How British Intelligence Services Helped Incite the First Arab War against Israel

May 20, 2020 | Meir Zamir
About the author:

Prior to making his fateful decision to declare a Jewish state, David Ben-Gurion had been informed by French intelligence that the Arab rulers had already decided to launch a war against Palestinian Jewry and, moreover, that they were receiving clandestine support from Britain. Meir Zamir, drawing on documents in French and Israeli archives, tells the story:

Ben-Gurion found out as early as July 1947 about a British plot involving Iraqi leaders to incite war. French intelligence informed him that senior British military and intelligence officers in Cairo and Bagdad were working secretly to thwart His Majesty’s government’s decision to evacuate Palestine by sparking a general war between Jews and Arabs.

The capture of the Etzion Bloc, [a cluster of Jewish communities a few miles south of Jerusalem], by Arab irregulars, mostly from the surrounding villages, in cooperation with units of the Arab Legion, which concluded on the morning of May 13, persuaded even those Arab leaders who were still hesitant that their armies were capable of defeating the Jewish forces and of liberating Palestine. This was overwhelmingly affirmed [when] many of the residents of Kibbutz Kfar Etzion were massacred and hundreds more from neighboring settlements were taken captive and paraded in trucks through the streets of Amman to the cheers of the crowd.

Indeed, furnishing such proof was one of the objectives of the operation, whose architect was the commander of the Arab Legion, Glubb Pasha (the British officer John Bagot Glubb), who was in direct contact with the British High Command and intelligence services in Egypt. But the conquest of the Etzion Bloc also had an immediate military purpose: ensuring the functioning of the supply lines from the British Army depots at the Suez Canal to the Arab Legion.

[Likewise], British intelligence personnel and generals in Egypt manipulated King Faruq to join in the war against Israel. Among other tactics, British agents made use of the Muslim Brotherhood movement. Thousands of the organization’s members attacked and plundered Jewish and foreign property and demonstrated on the streets of the cities, demanding that the king order the army to take action to save al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and Palestine’s Muslims.

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