Based on deep analysis of Criminal Investigation Department (CID) documents discovered in Israeli archives and his own interviews with CID personnel, Harouvi's examination shows how the CID of the Palestine police force evolved from an organization investigating crime to one designed to protect British rule and keep Jews and Arabs from each other's throats.

Answering to the chief secretary of the mandatory government and ultimately to the Colonial Office in London, the CID was originally a forensic investigation branch. But its focus shifted with changing political situations. Harouvi recounts that in the 1920s, the emphasis was equally on crime and communists, but after being caught completely off-guard by the Arab riots of 1929, CID became an intelligence and preventive security unit. Thereafter, it collected detailed information on Arabs and Jews—including through informers—produced political analyses and estimates, and supported security operations.

According to the author's research, the outbreak of Arab violence in late 1935, which escalated into the "Great Revolt" of 1936-39, saw the CID work ever more closely with the police and the growing British military presence. By the end of this period, with the violent eruption exhausted and suppressed, the CID focused more on the Jewish sector.

During the late 1930s, CID's scope also expanded to include Nazi and Fascist threats, a task made more pressing by the war and the complex alliances of local Arabs and Jews (the latter mostly aided the British), and by a plethora of competing British intelligence services. But after 1943, as the war moved decisively to Europe, the threat posed by Jewish organizations became paramount. Forever understaffed, from 1945 on, the CID produced astute analyses of pre-1948 Jewish community politics, but as the solutions were increasingly political and not tactical, its contribution was limited.

Harouvi's recitation sometimes moves too slowly. More troubling is his inattention to new publications regarding British military, paramilitary, and intelligence establishments in Mandatory Palestine by scholars such as Matthew Hughes,[1] and how these organizations and the police were penetrated by Zionist organizations and French intelligence, as discussed by Hillel Cohen[2] and Meir Zamir.[3]

More comparative context would also have been welcome, for example, regarding British political intelligence in Iraq, Egypt, Ireland, India, Malaya, Rhodesia, and elsewhere, places where CID personnel were often assigned.

These shortcomings aside, Harouvi's book shows how policing in hostile environments responds to political needs and how post-colonial states, including Israel, built their security infrastructures on imperial foundations.


[1] Matthew Hughes, "The banality of brutality: British armed forces and the repression of the Arab revolt in Palestine, 1936-39," The English Historical Review, 124 (2009), pp. 313-54; "A history of violence: The shooting of British Assistant Police Superintendent Alan Sigrist, 12 June 1936," Journal of Contemporary History, 45 (2011), pp. 725-43; "Terror in Galilee: British-Jewish Collaboration and the Special Night Squads in Palestine during the Arab Revolt, 1938–39," The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 43 (2015), pp. 590-610.

[2] Hillel Cohen, Army of Shadows: Palestinian Collaboration with Zionism, 1917–1948 (Berkeley: University of California Press 2009).

[3] Meir Zamir, The Secret Anglo-French War in the Middle East: Intelligence and Decolonization, 1940-1948 (London and New York: Routledge, 2015).