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The Irgun - Etzel - (Hebrew) is the popular name of the "Irgun Tzva'i Leumi" (Hebrew, acronym Etzel) - The National Military Organization. The Irgun was a "dissident" (revisionist) Zionist terrorist group founded in reaction to Arab riots. In 1930, a small group of Hagannah officers set up the "Second Organization" - Irgun Beth, because they wanted to take offensive as well as defensive action in reprisal for Arab attacks. This group soon identified itself with the revisionist movement, and in April 1937 it renamed itself the Irgun Zvai Leumi (National Military Organization, IZL or Irgun).

The Irgun carried out reprisals against Arab civilians in the 1930s Arab uprising, including several bombings, and following World War II, became active in  operations against the British  alone or in cooperation with LEHI (Stern Gang) and the Hagannah, as well as in terror operations against Arab civilians. For a time, the Irgun continued to exist after the formation of the IDF. However, in June of 1948, the revisionist party tried to bring a shipload of arms and immigrants into Israel, the Altalena. The arms would be for the use of the Irgun, perpetuating its existence as an independent fighting organization. Prime Minister David Ben Gurion ordered the arms turned over to the IDF. When the revisionists refused, the IDF sank the Altalena.

Synonyms and alternate spellings: IZL IZ"L, Irgun, Irgun Tzva'i Leumi, Irgun Zvai Leumi

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Encyclopedia of the Middle East

Note - This encyclopedia is a work in progress. It is far from complete and is being constructed and improved all the time. If you would like to contribute articles or expansions of existing articles, please contact news (at) mideastweb.org.  Suggestions and corrections are welcome. The concise version of this dictionary is at our Middle East Glossary.

Spelling - Spelling of words in Middle-Eastern languages is often arbitrary. There may be many variants of the same name or word such as Hezbollah, Hizbolla, Hisbolla or Husayn and Hussein. There are some conventions for converting words from Semitic languages such as Arabic and Hebrew There are numerous variant renderings of the same Arabic or Hebrew words, such as "Hizbollah," "Hisbulla" etc. It is not possible to find exact equivalents for several letters. 

Pronunciation - Arabic and Hebrew vowels are pronounced differently than in English. "o" is very short. The "a" is usually pronounced like the "a" in market, sometimes as the "a" in "Arafat."  The " 'A " is guttural.  " 'H "- the 'het ('Hirbeh, 'Hebron, 'Hisbollah') designates a sound somewhat similar to the ch in "loch" in Scots pronunciation, but made by touching the back of your tongue to the roof of your mouth. The CH should be pronounced like Loch, a more assertive consonant than 'het.

The "Gh" combination, and sometimes the "G," designate a deep guttural sound that Westerners may hear approximately as "r." The "r" sound is always formed with the back of the tongue, and is not like the English "r."

More information: Hebrew, Arabic

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