Monday, March 17, 2014

A 'Stern' 'Murder', Wrote Bishop

Did you know that:

-   Patrick Bishop will be talking at the London Jewish Cultural Centre on March 19?

-   He will also be speaking to the chairman of Liberal Judaism, Lucian Hudson, at the Oxford Literary Festival on March 30.

He is the author of ‘The Reckoning: How the Killing of One Man Changed the Fate of the Promised Land’ 

a book described so:
...Bishop tells the story of [Avraham] Stern [leader of the militant Zionist group, the Stern Gang] and the middle-class Londoner, assistant superintendent Geoffrey Morton, sent to track him down. The spectacular and murderous crimes of the Stern Gang had caused outrage among both British and Jewish groups. Morton cornered Stern in Tel Aviv and shot him dead. The events of that day had a major impact on British rule in Palestine and on the events that shaped the birth of Israel.

Here is from the official blurb:

...the mesmerising true story of two ruthless adversaries and the wartime killing of Avraham Stern – an event that shook the modern world.

On a cold morning in February 1942, with the world plunged in the horrors of World War Two, Avraham Stern hid in an attic in Tel Aviv, a price on his head. He’d been on the run for weeks, his picture blazoned across newspapers all over Palestine. As leader of the Stern Gang, he had committed spectacular and murderous crimes, sparking outcry from both British and Jewish groups. An intellectual poet and mystic, Stern believed himself destined for greatness; the Jewish liberator of British Palestine. Drawn always to the margins – his writings were drenched in images of martyrdom and blood.

Assistant Superintendent Geoffrey Morton, a middle-class Londoner who had swopped milk deliveries for the dangers of colonial policing, was the man tasked with stopping Stern. Seemingly so different, in fact the men had much in common – ambition, dedication and conviction in his own righteousness. The incidents of that morning would be endlessly contested but two things were clear; Morton had cornered Stern and, minutes later, shot him dead.

The shots Morton fired that day would echo down the remaining years of British rule in Palestine and through the titanic events that shaped the birth of Israel.

Based on revelatory research, the private archive of Morton and interviews with witnesses, ‘The Reckoning’ is the first book to tell the tale of a rebel who terrorized Palestine, the lawman determined to stop him and the creation of a cult of martyrdom that destroyed any hope of compromise between Arab and Jew.

Here he is further on his book:

...Morton never denied killing him but always maintained he fired in self-defence after Stern made a sudden dash for what he feared was the trigger for a hidden bomb. Claims that he had been executed in cold blood were met with libel actions. Towards the end of Morton’s life, however, his story was challenged from an unexpected quarter when another British police officer who was in the room gave a very different version of events.

(and that was only page 3)

What seemed at the time to be a dramatic but ultimately inconsequential cops-and-robbers shoot-out was soon to take on a much greater significance. The murky circumstances of Stern’s death — combined with the continued policy of turning away refugees from Germany — helped turn moderate Jewish opinion against the British and increase support for radical action against them.  Six years later they would depart in ignominy bringing to an end one of the shabbiest and most painful episodes in the history of the empire.

A friend of mine published another good book a few years ago on the matter. And you'll recall the Farran Affair.

That Winterbottom film is still in abeyance but the subject of the Hebrew war for liberation against a foreign occupier will reach out still and the facts and truth will be available for all.

(with thanks to EG)


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