Jews through various organizations were trying to get the state of Israel. There was stiff opposition from the Arabs and the rest of the world. Many organizations sprang up amongst the Jews to deal with the issue. The goal of all these organizations was the same, to get a state of Jews. But the means to achieve their freedom was a little in each of these groups. Some wanted a peaceful settlement and some wanted to adopt violence. The most prominent among them were the Haganah, Irgun and Lehi. In 1945 these factions were brought under one umbrella and some common rules were formulated. Each group could propose an idea or operation but who would carry it and how it would be carried out was decided by the committee. There would be debates before deciding upon the operation.
There was so much of thought of given to operations of the Jews but the attack on King David Hotel changed the opinion about the Jews and they were termed as terrorist. Why was this incident so crucial in the history of Israel? For one, though the target was the British in the hotel, many more nationals lost their lives. It is also crucial because this incident also forced the Jews to rethink on their operations and adopt a moderate stand on their freedom struggle. The attack on King David Hotel turned out to be a game changer in the history of Israel.
Planning For the Attack
The attack on King David Hotel was conducted on July 22nd 1946, a Monday, by Irgun a Jewish faction fighting for the freedom of Jews and a state for Jews. King David Hotel served as the administrative headquarters of the British. The idea which had come was initially opposed by the leaders of Haganah. On July 1st the chief of Haganah sent a consent letter to the leader of the Irgun, Menachem Begin. However there were delays in the execution and the plan was undergoing changes based on the changes in the political situation. The plan was finalised between the chief of operations of Irgun and commander of the Palmach.
The plan was to dress as Arab workers and enter the basement and place the bomb in concealed milk cans. The cans were to be placed in the columns of the wings of the hotel which housed the offices of the British authorities. The columns were in the basement nightclub called Regence. It was decided that the attack would take place on July 22nd at 11.00 AM. This time was chosen because it was believed that the coffee shop and other areas of the basement would not have any people. It was one area of the hotel where people could enter easily without being noticed. Another attack on David Brother’s Building by Lehi was planned with this attack but after a while the plan was dropped. The attacks were planned in such a way that minimum civilians would be affected. However the opposite happened.
Attacks on the Hotel were planned by Irgun and remote controlled bombs were planted as well. But the Haganh learned about this plan and informed the British through Teddy Kollek of the Jewish agency. The army sappers removed these bombs on time. Another unknown group threw grenades on the hotel but it did not hit the hotel and was dismissed as damp squib. The Irgun even called up the hotel’s switchboard and warned them about a bomb being implanted. There were many bomb calls being made at that time, so this call was dismissed off as a hoax. Earlier there was a search probably because of a call earlier in the day. There were subsequent calls from the Palestine Post and the Police and this set the panic and the hotel manager was notified. Just a few minute before the explosion a British officer was informed but no evacuation was carried out.
The Attack and the Aftermath
The explosion happened at 12.37, one and half hours later than what was planned. The western half of the southern wing collapsed with the blast. The people who perpetrated the crime met at 7 am. They used 350kg of explosives which was spread over six charges. Irgun men slipped out after placing the bombs in the hotel. It was reported that a small bomb was detonated in the street outside the hotel to keep the passers-by away from the area and this was done to bring down the casualties of civilians. But spectators from the hotel gathered around the south west corner just over where the bombs were placed inside the hotel. So when those bombs went off many were present in the area as against what was planned. The first bomb also put a bus, full of Arab workers, off the road and the injured Arabs were rushed into the hotel.
- 91 people were killed.
- Most of them were staff of the hotel or Secretariat
- There were 13 soldiers, 3 policemen and five members of the public.
- Other than the British there were Palestine Jews, Armenians, Russian, Greek and Egyptian.
- 13 people were not identified.
- 46 people were injured.
- Irgun sympathizer and a Zionist writer were killed
- Operation Shark was launched where the British police force began to search all the houses of the Jews to eradicate any trace of weapons, hideouts; in general to clean up the state. This was a counter terrorism operation.
- Though a lot of planning had gone into see that civilians were not affected, the plan failed.
- The act was considered as an act of terrorism and not n act of freedom.
- Jewish political leaders also condemned the attack on King David Hotel.
- The conflict between the mandate government and the Jewish militants reached a new high.
- A lot of civil liberty restrictions were enacted by the British government on the Jews of Palestine.
Though there were international repercussion after the bombing of King David Hotel, there was an international awareness of the problems in Palestine and the UN were given the responsibility to bring about an amicable solution. The solution put forth by the UN, the division of Palestine into Israel and Palestine, was accepted by the Jews but not by the Arabs.