1940-1949 | Antisemitism | Collective punishments | Palestine

British commander orders troops to ‘show contempt for Jews’

General Sir Evelyn Barker c. 1944 – © NPG x163888

25 July 1946

On 25 July 1946, General Sir Evelyn Barker, commanding British forces in Palestine, issued an order to all ranks instructing them that ‘all Jewish places of entertainment, cafes, restaurants, shops and dwellings’ were out of bounds and calling on his men to punish Jews ‘by showing our contempt for them.’  The order which was circulated among officers and posted in officers’ messes also explained that ‘no British soldier is to have any social intercourse with any Jew and any intercourse in the way of duty should be as brief as possible and kept to the business at hand.’1

Barker was determined to inflict suffering and where possible economic hardship on every Jew in Palestine for a terror attack three days earlier on the King David Hotel in Jerusalem in which 91 people of all nationalities, including both Arabs and Jews, had been killed.  The bomb had been planted by members of Irgun, a small Zionist terror cell which had only limited support among the wider Jewish population. Most of the Jewish political leaders in Palestine, including David Ben-Gurion, condemned the attack.

The general, however, insisted that not one person among the Jewish population of Palestine could be absolved of responsibility. They were all accomplices and deserved to ‘bear a share of guilt’ and he stressed his determination ‘that they shall suffer punishment and be made aware of the contempt and loathing with which we regard their conduct.’  He added, appealing to the trope, popular among Nazi propagandists of Jews as money-lovers, that they should be punished ‘in the way the race dislikes – by striking at their pockets.’2 The order was eventually revoked on 8 August, ten days after the full text of the order was exposed in the British press provoking public disquiet about the measures. After returning to England in 1947, Barker wrote to his former lover in Jerusalem, Katy Antonious, confessing ‘Yes I loathe the lot – whether they be Zionists or not. Why should we be afraid of saying we hate them. It’s time this damned race knew what we think of them – loathsome people.’3

FOOTNOTES

  1. G.O.C.: “All Jews to Blame,’ The Daily Herald, 29 July 1946, p. 1 and ‘Show Contempt For Jews,’ The Birmingham Daily Gazette, 29 July 1946, p. 1.
  2. ‘G.O.C.: “All Jews to Blame,’ The Daily Herald, 29 July 1946, p. 1 and Kate Utting, Palestine 1945-48: Policy, Propaganda and the Limits of Influence’ in  Greg Kennedy and Christopher Tuck ( editors ), British Propaganda and Wars of Empire, Influencing Friend and Foe, 1900 – 2010, Routledge, London and New York, 2016, p. 78.
  3. Michael J. Cohen, Britain’s Moment in Palestine: Retrospect and Perspectives 1917-1948, Routledge, London and New York, 2014, p. 469.

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