This week in Haaretz / 1948 / Terror attack on the Palestine Post office in Jerusalem
Violent events had become routine all over the country by early 1948, but the attack on a newspaper office stood out nonetheless. "An enormous explosion rocks The Palestine Post in Jerusalem," read Haaretz's lead headline on February 2. Three people, including a Post employee, were killed and 30 were injured, most lightly, in the bombing of the paper that later became The Jerusalem Post.
"Enormous property damage was caused and many people were injured at 11 P.M. last night when a car bomb exploded close to the three-story building housing the Post, the Jerusalem printing press and Beit Baruch, and a fire broke out," Haaretz reported. "A military-style truck bearing people in uniforms was seen entering Solel [now Havatzelet] Street from the direction of Ben Yehuda Street. After the vehicle stopped between the Post and Beit Baruch, a large explosion occurred. A fire broke out a few minutes later, and in that brief interim, many of those inside, including employees of the press and the Post and residents of nearby buildings, managed to escape. The Post's editorial offices were nearly completely destroyed, as were branch offices of some Hebrew papers."
Another newspaper described the powerful explosion as the largest since the 1946 bombing of Jerusalem's King David Hotel by a prestate Zionist underground, the Irgun. "Solel Street looked as if it had been bombed from the air," Haaretz wrote, quoting this paper. "None of the buildings on the street were left intact; windows were shattered, furniture was destroyed and irreparable damage caused. Dozens of families were made homeless. The greatest damage was to two buildings whose apartments and offices went up in flames, and to the walls near where the explosion took place."
But Palestine Post employees hurried back to work. "Last night, all the journalists returned to their desks in the main editorial offices, which by some miracle remained unharmed, as did their files and equipment. A temporary power line and kerosene lamps lit the sooty rooms, and a phone line was brought in. Smoke still rose from the burned doorways and there were piles of ash on the floors. Unlike the editorial offices and the accounts department, the editor in chief's room and the library were completely destroyed."
The next day, a Haaretz political correspondent reported that "the attack on The Palestine Post and its staff is viewed by Jews, Arabs and foreigners alike as a departure from the routine violence now taking place here, and is seen as being political in nature."
The writer speculated that the British might have been behind the attack: "The Palestine Post serves as a platform for voicing the Jewish population's opinions to the paper's readers, who include Britons and Arabs. The paper has been preparing to produce an edition in Arabic. The hatred felt for the newspaper by the local British administration and the police is known to all. This hostile attitude is aimed at the Post because British circles do not read the Hebrew press.
"In addition, there is the fact that the vehicle used by the attackers was a military one, and was able to pass the civil guard checkpoints without arousing suspicion. Moreover, reliable Arab sources deny that they were responsible, and it is simple logic that had Arabs done the deed, they would have boasted about it. High-ranking police officers also think the attack was not carried out by Arabs. All of this points to the British."
But it soon came to light that the booby-trapped military vehicle was in fact placed there on orders from Abdel Qader Al-Husseini. According to historian Uri Milstein, the attack was carried out by Fawzi al-Kutub, with help from two British deserters.