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Palestine between Politics and Terror, 1945-1947

Motti Golani

Publication Year: 2013

British General Sir Allan Cunningham was appointed in 1945 as high commissioner of Palestine, and served in this capacity until the end of the British mandate on May 15, 1948. The three years of Cunningham's tenure were tremendously complex politically: players included the British government in London, the British army, the British administration in Jerusalem, and diverse military forces within the Zionist establishment, both Jew and Arab. Golani revisits this period from the perspective of the high commissioner, examining understudied official documents as well as Cunningham's letters, notes, and cables. He emphasizes especially the challenges of navigating Jewish and Arab terrorists, on the one hand, and the multiple layers of British institutional bureaucracies, on the other, and does an excellent job of establishing Sir Allan's daily trials within the broad frame of the collapse of the British Empire following World War II.

Published by: Brandeis University Press

Series: The Schusterman Series in Israel Studies

Title Page, Series Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-xvi

On July 22, 1948, the Royal Institute of International Affairs at Chatham House, in London, held an evening in honor of the last British High Commissioner in Palestine, General Sir Alan Gordon Cunningham. A few dozen members of the institute turned up for the event, along with interested members of the public, most of them Jews. Tea and...

Abbreviations and Terms

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pp. xvii-xx

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Prologue: On the Road to Jerusalem

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pp. 1-24

Alan Gordon Cunningham was born in Dublin, Ireland, on May 1, 1887, to a Scottish family. The fifth and youngest child of Elizabeth and Daniel Cunningham, he had two sisters and two brothers. Daniel Cunningham was a leading anatomist of the time and taught at the University of Edinburgh and afterward at the University of Dublin. Devoted to...

Part I. A Political Process as Though There Is No Terrorism: November 1945–December 1946

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1. The Only Chance for Palestine Is Partition

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pp. 27-57

Cunningham arrived in Jerusalem on Wednesday November 21, 1945, via the international airport in Lod. The official reception reflected the dual character of his mission: military and civilian. On the tarmac, he was welcomed by the chief secretary, the commander of the British Army in Palestine, and by air force and navy commanders in the...

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2. Toward a Clash with the Yishuv

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pp. 58-83

In the spring of 1946, with the mission of the Anglo- American Committee completed, the high commissioner enjoyed greater freedom of action. The waiting period mandated by the committee’s work had the effect of tempering his approach—which sprang from his military experience—and enriching his experience of the situation...

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3. Saving the Jews from Themselves: Operation Agatha

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pp. 84-106

On Saturday June 29, 1946, the Mandatory administration sent the army into action to carry out the largest operation mounted against the Yishuv during the British period of rule in Palestine. The operation, which ended on July 11, was aimed at the legal and semilegal institutions of the organized Yishuv, which functioned under the auspices...

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4. A State First, Immigration Later

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pp. 107-138

Operation Agatha ended; the troops returned to their barracks. Cunningham’s patience and persistence seemed to have borne fruit in both Britain and Palestine. The colonial secretary informed him with cautious satisfaction about a shift in the government’s thinking. The ministers now understood that the single-state idea was not viable...

Part II. To Fight Terrorismas Though There Is No Political Process: July 1946–August 1947

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5. “The King David Hotel Crime”

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pp. 141-163

On Monday July 22, 1946, shortly after being pulled from the debris of the southeast wing of the King David Hotel,1 Sir John Shaw, the chief secretary of the Mandate administration,2 cabled the colonial secretary and the British ambassadors in the Middle East, Washington, and Moscow. A particularly large bomb had exploded in the Chief Secretariat...

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6. The High Commissioner’s “Conciliation Policy”

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pp. 164-185

On November 20, 1946, Field Marshal Montgomery, the chief of the Imperial General Staff, launched a concentrated attack on Cunningham’s policy. Meeting that day with the Cabinet Defense Committee and the Chiefs of Staff Committee, Montgomery explained that the “conciliation policy” in Palestine had failed and that the limited initiative...

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7. Martial Law

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pp. 186-227

On January 17, 1947, the day after his return from London and another ephemeral victory, Cunningham summoned Ben-Gurion and told him he was disappointed that the Jewish Agency’s promises to fight terrorism were not being translated into action. The Yishuv leader, of course, could not have known what had prompted the high commissioner...

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pp. 228-240

On May 1, 1948, two weeks before he left Palestine, Cunningham turned sixty-one. Having retired from the army in October 1946, he now was about to retire from his brief service in the Colonial Office. The age at which he left the service was not unusual in comparison with the six high commissioners who preceded him in Palestine. With the...


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pp. 241-246


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pp. 247-255

E-ISBN-13: 9781611683882
E-ISBN-10: 1611683882
Print-ISBN-13: 9781611683875

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: The Schusterman Series in Israel Studies