Sunday, August 10, 2008

Irgun Pamphlet Fetches 1500 Sterling in Auction

Irgun pamphlet threatening British soldiers fetches 1,600 pounds at U.K. auction

A threatening pamphlet addressed to British troops written by the Irgun, a pre-state Jewish militia led by former prime minister Menachem Begin, fetched 1,600 pounds sterling at an auction held in London last week.

The English document written by the militia was sent "from the soldiers of the underground to the soldiers of the occupation army", referring to the United Kingdom forces who were deployed in the British Mandate of Palestine, before Israel's establishment.

The pamphlet was printed a few months after the Irgun (also known as the 'Etzel', an acronym for "Irgun Tzvai Leumi" meaning "national military organization") carried out a deadly bombing in 1946 of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, the headquarters of the mandate authorities in Palestine at the time. The pamphlet was apparently meant to serve as a warning to British soldiers serving in Palestine to leave the Middle East.

"Most of you have been in this country for quite a long time," the pamphlet reads. "You have learned what the word 'terrorist' means, some of you may even have come into direct contact with them (and heartily desire not to repeat the experience). But what do you know about them? Why does a young man go underground?"

The document draws a parallel between Britain under the threat of Nazi Germany and the Jews attempting to set up a state in Mandate Palestine. It attempts to portray what would happen if Britain had been overrun by the Nazis, saying "remember 1940. Then it seemed quite possible that your island country would be conquered and subjugated by Hitler hordes . . . what would you have done? Would you have gone underground?"

The militia also warns British troops of a painful price for staying in Palestine, saying "it is unavoidable that many Jewish soldiers and many British soldiers should fall. And it is only fair that these people know at least why they may be killed."

The sale of the pamphlet, held at the Mullock's auction house, attracted wide media coverage in Britain, and drew the attention of the Arab media as well.

Nonetheless, according to book collector and dealer Eliasaf Robinson, the document was sold for an inordinately high price.

"In Israel, Irgun pamphlets are sold for hundreds of shekels, at most a thousand shekels. An auction house however, draws people with a personal interest in the item, and sometimes unexpected things happen."

Two documents written by the Haganah, Israel's pre-state army were also sold at the auction, but fetched only 50 and 150 pounds sterling each.