This 1938 photograph courtesy of the Government Press Office shows A Hagana instructors undergoing training at Pinat Hashomer near Sheikh Abreik

Haganah units were first set up in the early 1920s to protect isolated Jewish farms and kibbutzim. Jewish groups believed that the British may not be reliable enough to defend them from determined Arab attacks. They were very much ad hoc organisations with poor training and equipment during this period.

Following the 1929 Palestine riots, the Haganah's role changed dramatically. It became a much larger organization encompassing nearly all the youth and adults in the Jewish settlements, as well as thousands of members from the cities. It also acquired foreign arms and began to develop workshops to create hand grenades and simple military equipment, transforming itself into an effective paramilitary organisation.

In the 1930s there was a split between those who thought that the Haganah should remain a purely defensive organisation and those who felt that it should initiate counter-attacks or preemptive stries on Arab gangs and organisations. Those who preferred the latter broke away to form 'Irgun'.

Palestine: Britain's Crown of Thorns


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by Stephen Luscombe