1947 was a bad year for Great Britain. That was the year that India declared its independence and the year that England decided to relinquish its Palestine mandate and refer the Palestine quagmire to the United Nations. Evron chronicles the contributions of Amihai Paglin, a.k.a. Gidi, in hastening Britain’s departure from Palestine.
In 1946, Menachem Begin promoted Gidi Paglin (age 24) to be the chief of operations for the Irgun Zvai Leumi (“Irgun”). The Irgun was one of the principal underground guerilla organizations attacking British installations in Israel’s pre-state era. Almost the entire book focuses on Gidi’s exploits for the Irgun prior to Israel’s War of Independence. In a sense, the book is as much a history of the Irgun as it is a biography of Gidi.
While it has become fashionable to attribute Israel’s creation as a gift from the European countries consumed with guilt over the Holocaust, this book serves as a reminder that Israel’s creation had little to do with European altruism and much to do with guerilla attacks from organizations such as the Irgun. This opinion was shared by none other than Winston Churchill who is quoted as saying, “It was the Irgun Zvai Leumi that caused the British evacuation from Palestine.”
Among other operations, the Irgun destroyed the British administrative center in Palestine by bombing the King David Hotel as well as Jerusalem’s main railway station in 1946; stormed Acre prison, freeing Irgun prisoners held there in 1947, and conquered Jaffa in early 1948. But these were only the more spectacular attacks. The Irgun was active everywhere in Palestine. For example, in the month of March, 1947 alone, the Irgun carried out at least nine successful attacks on British military targets.
The book relies heavily on interviews with former members of the Irgun as well as the Haganah, the earlier Jewish paramilitary organization out of which the Irgun emerged. The author paints a vivid portrait of Gidi, a man whose legend grew more from his actions than from a charismatic personality. Gidi: One Chasing a Thousand is worthwhile as a history of Israel in its pre-state era and the challenges the Irgun faced during its revolt against British rule.