Monday, March 16, 2009

Hat Off

Tony Kushner has reviewed a new book in the Times Higher Education magazine:

Book of the week: Major Farran's Hat

The book deals with the case of Alexander Rubovitz of the Lehi who, on May 6 1947, was snatched off a Jerusalem street by one Roy Farran. Farran eventually was brought before a court martial but was acquitted. Farran was one of the most decorated British servicemen of the Second World War, recipient of the DSO and three Military Crosses.

[due to an unfortunate error of misidentity I have deleted a section here and rewritten the next part . The author of the review is not Tony Kushner, the playwright but the Professor of History at the University of Southampton, England and thanks to Geoffrey Alderman for drawing my attention to a rather egregious error on my part (see comments)]

Kushner chooses to highlight this bit:

Fascinating in this regard is the story he relates of attempts at Jewish terrorism in Britain itself. While most of those involved in smuggling and sending bombs into the UK were not British, including those who succeeded in murdering Farran's brother in May 1948, there were young British Jews who, often returning from the war and radicalised by the horror of the Holocaust and postwar British Palestinian policy, dabbled with terrorism or, more frequently, supported those attempting to carry it out on major British targets and individuals in the UK.

Not surprisingly, these troubled years immediately after the war have been subject to amnesia by British Jewry, even more so because of the collective violence in August 1947 - the last riots against Jews in Britain during the 20th century...

Amnesia? Perhaps. But see this regarding recent scholarship on the issue and related matters touching on British Jewry:

'British intelligence and the Mandate of Palestine. Threats to British national security immediately after the Second World War', Intelligence and National Security, (August 2008), pp. 435-462 by Cambridge scholar Calder Walton with whom I am in contact regarding some of those British Jews during 1945-48.

And this, too:

British Intelligence and the Jewish Resistance Movement in the Palestine Mandate, 1945-46 by Steven Wagner and David Charters' Eyes of the underground: Jewish insurgent intelligence in Palestine, 1945-47

Kushner continues::

...He (Cesartanti) does, however, succeed in showing, via high-level government documentation and Montgomery's diaries, the tension between the military forces who wanted continued British power in Palestine, and the civil authorities and senior Labour Party politicians keen to get out of the region's escalating violence and chaos...

...Many in the Jewish world believed that British rule and misrule in Palestine was motivated by anti-Semitism - Ernest Bevin especially was often portrayed in revisionist Zionist propaganda as the new Hitler. Not surprisingly, Farran was frequently perceived as an anti-Semite, but again Cesarani is cautious on this Cesarani points out, that Farran's limited writings on the Jews after the murder showed an increasing irritation with the Jewish world and a claim in one article that Jews were creating anti-Semitism in Britain. The book reveals other glimpses of anti-Jewish prejudice from British officials in the last days of the mandate, although there is not a sustained analysis of how important it was, other than noting the negative impact that such statements had in the Zionist world, helping to intensify the circle of violence.

But the greatest triumph of this book is in exposing what happens when those in the world of intelligence work outside the law...Cesarani ends..."in Jerusalem 60 years ago as warning of everything that can go wrong when young warriors directed by desperate and unscrupulous politicians wage war on terror". Major Farran's Hat, then, is a piece of contemporary history with bite and verve.

Well, I think Kushner should check out this MA Thesis:

Nick Kardahji: "A Measure of Restraint: The Palestine Police and the End of the British Mandate", St. Antony's College at Oxford

as well as this, too:

"The Impact of the Jewish Underground upon Anglo Jewry: 1945-1947", M.Phil Thesis in Modern Middle Eastern Studies, Paul Bagon

And there is another review article which appeared in The Jewish Chronicle, written by Geoffrey Alderman and it,too, glaringly reveals the political and ideological, and perhaps the psychological, bias that certain Jews have developed.

Some examples from his review material:

Lehi was a terrorist organisation of limited competence, specialising in indiscriminate murder both in Palestine and Europe;

Actually, it was very competent. Lord Moyne, Count Bernadotte, scores of British army and police personnel killed, bank heists, and more, including the revenge attack on Farran which, because his brother decided to open the parcel, did not kill Roy Farran but Rex Farran. These were not "indiscriminate" murders. They were planned, they were politically-motivated and the targest were selected for the most effect to pressure Britian either to fulfill the original terms of the Mandate they had been tasked with or, give it up. Eghich, eventually, they were forced to do, mainly by the armed resistance.

That is how wars are won...Farran’s battle tactics differed little from those of the notorious “Black and Tans”...Farran’s tragedy was that he and his military superiors failed to detect a sea-change in the relationship between Britain’s military strategy and its political objectives in Palestine as the Mandate drew to a close...

That was the "tragedy", not that of 16-year old Rubovitz?

...The disappearance and murder of Rubowitz, Farran’s escape to Syria, and his eventual trial and acquittal, were inevitably exploited by the Zionists and their supporters in the USA...


Gee, reading all this, one does not obtain any moral judgment - which one would noramally expect from someone like Kushner or Alderman.

All this is an introduction to a press conference that was held today in Jerusalem by Steve Rambam of Pallorium who has been investigating the murder and possible whereabouts of Rubovitz's remains.

Here's Steve, second from left, with Yair Stern, at right

and this is Yael Ben-Dov who was Rubovitz's squad commander and who was waiting for him and the delivery of the leaflets he was bringing that evening when he was snatched and later tortured and murdered.

The investigation indicates that Rubovitz was not the only victim of these Q Squads and that there are probably several members of these squads still alive.

Rambam hopes to be able to find the remains.

Here's one of the documents Rambam displayed:

Document R/1

Type: Telegram
From: High Commissioner Sir Allen Cunnigham
To: Secretary of State for Colonies
Date: July 1, 1947
Classification: Most Immediate; Top Secret


The HC explains to the Secretary of State for Colonies that the criminal proceedings based on a June 19th charge sheet against Farran must continue since (a) Farran admitted he had killed Rubowitz to his immediate superior, Col. B. Ferguson; (b) Farran left behind a diary at his barracks in his own handwriting admitting he committed the murder; (c) Rubowitz cannot be found; (d) no other evidence contrary to the supposition that Farran is the murderer.

But the really interesting aspect is the list of persons were aware of the contents of this telegram by virtue of receiving copies:

Secretary of State
Sir T. Lloyd
[Sir Thomas Ingram Lloyd, Permanent Under-Secretaries of State for the Colonies, 1947-1956]
Mr. I. Thomas
Mr. Martin
[Sir John Martin, Secretary to the Palestine Royal Commission, 1936; Churchill's Private Secretary,1940 and Principal PS with Management of the Private Office, 1941-45; served later in Palestine]
Mr. Gutch
[Sir John Gutch, later, High Commissioner for Western Pacific]
Mr. Trafford Smith
Mr. Mathieson
Mr. Higham
[John D. Higham, Assistant Secretary for State, Head, Eastern Department]
Mr. Bennet
Mr. Eastwood
[C.G. Eastwood, Private Secretary to the High Commissioner]
Mr. Dale
Miss Boyd

So all these knew but kept quiet. Some British morality.

For my part, here's my impressions of the press conference:

1. The establishment of the Special Squads:
- Who was responsible for them being set up and who authorized their activities?
- How was their mission defined?
- What were their permitted modes of operation?
- What were their achievements?
- Were there any other victims?
- Any members of these squads or the relatives of those who passed on available?

2. In the wake of the Rubovitz murder:
- Who knew and when?
- If there was a cover-up, how high did it extend?
- Why was there a cover-up?
- Did the Prime Minister Clement Atlee know?

3. The trial:
- Why was there an acquittal?
- Why was Farran awarded medals from the King and the US Ambassador?
- How was it possible for him to run for Parliament?

4. Canada:
- Was there any official connivance that permitted his entry, or any discussion as to his possible criminal status? (who was his father-in-law)
- How was it possible for him to achieve the position of Solicitor-General of Alberta?
- Why, following his death, no mention of the Rubovitz affair was made in the obituaries?



Here's from the UK Telegraph obit:

Becoming second-in-command of the 3rd Hussars, he accompanied them to Palestine. One day he was lunching in the officers' mess at Sarafand when terrorists attacked a nearby ammunition dump. Farran and his comrades pursued them, wounding two.

After a spell as an instructor at Sandhurst he returned to Palestine to put his knowledge of clandestine intelligence-gathering at the disposal of the Palestine Police. He formed "Q" Patrols, made up of hand-picked undercover police officers whose job it was to infiltrate the terrorists' network.

There were claims that a hat bearing Farran's name had been found at the spot where a 16-year-old Jewish youth, Alexander Rubowitz, had been abducted; and there were also reports that the youth had been killed. After allegations had appeared in the Palestine Post, Farran was put under house arrest.

Farran claimed to have a water-tight alibi, but believed that he would be sacrificed by the British authorities in order to demonstrate impartiality in dealing with the Jews and Arabs. When he heard that he was to be charged with murder, he stole a car and, accompanied by two of his NCOs, crossed the border into Syria and told his story to the head of the British Legation in Damascus.

Farran flew back to Palestine with the Assistant Inspector-General of the Palestine Police and was incarcerated in Allenby Barracks, Jerusalem. He escaped again, but surrendered after members of the Stern gang started to take reprisals against his friends.

At his trial it was maintained that no body had been discovered and that Farran had not been identified in a line-up by those who claimed to have seen the boy taken away in a car. The case was dismissed because of lack of evidence. But when he was in Scotland shortly before the first anniversary of the boy's disappearance, Farran's youngest brother, Rex, was killed by a letter bomb sent to the family home near Wolverhampton; Farran suspected the Stern gang.


A video clip of Cesarani discussing his book.

And a new review:

David Pryce-Jones
Major Farran's Hat: Murder, Scandal and Britain's War Against Jewish Terrorism, 1945-1948 By David Cesarani (Heinemann 290pp £20)

A last-minute addition to the British Empire, Palestine was always troublesome. The British presence there brought no very clear political or strategic advantage, only an immense moral dilemma. Nobody had the imagination or the skills to reconcile the local Arabs and Jews, two communities with cultural and national values in complete opposition, as is still in evidence today.

The consequences for Palestine of the rise of Hitler could not have been anticipated. The British were to be locked into inescapable violence. The belief that Nazism spelled the end of the British Empire inspired a widespread Arab revolt. This had to be crushed, but not so severely that other Arabs were encouraged to side with Hitler. After the war, Jewish survivors of Nazism tried to enter Palestine in numbers that the authorities could not deal with. The Jewish Agency, representing those already in Palestine, did what it could to work with the British while also laying the foundations of a state. Two groups, the Irgun and the Stern Gang, took the alternative view that if there was to be a state of Israel the British had first to be driven out. Activists numbered a few hundred at most, and they had to be crushed, but not so severely that other Jews supported them, or that it provoked a possible backlash of anti-Semitism in Britain.

In his opening chapters David Cesarani sets this scene succinctly. A historian, he has made use of material recently available from the archives, and the rest of this book comes to focus on the terrorism of the Irgun and Stern Gang and its consequences. Those responsible for Jewish terror were ideologues and fantasists, grounded in the revolutionary violence of Eastern Europe. One of them invented an 'explosive coat' - forerunner of today's suicide belts - while another was the granddaughter of the composer Scriabin. Generating the crisis they felt would serve their cause, they committed more and more outrages, first in Palestine and then in Europe. The British Embassy in Rome was destroyed, but bombs and letter-bombs in England mostly did not explode or were detected.

In the face of this rather haphazard campaign, the authorities panicked. A report had recommended more imaginative policing. The Chief of Staff, Field Marshal Montgomery, disagreed. During the pre-war Arab revolt he had served in Palestine, and now wanted the army to have a free hand to eradicate Jewish terrorism. Palestine in his view was an essential strategic asset of the Empire. By then, he was the country's most eminent soldier, far too famous to be criticised. But Cesarani traces a lot of the final disaster in Palestine back to his arrogance and narrow-mindedness.

There were to be Search and Seek Squads, as they were called, composed of hand-picked men operating undercover as Jews, with loose instructions to arrest terrorists or shoot to kill. To recruit these squads, Montgomery turned to Bernard Fergusson, a colonel whose prissy voice and permanent monocle gave a misleadingly Wodehousian impression of his tough character. Previously a Chindit with Wingate behind the Japanese lines in Burma, he had the self-confidence of the Scottish grandee that he was. He in turn enrolled Roy Farran in the Palestine Police with the rank of Deputy Superintendent.

The introduction of Farran into the narrative dramatises and personalises this whole issue. Much decorated, Farran had had an exceptional war, serving in Egypt, Crete, Italy and France as a member of the Special Air Service or SAS, valued by its commanding officers Bill and David Stirling, themselves famous freebooters. Debonair, brave to the point of recklessness, Farran romanticised himself as 'a G A Henty figure', but he had a dark side that took pleasure in killing. In the war he had got away with disobeying orders, and also shooting German prisoners. 'I do not think I would make a practice of shooting prisoners,' Farran was to write in his memoirs without a trace of remorse, 'but Crete was different.' Cesarani's portrayal of this equivocal personality is fair and therefore convincing.

Unable to pass as Jews, not speaking Hebrew and therefore on a mission with little hope of success, Farran and his squad interpreted their instructions in Palestine as a license to be law-breaking thugs. A day came in 1947 when they caught the seventeen-year-old Alexander Rubowitz in Jerusalem in the fairly humdrum act of delivering Stern Gang posters. Perhaps his innocence exposed the futility of this approach to combating terrorism. At any rate, Farran and the squad drove him into the Judean desert and murdered him. The body was never found. But other Jewish boys were witnesses to the kidnapping, and handed to the police a hat which they had picked up at the scene, with Farran's name in it.

Farran immediately confessed this brutal killing to Fergusson, and an extraordinary rigmarole then ensued, during which Farran twice ran away from custody in Palestine only to return and hand himself in. His guilt was there for all to see while Fergusson and the authorities were made to look lax or conniving. The instinct of the Palestine authorities and the army was to cover up. There had to be a court-martial and the officers sitting on it were carefully chosen. First-rate lawyers brought in from London ran rings round the prosecution, and then managed to have destroyed every copy of a document Farran had written about what had happened. Fergusson's subsequent account of all this was, in Cesarani's words, 'witty and elegant dissimulation'. As for Montgomery, he pretended that he had always been against the special squads.

For a while the popular press in Britain built the wrongfully acquitted Farran up as a hero and patriot. Stern Gang terrorists then posted a letter-bomb to his house, and his brother was killed opening it. Farran remains somewhere in the collective memory of Jews, at least those in Israel, as nothing but a murderous anti-Semite and fascist, representative of Britain at its worst. Eventually he emigrated to Canada, where he had a successful journalistic and political career, and was a pillar of the community by the time of his death.

In his official history of the Palestine Police published five years ago, Edward Horne described Farran as a 'fine young man' but went on to say that Fergusson and Farran and the other ranks were essentially soldiers, 'out of their depth in the police world'. To Horne, that was a complete explanation of what had gone wrong. While concurring that policemen are more effective than soldiers in combating terrorism, David Cesarani goes further, and attributes the end of empire in large part to the mistaken use of military methods. Whether such a generalisation is valid in all circumstances must remain an open question. Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Jews surely continue to prove that they are special cases.

And here's a British reaction (at the end of March 12 entry):

I spent the evening reading some more of "Major Farran's Hat", learning about the murderous activities of Jews during the period 1945-48 in their attempts to force British troops out of Palestine. Terrible people, gunning down British troops in cold blood and blowing up the British Embassy in Rome. The Jew thugs issued a communiqué saying: "Let every Briton who occupies our country know that the armed hand of the Eternal People will reply with war everywhere until our fatherland is freed and people redeemed." The I.R.A. would have been proud of that brutal message.

As Chief of the Imperial General Staff, Montgomery commendably believed that the only way to deal with the Jew terrorists was to shoot them, but the shilly-shallying of Attlee and Bevin, incredulously believing that there could be a reasoning with the Jews, initially made Montgomery's position difficult.. It was not until further murder and mayhem committed by the Jew thugs that our troops were given the all clear to sort them out, but the intervention of America with its millions of Jews, made any full-scale assault impossible.

Oh, that British troops had remained there, preventing the state of Israel being set up! How different the history of the Middle East would have been, the Palestinians being able to live peacefully in their own country, instead of being invaded and treated with Nazi-style brutality by the Jews, their movements restricted and denied food, water and electricity by the so-called "Eternal People" who eternally wail about the Holocaust in the belief that nobody else suffered during the Second World War.


Professor Geoffrey Alderman said...

The Tony Kushner whose review is cited here is Professor of History at the University of Southampton, England - as Times Higher Education makes very clear.

Geoffrey Alderman

viagra online said...

this case was a total mess in it time, I remember the incredible disorder in that country when this happen, thanks God this happen far away from here.