P. 262

On October 11, 1945, a meeting of the Agency Executive was held, in which participated representatives of the Jewish National Council, headed by Kaplan who was standing in for the absent Ben-Gurion and Shertok. He reported in the meeting that a request for an urgent meeting was received from the new High Commissioner, Sir Alan Cunningham, and that three would go to it: Himself, Joseph and the Chairman of the Jewish National Council Yitzhak Ben-Zvi.
After their return, the three reported on the conversation with the Commissioner, which centered upon the Palmach forces storming the Atlit Detention Camp on the previous night, and the release of hundreds of "illegal immigrants" as the Commissioner put it. Sir Alan, who at the time had not known who the attackers were, had initially claimed that upon his recent arrival from England, he discovered that the situation in the Land of Israel had seriously deteriorated and that the culprits were the Jewish media that was inciting against the British, and of course the Jewish terrorist organizations such as Irgun and Lehi.
As for Atlit, the Commissioner brought as an example an article from the "Palestine Post," the English language Jewish newspaper, which wrote that the government decided to deport people held in Atlit from the Land of Israel, and claimed that there was no truth to this. Such a decision had yet to be made (it is noted that this was the rationale for the Palmach's action in Atlit: the British Threat to deport dozens of "illegal immigrants" who crossed the northern border from Syria and were caught).
The Commissioner said that the Yishuv is mistaken regarding his intentions: "You know of my good attitude and concern for matters here, and you must also care for them." In his opinion, the action carried out in Atlit could pose a risk for Zionism, since "you will get a bad reputation in the public's opinion in England."
The three responded that the main problem at this time was the governmental program to deport the "illegals" that were captured to their countries of origin, and recently this meant people who came from Syria and Iraq. These people were sentenced to death in their countries. The Jewish leaders asked the Commissioner to assure them that there would be no deportations, but he avoided answering and said that a decision on the matter had yet to be made. When the representatives of the Yishuv demanded assurance again, the Commissioner said that he must receive approval from the Colonial Office in London.
The action in Atlit was, according to his description, brutal towards the guards. He estimated that a hundred men charged into the camp "armed with knives, guns and rifles," according to him. They also killed a non-Jewish woman (a detail that appears no where else).
The Commissioner also gave a warning, although it was spoken in a soft tone: "You understand that I am the Commissioner here and I am responsible for order and peace in the Land of Israel, and actions carried out, like that in Atlit, cannot continue in future. Because then, it might

   260   261   262   263   264