The Secret War That Saved the Land of Israel from the Nazis

Several times over the course of World War II, the Wehrmacht came dangerously close to overrunning the borders of Mandatory Palestine. In a new book, Gershon Gorenberg tells the story of Britain’s clandestine efforts to keep Hitler’s forces out of the Middle East. Amy Spiro writes:

As [Gorenberg] recounts in the 482-page book, there were moments in the early years of the war when “very suddenly it seemed that the Nazis could come from the west through Egypt, or the north through Syria, or from the air,” bringing them straight to the borders of Mandatory Palestine and its hundreds of thousands of Jews.

At the heart of [the book] are the men and women who spent the war not on the battlefront, but far in the background, tracing, intercepting, and cracking encrypted messages to gather the intelligence that enabled Allied forces to halt the Nazi invasion of the Middle East. Much of the action in the book focuses on Bletchley Park, a sprawling mansion in the English countryside that housed the top-secret British efforts to seize and decode Nazi missives.

It is not widely known, Gorenberg posited, “the extent to which people during that period really expected the Nazis to invade at any moment.”

Gorenberg’s book is chock-full of stories and anecdotes that may come as a surprise even to avid consumers of history of both World War II and the Middle East. In 1940, for example, Italy carried out a series of bombing raids on Tel Aviv and Haifa, killing more than 200 people. And the former IDF chief of staff Moshe Dayan received his iconic eye patch after losing his sight in a 1941 battle against Vichy French forces in Lebanon.

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More about: History of Zionism, Mandate Palestine, Moshe Dayan, World War II

 

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy