The Killing of Count Folke Bernadotte
September is a month of memorials. Back in 1982 from September 15th to 18th Lebanese fascists militia supported by Israel massacred at least 1,300 people in the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Chatilla. The 28th of September in 2000 saw the start of the al-Aksa intifdada, a mass uprising of Palestinians in the occupied territories that was sparked by the “visit” of Ariel Sharon guarded by 1,000 soldiers to the Muslim holy site, the Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem. It was Sharon as Defense Minister in 1982 who directed the fascists Lebanese militia to enter the camps. Later he claimed he was “shocked, shocked” that they would massacre the Palestinians there.
This year September 17th is the 60th anniversary of the anniversary of the assassination of Swedish Count Folk Bernadotte. He was the Vice-President of the Swedish Red Cross during World War II. He saved some 15,000 people from German concentration camps including approximately 8000 Danes and Norwegians and 7000 women of French, Polish, Czech, British, American, Argentinian and Chinese nationalities. He brought them out in buses painted white all over except for the Red Cross. It was dangerous work. The drove on the roads while Allied bombers pummeled Nazi targets with the un-surgical precision of those days.
In 1944 when Sweden was making serious attempts to rescue Hungarian Jews, the Swedish representative of the U.S. War Refugee Board got a group of Swedish Jews together and asked them to recommend someone to go to Hungary to lead the effort. Their choice was Bernadotte. However, the Hungarian government wouldn’t allow him in and the legendary Raul Wallenberg was sent in his place.
Wikipedia states: “Following the 1947 UN Partition Plan, on 20 May 1948, Folke Bernadotte was appointed the United Nations’ mediator in Palestine, the first official mediator in the UN’s history. In this capacity, he succeeded in achieving a truce in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and laid the groundwork for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.”
As the fighting raged in 1948 Bernadotte came up with several plans, one was for a “union of two members, one Jewish and one Arab” that would encompass all Palestine and Transjordan (what is called Jordan today). When this was rejected he came up with a complex idea for two states giving the Negev to the Arabs, the Galilee to the Jews, making Haifa and Lydda airport as free zones and all of Jerusalem as a UN run entity. Another part of the proposal was to recognize the right of Palestinians to return to their homes in Jewish-controlled territory.
Enter the Stern Gang (or the Fighters for Freedom of Israel as they called themselves). They were one group of what were called “Revisionist” Zionists. They were opposed to the Ben-Gurion Labour Party types. They were so fanatical in their demand for a Jewish state (from the Nile to the Euphrates) that in the 1940’s they came up with a novel idea about foes of the Jews. Hitler was a “persecutor” of Jews, but the “enemy” of Jews was the power that occupied Palestine, the British. There would always be persecutors until Jews vanquished “the enemy” and took over their rightful turf. So logically the Fighters for the Freedom of Israel had to ally itself against the British and with Hitler!
Unfortunately I’m not making this up. In January of 1941 Sternist agents went to Beirut and met with German military attaches proposing a formal military alliance. The document was found in the German embassy in Ankara, Turkey after the war.
The leader of the Stern Gang, Avraham Stern was killed by the British in February of 1942. It was other leaders of the Stern Gang who killed Bernadotte.
The Stern Gang considered Bernadotte an enemy, an “agent of the British”. They concocted a story that he had aided the Nazis in World War II. They ambushed Bernadotte’s motorcade in downtown Jerusalem killing him and UN observer Colonel André Serot.
Two of the planners of the killing were arrested by Ben-Gurion’s government, not charged with murder, but with “terrorism”. They were pardoned a few months later and one of them took his place as an elected member of the Knesset.
The names of the conspirators are forgotten today except one, Yitzhak Shamir. Shamir joined up with the Fighters for the Freedom of Israel when they were in their pro-Nazi phase, and reportedly directed the assassination of the Churchill’s Minister Resident of the Middle East, Lord Moyne, in 1944. He’s a bit fuzzy about whether he took part in the plot against Bernadotte. He says a local group came up with the idea and he “offered no resistance”. A critical decision and he didn’t really take part. You betcha.
What became of Yitzhak Shamir? No dustbin of history for him. He joined the Israeli secret service in a senior post and rose to become Israeli Prime Minister serving twice, once in1983-1984 and again 1986-1992. He was a thug to the last. When some Palestinians hijacked a bus with a phony bomb and were captured and beaten to death by Israeli security forces Shamir’s comment was, “So they knocked them around a little.”
Lost now in senility he’s still alive at 93 in some Israeli nursing home. No doubt there will one day be an Israeli postage stamp with his face on it, just as there was a stamp in honor of Avraham Stern.
STANLEY HELLER is host of “The Struggle” a weekly TV news magazine on public access and at www.TheStruggle.org He believes in the importance of remembering. See the link “On This Day” http://www.thestruggle.org/history.htm and contribute important historical dates.