The Etzel (The Irgun)

The Etzel, otherwise known as the Irgun; was a Zionist semi-militarized organization that operated between 1931 and 1948 in Mandate Palestine. The Etzel was formed in 1931 as a more radical offshoot of the older and larger Haganah. In other words, a group formed in the early 1920s by existing militias to defend Jewish settlements from Arab attacks. So the Etzel believed in the Zionist ideology of wanting to create a Jewish state. However, it did not agree with the Haganah on the way to achieve it; so they broke off to form a new more militant group.  

The Etzel and Revisionist Zionism

Ze’ev Jabotinsky founds the Etzel. The organization got formed on the policy of Revisionist Zionism. It differed from other types of Zionism in that it’s members wanted to occupy the whole territory covered by the League of Nations and not just sections of it. 

So in 1936, the Etzel became an instrument of the Revisionist Party. That is to day, an extreme nationalist group whose doctrine called for the use of force, if necessary, to establish a Jewish state on both sides of the Jordan. In addition to being violently anti-Arab; the Etzel committed many acts of assassination and terrorism against the British; who they regarded as being illegal occupiers. 

While the Irgun was described as a terrorist organization by the United Nations and the British. The organization’s tactics were acceptable to many Jews who strongly believed that any action taken that worked towards creating a Jewish state was justified. 

The Eztel is best known for two notorious operations: First is the bombing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem in July of 1946. Second is the Deir Yassin massacre. the last they carried out together with the extreme right-wing group, the Lehi, in April 1948.

The Etzel was also vehemently opposed to the British White Paper on Palestine that was published in 1939 that “called for the establishment of a Jewish national home in an independent Palestinian state within 10 years” and “limited Jewish immigration to 75,000 for five years.” Moreover, the paper also stated that “Jews were restricted from buying Arab land in all but 5% of the Mandate.” In other words the white paper meant the end of a Jewish state for the Jewish People. 

Illegal Immigration

After the publication of the White Paper; the Etzel participated in the organization of illegal immigration into Palestine. They followed Jabotinsky’s “Evacuation Plan”. In other words, it aimed to see millions of European Jews being brought to Palestine to help create a Jewish state. Many Eztel fighters were killed by the British during these clandestine immigration forays. On the other hand the Eztel retaliates by executing many British army hostages. 

When the Second World War ended; it becomes clear that Britain had no intention of changing its Anti-Zionist policy. So the Eztel joined forces with the Haganah and the extreme right-wing group (the Lehi); to form a unified Jewish Resistance Movement to resist the British. In fact, this unified front would form the basis of what would become the Israeli Defense Forces when Israel was declared a state in 1948.

A Nation Can Not Live on Its Sword Forever

On my private tours of Israel I like to elaborate about these organizations. Each one is its own museum we can visit and learn about them some more. For example the Haganah Museum is right in the middle of Rotchild Bulevard. And the Museum honoring the Etzel is also not that far a way from there. I guess the in the end, these men and women sacrificed their lives that we could have a Jewish state here. Insipite all the hardships and against all odds, they made it happen. An amazing sacrifice to my opinion. 

One of the Museums that is my personal favorite is the Palmach Museum just next to Tel Aviv University and Itzahk Rabin center. Rabin I think is a great example of these men and women that fought for a state. But in his case I think he understood at some point that a nation can not live on its sword forever. And that in some point you have to seek making peace with your enamy. Becuase if not you wouldn’t be able to exist for a long time. Each time you examine history a nation that is not able to reach a peace agreement with it nebouring nations; can’t last for a long time. For example the crusaders, they were seen as a foreign element and eventually lost to the Arabs. 

A Last Ending Note

Alright then, so after learning a bit on the Etzel! I hope to see you in one of my tours and that we could exploring this fascinating period and Israel modern history. There are lots of things to see in Tel Aviv that relates to this subject and I can assure you won’t stop listening. Because these story of this young men and women would make you break up in tears!

For example young and so young men and women that cave from the horrors of the Holocaust. Without knowing Hebrew, barley weighing enough to carry their own weight went to the front without thinking about too much. But the problem was that when they died their entire family died with them. Since they were the very last living remnanace of these families. So sad these stories but on the other shows the bravery and the willing to sacrifice for the whole of the nation. 


Hi! My name is Arik Haglili, an Israeli native who decided to dedicate his life to share my knowledge about the Holy Land to those that are interested to know more about this amazing piece of land. My career as a private tour guide started at the International School For the Studying of the Holocaust and the rest is history. 

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