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Etzel : Ha-Irgun Ha-tsvai Ha-Leumi b-Eretz Israel

National Military Organization in the Land of Israel

Also called, Ha-Irgun.

The Etzel was an underground military organization that operated in the Yishuv from 1931 to 1948.

It aimed to protect the Jewish population of the Land in Israel, fought against the local Arab population, carried out acts of retribution, defense, and even terrorism, and fought the British mandate.


The British Mandate government and the United Nations considered the Etzel to be a terrorist organization. Some of the organization's opponents in the Yishuv shared this statement (like the Jewish Agency), as well as other associations such as the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry and international newspapers.

The symbol of the organization underneath a hand holding a rifle in the foreground of a map showing both Mandatory Palestine and the Emirate of Transjordan (at the time, both were administered under the terms of the British Mandate for Palestine). Its motto was רק כך (In Hebrew ''Rak Kah'', meaning only thus / only that way).


The Etzel was founded in 1931 by retired commanders from the "Haganah" who wanted to promote a more aggressive front in the struggle against the Arabs in the country. They opposed the Histadrut's dominance over the Yishuv. Some were also affiliated with the Revisionist Party, which was founded by Jabotinsky.

His first leader and founder, Avraham Tehomi, was among other things, the one who assassinated one of the local Agudat Israel leaders in 1924 (Jacob Israel De Haan), for actively promoting an alliance with the Arabs against the Zionists.

In 1937 the Etzel split up, and many of its members returned to the Hagana ranks, under the Jewish Agency's leadership.

From then on, the Etzel was completely identified with the Revisionist Movement (which has strongly influenced modern right-wing parties, principally Herut and its successor Likud), and Beitar, with Ze'ev Jabotinsky as the organization's founder and leader, until he died in 1940.

Jabotinsky formulated the movement's ideology and inspired the organization overall.

During this period, the number of operations and attacks carried out by the organization against the Arab population in Israel increased.

Following the publication of the "White Book" in May 1939, the Etzel focused on attacking British targets.

In September, World War II broke out, and Jabotinsky decided to stop fighting Britain and support it in the campaign against Nazi Germany. The decision led to the founding of the Lehi (Lohamei Herut Israel, "Fighters for the Freedom of Israel) after several Etzel members protested against the decision to stop fighting the British.

In 1943, the movement declared a rebellion against the British mandate and attacked its facilities. This was due to Britain's policy of limiting immigration while Jews were massacred in Europe.

The Zionist leadership in the Land Israel asked that the Etzel refrain from attacking the British as long as they fought the Nazis. The Etzel refused, and it was decided to stop his activities by force. In November 1944, for about half a year, the Haganah members waged war against the Etzel members who refused to listen to the Yishuv's leadership.

Some Etzel members were even kidnapped and handed over to the British.

This short period is considered one of the lowest periods of the Jewish settlement.

In July 1946, the Etzel blew up the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, killing 90 people (including Jews, Arabs, and British). Over the years, the British captured and imprisoned hundreds of Etzel members. Some were executed and many were exiled to detention camps in Africa.

On the occasion of the Declaration of Independence, the commander of the Etzel, Menachem Begin, stated in his speech that the organization would stop its activities in the newly formed country and respect its government.

He said: ''במדינת ישראל נהיה חיילים ובונים''. ''BeMedinat Israel Nihiye Hayalim vebonim''.*
'In the State of Israel, we will be soldiers and builders.''

About a month later, in June 1948, the Altalana affair shocked Israeli opinion. The newly formed IDF bombed the ship carrying weapons and immigrants sent by the Etzel to Israel's shores.

However, the Irgun personnel were integrated into the IDF and fought in the War of Independence.

That same year, in the newly formed country, Menahem Begin founded the Herut party, succeeding the Etzel organization and embodying the Revisionist vision.



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