British Mandate Boss Said Jews Were 'Like Nazis,’ Records Show

Newly published records show High Commissioner mistakenly believed 'all the ingredients of a successful truce were present’ before British departure.

Ofer Aderet
Ofer Aderet

The High Commissioner of Palestine viewed the behavior of Jewish fighters as comparable to that of the Nazis, according to excerpts of documents from the National Archives in London published for the first time this week in The Guardian and The Jewish Chronicle.

One of the papers is an intelligence report dated April 30, 1948 — two weeks before Jewish leaders declared independence. Sir Alan Cunningham, who was the last high commissioner in pre-state Israel, wrote to his superiors that as the Jews celebrated military victories, their “broadcasts, both in content and in manner of delivery, are remarkably like those of Nazi Germany.”

In another report, he wrote that the Jews were ready to declare the state’s establishment and an “all-out offensive” with “all the equipment of a totalitarian regime.” The papers include mention of Jewish and Arab attacks against the British, together with frequent references to Jewish “terrorists.”

One report deals with the Jewish forces' attack on the Arab village of Deir Yassin during the War of Independence. Cunningham wrote of the massacre of 250 people: “Women and children were stripped, lined up, photographed and then slaughtered.”

The papers published this week present a complex picture and contain contradictory information, which changed depending on the time they were written. For example, a week before the British departure from Mandate Palestine, Cunningham believed that “all the ingredients of a successful truce were present.” Yet in reports from previous years, the British predict the outbreak of the War of Independence and the Arabs’ defeat.

In the reports, the British describe the Jews as better organized than the Arabs, whom Cunningham described in his report of April 30 as “poorly equipped and badly led.”

In the same report, he wrote, “In almost every engagement the Jews have proved their superiority in organisation, training and tactics.” At the beginning of 1948, British officials reported, “Jewish victories … have reduced Arab morale to zero and, following the cowardly example of their inept leaders, they are fleeing from the mixed areas in their thousands. It is now obvious that the only hope of regaining their position lies in the regular armies of the Arab states.”

The Hagana ship, 'Jewish state,' which tried to bring Jews to Palestine.Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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