July 29, 2007

They Went to the Gallows Singing "Hatikva"

From They Went to the Gallows Singing "Hatikva":

The 12th day of the Hebrew month of Av, which falls this year on Friday July 27, marks the 60th anniversary of the execution by the British authorities in Palestine of three members of the Irgun underground - Avshalom Haviv, Yaakov Weiss, and Meir Nakar. This column is dedicated to their everlasting memory.

As 1947 dawned, the British governing authorities, driven by an irresistible hubris of self-interest and colonial blindness, and embracing the delusion of decaying imperialists in every age that punitive brutality will cow the rebels into giving up their resistance, began sentencing captured Irgun fighters to the most severe forms of capital punishment: flogging for relatively minor offenses, and hanging for relatively major ones. The executions were frequently carried out in the Acre fortress, a Crusader citadel restored by the Turks and considered impregnable. In May 1947, in what was probably the Irgun's most daring exploit, a wall of this great bastion was breached, allowing for a mass escape. Three of the attacking party - Haviv, Weiss, and Nakar - were captured, tried and condemned to death. The writer served on the personal staff of five Israeli prime ministers.