For the first few years of World War Two, most Jews in Palestine played nice with the British. If Britain was victorious in the larger conflict, the Zionists would have some chance to continue their immigration in Palestine and achieve their hoped-for state. If Germany was victorious, there was no chance of this.
This approach did not survive the war.
One Palestine, Complete: Jews and Arabs Under the British Mandate, by Tom Segev
Immigrants and Refugees
Jews were dying in Europe. The British held little concern for this; the Jews in Palestine felt the same:
“I was not well-versed on matters of saving of the Jews of Europe, even though I was chairman of the Jewish Agency,” Ben-Gurion wrote a few years later. “The heart of my activity was enlisting Jewry in the demand to establish a Jewish state.”
The Arabs, in the meantime, saw the risk:
“We all sympathize with the Jews and are shocked at the way Christian nations are persecuting them. But do you expect Moslems of Palestine…to become more Christian or more humanitarian than the followers of Christ: Germany, Italy, Poland, Romania, etc. etc.? Have we to suffer in order to make good what you Christians commit?”
Ben-Gurion was troubled by the possibility that Jewish survivors in Europe might not want to come to Palestine, but would choose to settle elsewhere.
“I think we should not treat this danger lightly. It is the greatest danger not only to Zionism but to the Yishuv.”
But the Jews from Europe came – before the war, during the war, and after the war; the number of Jews in Palestine increased eight-fold during the Mandatory period, to one-third of the total population; Muslims and Christians doubled.
“The revolt sprang from the land and from the blood,” wrote Menachem Begin, Etzel leader. Despite its name, though, Etzel’s action was not a revolt, but rather a decision to resume terrorist activities, largely against the British.
Menachem Begin was one of those immigrants turned terrorist, arriving in Palestine in May 1942.
Etzel (Irgun) announced the beginning of terrorism on February 1, 1944. The more radical among the Zionists decided it was time to run the British out.
Etzel’s funds came from robbing banks or extorting money from local businessmen; the organization received contributions as well, mostly from America.