The Historama
Alex Ben-Arieh
P.O.Box 32128
Tel Aviv, Israel 61321
Phone: +972-547-680-086
Fax: +972-3-546-1971

Irgun/Etzel "Hebrew War of Liberation" Manifesto:

Presented here is a translation of a rare undated manifesto of the right-wing (also called "Revisionist") Zionist "Irgun" underground organization in Pre-State Israel. The manifesto, a 227 page book printed in Hebrew on half-sized typewritten pages, fastened by nails with a cardboard cover and reinforced spine, is called "The Hebrew War of Liberation (Ideological Foundations)". Its significance lies in the fact that it was produced around July-August 1946 at the height of a period of revolt called the "Hebrew Revolt" of 1944-1948 in Mandatory Palestine against British rule, led primarily by the Irgun itself, and this book is an attempt to explain the causes and justification of the revolt. Cover of the Etzel manifesto. Hebrew is read from right to left so this is actually the front of the book.

Pre-State Israel counted three main underground armed organizations: the "Haganah" (or "Defence"), the main armed formation which closely identified with the Socialist-Zionist views of the Jewish leadership in Palestine (represented by an institution called the "Jewish Agency" and its labor union called the "Histadrut"); the "Irgun" (or "Organization" - a shorthand for the full name "National Military Organization", whose acronym in Hebrew is pronounced "Etzel"), a right-wing "revisionist" Zionist armed formation which broke away from the "Haganah" in 1931 and adopted the ideological views of Ze'ev Jabotinsky; and the "Lechi" (the Hebrew acronym for "Fighters for the Freedom of Israel"), formed in 1940 as a more radical revisionist splinter group from the Irgun.

Militarily, the distinction between these three groups was based on their perception of British rule in Palestine and of Jewish rights under that rule. The Irgun was formed in 1931 in response to the perception of weak Jewish self-defense (by the "Haganah") and insufficient British protection in the face of attacks by Arab marauders during the previous 12 years. The Irgun promoted a more active form of Jewish self defence and retaliation even as against the policies of the Mandatory Government, and so too also promotion of "illegal" immigration to Eretz Israel as against British policies later in that decade. A watershed in military policy between the above three formations occurred at the outbreak of the Second World War: shortly after the outbreak of the war, in 1939, the Irgun suspended activities contrary to British policy and cooperated, together with the "Haganah", with the British in the struggle against Germany. Within the Irgun however, arose a rift against the policy of cooperation with the British, and a new splinter group under Avraham Stern, the "Lechi", was formed. The "Lechi" felt that ongoing British restrictions to Jewish immigration to Palestine were as much a threat to the Jews as the German extermination of them on the European continent, and initiated underground activities against the British from 1940 onwards.

The Irgun detected the changing fortunes of the war relatively early and on 1 February 1944 issued a declaration against the British government in Palestine effectively signalling the beginning of the "Hebrew Revolt" (to be distinguished from the "Jewish Revolt" of 66-73 CE against imperial Rome). From that period onward Irgun and Lechi policies were virtually complimentary to each other, and both fought relentlessly against British immigration restrictions as well as militarily against the armed British and Mandatory forces with operations - many of them "terrorist" in nature in the eyes of the British and some Jews - occurring almost daily. Between November 1945 and September 1946 all three Jewish armed organizations operated in concert against the British, though before and especially afterwards, the Haganah also waged a harsh struggle against the Revisionist formations, fearing their detrimental influence on international public opinion and also of their possible political influence domestically on the Jews of Eretz Israel. The period of the revolt involved the participation of up to 100,000 British soldiers, plus Mandatory police forces and the employment of the elite Special Air Service (SAS). The revolt brought the Jewish-Palestine issue to the fore of international relations and led to the United Nations decision (29 November 1947) to end the Mandate and partition Palestine into two states - one Arab and another Jewish. Though the issue could be debated, it is hard to avoid the idea that the aggressive stance adopted by the Irgun and Lechi is actually what caused the British to leave Palestine and enabled Israel to be founded when it did (hence the significance of the tract presented here).

Inside page of the Etzel manifesto with the full title of the book printed This gallery exhibit is an ongoing translation of this long document. It is a conglomeration of materials based on quotations by Jabotinsky, commentaries showing the implementation of his beliefs, and includes material from the Irgun's own proclamations in print and by radio. There is also a series of economic and geographic studies regarding the future development of Israel. The Hebrew is at times verbose and difficult to transform into comprehendible statements, let alone into English - and at 227 pages, it will take some time to present in full. The English text is accompanied by pictures of the original Hebrew pages, and a column of comments (where appropriate).

The contents of the book are:
Part A: 'The Instructor Taught - And the Students Achieved': selected writings of Jabotinsky; 'In Blood and Sweat Arose us a Race'; 'The Ethics of the War of Liberation'; 'We Believe'
Part B: 'Stages of the Yishuv's [Jewish Community in Palestine] War': commentary; 'Only a Fighting Nation Earns Independence'; 'The Way to Unite a Fighting Yishuv; 'Supporting Forces of the Zionists'
Part C: 'External and Internal Policies': 'Political Results'; 'The Alternative'; 'The Arab Problem'; 'Who Hurts the Solution to the Arab Question'; 'On Our Arab Neighbors'; 'The Soviet Union and the Return to Zion'; 'Settlement or War for Justice'
Part D: 'The Outlines of the Plan For Uprising': 'From the Point of View of Experience'; 'The Fundamental Question - How?'; 'The Irish Example'; 'Lesson of the American Revolution'; 'The Czech Example'
Part E: 'From the Home and From Outside': 'There Won't be a War of Brothers'; 'A Reply to Winston Churchill'; commentary
Part F: 'Conclusion': 'A Piece from the Fighting Youth'
Part G: 'The Meaning of the Hebrew Authority -
(I) Prosperity of the Homeland and its Cultivation' (appendicies): 'Development Opportunities for Eretz-Israel'; 'Geographic Background'; 'Geological Foundations of the Land'; 'The Dead Sea'; 'The Climate and Rainfall'; 'Desert Vegetation and Cultural Vegetation'; 'Treasures of the Quarries'; 'The Laudermilk Program'; 'The Absorption Ability of Eretz Israel'
(II) 'Names of the Land and her Borders': 'Names of the Land'; 'Her Borders'; 'Destined Borders'; 'Historical Borders'; 'Natural Borders'; 'The National Border'

The Hebrew War of Liberation (Ideological Foundations)


1. A quotation from Jabotinsky from his address delivered on the occasion of the third anniversary of the death of Yaakov de Haas, in August 1940 - and just a few days before his own death.

2. The writer of the manifesto, using phrases almost word-for-word identical to an exhortation from Jabotinky, is referring to his 1923 cry (from "Being Familiar with Fire") for Jewish youth to "learn to shoot": For the generation which is growing up before our eyes, on whose shoulders will be imposed the responsibility - apparently for the greatest turning point in our history - its basics ring as simple as 'learn to shoot'..." ("בשביל הדור הגדל לנגד עינינו ואשר על כתפיו תוטל - כנראה,האחריות למפנה הגדול ביותר בתולדותינו, יש לאלף- בית צלצול פשוט ביותר: צעירים, למדו לירות...")

3. I translate the Hebrew word "khevra" as 'people' and not 'society' (as the word usually means).


My Demand -
...When a Jew, especially a young Jew, come to us, he rises and declares before the world entire: "I demand judgment and justice for myself, and if I will not receive them - I will turn the whole world into a desert wilderness. In a place where I am a king among other kings - there exists progress. But if my destiny is to be found outside the framework, I don't care if you all burn up in flames. I'll even add oil to the fire. There will never be redemption if I have not part in it. In the beginning G-d created my demand". 1

Learn to Shoot -
In the ears of the generation, which grew up before our eyes and on whose back will be borne, apparently, the responsibility for the great change in our history - its basics ring as simple as the purpose: learn to shoot! 2

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The Jewish Flag of War -
One Jewish flag of war in Eretz Israel would bring to the world in greatness and in a language more understood, more than what there is in our mouths to say. Indeed certainly when will be heard this cry, will be awakened then in the hearts of the Jewish youth the same emotion of a simple man: to go and fight for Eretz Israel when all other men are fighting, who stole from them their Eretz Israel.

Youth -
Youth, real youth, which earned this proud name, has two roles in the life of the people3. The first role I'll compare to motion-wheel in an engine. It will happen sometimes that the parts of the engine will be in such a state of equilibrium that the engine won't be able to start: that's the "point of death". For that reason an engine has a special wheel called the "flywheel"; you push it with your hand and its momentum pulls after it the rest of the wheels: the "point of death" is beaten and the engines ignites.

Also in the life of the people will come death-moments, in which the nation wants something and together with it is scared of it, and between the desire and the fear comes to be such an equilibrium that it causes non-movement from the place, even to being frozen in place, and the flywheel of humanity is: youth. In times like these it is designated to raise the mechanism of the nation and to pull it behind it.

The second role of the youth I will compare to a compass. The compass does not steer the ship: the steerer is the captain. However in the compass is located a piece of metal possessing a quality unique to itself - it senses, always with a decisive exactitude, where in skies alights the highest of all stars.

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This is the youth; it cannot lead and it must not lead. However beware to the ship whose captain does not want to consider the silent suggestions of the compass. And many times over, beware to the ship which has lost it's magnetism and is not able to point to the stars.

People who react to the disaster which strikes their nation from outside - from catastrophes from within, by fleeing to a more refreshing street and perhaps even just for their mood and to look at streets which are more cheerful - these kinds of people are not worthy of being called by the name youth. To true youth there is just one answer to catastrophes and disappointments: specifically because of the anger and wrath of the world entire, nevertheless and in spite of everything, at any cost.

Instinct of the Youth
To youth which is alive there is an instinct which is alive, and at the hour of great decision, it is not dependent on the advice of the elders, so as to surge forth in the same direction which history demands that it turn to.

The Truth is One
In light of the appearance of hatred, in light of the anger and defamation, it is encumbent upon us to bear our bitter truth, without embellishment or any kind of sweetening.

The Decision Has Been Made
...Indeed we didn't want to educate the Hebrew youth in the direction of the act which is illegal, the act which is based on stratagems and secrecy: we hoped that there would be established between us and the English a relationship of citizenry towards its civilian government. The hope was dashed and now there between us and the English a relationship of a citizen of an occupied land towards the government of the occupier; not a "Mandate" but rather "Occupation". A regime like this has no moral right to exist, and there is no moral duty upon us towards its bearers, towards a government which exists only because of the power of its military, a government which mocks its own promises.
(Ze'ev Jabotinsky)

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I often ask myself, how would modern humanity relate to the case of the Garibaldi's plots if they were to occur in our times? Essentially, why in our days are there nations in the same condition as Italy's before Garibaldi? What made Italy's tragedy so great? Schism and subjugation. The few in our days are nations which are dispersed and scattered? Even the Italians themselves still had not collected together their far-flung brothers under the wings of the homeland. Tyrol the southern, the province of Tridenti the historical, still relegated to Austria; still whose governor is German; and the elderly Alighieri carved of marble still looks and views with yearning over his granite base to the expanses of Torinto, to the south, over the Alps, towards Italy the separated. And not only just the Italians! The Serbs and Croats are divided up over five or six kingdoms. The north of Macedonia which is settled by Bulgarians is still in Turkish control, the Greek south of Macedonia together with Greek islands and even Crete itself are still an injustice of the Turks upon them. Two million Romanians are still subjugated in Transylvania the Hungarian. And still the descendents of these soft nations await the coming of their redemption, for a Garibaldi who will come forth from among them. And indeed this is an interesting question: how does modern humanity relate to this expectation of theirs? Not the diplomats of course, and not the governor-generals, but rather the same "young" Europe, the radical, which in her hour would have admired Garibaldi the Italian, and until today his name is borne and praised upon her lips, and which shares in the sorrow of Italians of Tarianetto which aspires to cast off the yoke of Austria, and which shares in the sorrow of the Serbians and Croatians, the Bulgarians, the Hungarians and the rest of the nations who dream of renewing the story of Italy, to change the political map, to crush the ancient royalty and to build anew?

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