Fifty-eight years ago today, members of the Lohamei Herut Israel/LEHI militant Zionist group assassinated Count Folke Bernadotte, a Swedish diplomat who was appointed by the U.N. to mediate peace between the new state of Israel and its Arab neighbours. Bernadotte was shot six times at point-blank range as his convoy drove through Jerusalem, one day after he offered his second mediation plan which, among other things, called for the return of - and compensation for - the Palestinian refugees displaced by the creation of Israel.
On 16 September 1948, Swedish Count Folke Bernadotte, the United Nations Mediator for Palestine, submitted his progress report to the United Nations. It contained what he described as "seven basic premises" regarding the situation in Palestine. In the one headed "Right of Repatriation," he declared: "The right of innocent people, uprooted from their homes by the present terror and ravages of war, to return to their homes, should be affirmed and made effective, with assurance of adequate compensation for the property of those who may choose not to return.... [N]o settlement can be just and complete if recognition is not accorded to the right of the Arab refugee to return to the home from which he has been dislodged. It will be an offence against the principles of elemental justice if these innocent victims of the conflict were denied the right of return to their homes while Jewish immigrants flow into Palestine..."
On 17 September 1948, the day after he submitted his progress report to the UN, Count Folke Bernadotte, along with his French aid [sic], Colonel Serot, was assassinated in Jerusalem by men wearing uniforms of the Israeli army who were subsequently discovered to be members of the Stern Gang, a Jewish terrorist group headed by among others, Yitzhak Shamir, a future prime minister of Israel.
-- Palestinian Refugees' Right of Return; CanPalNet, Sept 2006
The assassination of Count Bernadotte made international headlines, and the Israeli government -- which the U.S. Department suspected of complicity in the assassination - quickly arrested 30 members of the LEHI suspected of involvement in planning and carrying out the killings. However, most were quietly set free within days of their arrest, while the remainder were released without charge in February 1949. No-one was ever charged in connection with the murder.
It was ironic that Bernadotte should met his end at the hands of Zionists in Israel, in view of his diplomatic efforts in World War Two on behalf of prisoners in Nazi concentration camps. As vice-chairman of the Swedish Red Cross, Bernadotte - working in conjunction with the Stockholm representative of the World Jewish Congress - arranged the sending of 70,000 food parcels to Jewish prisoners. And in early 1945 he led the "white buses" expedition to Germany, in which he negotiated the release from the camps and evacuation to Sweden of about 30,000 people.
Gary Keenan comments: For obvious reasons, Israel has yet to acknowledge Count Folke Bernadotte's extraordinary humanitarian accomplishment. As Jewish historian Moshe Menuhin (father of violinist Yehudi Menuhin) remarked: "To this day it is almost a crime to recall the murder of Count Bernadotte. Forgotten is the name of the noble man who was a victim of ungrateful, land-hungry jingoists"....
It seems a shame that someone who might otherwise have been the subject of some Steven Spielberg blockbuster should be forgotten just because he was politically incorrect enough to be murdered by the wrong kind of terrorist, so I thought I at least might commemorate him today.
A Lifelong Death Sentence by Ruth Almog; Ha'aretz, 12 Nov 2004
Count Bernadotte endeavored to save Jews to the best of his ability, but in the end he was assassinated by Jews in the land of Israel. When you think about Bernadotte's projects involving finding refuge for the Jews of Denmark, sending 70,000 food packages to Jews in the camps and arranging convoys of white buses that took people out of the camps to Sweden; when you think about his efforts to mediate between the Israelis and the Palestinians and about how he succeeded in achieving a truce for one month in the War of Independence and suggested plans for peace that both sides rejected; and when you think about how he was assassinated, together with his French aide as a result of his aim to bring about peace in the land of Israel - it is impossible not to be disgusted and not to see how little has changed since then. Bernadotte, a man who was among the most worthy of the title "Righteous Gentile," was murdered - just like former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin - by the concept that peace is unthinkable....