Article on Bernadotte i Washington Report
Count Bernadotte was assassinated with the silent consent of the Israelian government.
The Swedish count Folke Bernadotte was assassinated while on UN-mission in Jerusalem September 17th 1948. It´s common knowledge nowadays, that Bernadotte was killed by a dissident group, the Stern Gang. We know who pulled the trigger, his name was Yehoshua Cohen, we know the leaders who organized the action, one of them was Yitzak Shamir, later PM of Israel.
But there is one crucial issue, which is never raised: How come that Bernadotte and his company wasn´t protected by the Israelian authorities? How was it possible that they traveled around in a city, which was buzzing with threats and rumours of deadly attacks, without any military escort?
When it was apparent that the Israelian authorities took no interest in finding the killers, the Swedish Government ordered the Prosecutor-General, Maths Heuman to make an investigation of his own. Heuman delivered devastating criticism. One of Heuman´s main concerns was the issue of armed protection. His conclusion was: “The troubled circumstances in Jerusalem at the time of the assassination should have caused the Israelian authorities to provide count Bernadotte with armed escort. So had happened at one of count Bernadottes earlier visits to Jerusalem on the 3rd of August, when the situation in the town was less tense than on the day of the assassination. It is certainly tragic to be forced to call attention to the fact, that the simpliest precautionary measures would have prevented the carrying out of the outrage.”
To defend themselves against the criticism, the Israelians appointed a committee headed by Shimon Agranat. Their report was for many years held secret to the public. Their main line of defense was, that they assumed (!) that the Bernadotte was opposed to protection. ”To sum up: it was a matter of common knowledge that the system adopted by the Mediator absolutely rejected the possibility that he and his staff would circulate in the areas of their duty in the company of armed escort.” The statement is misleading, since there is a lot of evidence, which confirms that Bernadotte was escorted on several occasions, in Jewish as well as in Arab territory. There is no report that he ever refuted protection. On the contrary. Many witnesses in Bernadottes company made the same testimony as his driver colonel Begley: “The mediators attitude towards escort generally, was that he never asked for one. When offered they were always accepted.”
One can present many reasons for the Israelians to protect their important guest. First, they were obliged to do it in accordance with a resolution adopted by the Security Council onthe 19th of August 1948: ”Each party is responsible for the actions of both regular and irregular forces operating under it´s authority or in territory under it´s control.”. The resolution is quoted in a letter to the Israelian Government from UN Secretary-General Tryggve Lie, who states: ”It is an established principle of international law, that the recognized public character of a foreigner and the circumstances in which he is present in the territory of a State entail upon that State a corresponding duty of special vigilance on his behalf.”
Pro also spoke the enormous loss of prestige to the state would something happen to Bernadotte. As PM Ben-Gurion expressed himself after the outrage: ”While the crime wore the mask of so-called patriotism, which is false, corrupt and despicable, it assults the honour of young Israel as an independent state still struggling for it´s existence”.
There can be no doubt, that the authorities were well aware of the threats against the Mediator. The Stern Gang had expressed themselves quite clear in a broadcast: “On this occasion the Lehy people was unarmed and didn´t endeavour any attack on the count … but if he tries to dig his nails into Jerusalem again, we will deal with him the right way.”
One of the reasons for this trip to Jerusalem was that Bernadotte had an appointment with the Military Governor Dov Joseph, the one who was responible for his protection. As Heuman points out, Bernadotte had been protected on earlier occasions, so why not this time, when he was openly threated?
It is hard to find any other plausible answer to the question, than that the governing circles wanted him to be eliminated. Why? The historian Amitzur Ilan points out: “By late August it was common among party leaders and the media to insinuate that he was a danger to Israel´s very existence.”
Directly after his last trip to Jerusalem, Bernadotte was to go to Paris in order to present his peace plan to the UN General Assembly. The Israelians vehemently opposed the plan. It changed, to the Israelians disadvantage, the borders of the state, as it was envisaged in the UN Resolution 181, which recommended partition of Palestine. And, perhaps what definitely seald his fate, Bernadotte was very firm on his demand, that the Palestinians who had fled their homes during the fighting, would be allowed to return to their homes.
Had this happened, the demografic balance of the new state would have been something like 50-50 between Jews and Palestinians. As the Sionists saw it, such a distribution was not a viable ground for a Jewish state. Those who took the decision, yes, it was an active decision, not to escort the Mediator, saw in Bernadotte a mortal threat to the young state, for which so many people had died. And so they left their silent consent to the assassination.
There has been mentioned an additional reason for their consent. The Stern Gang was also a threat to the State, since it had not subordinated to the Provisional Government. By allowing them to carry out this terrific crime, PM Ben-Gurion found a good reason to strike a blow at them. The assassination became the end of the Stern Gang. As the gunman Jehoshua Cohen expressed himself many years afterwards: “With the Bernadotte action, Ben-Gurion was able to kill two flies with one swat. He got rid of Bernadotte and us.