The Stern Gang, derisively named by the British for its founder, Abraham Stern, called themselves LEHI, the Hebrew acronym for the Fighters for the Freedom of Israel. One of their underground leaders, Yitzhak Shamir, went on to become Israel’s prime minister. Some analysts draw a parallel between Hamas and LEHI, yet the old fighters I interviewed were outraged at the comparison. They insist that the perceived parallel ignores the most critical and morally significant distinction between the two groups: Only Hamas uses indiscriminate terror against women and children as a regular instrument of war, and encourages its followers to commit acts of martyrdom to aid its cause.
Amos, now 92, told me: “We didn’t blow up cinemas in London. We could have, but we didn’t want innocents to die. We never willingly killed the innocent.” Irit, now 76, explained: “We never touched the families of high officers and we knew exactly where they were. It simply never entered our minds. It was important to hit only those who continued British policies, stopping us from establishing our nation.” Eyal, 83, insisted that many LEHI operations were canceled when there was a risk to innocent civilians.
Yasmine, 78, recounted that by age 17, she had pasted forbidden LEHI posters on Jerusalem billboards, smuggled arms past British sentries, traced the movement of His Majesty’s soldiers through Jerusalem streets, and ridden troop trains throughout Mandatory Palestine, recording their timing and movements in an effort to assist the sabotage campaign against the railroads. But “we didn’t kill even one child,” she told me.
Hamas has carried out dozens of bus and restaurant bombings in Jerusalem and all over Israel, targeting not soldiers and policemen, but families out to dinner or kids going home from school.