When WW-II was over in Europe, and despite the immensity of the Holocaust, the British continued to limit immigration to Palestine in accordance with the “White Paper”
they had published in 1939. The chasm between the British Mandate Government and the “Yishuv” (the Jewish community in Eretz Israel/Palestine) widened immensely and led
to a reaction of the Zionist Movement on two fronts.
On one front Aliya Bet (illegal immigration) was resumed, and by the end of 1945, 8 ships arrived from Italy and from Greece.
The British managed to intercept only the
seventh, the “Berl Katzenelson”, and only after most of the ma’apilim (illegal immigrants) succeeded to get off the vessel and reach the Shefayim shore. The British
reacted by creating a naval force – “The Palestine Patrol”, which laid a quite effective blockade along the shores of Palestine.
On a 2nd frond, simultaneously with political activity, Ben-Gurion directed the
Hagana to organize for an armed struggle against the British.
In line with this order, the three underground organizations (Hagana, Etzel and Lechi) decided to coordinate their activities within a framework called
The Resistance Movement ("Tnuat Ha'Meri"). In Sep. 1945, B-G gave the order to take action.
The Palyam participated in the armed struggle within the framework of its mother battalion, the 4th Battalion of the Palmach. The first operation took place on October 10, 1945.
In this operation, a Palmach
force broke into the Atlit Detention Camp and freed 208 ma’apilim (illegal immigrants). The ma’apilim formed a long line and started climbing Mt Carmel
all the way to Kibbutz Beit Oren. Hundreds of citizens of Haifa took their cars to the Beit Oren road and created a traffic jam which made it difficult for the
British to chase them. A British police vehicle was fired upon to prevent it from reaching the kibbutz. From Bet Oren the Ma’apilim went down Mt Carmel on its
northern-western slope and mingled with the members of Kibbutz Yagur. A “human wall” prevented the British from entering the kibbutz.
Two weeks later, the British Foreign Secretary, Bevin, made a speech which in essence was a declaration of war against Zionism and Jewish immigration to Palestine.
The Hagana reacted swiftly. On the night between Nov. 1 & 2, 1945, the “Resistance Movement” took action in a large scale operation known as
"The Night of the Railroads”. Units of the
Palmach sabotaged railroads in dozens of places all over the country, bringing rail traffic to a halt.
As part of this operation, a newly-formed sabotage unit of the Palyam ("Ha'Chulya")
carried out its first operation in which it sabotaged British patrol boats used
to intercept Aliya Bet vessels.
The “Black Sabbath” – the wide British operation on June 29, 1946, in which thousands of Hagana
and Palmach members, as well as many political activists and some prominent political leaders of the
"Yishuv", were arrested – marked the effective end of the Hagana's general armed
struggle against the British. But the armed struggle continued as far as direct support of Aliya Bet was concerned. Overall, the Palyamniks carried out (or participated along with
other Palmach forces) in the following succesful sabotage operations/attacks against
British targets, in support of Aliya Bet:
Freeing 208 Jewish immigrants from the detention camp in Atlit (Oct. 10, 1945)
Sabotaging three patrol boats in the ports of Haifa and Jaffa (Nov. 2, 1945)
Attacking the coastal police posts in Giv'at-Olga and Sidni-Ali (Nov. 25, 1945)
Attacking the police post in Giv'at-Olga (Jan. 20, 1946)
Attacking the radar installation in Haifa (Feb. 21, 1946)
Attacking the mobile police in K'far Vitkin (Feb. 22, 1946)
Sabotaging the deportation ship Empire Haywood in the port of
Haifa (Aug. 18, 1946)
Sabotaging the deportation ship Empire Rival
in the port of Haifa (Aug. 22, 1946)
Sabotaging two landing crafts and a patrol boat in the port of Haifa (Feb. 13,
Sabotaging the deportation ship Ocean Vigor in the port of
Famagusta, Cyprus (Apr. 2, 1947)
Sabotaging (again) the deportation ship Empire Rival on her way to Egypt (Apr. 4, 1947)
Attacking two radar installations in Haifa (Jul. 21, 1947)
Sabotaging the deportation ship Empire Life Guard (Jul. 23, 1947)
The sabotage operations mentioned above were carried out by members of “Ha’Chulya” (“The Squad”) - the small underwater sabotage unit of the
Palyam. Click here for the full
story of this unit - the precursor to the famous “Shayetet 13” (the Israeli Naval Commando/Navy Seals).
Following the historic U.N. resolution from Nov.
29, 1947, the struggle against the British lost its priority and the
preparations for the coming war with the Arabs became as important as ever. In
this new stage, a new target for naval sabotage was identified in
March of 1948 - an arms vessel named Lino carrying 8,000 rifles and ammunition for the
Palestinians. On Apr. 10, 1948, three Palyamniks sabotaged the Lino in the port
of Bari, Italy. Click here for the full story of sinking the Lino and how
eventually -- the result of the "Pirate Operation" -- the rifles ended up
at the hands of the I.D.F (Tzahal) soldiers fighting the War of Independence.
Written by Tzvi Ben-tzur