What Wingate Wrought

(Weekly Standard) Max Boot - In 1936, T.E. Lawrence's distant cousin, British Army Captain Orde Wingate, was dispatched to Palestine as an intelligence officer in the British force striving to put down an Arab rebellion. Notwithstanding his Arabist background, he became enamored of Zionism. Wingate admired the Jews for making the desert "blossom like the rose," and he felt that they would be more valuable allies for Britain than the Arabs. The Arab revolt was marked by urban terrorism, with bombings and shootings targeting both British authorities and Jewish civilians. After the British regained control of the cities, the rebels focused on attacks against isolated Jewish settlements and police posts as well as against moderate Arabs. At first the Jews responded with restraint, but as the violence continued they began fighting back. In 1938 Wingate persuaded British and Zionist leaders to let him organize Special Night Squads made up of British soldiers and Jews whose practice was to march at night and attack at dawn. They would venture out of fortified kibbutzim to "bodily assault" Palestinian gangs. Yet he instructed the Night Squads to treat Arab civilians "with courtesy and respect." By the time Wingate left Palestine in 1939, he had earned the lasting gratitude of Palestinian Jews. Veterans of his Night Squads, including Moshe Dayan and Yigael Yadin, would become leading generals in Israel's army, which they infused with his insistence on fast-moving offensive operations led by officers from the front, and his emphasis on preempting terrorist attacks. The writer is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

2012-12-28 00:00:00

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