Review: Stern: The man and his gang, by Zev Golan

I asked a friend recently what he knew about the Stern Gang, and he replied that they were “very small … and vicious”. That pretty much sums up the group known as the “Fighters for the Freedom of Israel” which waged a bloody 8-year-long fight to kick the British out of mandatory Palestine. Their leader, Avraham “Yair” Stern, was murdered in cold blood by British police in 1942. In turn, his followers murdered many others, including the UN peace emissary Count Folke Bernadotte in 1948. Zev Golan’s book makes no attempt to be impartial; this is a view of the Stern Gang that is entirely sympathetic. The book includes a long list of every single military action carried out by Stern’s followers, running over several pages, and one reads through these with numbing effect. Incredibly, decades after their war against the British ended, the Sternists were rewarded with recognition by the state of Israel, whose prime minister in the late 1980s was one of Stern’s acolytes, Yitzhak Shamir.