(Some of) my history is a mystery
June 13, 2010 1:50 PM   Subscribe

HistoryFilter: help me solve a family mystery. Was there an organized IRA presence in Palestine in 1946?

Last night, I was watching the documentary, The Long Way Home. It brought to mind a family mystery that has been nagging at me for a long time.
I have a photo of my father with the inscription, "1946. As a passport photo for the Palestine Police". The question is, was the IRA attempting to send my father to Palestine as part of a coordinated campaign with zionist groups or was my father trying to go by himself without their guidance and direction? From what I saw in the documentary last night, it makes sense that IRA sympathy at the time would have been with jewish refugees and against the British Mandate for Palestine.

Here are the facts:

My father was born in Co. Kerry in 1924. In his late teens, he joined the IRA. This is not unusual as one of his uncles was a member of the Sinn Fein under the command of Countess Markiewicz and was imprisoned in Kilmainham Jail for his role in the railway strikes. Over his lifetime, my father remained involved enough in the IRA that in the late 1960s - early 70s our family was visited by the FBI and had our mail monitored by the post office. He became disenchanted with feinian politics in the 1980s (felt that the movement has become infiltrated by criminal elements), but remained on good terms with individuals in local (San Francisco) activist groups.

I've done enough research to know that many of the zionist groups in the 1940s based their organizational structure and tactics on the IRA of 1916. That's all I was able to find, however - nothing about the two groups actively working together in British Palestine.

Any ideas or leads would be helpful.
posted by echolalia67 to Grab Bag (6 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I threw this question at my husband, who is a student of Irish history, and he immediately reached for Tim Pat Coogan's history of the IRA, saying "if she's done any research, she's probably already looked at this". He skimmed the index and there are some mentions of Palestine, so that's a good starting place.

If you hit a dead end, my husband suggested that you refer the question directly to Coogan. Coogan has a web site with a contact form so you should be able to get in touch with him easily.
posted by immlass at 2:12 PM on June 13, 2010

Fascinating little mystery indeed! You might also try posting your question over at the Irish Republican Socialist Forum -- I bet someone there would know the history of whether the IRA was actively involved in Palestine or not.
posted by scody at 2:34 PM on June 13, 2010

Best answer: This item from an April 1947 newspaper suggests that, if the Irish who joined the fight in Palestine were with the IRA, they hid their affiliation. But their sympathies were clear.
Fighting in the Jewish underground in Palestine are four hundred Irish volunteers from Tipperary and Cork. They paid their own passage for the honor and privilege of fighting the British... They are the sons of the men who fought the Black and Tan in '21. That fact come from a merchant seaman, just back from Palestine yesterday. Of Irish descent, he was deported several weeks ago for socking a British soldier.
posted by Knappster at 2:57 PM on June 13, 2010

The interesting thing here, relative to that newspaper article, is that the passport photo sounds like it would go on an application to join the Palestine Police. You can bet that the volunteers mentioned in the article weren't in the police, which was British officered and had British, Jewish, and Arab members (only Mandate institution that did). Though there's always, of course, the possibility that it was an attempt at infiltration.

Did your father actually go to Palestine?
posted by lapsangsouchong at 5:18 PM on June 13, 2010

Response by poster: No, as far as I can tell he never made it to Palestine. It's likely that any look into his family background would have turned up info about the uncle mentioned in the original post. I theorize that he was indeed trying to infiltrate the Palestine Authority Police force in order to assist the zionists. Unfortunately, I'll never know; my father died 22 years ago and took his secrets to the grave.
posted by echolalia67 at 5:35 PM on June 13, 2010

Hmm, I'm not sure if the surviving Palestine Police archives include material on applications to join that were turned down, as opposed to personnel files for those who were accepted. It might be worth checking.
posted by lapsangsouchong at 7:35 PM on June 13, 2010

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