Archive revelations: Shmuel Katz a founder of the ‘struggle’
An outspoken call to arms by Shmuel Katz — an Irgun member and founder of the right-wing paper the Jewish Standard — at a crowded meeting hall in a North-West London Jewish arts club was met with enthusiastic applause. But Katz was unaware that his audience, included Special Branch officers.
Their report, among secret papers just released by the National Archive, quotes Katz, who later became a founder of Herut and member of Knesset, telling the 1946 annual conference of the Revisionist New Zionist Organisation that all members should take part in “an international campaign” to provide firearms to the Irgun.
The British government had acted with “ferocity” against Jews in Palestine, he added. “There must be no compromise, because the survival of the whole Jewish people is at stake.”
South African-born Katz had been sent to London by Ze’ev Jabotinsky to represent the Revisionist movement. As British intelligence officials tracked him around the country, and intercepted letters and telegrams he sent to associates, they found that his hard-line views had caused splits in the movement.
There were fierce squabbles over funding with one intercept of internal communications revealing the NZO had a monthly budget of only £350.
Agents also intercepted a resignation letter from Katz to NZO protesting that the organisation was showing a tendency towards “giving up the struggle.”
Finally, in 1946, intelligence chiefs, despite their warnings about his “extremist views” — admitted that Katz and his wife Doris had managed to travel to Palestine and that their movements were “uncertain.” However a “top secret” report warned they “have been in close touch with the terrorist leadership…”
In fact Katz had joined the Irgun’s high command and became the movement’s de facto foreign minister and Jerusalem area commander. After independence he was elected to the Knesset for Herut. He later co-founded the Movement for a Greater Israel. In 1977 he became an adviser to Prime Minister Menachem Begin.
However, in 1978 Katz resigned in protest at the government’s peace negotiations with Egypt. He joined the far- right Tehiya party and later Herut after it split from Likud.
Katz died, aged 93, in 2008.