Gidi: One Chas­ing A Thousand

Joseph Evron; Philip Simp­son, trans.
  • Review
By – September 7, 2011

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.

Gil Ehrenkranz is a lawyer in the Dis­trict of Colum­bia spe­cial­iz­ing in telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions law and inter­na­tion­al trans­ac­tions. He has been pre­vi­ous­ly pub­lished in MID­STREAM Mag­a­zine includ­ing an arti­cle con­cern­ing Israeli mil­i­tary options regard­ing Iran’s nuclear weapons pro­gram., as well as in the Mid­dle East Review of Inter­na­tion­al Affairs

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