Jewish and Israel Studies

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Palestine Investigated

The Criminal Investigation Department of the Palestine Police Force, 1920–1948

Eldad Harouvi is a military historian and director of the Palmach Archive in Tel Aviv. He specializes in the role of British Intelligence during the Palestine Mandate. His MA thesis examined British Intelligence cooperation with the Jewish Agency during the Second World War. Dr Harouvi was previously an officer in the IDF Military Intelligence.

Forewords by Prof. Yoav Gelber (Univ. of Haifa and Prof. John Ferris (University of Calgary)

This book tells the story of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the Palestine Police Force (PPF) in the historical context which impacted the CID’s missions, methods, and composition. At first, the CID was engaged in providing technical assistance for criminal investigation. Following the PPF’s poor performance in the Arab Riots in 1929, a commission of inquiry, headed by Sir Herbert Dowbiggin, recommended adding intelligence gathering and surveillance of political elements to police functions. Teams were set up and a Special Branch established.

From 1932 the CID deployed a network of “live sources” among the Arabs and Jews, and issued intelligence summaries evaluating Arab and Jewish political activity. Post-1935 the security situation deteriorated: Arab policemen and officials joined the Arab side, thus drying-up sources of information; the British therefore asked for assistance from the Jewish population. In 1937 Sir Charles Tegart recommended that the CID invest in obtaining raw intelligence by direct contacts in the field. In 1938 Arthur Giles took command and targeted both the Revisionist and Yishuv movements. Although the CID did not succeed in obtaining sufficient tactical information to prevent Yishuv actions, Giles identified the mood of the Jewish leadership and public – an important intelligence accomplishment regarding Britain’s attitude towards the Palestine question. But British impotence in the field was manifested by the failure to prevent the bombing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem.

Towards the end of the Mandate, as civil war broke out following the UN General Assembly resolution of November 1947, the CID was primarily engaged in documenting events and providing evaluations to London whose decision-makers put high value on CID intelligence as they formulated political responses.

Hardback ISBN: 978-1-84519-809-1
Hardback Price: £79.95 / $94.95
Release Date: October 2016
Page Extent / Format: 400 pp. / 246 x 171 mm
Illustrated: Yes


Foreword by Professor Yoav Gelber
Foreword by Professor John Ferris

Chapter 1 – The Colonial Police
Chapter 2 – The Beginning of the Palestine Police Force
Chapter 3 – From Disturbances to Suppression of an Uprising 1929-1935
Chapter 4 – Reorganization: Lessons Learnt from the Unrest of 1930 to 1935
Chapter 5 – The CID at the Turning Point of the Mandate: April 1936 to June 1940
Chapter 6 – Threats Outside and In: June 1940 to May 1943
Chapter 7 – The CID against the Jewish Uprising: June 1943 to May 1945
Chapter 8 – The Hardening British Struggle against the Jewish Terror: November 1944 to August 1947
Chapter 9 – The CID in the Waning of the Mandate: Autumn 1947 to May 1948
Chapter 10 – Epilogue: Transfer of the Rule to the Jews and the Arabs
Summary and Conclusions

Bibliographical Sources

This is an historical narrative of CID that is essentially driven by the primary source material rather than an analysis of the political and criminal nature of intelligence systems at end of empire. The PPF CID reflected the multi-faceted nature of British policing and the tensions between colonial and civil styles of policing which occurred across empire. The importance of the transfer of this policing knowledge cannot be underestimated. It was to some extent reshaped by the Palestine policing experiences and (re-)exported across the British Empire. Indeed many former members of the PPF (including CID officers) found new policing employment at the end of the Mandate throughout the British Empire. Sir Richard Catling, for example, ex-PPF, noted that his earlier Palestine experiences within CID were the backbone to the policies he developed in relation to police intelligence systems when he became Commissioner of the Malayan and then Kenya Police during the period of decolonization.
Police History Society, February 2017

This book has many vignettes of life in Palestine for the CID men, and it recounts the vicissitudes of the struggle by the British to gather good intelligence through informers and spies. In the end, while the CID had some success against Arab rebels in the
1930s, it was unable to master and infiltrate the well-organized Jewish insurgency of the 1940s, despite local successes against more extreme Jewish terror groups.
Reviewed by Matthew Hughes, Professor of Military History at Brunel University, in Middle East Journal

This work provides a history of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the Palestinian Police Force (PPF), from 1920 to 1948, during the period of the British Mandate for Palestine, when the CID operated as the major intelligence service of the Mandatory government in its conflicts with Arab rioters, the Jewish Hagana, and other underground groups, as well as against the Nazis and Communists. The book draws on recently released sources from the CID Archive in Israel, as well as British archives, memoirs by veterans of the Mandatory Palestinian Police, and recordings of interviews with former CID personnel. The book highlights the CID’s policies, methods, strategies, actions, and consequences of its suppression of Jewish unrest and its efforts Jewish terrorism. B&w maps and charts are included.

Reviewed in INTELLIGENCER: Journal of U.S. Intelligence Studies (Winter 2017–18 issue)

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