Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Once Again, Roy Farran and Alexander Rubovitz

A Calgary newspaper reflects on Roy Farran's past:

Roy Farran's Long Shadow

Does a recently released book prove that Alberta's one-time top cop killed an Israeli teen 64 years ago?

The description of the murder is brutal and brief.

It takes place more than 60 years ago, somewhere along a lonely stretch of road between Jerusalem and Jericho. A 16-year-old boy, Alexander Rubowitz, is abducted by a shadowy team of "special forces" British policemen...

...the identity of the murderer, at least according to British author David
Cesarani's historical book Major Farran's Hat: Murder, Scandal and Britain's War
Against Jewish Terrorism, is no longer in question.

"Roy Farran picked up a rock and smashed it against the boy's head," Cesarani writes. "After one or more blows Alexander Rubowitz died."

This part of the story, Cesarani insists, is not conjecture. In 2004, declassified files from a nearly 60-year-old police report surfaced in the National Archives in London, England. For Cesarani, a University of London research professor who has made his academic name as an expert in Jewish history, this puts to rest the mystery
surrounding the fate of Rubowitz.

He was murdered in cold blood by war hero, newspaper publisher and one-time solicitor-general of Alberta Roy Farran.

A military court in Jerusalem acquitted Farran of the murder in 1947 and his family believes he's not guilty.

...On June 12, 2006, Farran was given a hero's burial with a military guard leading a procession 10 blocks to his final resting place in Calgary...

...Working for an unnamed client, a fast-talking Brooklyn private eye named Steven Rambam has become the public face of efforts to close the case, find the boy's body and declare Farran a murderer. To Farran's supporters, the book and the accusations prove nothing and are a continued assault on the reputation of a good man no longer
around to defend himself. But to Rubowitz's family, the 64-year ordeal continues to take its toll. They've never doubted who was responsible.

..."We believe we are close to finding the body. We have almost certainly determined who assisted Farran in hiding the body. We believe we know the exact area in which it's hidden. We believe we've identified a number of people who, if they chose to, could identify the exact location of the grave."

... On May 6, 1947, Cesarani says, Farran and his men came across Alexander Rubowitz clutching an armful of anti-British posters on Ussishkin Street in Jerusalem.

According to the book, Farran confessed to killing the teen to his superior officer the next day. Other incriminating evidence surfaced...But through legal manoeuvring, the alleged confession never made it to the trial, Cesarani notes. The hat could not be proven to be Farran's.

The next day, without a body or any eyewitnesses, Farran was acquitted, commanding front page headlines in British newspapers. Cesarani says evidence, including the alleged confession, was carefully destroyed by lawyers following the trial.

Rubowitz's disappearance remained officially unsolved. But the case didn't end there.

Retribution was quick and lethal. Almost a year to the day Rubowitz was abducted, a parcel arrived by mail to Farran's parents' United Kingdom home in Codsall,
Wolverhampton. It was addressed to "R. Farran." Farran was away visiting friends in Scotland. His brother, Rex, opened it.

The package was rigged and a bomb exploded. Rex was rushed to hospital, but died
days later. The device was widely rumoured to have been the work of the Lehi, also known as the Stern gang, an underground Jewish military group Rubowitz was part of.

...Despite Farran's position of power, accusations of the past murder and a long-standing coverup by the British military were never far behind. "That rumour's been floating around for a long time. I remember in the Senate people asking about that," says former senator and Lougheed-era MLA Ron Ghitter. "A lot of us knew about it, particularly in the Jewish community. It seems that there have been a number who feel he did murder the boy. I don't know if it's really been proven," he says. "You get wrapped up in hearsay and rumours. He was there, he was on the scene, he did escape . . . there was a lot of circumstantial stuff. Clearly, there was a price on Roy's head."

Farran's family did not respond to requests for an interview by the Herald. But a close friend says they do not believe he murdered Rubowitz. "He told me personally that he never committed such a crime," says Andre Lorent. "As far as I'm concerned and the family is concerned, we don't believe it. I don't believe that Roy would have committed this."

"If I have to choose between somebody who wrote a book (60) years removed from that time and Roy, I would side behind Roy Farran 100 per cent. We think it's sad to accuse Roy of things he cannot refute."

Gerald Green, who served alongside Farran in the Palestine police, told The Telegraph
newspaper in England last year that he believes his friend was innocent. Green, now in his 80s, suggested the documents that surfaced in 2004 could have been doctored by a superior officer to frame Farran.

...But Cesarani insists proof of Farran's guilt is now on file. He acknowledges it was impossible to challenge the not guilty verdict of the court martial until 2004 when parts of a police report surfaced in the National Archives. First discovered by an Israeli journalist, his findings were only published in Hebrew. Cesarani's book
is the first to record, in English, what this evidence suggested. "When I went to the public records . . . and had a look at that file there was absolutely no doubt from what it contained," Cesarani says.

"The police investigation into the disappearance into Alexander Rubowitz concluded that Roy Farran had murdered him and that Roy had himself admitted to the killing of
Alexander Rubowitz in a statement he made to his boss and superior."

Still, Cesarani concedes this evidence would probably be considered hearsay in a court of law, since it's a second-hand report told to a police inspector by Farran's superior. The book has been enough to convince at least one Farran supporter of his guilt.

Maurice Yacowar, a film studies professor from the University of Calgary, looked to Farran as a mentor in the 1950s when he was hired as a cub reporter for the North Hill News, a paper Farran founded. Last year, Yacowar wrote an article for Alberta Views that began with the alarming opening sentence: "Apparently I have idolized a sadistic war criminal."

Yacowar says he had heard rumblings about the Rubowitz affair when he was working for Farran, but didn't want to believe it. Because of Cesarani's book, he now does. Still, Yacowar can't help but speak admiringly of his former mentor, who he said had more influence on his life than anyone, other than his parents. "I met him when I was 16," he says. "That's one of the ironies that struck me. When he hired me, this Jewish kid, I was the age of the Jewish kid he killed."

University of New Brunswick history professor David Charters studied the Farran case as early as the 1970s when he wrote an article on the matter. He again touched on the subject in his 1989 book The British Army and Jewish Insurgency in Palestine,
1945-47. He acknowledges Major Farran's Hat seems to offer the definitive account of what really happened.

"When I wrote my article 30 years ago there was one very thin file on the Farran case and there were clearly gaps in it," Charters says. "Because of that I had to be very careful about what I wrote. There was enough ambiguity and uncertainty that I wasn't prepared to come out and say, 'This guy committed murder.'

"There was not enough evidence there for that to have stood up to a libel case, so I had to be very careful. Now I think the story is pretty much out there. I don't think there are any surprises waiting in the wings, and it's pretty clear that he did do it."

Still, 64 years later, Rubowitz's body has not been found.

Many of the witnesses that may have been able to back Cesarani's claims have long
since died. Farran is no longer around to defend himself. In Israel, Alexander Rubowitz remains a symbol of the Zionist struggle, a teenage warrior who paid the ultimate price for the Jewish state. Certainly the incident came at a key time in Middle East politics. Within a few weeks of Farran's acquittal, Britain pulled out of Palestine. In November 1947, the United Nations voted in favour of the partition of Palestine and proposed the creation of a Jewish state, an Arab state, and a UN-administered Jerusalem. Israel declared independence in 1948.

In Jerusalem, a plaque dedicated to Rubowitz commemorates the abduction on the street where it allegedly happened, boldly stating the teen was abducted by "Special Forces" of the British police. Moshe Rubowitz and wife named their son, now 42, after Alexander.

"I am proud to be a nephew to that boy who gave his life for a state that (had) not
existed at that time. Most of us did not have a chance to know him, but we all
grew up on his memory as a hero."

...For those who knew Farran in Alberta, reopening the Rubowitz case is a pointless assault on his memory. "He's gone and dead now. What can be gained? It's better to
keep in him in fond memory," says Ghitter. "I prefer to remember him in a very positive light. He contributed considerably during his public life in Alberta. He had a remarkable life."

Investigator Steven Rambam is less forgiving. "I have no doubt that somewhere in Alberta or in Canada there is someone that Mr. Farran spoke to about this matter and has information that can assist us," he says. "The decent thing to do is to provide this information so we can give this kid a decent burial."


Anonymous said...

Ramban is full of crap, and whoever is paying his bills has rocks for brains or a lot of loose change to give away willy-nilly. What Ramban should be investigating is 'who sent the bomb to Wolverhampton that killed Rex Farran.' It would seem more than a curious coincidence that a man named Levin - who received the Irgun medal for his part in the bombing of the King David hotel - was deceased near Roy Farran's home in Calgary, and whose son Aubrey Levin (who has had a long-time fascination with Roy Farran) is now facing a criminal charge for attacking his own patients. It is also curious that Levin's employer at FAOS-Peter Lougheed hospital (name of Hashman) belongs to a family that 'funneled' an untold, undeclared fortune to the Irgun and other jewish resistance (terrorist) groups, prior to the British government leaving Palestine.

YMedad said...

Thanks for your information but we know who sent the bomb, Yaakov Heruti. As for Levin, haven't the faintest idea but as he was Irgun and the Irgun did not engage in personal terror such as assassinations under Begin's command, it seems you are mixing pears and apples. Farran's was a Lechi (or Stern) operation.

Coach said...

Unfortunately Cesaranis book is inaccurate. His record of the escape from the courtroom in Tiberias is totally wrong. He walked out the back door of the courthouse into a Daimler dingo and was driven to Lid Airport, in the daylight. If he cannot get this right one begs the question how accurate in the rest of the book?

YMedad said...