Full Text

Begin, Menachem (1913–92)

Subject History

Place Middle and Near East » Israel

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1900-1999

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631209379.1999.x


Prime Minister of Israel (1977–83). Born in White Russia, he took a law degree at the University of Warsaw. When the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939 he escaped to Lithuania, occupied by the Soviet Union. He was arrested and sentenced to eight years in a Siberian labour camp. Released in 1941, after the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, he reached Palestine in 1943 as a member of the Free Polish forces and was made commander in Irgun Zvai Leumi, a Jewish terrorist organization. He declared an armed struggle against the British in January 1944. Anti-British, owing to the restrictions Britain placed as the mandatory power on Jewish immigration into Palestine, he was deeply involved in illegal Jewish immigration. In 1946 Irgun members blew up the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, the British headquarters, killing 91 people. In 1947, after some Irgun members had been hanged as terrorists, Irgun hanged two British sergeants and booby-trapped their bodies. Irgun's activities helped to convince Ernest bevin , the British Foreign Secretary, that the mandate should not continue and prompted Britain to withdraw from Palestine. After the state of Israel was proclaimed in May 1948 Irgun was responsible for the massacre of Arab civilians at deir yassin , an act which Begin described as ‘heroic’. In the same year Irgun was disbanded as ben-gurion , the Prime Minister, who loathed Begin, would not ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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