Event Report: Britons’ Gap Year in the Killing Fields: Mahal in 1948 and Today

Event Report: Britons’ Gap Year in the Killing Fields: Mahal in 1948 and Today

Many British Jews do a gap-year visit to Israel, hosted by the Masa programme. Some join Marva, an IDF programme which includes weapons training, exercises, and education. Some even serve in the IDF, carrying weapons in the killing fields of the West Bank. One such British citizen was involved in killing a Palestinian youth last month. Such actions warrant prosecution under UK law, such as its anti-terror laws, which apply to terrorist acts anywhere in the world. But of course, such laws have been designed and used instead to protect terrorist states allied with the UK. Britons’ roles in the IDF today have analogies with the several thousand Jews who served as overseas volunteers (Mahal) in Zionist forces during the 1948 war. They contributed to the widespread ethnic cleansing. What can be done in Britain to stop today’s Mahal?


Chaired by Mick Napier, IHRC held a webinar to discuss the problematic issue with our guest speakers:

Haim Breshteeth, BRICUP  

Tom Suárez, Author of ‘State of Terror’  

Wafa Al Udaini, Journalist 16thOctober Group

Mick Napier introduced the webinar discussing the incident with a British citizen, Leanne Harush, who travelled to Israel for her gap year, donned an Israeli army uniform and participated in the killing, the shooting and then the beating to death of Palestinian Atala Mohammed Rayan. There is a stark contrast between the treatment of Shamima Begum who was recruited to the savages of ISIS when she was 15 and has now had her British citizenship stripped away and is languishing in a refugee camp in Syria. Harush joined the savages of the Israeli army to shoot and beat to death a young Palestinian man and can travel freely between London and Tel Aviv at will. 

Haim Bresheeth:

Mahal is basically an acronym for volunteers from abroad. It is 1948 when it was first implemented; in the Nakba of 1948, 4,500 volunteers from 59 countries joined the IDF and made up 5-8% of the IDF. It was and still is illegal in most countries to join an army of another country. It is interesting that none of the volunteers were prosecuted or ended up in jail. They came mainly from the anglophone world. Ben Gurion said afterwards, “the Mahal forces were the diaspora’s most important contribution to the survival of the state of Israel”. This is underplaying their importance; they were crucial for the Nakba; it would not have happened otherwise because Israel did not have specialisms that they brought. While they are only a small percentage of the army, they were the most important people. For example, Israel purchased more than 100 fighter planes in 1947 and 1048; they first needed to be flown in Palestine and then of course, flown in battle, and this was done by the volunteers. The volunteers drove, maintained, and operated the tanks and they operated artillery, boats, and ships. Most of the technical services and complex issues were operated by volunteers. Looking at the list on the Mahal site, there were volunteers in every single branch and unit of the army. They did everything from killing to being physicians. The most famous example is Al Schwimmer, an American aircraft engineer and pirate from the States who became the head of what later would be the Israeli Military Industrial Complex Aircraft Wing, the producer of Israeli avionics and aircraft drones. 

The people eligible to volunteer includes any Jewish peoples from any country or others deemed to be related to Jews, for example if you have one Jewish grandfather or grandmother, that makes you eligible. This is exactly what the Nazis needed to call someone a Jew, so it is interesting that the Zionist state is using Nazi qualifications to who is a Jew. 

Ever since 1949, volunteers were supported and accepted by the IDF. They are offered travel expenses and all other costs while they are in Israel are covered. After their volunteer period, between 14 to 18 months, they have a choice to become Israeli citizens and complete a full 3-year service period or leave the country. As laws in many countries do not allow citizens to serve in other armies, a special agreement was signed, in mainly from anglophone countries, accepting Jews from the legislation and allowing them to serve in the IDF while still holding onto their original nationality. This is where Shamima Begum is a criminal and Leanne Harush is a hero, which is terrible because Begum did not ever actually kill anyone, whereas Harush did participate in an attack. 

The IDF does not need volunteers at all. Israel is now using only half of the males that are eligible to serve in the army and the others are allowed to, if they don’t say that they are conscientious objectors, not serve. A lot of them are religious and there is an agreement that they will not be drafted. Others that do not want to serve have to argue that they are mentally unstable; the army is very liberal about it because they do not want or need such persons. 

The volunteers are not necessary for Israel, but they are necessary as citizens because a lot of Israelis are leaving Israel because they are disenchanted with living there and therefore in order to balance the loss, it is important for them to bring Jews to Israel. It’s also important because between the river and the sea, there are more Palestinians than Israeli Jews; about half a million more. This is only one of many programmes of bringing Jews to Israel. The great strength of the Mahal programme is the combined offering of military, ideological and language training, something that no other programme offers. More of the Mahal volunteers remain as citizens in comparison to the other programmes. 

Wafa Al Udaini:

As a journalist in the Gaza Strip, I am eyewitness for the Israeli crimes against my people, so we are subjected to being murdered at any single moment. 

Regarding the Mahal brigade, they are really involved in basic crimes and these massacres. If we go back to1948 Nakba, they committed over 70 massacres on the people of Palestine and indeed what happened in that time was just ethnic cleansing. We can say they destroyed nearly 531 towns and villages, committed 70 massacres, murdered nearly 15,000 Palestinians, only during the 1948 war on Palestine and as a result so many Palestinians became refugees. I am a refugee, my parents and my grandparents used to live a peaceful and decent life but now they are refugees and live under occupation. They’ve told me horror stories, for example, they were barefooted when they were forced to leave their homes. Palestinians only have stones to throw at the soldiers, whereas the soldiers are heavily armed. Nearly 311 Palestinians were murdered during the first intifada and hundreds were injured. 

In 2008 and 2009, the Gaza sky was filled up Israeli drones, planes and helicopters and just in a second, the drones dropped rockets and bombs onto the people of Gaza, and we were just screaming and we did not know where the bombings were coming from because smoke was everywhere. Within seconds, 200 people were attacked, and the media says they attacked terrorists which is not true. They attacked civilians without any prior notice and this lasted for 20 days. There was no electricity and no water to drink. 

I have interviewed so many people with horrible stories and their families being murdered. Because of the silence of the world and American aid to Israeli soldiers, they will continue to kill. The mainstream is media is distorting what is happening on the ground.

Tom Suárez: 

There are three intertwined issues that are a necessary background to understand how a young 22-year old British citizen ends up executing a Palestinian youth of only 17 on his own land, in the service of a third country, Israel. 

  1. Zionist indoctrination of children historically
  2. The Zionist Israeli claim of ownership of Jewish identity
  3. The bizarre impunity of Israel

Zionist indoctrination of children historically goes back to the mandate period. Schools in the Zionist settlements were the prime venues for the recruitment of pupils between the ages of 15 and 19. Teachers were powerless to protect their students and who were compelled by beating and threats, if necessary, to join the gangs and who would be banned from scholastic achievement if they resisted. 

In the UK, British intelligence was terrified of the radicalising of Jewish youth at the hands of the revanchist organisation ‘Bettar’ in North London. As MI5 describe, the “militant Jewish youth movement bears striking resemblance, both in general structure and character, to the Hitler youth movement”. At Bettar’s North London headquarters, there was one section for children under the age of 10, another for children aged 10-16 and a third, for those aged 16 to 23. Even after israel’s self-declaration of statehood, the head terrorist of the day, Menachem Begin, went to New York, and freely raised money for his terror campaign and he freely recruited American children. He was received with ceremony in New York City by New York mayor William O’Dwyer, who made a joke of Begin being wanted as a terrorist. At New York’s diplomat hotel, Begin spread his call for terror, among 200 young people aged 10 to 23. All members of the militaristic youth group and all of whom who stood in uniform and in attention as Begin spoke. To these children, Begin openly preached violence in order to seize yet more Palestine than it already had. He told them, “The fight is not yet over and not yet has the aim of victory been achieved. We shall continue the fight until the whole of Israel is liberated and the whole of our people back in the country”. 

This was messianic fundamentalism implicitly viewing Judaism not as a faith or a cultural tradition, but as a nationality owned by the state. Another similarity between the Zionist indoctrination during the mandate and today, which is explicit in the programmes of today’s youth groups, is the scouting out of the land, that is Palestinian land, in order to better conquer it. During the mandate there were constant scouting campaigns so that young soldiers would know every detail of the villages they were destroying. The campaigns continue today in the West Bank. I used to live in Bethlehem, and you could see sometimes the big gates would open and you could see the picture of the pope standing, and these recruits would come out and they would just scout around to see where things were and how things worked so that they could better attack when the time came.

Zionist and Israeli claimed ownership of Jews also extended to forcing Jews already in Palestine to remain. At the end of World War 2, many Jews in residing in Palestine tried to leave to return to their homes in Europe or for new homes in the US, or Britain or Australia but were stymied by what British Foreign Office called “various forms of pressure” by the Zionists to remain in Palestine. By 1947, the Jewish agency, which was the de facto Israeli government, tightened its ownership of Jews, announcing it controlled the exit of all Jewish persons between the ages of 17 and 40, regardless of their nationality. It claimed the right to conscript people, simply by virtue to being Jewish, no matter their citizenship. To accomplish this, travel, ticket agencies, public places, and venues such as cinemas, were monitored to catch anyone who was Jewish, of military age, and who sought to leave. 

The Jewish Brigade established by Britain in the summer of 1944, under US pressure, caving into Zionist pressure, which was a segregated Jewish unit. The British military professionals were against this because the inefficiency of an ethnically segregated unit only hampered their ongoing battle against the Nazis. They also understood correctly that they would only be training an army that would then return to Palestine to turn their guns against the British and then of course, the Palestinians. 

The other reason the Zionists wanted the brigade was the fact that the very so-called Jewish brigade to then claim that it had been an implicit acceptance of Jewish nationality and thus, statehood. 

 A core aspect of the issue at hand today must be, what explains Israel’s extraordinary impunity?

In line with Israel’s incessant attempts to depict it Israel an ancient kingdom and therefore existing in a different dimension, Netanyahu refers Ariel settlement as the capital of ‘Samaria’, the Biblical name for the region. 


Mick Napier and the speakers covered an array of questions including, is terrorism inherent in the Zionist project, why extreme violence is necessary to establish the Zionist programme and whether we can bring this to the British legal forums and work with Palestinian partners to bring this back to Britain. 

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