MI5’s dossiers on the group released this week cast the Cold War’s early years in a stark new light: Terrorism, not the Soviet Union, was the main threat
By Calder Walton | 2 December 2017
HAARETZ — Records declassified this week by Britain’s Security Service, MI5, reveal an urgent terrorist threat that Britain faced in the 20th century. No, it wasn’t the Irish Republican Army or Islamist terrorist groups that would plague Britain later in the century, but rather extremist Zionist groups fighting the British after World War II to establish the State of Israel.
In July 1946, one of these groups, the Irgun, led by the future Israeli prime minister and Nobel Peace Prize winner Menachem Begin, blew up the headquarters of the British administration in Palestine, Jerusalem’s King David Hotel, with heavy loss of civilian life and damage. The newly released MI5 files show that another group fighting the British, the Lehi or “Stern Gang,” dispatched cells to carry out bombings and assassinations in Britain itself. The Stern Gang is thought to be the world’s last terrorist group to describe itself publicly as “terrorist,” with some of its members using the term as a badge of honor.
In April 1947, two Stern Gang terrorists, a man and a woman, attempted to blow up the Colonial Office in Whitehall in the center of London. They planted a bomb containing 24 sticks of explosives at Dover House, headquarters of the Colonial Office, but it failed to go off because it was not fused correctly. The head of London’s Special Branch, commander Leonard Burt, believed that if the bomb had gone off, it would have caused as much damage as the bombing of the King David Hotel in London nine months earlier. […]