Sunday, April 27, 2008

My Historical Curiosity

Found this here:

Samir Raafat
Cairo Times, 8 June 2000

Among the first batch of historic blue plaques to be mounted in Zamalek is one that says "Lord Moyne (1880-1944) British Minister of State was murdered on this site by two Stern Gang terrorists on November 6."

Plaque placed in Cairo Cathedral in 1945 in memory of Lord Moyne

An MP for Bury St. Edmunds from 1907-1931, Walter Edward Guinness was raised to a peerage in 1932. The first Baron Moyne occupied the posts of Minister of Agriculture, Colonial Secretary, Leader of the House of Lords and finally Minister of State and British Government representative in Cairo.

The scene of the crime was Villa No. 6 Hassan Sabry Street (today al-Abd Bldg which houses the Four Corners Restaurants) belonging to entrepreneur Maurice Ades. Like many prosperous Zamalek residents, Ades was quick to cash in on a booming wartime real-estate market.

Prior to Moyne, the Rococo villa had been occupied by General Sir Archibald Wavell and Brigadier John Marriott. According to Artemis Cooper, author of Cairo During the War, Wavel's wife-Momo Kahn-had "transformed the house adding opulent oak doors and paneling, an assortment of white furniture, large fishbowls full of white flowers, and a sunken bathtub fit for a Roman emperor."

But there was no Roman emperor at home on 6 November 1944, only the scion of the Guiness Beer empire and his young driver. They had just returned from Grey Pillars in Garden City where Moyne coordinated the British and Allied war efforts in the Middle East from his offices in the handsome three-story building at No. 10 Tolombat Street.

Hidden in the bushes just inside No. 6 Hassan Sabry were two young zealots. Having stalked the place for the past few days, they were familiar with both the surroundings and their intended victim's military-like routine. Any outside interruption was discounted. The quiet neighborhood consisted of a handful of villas and a tiny police complement where Hassan Sabry Streets intersects Gezira. At the worse of times this was manned by a bicycled constable.

For sure the victims never stood a chance. It was over in a matter of seconds. The Right Honorable British Minister and his driver Lance-Corporal Fuller were shot at point blank range as they got out of their official car. Two lives brutally terminated, not at the warfront but on a sleepy Zamalek Sreet, a few meters from Africa's foremost polo and cricket fields.

By the time anyone realized what had happened, the terrorists would have made it safely back to Palestine via a prearranged safe house on the other side of town.

But they didn't.

To their misfortune an out-of-district police constable was unexpectedly passing by on a motorcycle when he overheard gunshots. Sensing something was wrong he instinctively gave chase to two men rushing off on bicycles. The fleeing murderers were overtaken on Fouad Al Awal Bridge (a.k.a. Abou el Ela Bridge, now dismantled).

Confronted with irrefutable evidence neither assassin could deny his guilt. Nevertheless, they argued their case with a logic known only to diehard fanatics: they were carrying out orders from a Zionist terror network operating inside British Mandated Palestine. By finishing off Moyne they were sending a message directly to the highest echelons of the British Foreign Office: "Stop interfering with Jewish immigration into Palestine, or else..."

The two assassins, Eliahou Bet-Zouri and Eliahou Al Hakim, both in their early twenties, were members of the Stern Gang then under the control of Yitzhak Shamir--the same man who would later became Prime Minister of the new state of Israel. They received capital punishment and were subsequently hanged at the insistence of the British government.

As the mood changed and Western psyche increasingly imbued with a feeling of collective guilt regarding the atrocities of World War II, the two terrorists were eventually exonerated. They became the subjects of folk tales, books and poems. For Lord Moyne's assassination rather that stem the tide against the fate of Palestine and the Palestinians had instead hastened Britain's exit from Mandated Palestine.

In 1975 the bodies of the two assassins were exhumed from an empty corner of the Jewish cemetery of Bassatine north east of Maadi and sent back to Israel. No sooner had they arrived when the then-Prime Minister, a young general called Yitzhak Rabin, personally gave Moyne's assassins a military funeral of the type usually reserved for men of distinguished valor. Moreover, the Eliahous were buried at Mount Herzl in an area reserved for the nation's eminent citizens.

The Hassan Sabry Street terrorists had become champions in the eyes of the Israeli public.

No comments: