LONDON: The call to British military security forces came early in the morning, shortly after 1 a.m., and could not be ignored. The informant’s message was alarming: Assassins planned to kill the commander of British forces in Palestine the following morning; evasive action was needed. The source didn’t know the details of the plan, but warned that Gen. Evelyn Barker would be attacked on the brief journey between his home in Jerusalem and his office at British headquarters.
The assailants were militant Jews from the Stern Gang, determined to drive the British from the land in their bid for Jewish sovereignty. Before dawn broke on Nov. 14, 1946, according to secret documents declassified yesterday by the National Archives, Barker’s security team was notified of the imminent threat. He changed his route, other special precautions were put in place, and he arrived without incident.
Barker was particularly controversial because of his incendiary comments after militants bombed Jerusalem’s King David Hotel, used by the British as a political and military base, in July 1946, when Britain was still the administrative power in Palestine under an arrangement worked out in 1920, but was increasingly unable to control events as Jews and Arabs sought control.
The King David Hotel blast killed more than 90 people and infuriated Barker, whose offices were in the hotel. He reacted by banning British troops from having any social or business dealings with Jews, saying that they would be punished “in a way the race dislikes as much as any, by striking at their pockets and showing our contempt for them.”
The plot against Barker is only one of hundreds of plans described in the newly public files that detail how British officials were tormented by the militants. The official British attitude toward the Jewish underground is summed up on the file’s title page: “Jewish Terrorist Activities in the Middle East.” British influence was waning and the militants sensed a lack of resolve that could be exploited, said Saul Zadka, author of “Blood in Zion: How the Jewish Guerrillas drove the British Out of Palestine.” — AP