Journalist Kati Marton’s 1994 book opens with a description of the massacre of Arab worshippers in Hebron early that year by a far-right Jewish terrorist named Baruch Goldstein. Had her book appeared a year later, a far better opening would have been a description of the assassination of Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin. Rabin was killed by a far-right Jewish terrorist who was convinced that he was saving Israel by doing so.
And such were the motives of the four young men, members of the Stern Gang (Lehi), who carried out the assassination of UN peace mediator Count Folk Bernadotte in September 1948. Marton’s book is an excellent introduction to the subject, and she was able to interview a number of key players, including members of the Lehi hit squad. It is a balanced account, which while obviously unsympathetic to the murderers does attempt to understand why the Swedish diplomat Bernadotte provoked such hatred among some of the Jews of Palestine.
One of the stranger parts of this very strange tale is the friendship, many years later, between Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben Gurion, and the Lehi assassin who fired the shots into the unarmed and defenceless Bernadotte. As Marton discovered, Ben Gurion knew that his friend and ‘bodyguard’ had played a role in the murder, which Ben Gurion condemned at the time. But it is not clear if the two men ever discussed what happened.
A well-written and gripping tale of a horrific crime for which no one was ever punished.