Anonymous Soldiers: The Struggle For Israel, 1917-1947

Knopf  2015


“We believe in the sacrifice of battle and the sacrifice of the Israeli youth that sets its goal the strength and independence of the core of the Hebrew strength,” exclaimed a pamphlet by the right leaning Zionist underground Irgun in 1937. The time had come to end “passive defense,” demanded their leader David Raziel; now was the time to take the fight to the British rulers and Arab majority of Palestine and drive them out so a Jewish state could be formed.

Professor Bruce Hoffman, an expert on terrorism and insurgency and director of the Center for Security Studies at Georgetown University, seeks to examine the Jewish violence in Palestine as a case study in examining whether terrorism is effective. In Anonymous Soldiers, he uses Jewish groups that employed what would widely be described as terrorism—bombings, bank robberies, assassinations and shootings—against the British and Arabs in the 1930s and 1940s as his lens for the history of this period and region.

Although this well researched book based on primary sources claims to cover the period 1920 to 1948, its real focus is the last decade before Israel’s independence. It does not so much focus on the struggle between the groups as on the conflict between the British and the Jewish Lehi and Irgun organizations. “Terrorism can, in the right conditions and with the appropriate strategy and tactics, succeed in attaining at least some of its practitioners fundamental aims,” the author concludes.

Notes, bibliography, index.

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