, for example, he described the means of communications between the Etzel and the Lechi and of the person responsible for fund raising for the Etzel. He revealed to his handlers that Lechi members were busy with the installation of a wireless communications post in an orchard next to Petach-Tikva. Kollek at the same meeting also said that the Etzel had begun intensive training for its members in the area of Shuny. According to the summary of the British handler, "he said that it would be a good idea to conduct a raid on the place".
Kollek highlighted at the meeting the names of David Kipper and Ben Tzruya as the commanders of the course. "Kollek said that the Jewish Agency is making great efforts to obtain information which will lead to the imprisonment of these two", described the British intelligence man in the summary of the meeting and added that Kollek told him that the two are using a concealed apartment in Rishon Le'Zion, which is usually inhabited by a different member of the Etzel. This apartment, added Kollek, is presently under observation by his men. The activities of these three members of the Etzel Kollek connected to a series of activities which had been directed against the British, including the murder of a policeman and the theft of explosives from an army warehouse.
Six days after this meeting took place, the raid on Shuny occurred, after which prison sentences for members of the Etzel stopped [this may be an error - the writer may have meant "worsened"].4 As a result of the stop the British received an alert regarding a revenge operation planned by the Etzel in which it would kidnap 20 British children. Members of MI5 invited Kollek for an urgent meeting in order to hear his views on the seriousness of the plan. Kollek calmed them and said that according to information in his possession members of the Etzel received their punishments with understanding and he believed that they would not respond directly to them.
Kollek, however, was correct and members of the Etzel decided not to respond. In the same meeting, according to how it was described in the British archives, he passed on to the British additional important information according to which the blow at the training camp in Shuny had led the Etzel and Lechi to be more flexible in their positions and to show more willingness to establish a united command with the Hagana. It's amazing to be proven that Kollek detailed in the ears of the British at this meeting the events taking place in the secret meetings of the leaders of the three organizations - the Hagana, the Etzel and the Lechi.
It's difficult to judge morally the deeds from a distance of more than 60 years. Was Kollek right in turning in to the British those who he saw as breakers of the law? Or are the members of the Etzel and the Lechi, who until today don't know exactly who provided the information about them, but when they succeeded in identifying collaborators - they executed them.5 This way or that, the secret correspondence of the British intelligence, which are revealed here for the first time, shed light on the split in the Yishuv, on the terrible war of brothers and on the drama in whose center was the man who would become one of the most significant symbols of the State of Israel both within the community of her citizens and in the world.
The Turning Over of Ya'akov Meridor
Theodor Kollek was born in Hungary in 1911 and grew up in Vienna. From a young age he was an energetic activist in the pioneer movement. He immigrated to Israel in 1934 and was, together with his wife Tamar, among the founders of Kibbutz Ein-Gev. Kollek distinguished himself immediately with his phenomenal organizational skills, in his ability to become endeared with people from different orientations by his European manners, and by his instinctive understanding of matters of intelligence. In 1939, a short while before the outbreak of the Second World War, he began to set off to Europe on different "quiet" missions on behalf of the Jewish Agency.
In 1942 on behalf of the Agency Kollek was assigned to Istanbul, then a neutral city in which there operated silent agents associated with all the sides involved in the war, with the purpose of trying to save the Jews of Europe. Simultaneously there began to arrive news items on the destruction of the Jews in the Holocaust. At one point Kollek would be among those who would be attacked by the right wing in Israel for not having done enough to save the Jews. Kollek rejected the criticism on the issue and claimed that by Ben-Gurion's order everything was done to save Jews, but it was not possible to bring the Allies to act.
During this period was formed his connection with British intelligence. At one point he recounted in his autobiography which he wrote with his son, Amos - "For Jerusalem, The Story of Teddy Kollek's Life" - which was published in London in 1978, on his activities in the Second World War: "In spite of the feeling of urgency and anger, it was very difficult to move the contact men who were closest to us in Istanbul itself. But they helped us in our daily matters and given the great obstacles which stood before our mission, it seems to me that we should be thankful to them also for that. Immediately after my arrival in Istanbul, I visited Major Arthur Vitol, a British passport inspection officer at the British embassy. The passport control bureau was a secret agency of the intelligence services and Major Vitol was the man with whom I had to establish contact and to work in close cooperation. He supported our cover and assisted in every possible way".
Parallel to his activities in Istanbul, Kollek set out on missions for the Agency to Cairo in order to set up a ring of spies in the German and Italian prisoner of war camps set up by the British in North Africa. Kollek chose for the British young Jews of German or Italian origins, who were disguised as soldiers and gathered much valuable information which was delivered to the British.
In his book Kollek recalled not a few names of the intelligence men to whom he would deliver information later on - according to the information recently released by MI5 - the vast quantity of information on the Etzel and the Lechi, even if in different contexts. Thus, for example, he tells of Colonel Hunloke from whom he received approval for passage of a truck from Egypt to Eretz Israel. A Jewish Brigade member, Shalom Levin, transported in this truck tons of weaponry and ammunition stolen from British warehouses, and these were destined for hidden weapons caches of the Hagana in Palestine. He was caught by chance, but through Kollek's connections released after a short time.
Kollek also describes in his book how he came to meet, a short while after the British victory in the famous second battle of El-Alamein in November 1942, the intelligence officer Maurice Oldfield. Oldfield filled during the war and afterwards a series of senior positions in the British intelligence system in the Middle East, and afterwards returned to Britain and became one of the great legends of Her Majesty's secret service. In the 1950's and '60s he served as head of MI6, the British equivalent of the Mossad, and the character of George Smiley, the hero of John Le Carre's books, was inspired by him.
Between Kollek and Oldfield there developed a strong friendship. During this period Kollek met an additional figure from MI6, but this person found much less favor with Kollek. He told Oldfield: "The new boy who's arrived doesn't smell good to me. Are you sure that he's not a spy?" Oldfield laughed politely and told Kollek to drink a pint and relax. The man, however, was called Kim Philby, whose name became tarnished as the greatest of the double-agents discovered in British intelligence.
Towards the end of the war, in the beginning of 1945, with the dispatching of Reuven Shiloach (Zaslani), who was later appointed the as first head of the Mossad, by Ben-Gurion's on a mission to the United States, Teddy Kollek replaced his as head of the intelligence network of the Jewish Agency. In this capacity Kollek regularly met with British intelligence officers, among them those who he had met during the war.
The Etzel, which had shown relative restraint as long as the war in Europe continued, and the Lechi - which didn't agree with this policy - opened immediately with the end of the war with a string of harsh terror strikes against the British. In the beginning they focused on activities only within Eretz Israel, but very quickly the spread out with the help of sophisticated networks which they had set up abroad, beyond Israel and surprised the British over and over throughout the world. Explosions, assassinations, exploding envelopes, break-ins into banks, and stealing explosives. All this alongside an organized propaganda campaign of posters and broadcasts from underground radio stations.
British intelligence didn't succeed in coping with the effectiveness of the wave of terror and received harsh criticism from various government circles in London. Calder Walton describes in his sweeping doctoral thesis of this period, which was approved a few weeks ago by Cambridge University, the inability of MI5 to crack in those days the Jewish extremists: "The Zionist terror organizations posed a terrible threat on the security of Britain after the Second World War, or so at least it appeared so. On the other hand, MI5 and the British security forces in Palestine never had good intelligence information on the Etzel and the Lechi. Their "celled structure" made the infiltration of agents very difficult".
In November 1944, the Lechi assassinated Lord Moyne, the British Minister for Middle Eastern affairs, and carried out a few attempts to murder the British High Commissioner, Sir Harold MacMichael. The British were powerless. In the course of 1946, MI5 reported to the British Prime Minister, Clement Atlee, and to the Foreign Minister, Ernest Bevin, that they are targets for assassination by the Lechi. Taking into consideration the character which Zionist terrorism acquired during the course of the war, the MI5 took these warnings seriously.
As mentioned, the leadership of the Yishuv opposed these activities and the lack of obedience by these organizations to Ben-Gurion's authority. Kollek himself believed that it was necessary to act aggressively against the Etzel and the Lechi, and he and his men in the intelligence department of the Jewish Agency passed on much information about them to the British. Dr. Walton: "The best intelligence information which the British in any case managed to receive came from Jewish and moderate Zionist organizations. Zionist terror was the action of a minority, which didn't earn the support of the Jewish and Zionist majority. Then, as now, the British intelligence agencies depended on moderate religious figures and politicians to provide information on extremists calling for violence".
Thanks to the cooperation with the Jewish Agency, British intelligence scored a great success on 13 February 1945, when in a raid on the supreme operations command of the Etzel, they arrested Ya'akov Meridor.6 In an adulatory telegram to London it was written: "The arrest was carried out thanks to information received from the Jewish Agency".
Geula Cohen is Caught
A short while after the Meridor's arrest, MI5's expert on the war against Zionist terror, Alex [Alec] Kellar [head of MI5's "B" Division in Palestine], arrived in Eretz Israel to prepare a report on the cooperation with the Jewish Agency. According to Kellar, Kollek told him that in order to gather evidence and get information from Etzel and Lechi members, his men habitually capture activists in the movements, imprison them in secret locations in Jewish settlements [i.e. kibbutzim, moshavim, towns] and interrogate them with irregular methods ("not orthodox" in Kollek's phrase). Kollek continued and explained, according to Kellar, that these interrogations yield excellent results: some of those arrested are released, some are delivered to the British and some remain in the hands of Agency members.
From the information he received from members of the Jewish Agency, Kellar concluded that the Polish intelligence service was a central element in the creation of the Etzel organization, after the release of a string of activists from the Polish prisons, among them Menachem Begin, who became heads of the movement.7
Through the liaising of Colonel Hunloke, who knew Kollek from Istanbul, there was organized - according to the secret documents - a meeting between Kellar and members of the intelligence department of the Agency. In this meeting Agency members presented him with information, which he called "troubling in the extreme", that the Etzel and the Lechi were planning to use Jewish soldiers serving in the British Army around the world to assist with terror attacks.8 Kellar urged Agency members to supply Hunloke with as much information as possible on these attempts.
Kollek addressed the split in the Yishuv in his book, where he wrote: "We were opposed to terror activities, both on principle and also because we were convinced that these activities hurt our friends [on the British side]. We knew, for example, that Lord Moyne was a close friend of Churchill and we believed that Churchill and the circle around him would reach a decision in connection to the Middle East after the war. Why turn them into enemies? After the murder of Lord Moyne at the hands of Jewish terrorists in 19449 the Jewish Agency acted to demonstrate to the British just how much we are opposed to the terror activities and to avoid additional incidents like these".
Kollek added in his book: "I always believed that in national matters there is a need for a single central authority which will be responsible and empowered. In the time that I myself was involved in countless illegal activities like smuggling Jews or stealing and smuggling weapons, I was always opposed to the anarchy inside our forces. It is not possible to justify the view that every man needs to act according to the dictates of his conscience, and it is forbidden to allow everyone or every group to operate independently. I also believed that a government needs to make sure that its instructions are being carried out. Therefore it was essential that the Jewish Agency, our "government" in that period, act against terror groups who take upon themselves the right to make decisions and endanger the policies accepted by the majority. When it was decided by the highest levels of the Agency and of the Hagana to take action against these groups, and I received a role during the period called the "saison", I took it upon myself as a necessary measure on the way to the independence of our State. I was against the organization [the "Irgun" - the Etzel] and to the Stern Group [the Lechi] exactly like after the Yom Kippur War  I was opposed to those who established settlements in the captured territories, in opposition to the policy of the government".
Kollek doesn't elaborate in his book what was the nature of the help provided by the Agency to the British, except for one incident in which he exposed a prank by two Jewish high-school students who sent threat letters to the British. However Kollek's assistance was, as it appears now, much more substantial than he was prepared to describe. For example on 10 May 1945 [2 days after the German surrender in World War Two], Kollek called urgently to Hunloke and told him that a look-out watchman at Kibbutz Yagur had stopped four men and a truck full of explosives. At the same time Kollek updated his contact person at British intelligence, a person by the name of Giles, and coordinated with him the delivery of the arrestees, at whose head was an Irgun-affiliated commander named Ya'akov Mizrachi, to the British.
In a meeting he conducted with a member of British intelligence on 27 August 1945, Kollek told him that Lechi members were planning to blow up government fuel depots in Jerusalem in protest of the British empire sacrificing the Jewish issue in favor of oil interests.
In a further meeting which took place on 15 September 1945, Kollek transmitted details on the production of Etzel weapons and revealed that the organization succeeded in developing in a secret factory next to the Y.M.C.A. building in Jerusalem a new mortar with a 40 kilogram shell. He also said that the Etzel and the Lechi were suffering from a shortage of detonators and to that end some of their members had broken into the warehouses of Solel Boneh [a building contractor company]. Kollek delivered to the British information on the structure of the military arm of the Etzel and passed on details about the number of members the organization had in each region. Begin, Kollek said, was the chief commander of the organization. Meridor was the chief of operations. In his conversations with the British, Kollek was contemptful of the abilities of the Etzel commanders, and said that "senior commanders in Etzel would not have been admitted even as platoon commanders in the Palmach or Hagana".
From the secret documents it becomes apparent that Kollek tried to assist the British in capturing Begin, whose exact whereabouts he did not know. On 7 January 1946 he passed on to them the names of two reporters who were in contact with Begin and received from him information. He [Kollek] suggested that they [the British] try to follow the leads of the newspapermen in order to reach the number one suspect.
A month later, on 18 February 1946, the British raided - again, as a result of information which came from the Jewish Agency - a secret transmission station of the Lechi, which was located in a house on Ha'Shomer 3 Street in Tel Aviv, and arrested 8 men and a woman, who was described in British intelligence reports as a "twenty year-old Yemenite girl". In the raid the British captured a transmitter, explosive materials, fake identity cards and four pistols. The name of the arrested girl in the identity card was Shoshana Halevy. A short clarification established that the card was fake and that her real name was Geula Cohen.10
Gin and Rich Roast Beef
In June 1945 Kollek set out, after leaving the responsibility for continued contact with the British in the hands of one of his assistance, to a long mission in London "in order to assist with the political activities of the Agency in England", as he described them in his book. Half a year afterwards his wife, Tamar, joined him and the couple resided in the apartment of Orde Wingate (who had since died) [the founder of the Jewish "Special Night Squads" in Palestine and creator of the "Chindit" guerilla force in Burma]. The apartment served as a center for immigration activities, for British politicians and to influential Jews from all over Europe. From London Kollek set out further, in his official capacity as an Agency representative in Britain, to countries across the continent in order to manage illegal immigration operations to Israel associated with the Agency. He also went to Paris from time to time to see Ben-Gurion, who didn't come to Britain for fear he would be arrested.
In spite of his good relations with British intelligence they didn't entirely trust Kollek. On the one hand they were happy to receive from him the information which he delivered, but on the other hand they know that the interests of the Jewish Agency were not necessarily identical to theirs, particularly on political questions pertaining to the future of the Mandate in Eretz Israel. They put close surveillance on Kollek and on the activities of his office on Great Russell Street 77 in London.
Even the mail sent to Kollek and his men in London was opened by British intelligence and screened until the last letter. "We believe", read an internal memo by Kellar, "that this information will assist us to have an intimate understanding of the connections between the offices of the Agency in Jerusalem to those in London and in Washington, and cross-check it with the information we receive from Agency members themselves. We are working on the assumption that the Agency in Jerusalem won't undertake any serious operation without notifying its senior members [i.e. Kollek] in London".
On the 22nd of July 1946 the Etzel blew up a wing of the King David Hotel [in Jerusalem] and caused the deaths of 91 people, among them Jews. One of the horrifying pieces of evidence from the explosion at the King David, kept until today in the files of British intelligence, is a photograph of a typewriter lying among the ruins with two hands, severed from the elbow, still lying on the keys. Among the MI5 files there is no supporting evidence of Menachem Begin's allegation, according to which the Etzel sent a warning ahead of time about the planned attack. Beyond it being a symbol of opposition to the British government, the attack was also a direct blow to MI5 and MI6, which held offices and employees in the hotel.
As a result of the attack, the level of alerts regarding attacks by the Etzel and the Lechi rose dramatically, and the assistance of Kollek and his men was more important than ever. MI5 believed that the Etzel and the Lechi were the most serious and immediate threats to the peace of the Kingdom.11 However, a look through the documents reveals that the explosion at the King David was accompanied by another case whose true significance was only realized years later. Immediately after the explosion MI5 became aware that its colleagues at MI6 had prior information on the possibility of an attack, but that they did not forward the information on. This generated great anger of course. MI6 men explained that at the time the information didn't seem to them believable and therefore they did not pass it on, although a thorough search through the files yields another possibility. The intelligence officer who dismissed the information and decided that it was not credible was none other than Kim Philby, the most senior agent run by the KGB in British intelligence - the same man about whom Kollek was the only one to suspect him of being a double-agent. Today, in British intelligence they believe that Philby didn't deliver this information on purpose because he was actually interested - with the instruction of his Moscow handlers - in a terror attack against British government targets.12
In August 1946, the British sentenced to death 18 members of the Etzel and the Lechi for their parts in terror attacks in Palestine. The informer "Scorpion", who was then in London, and two Agency members delivered to the British information that the organizations were planning hundreds of assassinations if the 18 were executed. "We are certain", wrote Kellar, "that this is not a case of the Agency members crying 'wolf', but rather that they are very disturbed by the issue".
A short while later the Etzel indeed blew up the British embassy in Rome, in October 1946. In December 1946 the MI5 received two additional warnings from sources in the Jewish Agency that "agents of the Etzel are currently in England. There are between 8-10 members of the organization, who came not only from Palestine but also from America and Europe". Sir Percy Silito, the head of MI5, delivered this information directly to Prime Minister Atlee and warned him that they must take the most drastic measures to protect the internal security of London.
The activities of "Scorpion" in London, which began in June 1946, continued for about a year - or at least that's what is documented in the papers which can be accessed. "Scorpion"'s handers emphasize over and over again their characterization of him as a "most sensitive source". Part of the reports on the meetings were done handwritten so as to prevent the secretariat from know what they were about. In contrast to the Spartan conditions of the meetings in Eretz Israel, with "Scorpion" the British made a point of almost always meeting in the most prestigious restaurants in London. The account managers of the British intelligence service were shocked each time anew when they received the receipts, but "Scorpion"'s handlers said that they were dependent upon these kinds of meals because the restaurants are "a place which encourages open conversation and friendliness".
The head of the secret service instructed that the meals be paid at the service's expense, from his appreciation for the great amount of information that "Scorpion" delivered. Perhaps in order to anger those in charge of the small budget, perhaps in order to arouse the envy of others and perhaps owing to some other reason, "Scorpion"'s handlers made sure to detail each time in their summaries of the meetings exactly what they eat. One of the meetings, according to the summary, was conducted with meals of "oysters, duck and chocolate mousse". Another on "gin and rich roast beef".
He Didn't Tell The Children
Osnat Kollek-Sachs, the daughter of Teddy Kollek: "I was born many years after these events. I don't know anything about them. Dad never spoke about it and also from conversations I had with his friends as a result of your inquiry no information about these matters came up. I got married to a person from a typical Revisionist [Zionist - i.e. rightwing] family and Dad had no problem with it".
Amos Kollek, who is filming these days a movie in Montreal, and was an associate with his father in writing his autobiography says: "The writing of the book was based on many taped recordings with my father, a transcription of the conversations alongside interviews with other people. All that Dad said about the "Saison" period is in the book. He never expanded upon his activities during that period or spoke of the turning over of Etzel or Lechi members to the British.