[ Ed. note – This is actually an old story. What’s new is that you can now visit the UK National Archives and, for a fee, see the documents that have been released concerning these plots. The attempt on Bevin’s life is only part of the story. There was also a plot to carry out an aerial bombing of London organized by followers of an American rabbi by the name of Korf. The documents on the latter remain under heavy censorship. H/T Miriam. ]
By Neil Tweedie and Peter Day
Jewish terrorist groups plotted to assassinate Ernest Bevin, the Foreign Secretary in the post-war Labour government, as part of a bombing campaign on the British mainland inspired by the IRA.
MI5 warned Clement Attlee, the prime minister, that the Stern Gang and Irgun intended to establish five terrorist cells in London to mount a bombing campaign aimed at driving Britain out of Palestine. Bevin, who was opposed to the creation of the state of Israel, was a prime target.
Security Service files also contain details of an outlandish plan by the followers of an American Zionist rabbi to bomb London from the air. Details of that plot have been heavily censored.
The warnings came in 1946 from James Robertson, head of the Security Service’s Middle East Section.
He wrote: “Our Jerusalem representative has received information that the Irgun and Stern groups have decided to send five cells to London to work on IRA lines. To use their own words, the terrorists intend to ‘beat the dog in his own kennel’.
“The Stern group has been steadily recruiting in recent months and may now number 600 followers, most of whom are desperate men and women who count their own lives cheap.
“In recent months it has been reported that they have been training selected members for the purpose of assassinating a prominent British personality. Special reference has been several times made to Mr Bevin.”
The plot to bomb the capital from the air was said to be the product of followers of one Rabbi Korff.
Londoners were to be convinced of the rightness of the terrorists’ cause with leaflets dropped from the same aircraft as the explosives. The plot was foiled by MI5 and a number of arrests made in Paris.
The report was written shortly after 18 men had been sentenced to death for a sabotage attack on the railway workshops at Haifa. Stern and Irgun warned that there would be 100 terrorist outrages in retaliation if the 18 were hanged. Their sentences were later commuted to life.
Robertson identified Menachem Begin, the future Israeli prime minister, as leader of the 5,000-strong Irgun.
Bevin was a hated figure among all the Jewish groups trying to establish a homeland, arguing that Jews needed to be re-assimilated into the nations of Europe in the aftermath of the Holocaust. He accused the United States of encouraging illegal migration to Palestine in contravention of British quotas.