The Holocaust Historiography Project

Book review

By Blood and Fire

  • By Blood and Fire, by Thurston Clarke, G.P.Putnam's Sons, Ilb, $12.95.
reviewed by W. R. Silberstein

In these days of erotic fiction and strange “documentaries” on the market, it is rewarding to read an excellent non-fiction book on a little known subject that hasn't been widely documented.

By Blood and Fire is virtually a scenario of one of the most contemptible acts of unmitigated murder by terrorism of the Twentieth Century; the deliberate bombing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, 22 July 1946.

Author Thurston Clarke, who's other literary credits are The Last Caravan and Dirty Money, has done a masterful job in research of a painful subject that places the blame for this horrible terrorist attack on the present Prime Minster of Israel, Menahem Begin.

At just past noon on 22 July 1946, six members of Begin's Irgun zvai leumi crept into the basement entrance of the King David Hotel, placed seven steel milk churns filled with gelignite and TNT in the popular Regency Bar and blew up the entire south wing of the hotel, killing 91 British civil servants, Arabs and Jews and wounding 46.

The reasoning behind such an act is as strange as the acts of terrorism committed by Jews and Arabs in Palestine today. What these murders accomplish seems to be a mute question. Any mention of this bombing attack to Prime Minister Begin today brings on stoney silence accompanied by a statement, “they were given a warning beforehand."

Much of the value of this book lies in the chronology; the time table of events by these “soldiers” of the terrorist Irgun, and goes into detail how Begin, the commander-in-chief of the Irgun, disregarded the pleas of the Haganah and the powerful “X Committee” and even Dr. Chaim Weizmann the chief Zionist of the entire Israeli movement, not to engage in an act of terrorism against the British “caretakers” of Palestine.

The six story King David Hotel in Jerusalem was one of the most popular meeting places in the city. The British administrative offices were in the south wing of the hotel and those employed were innocent British civil servants including 17 Jews, all of whom were murdered in the tremendous blast.

It is difficult to understand the rationale of such an act, except to remember that the Arabs outnumbered the Jews over the years and it is still an enigma as to “whom does Palestine belong to?"

Because of all the Arab and Jewish unrest in 1939 when thousands of Jews “emigrated” to Israel, the caretaker Government of Great Britain issued a White Paper stating that “no more than 75,000 Jews would be allowed to immigrate into Palestine in the coming 5 years.” This declaration was as unpopular to the resident Arabs as the invading Jews, and brought about terrorism toward the British from Jew and Arab alike.

Following Hitler's passage of the law allowing German nationals to repurchase their commercial and residential property at the same price they were forced to sell to wealthy Jews after World War I, the German Jews were stripped of their financial power and left Germany in droves to immigrate into Palestine against the wishes of the British Government.

Thurston Clarke walks a tightrope depicting the objectives of both Arabs and Jews as well as British interests. He takes no sides and makes use of documented evidence and eye witness accounts of the bombing.

Excellent photographs, maps and diagrams are included in the book, available in selected bookstores and in many public libraries.


Bibliographic information
Author: W. R. Silberstein
Title: By Blood and Fire (review)
Source: The Journal for Historical Review
Date: Spring 1982
Issue: Volume 3 number 1
Location: Page 88
ISSN: 0195-6752
Attribution: "Reprinted from The Journal of Historical Review, PO Box 2739, Newport Beach, CA 92659, USA.”
Please send a copy of all reprints to the Editor.