|“||The God of Israel, God of Hosts, will be at our side. There is no retreat. Liberty or death.... The fighting youth will not recoil in the face of sacrifices and suffering, blood and torment. They will not surrender, so long as our days of old are not renewed, so long as our nation is not ensured a homeland, liberty, honor, bread, justice and law.||„|
|~ The Irgun declaration of war against the British, 1944|
The Irgun (Hebrew: ארגון; full title: הארגון הצבאי הלאומי בארץ ישראל Hā-ʾIrgun Ha-Tzvaʾī Ha-Leūmī b-Ērētz Yiśrāʾel, lit. "The National Military Organization in the Land of Israel") was a militant Jewish organization that operated in Mandate Palestine between 1931 and 1948. Some sources have described Irgun as a death squad.
It was an offshoot of the older and larger Jewish paramilitary organization Haganah (Hebrew: הגנה, Defence). When the group broke from the Haganah it became known as the Haganah Bet (Hebrew: literally "Defense 'B' " or "Second Defense", הגנה ב), or alternatively as haHaganah haLeumit (ההגנה הלאומית) or Hama'amad. Irgun members were absorbed into the Israel Defense Forces at the start of the 1948 Arab–Israeli war. The Irgun is also referred to as Etzel (אצ"ל), an acronym of the Hebrew initials, or by the abbreviation IZL.
The Irgun policy was based on what was then called Revisionist Zionism founded by Vladimir Jabotinsky. According to Howard Sachar, "The policy of the new organization was based squarely on Jabotinsky's teachings: every Jew had the right to enter Palestine; only active retaliation would deter the Arabs; only Jewish armed force would ensure the Jewish state".
Two of the operations for which the Irgun is best known are the bombing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem on 22 July 1946 and the Deir Yassin massacre, carried out together with Lehi on 9 April 1948.
The Irgun has been viewed as a terrorist organization or organization which carried out terrorist acts. Specifically the organization "committed acts of terrorism and assassination against the British, whom it regarded as illegal occupiers, and it was also violently anti-Arab" according to the Encyclopædia Britannica. In particular the Irgun was described as a terrorist organization by the United Nations, British, and United States governments; in media such as The New York Times newspaper; as well as by the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry, the 1946 Zionist Congress and the Jewish Agency. However, academics such as Bruce Hoffman and Max Abrahms have written that the Irgun went to considerable lengths to avoid harming civilians, such as issuing pre-attack warnings; according to Hoffman, Irgun leadership urged "targeting the physical manifestations of British rule while avoiding the deliberate infliction of bloodshed." Irgun's tactics appealed to many Jews who believed that any action taken in the cause of the creation of a Jewish state was justified, including terrorism.
Members of the Irgun came mostly from Betar and from the Revisionist Party both in Palestine and abroad. The Revisionist Movement made up a popular backing for the underground organization. Ze'ev Jabotinsky, founder of Revisionist Zionism, commanded the organization until he died in 1940. He formulated the general realm of operation, regarding Restraint and the end thereof, and was the inspiration for the organization overall. An additional major source of ideological inspiration was the poetry of Uri Zvi Greenberg. The symbol of the organization, with the motto רק כך (only thus), underneath a hand holding a rifle in the foreground of a map showing both Mandatory Palestine and the Emirate of Transjordan (at the time, both were administered under the terms of the British Mandate for Palestine), implied that force was the only way to "liberate the homeland."
The number of members of the Irgun varied from a few hundred to a few thousand. Most of its members were people who joined the organization's command, under which they carried out various operations and filled positions, largely in opposition to British law. Most of them were "ordinary" people, who held regular jobs, and only a few dozen worked full-time in the Irgun.
The Irgun was a political predecessor to Israel's right-wing Herut (or "Freedom") party, which led to today's Likud party. Likud has led or been part of most Israeli governments since 1977.