King David Hotel Bombing
The British Mandate in Palestine was established with the stated aim of establishing a Jewish homeland, but with the caveat that this was to be done without prejudicing religious or civil rights of non-Jewish communities in the region: an impossible balancing act. In the mid-1940s Jewish militants were understandably desperate post-Holocaust to have their own land; suspected British actions; and lost patience, some resorting to terrorism to achieve their aims. The attack on the King David Hotel was the worst terrorist atrocity of that anti-British campaign.
Irgun, the paramilitary arm of the Zionist movement in Palestine, carried out the bombing, placing a huge quantity of explosives in the basement of the King David Hotel where the British Mandatory Authority had its main offices. The device exploded at 12.37pm, when many other customers were using the hotel’s facilities. In all 91 men, women and children died in and around the building, and a further 46 were injured. The victims included Britons, Jews, Arabs and various other nationalities.
Ever since the bombing controversy has raged regarding warnings given and ignored: it is said that the hotel had been hoaxed earlier in the day (though by whom is unclear) so failed to act; and Irgun attempted to deflect criticism from all sides by claiming senior British administrator Sir John Shaw refused to act on a warning, always strenuously denied by him.
The man in charge of the attack was Menachem Begin. He became Israel’s sixth Prime Minister, and for his peace accord with Egypt received the Nobel Prize for Peace.