March 04, 2015, 12:15 PM - 01:30 AM

12:15 PM

Sid Richardson Hall Room 3.122

Anonymous Soldiers: The Struggle for Israel
March 04, 2015, 12:15 PM - 01:30 AM
Anonymous Soldiers: The Struggle for Israel

On March 4, 2015, the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law and the Institute for Israel Studies welcomed Dr. Bruce Hoffman, Director of the Center for Security at Georgetown University, who presented his new book Anonymous Soldiers: The Struggle for Israel, 1917-1947 (Knopf, 2015). An expert on terrorism and counterterrorism, Dr. Hoffman relied on newly available documents from the National Archives in Britain to portray the anti-colonial movement in Palestine, as well as Great Britain’s attempts—and ultimate failure—to reconcile Arab and Jewish demands.

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To introduce his book, Dr. Hoffman divided his talk into three sections. The first provided the context and background behind the rise of violence in Palestine during the first half of the twentieth century. Over this period, Britain’s experience in Palestine was “bleak and melancholic.” This situation, says Hoffman, was partly due to Britain’s own mistakes. On the one hand, British rule was undermined by the conflicting pledges it made to Arabs and Jews after World War One. On the other, fighters of both conflicting camps learned that violence was capable of swaying British policies. The escalatory tit-for-tat of terrorism between Arabs and Jews—which eventually was aimed towards British targets—bent British power and will, and ultimately put an end to its colony in Palestine.

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During the second section of his talk, Dr. Hoffman introduced key political figures that influenced the development of events during this time. Avraham Stern, who Hoffman described as “a dandy, a poet, and a student of the classics,” was one of the leaders of Irgun, a Jewish paramilitary organization derived from the larger group Haganah. Drawing inspiration from Russian and Irish protest movements, Stern believed in daring and dramatic acts of violence to fight against the British Mandate, which he considered to be “foreign rule.” In contrast, Menachem Begin, who also assumed command of Irgun, advocated an aggressive form of Zionism, but recognized that a different strategy was needed to fight against the colonial power. His approach was to turn Palestine into a “glass house” with the world looking into it. That way, Irgun’s cause would be illuminated to people in New York, Paris, and Moscow, from where pressure could be more efficiently exerted on Great Britain. For Hoffman, other relevant figures include Winston Churchill and Hajj Amin al-Husayni.

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To conclude, Dr. Hoffman challenged those who argue that terrorism is a failed strategy. In his view, despite what it is said about the effectiveness of terrorism, the truth is that it remains a tool of provocation used by many. Terrorists, even today, do not seem to consider this tactic to be ineffective. On the contrary, in the case of Palestine, terrorism appears to have worked in shaping Britain’s decision making. Hoffman recognizes that terrorism was not the sole factor contributing to the creation of Israel. Diplomacy, negotiation, lobbying, civil disobedience, and propaganda were certainly other contributing factors. However, the “anonymous soldiers” of organizations like Irgun, argued Hoffman, did accelerate Great Britain’s decision to leave Palestine and the eventual creation of Israel.

Professor Bruce Hoffman has been studying terrorism and insurgency for nearly forty years. He is currently Director of the Center for Security Studies, Director of the Security Studies Program, and a tenured professor at Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Washington, DC. Professor Hoffman previously held the Corporate Chair in Counterterrorism and Counterinsurgency at the RAND Corporation and was also Director of RAND’s Washington, D.C. Office. From 2001 to 2004, he served as RAND’s Vice President for External Affairs and in 2004 he also was Acting Director of RAND’s Center for Middle East Public Policy. Professor Hoffman was recently appointed by the U.S. Congress to serve as a commissioner on the Independent Commission to Review the FBI’s Post-9/11 Response to Terrorism and Radicalization.

Professor Hoffman was Scholar-in-Residence for Counterterrorism at the Central Intelligence Agency between 2004 and 2006. He was also adviser on counterterrorism to the Office of National Security Affairs, Coalition Provisional Authority, Baghdad, Iraq during the spring of 2004 and from 2004-2005 was an adviser on counterinsurgency to the Strategy, Plans, and Analysis Office at Multi-National Forces-Iraq Headquarters, Baghdad. Professor Hoffman was also an adviser to the Iraq Study Group. Professor Hoffman is a member of the National Security Preparedness Group, the successor to the 9/11 Commission and again co-chaired by Governor Thomas H. Kean and Congressman Lee H. Hamilton.

Professor Hoffman is a Global Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Washington, D.C.; a Senior Fellow at the Combating Terrorism Center, U.S. Military Academy, West Point, NY; a Visiting Professor at the Institute for Counter-Terrorism, Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya, Israel; and, a Visiting Professor at the Handa Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at the University of St Andrews, Scotland. He is also a contributing editor to The National Interest. Professor Hoffman is a member of the Jamestown Foundation’s Board of Directors; a member of the board of advisers to the FBI Intelligence Analysts Association; and, serves on the advisory boards to the Arms Sales Monitoring Project at the Federation of American Scientists and of Our Voices Together: September 11 Friends and Families to Help Build a Safer, More Compassionate World.

Professor Hoffman was the founding Director of the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at the University of St Andrews in Scotland, where he was also Reader in International Relations and Chairman of the Department of International Relations. Professor Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, the leading scholarly journal in the field. and a member of the advisory boards of Terrorism and Political Violence and the Review of International Studies. He is also editor of the new Columbia University Press Series on Terrorism and Irregular Warfare.

Professor Hoffman holds degrees in government, history, and international relations and received his doctorate from Oxford University. In November 1994, the Director of Central Intelligence awarded Professor Hoffman the United States Intelligence Community Seal Medallion the highest level of commendation given to a non-government employee, which recognizes sustained superior performance of high value that distinctly benefits the interests and national security of the United States.