< Back

The Assassination of Lord Moyne

Bernard Wasserstein

<plain_text><page sequence="1">The Assassination of Lord Moyne* BERNARD WASSERSTEIN Walter Edward Guinness, Lord Moyne, the British Minister Resident in the Middle East, was assas? sinated in Cairo on 6 November 1944. There has never been any mystery about the immediate circumstances of the murder. The attack took place outside the Minister Resident's official residence, as Moyne arrived home from his office in his car. As the car pulled into the driveway, Moyne's female secretary who was travelling with him noticed that two men were waiting near the entrance of the house. One of them said 'Don't move', and thrust a pistol through the window of the car, pointed it at Moyne, and fired it slowly three times. Moyne put his hand to his throat and said, 'Oh, they've shot us'. He fell forward in his seat.1 He was rushed to hospital and operated on, but died later the same day. Also killed in the attack was Moyne's chauf? feur. The assassins, who were captured while trying to escape from the scene immediately after the crime, were two young Palestinian Jews, Eliahu Bet-Tsuri and Eliahu Hakim. Both were members of an underground terrorist organization which called itself Lohamei Herut Yisrael (Lehi), 'Fighters for the Freedom of Israel'; it had been founded in 1940 by a young poet of Polish origin, Abraham Stern, and hence was widely known as the 'Stern Gang'. Stern had been shot dead by British police in Palestine in 1942, but his group remained active after his death, and carried out a number of attacks against British targets, of which that against Moyne was the most spectacular. The two murderers, who freely admitted their responsibility for the killing, were tried, condemned to death, and executed in early 1945. But if there is no difficulty in establishing the identity of the assassins or the immediate cause of Moyne's death, a number of larger questions remain. Why, at the height of a war which was being waged by Britain against the destroyers of European Jewry, did two Palestinian Jews murder the senior British representative in the Middle East? What were Lord Moyne's views on the Palestine problem and on the Jewish question? What had * Paper delivered to the Society on 17 January 1979. been the nature and effects of his influence on British policy-making on these questions as Secre? tary of State for the Colonies (i 941-2), Deputy Minister of State, Middle East (1942-3), and Minis? ter Resident in the Middle East (1944)? And lastly, what were the political consequences of the assas? sination? These are the questions which I propose to examine in this paper, and I will be making use of a number of unpublished documents which have recently become available in archives in Britain and Israel. Why was Moyne murdered? Among many British officials and politicians concerned with the Middle East the opinion was held that the ultimate responsibility for the murder lay with the official Zionist leadership headed by Dr Chaim Weizmann. Since 1939 the British and Palestine Goverments had been pursuing the restrictive immigration policy for Palestine laid down in the White Paper of May 1939. The implementation of this policy, and the attempts of the Zionists to evade it by organizing illegal immigration of refugees fleeing the Nazi terror in Europe had brought Anglo-Zionist rela? tions to a breaking-point, and had induced among responsible British officials a veritable paranoia as to the supposed dangers of illegal immigration to the British position in the Middle East and a profound suspicion as to the motives and intentions of all Zionists of whatever variety. The assassina? tion of Lord Moyne was seen by many such officials as the logical outcome of what they regarded as the malevolently anti-British policies of the official Zionist leadership. A typical example of this sort of reaction to the murder is to be found in a private letter written on 16 November 1944 by Moyne's predecessor as Minister Resident in the Middle East, the Australian R. G. Casey, and addressed to Sir William Croft, Secretary to the Minister Resident. Casey was obviously much shocked by the assas? sination, but what stands out in his immediate reaction is not merely his personal indignation, which was understandable, but the political moral which he drew. Casey wrote: Presumably they [the assassins] were tools who did as they were told. I have no doubt that the Jewish Agency 72</page><page sequence="2">The Assassination of Lord Moyne 73 took a most correct attitude and deplored the whole thing-with their tongues in their cheeks. They know very well that this is the sort of thing that they have been preaching to their young men for years - and training them to do-although, in this instance, no doubt, the machine went off at half cock and is likely to do them more harm than good by divorcing them from a good deal of sympathy and support. But I hope the Jewish Agency will not be allowed to get away with 'deploring the crime'. That would be too easy. They cannot shield themselves behind the threadbare alibi that they don't indirectly control these underground bodies. You and I know they do. We've played gentlemen with these people for too long. They're not gentlemen - they're the most clever and dangerous thugs in existence. If we don't take it out of the hides of Shertok and Ben Gurion &amp; Co. - then I hope we will very greatly intensify our efforts to dig the under? ground rats out of their sewers and to expose the connection between them and the Agency.2 A similar reaction is evident in a minute written by a British official in Cairo on 23 November 1944, commenting on a request by one of the accused murderers for a number of books to be sent to him in prison, among which was a volume of poems by Rudyard Kipling. The official, J. S. Bennett, quoted the lines: Them that takes cakes That the Parsee-man bakes Makes dreadful mistakes. And Bennett added: 'For Parsee-man read Dr Weizmann'.3 This view that the official Zionist leadership was indirectly responsible for the assas? sination was widespread among British officials, but it had no basis in fact: the Jewish Agency exercised no control at this time over the activities of the breakaway underground organizations, the Irgun Zvai Leumi (led by Menahem Begin), and the smaller Lehi which had carried out the Moyne assassination. The public reaction of the Jewish Agency leader? ship to the murder, far from being a hypocritical condemnation as suggested by Casey, was indeed an accurate reflection of the private horror of Weizmann and his associates and their fear that the assassination of Moyne, not only a colleague but also a close friend of the Prime Minister, might endanger the sympathy for their cause even of Winston Churchill, hitherto almost the only reli? able ally of the Zionists in the Government. Weiz mann was profoundly shocked when he was told the news of the assassination by the Colonial Secretary, Oliver Stanley. Grasping at a straw he wondered whether the murderers might not turn out to be non-Jews. When it became apparent that this theory was untenable, Weizman was in des? pair. He told the Prime Minister's Private Secretary, John Martin, that the news of Moyne's death had shocked him as much as that of the loss of his son (who had been reported missing in action while serving in the raf in 1942).4 Weizmann's horror, and his fear that the murder might rebound disastrously on the Zionist cause, was shared by the Jewish Agency leadership in Palestine. Addressing a public meeting in Jerusalem on 11 November Moshe Shertok declared: 'What has happened in Cairo this week is an attempt to perpetrate from within the most revolting travesty of an historical truth, a distortion of Zionism, with its eminently constructive record, into the ugly fungus of terror? ism spreading in the Middle East.'5 David Ben Gurion said, 'To England terrorism like the murder of Lord Moyne is like a fly stinging a lion, but to Jewry it is a dagger plunged at the heart.'6 If the British tended to interpret the crime as the logical result of official Zionist policy, and if the Zionist leaders saw it as a dagger at the heart of their movement, what of the perpetrators of the crime themselves? They of course subscribed to neither of these interpretations. They did not see themselves as tools of the Zionist organization: indeed, as will be seen, such was their contempt for the mainstream Zionism of the Jewish Agency that they refused even to call themselves Zionists. But far from regarding themselves as enemies of the Jewish nationalist cause, they claimed to be the only true exponents of the political movement which aimed at Jewish statehood in Palestine. To understand what led them to believe that the murder of Lord Moyne would advance this aim it is necessary to outline the origins and nature of the strange political philosophy of the organization founded by Abraham Stern. The Stern Group had originally broken away from the Irgun Zvai Leumi on the issue of whether or not the underground struggle against British rule in Palestine should be continued actively during the war. Some Irgun leaders shared Stern's view in 1940 that there should be no cooperation with the</page><page sequence="3">74 Bernard Wasserstein British as allies in the greater struggle against Nazism in Europe. But Stern went much further than most of his former comrades in the Irgun, and argued that the primary enemy was not in fact Germany at all but Britain. It was Britain that was barring entry to Palestine for Jewish refugees from Europe. And it was Britain that refused the lews the right to independence in their homeland. The objective must be to force Britain to yield indepen? dence in Palestine to the Yishuv, and to this end the Stern Group were prepared to countenance even cooperation with Germany and Italy against the British war effort. In late 1940 a Lehi representative went to Vichy-controlled Lebanon and there met a German Foreign Office official, Otto von Hentig, who had been sent to Syria by the German Foreign Minister, Ribbentrop, to prepare a comprehensive report on conditions in the area. In his meeting with Hentig the Lehi agent offered cooperation with the Nazis against the mainstream Zionists provided only that Hitler gave a guarantee of independence for the Jews in Palestine. In December 1941 another Lehi representative, Nathan Friedmann Yellin, left Palestine for Turkey on a similar mission to establish contact with the Germans. But he was arrested by the British en route, and was imprisoned in Palestine.7 These efforts tacollaborate actively with the Axis came to nothing, apparently because of lack of serious interest by the Germans and Italians, but they indicate the extent to which the obsessive anti-British orientation of the leaders of the Stern Group led them into perverse courses. Friedmann-Yellin himself escaped from intern? ment, and after the death of Stern he emerged as one of a triumvirate of leaders of the Stern Group. He was to be one of the organizers of the Moyne assassination. The depth and nature of the anti-British obses? sion of the Lehi leadership is evident in their propaganda after the Moyne murder. A typical Lehi leaflet, produced in Hebrew in early 1945, declares that Britain is really no better than the Third Reich. Britain is fighting the war not in defence of justice or freedom but in defence of her own interests in a war forced on her by Germany. 'England', the leaflet states, 'is guilty of acts of murder, of the shedding of the blood of millions of our brethren.'8 In its subsequent propaganda, particularly in the United States, the Stern Group and its champions were to stress this theme of supposed British guilt for the massacre of the Jews in Europe. For example, a book published in New York in the 1950s, entitled Martyrs in Cairo (the martyrs of the title are the two assassins, Hakim and Bet-Tsuri) by Leo Benjamin (a pseudonym for L. Budovsky) states: It is really the leaders of imperial Britain who are on trial, gory criminals standing before the bar of all humanity and God... A higher law exists under which the British leaders should be indicted, for their crimes smell hideously to the high heavens and have brought death and unspeakable woe to countless innocents. Hakim and Bet-Souri have only made themselves into vengeful instruments and bearers of retribution against these cruelties.9 This idee fixe of the Lehi leaders with their anti-imperialist war against Britain led them into fantastic alliances and enmities - alliances which in general existed only in their own imaginations (as in the cases of Germany and Italy), enmities which were manifested in acts of terror and intimi? dation. The Irgun, from which the Sternists had broken away, had been advocates of militant retaliatory action against Arab violence during the Arab revolt in Palestine of 1936-9. Spurning the official Zionist policy of havlaga or 'self-restraint', the Irgun had countered bloodshed with bloodshed, reacting to Arab killings by random murder such as the planting of bombs in Arab markets (as at Haifa in July 1938 when landmines in the Arab fruit market killed seventy-four people).10 The Irgun consisted for the greater part of the most extreme followers of Vladimir Jabotinsky, head of the Revi? sionist Zionist movement. The Irgun's ideological stance was generally right-wing and opposed to the socialist groups who dominated the politics of the Yishuv and of the Zionist Organization. However, the Stern Group distinguished itself from the Irgun by constructing an ideology which was an odd mixture of militant nationalism and would-be realpolitik, often clothed in a flimsy garb of pseudo socialist rhetoric. Lehi propaganda drew on the latter particularly for the vocabulary of anti-imper? ialism. By this means the Stern Group sought to forge two further alliances: with the Soviet Union and with the Arabs of Palestine and of the wider Arab world. The notion of cooperation with the Soviet Union against British imperialism may have had its roots</page><page sequence="4">The Assassination of Lord Moyne 75 in the period of the Nazi-Soviet Pact between 1939 and 1941. With the beginnings of the Cold War in 1944-5 the Stern Group believed that there was now a congruence of interests between themselves and the Kremlin. A Lehi leaflet published in 1947 developed this idea: A strong Jewish state in an area dominated by Anglo Saxon imperialism may serve as a buffer against imperia? list designs, and its progressive democracy could establish closer relations with the Soviet Union. Industrialisation and a modern economy and the creation of a strong working class would constitute a progressive oasis in the feudal deserts of the Middle East, a factor not overlooked by Russia. We must, however, convince the Soviet Union that we are really independent, that we do not remain a pawn of British imperialism in return for certificates or 'protection'. Those who are fighting for the real indepen? dence of this country from imperialist domination, for its neutralisation, i.e. against its use as a military spring? board by the Anglo-Saxon powers, will win the confidence of the Soviets. The liberation of this country from foreign imperialist armies is one of the guarantees of world peace, and a factor in Soviet security. Here our interests meet, and here lies the true basis of our understanding.11 As in the case of Germany and Italy this under? standing was to prove rather one-sided. Paradoxi? cally the famous speech by Andrei Gromyko at the United Nations in 1947, endorsing 'the aspirations of the Jews to establish their own State',12 gravely disappointed the Lehi ideologists because Gromyko gave the cachet of Soviet approval to partition as a solution, faute de mieux, to the Palestine problem. Partition, accepted by the official Zionist leadership, was vehemently rejected by Lehi as a betrayal of the Jewish right to the entire homeland. Instead of dividing Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state they hoped to create a unitary state in the whole of Palestine. This objective led them to construct yet another phantom alliance - with the Arabs. The Arab-Jew? ish conflict in Palestine, they argued, was not the result of any fundamental antagonism or conflict of interests. On the contrary, both Arabs and Jews shared a common interest in opposition to British imperialism. Britain, following a 'divide-and-rule' policy, had sought to maintain its dominance in the Middle East by fomenting conflict between Arabs and Jews. The Stern Group sought to awaken the Arabs to their true historic role as allies of the Jews and enemies of British imperialism. Their aim was the formation of a 'Semitic bloc* of Arabs and Jews against the British. An 'Outline of Foreign Policy' circulated by Lehi in 1947 expresses the idea clearly: The liquidation of foreign rule would have the result of proving that there is no incurable difference [between Arabs and Jews in Palestine], and that it is possible to settle the 'problem' by peaceful methods to the satisfaction of both parties ... We have not the faintest doubt that with the removal of the foreign factor which incites and creates friction, the factors producing animosity on the part of the Arab peoples towards the aspirations of the Hebrew nation will disappear.13 The failure of the Arabs of Palestine, like the Germans, the Italians and the Soviet Union, to perceive their true identity of interests with Lehi did not seriously perplex the imaginative Stern Group diplomatists. A Lehi leaflet circulated in November 1947 confesses: 'True and regrettable: our Arab neighbours are momentarily our opponents.' How? ever, the leaflet adds confidently: 'But the British are our enemy. With the Arabs we should, must, and will come to an agreement. Not so with the British.'14 By contrast with these will-o'-the-wisp alliances the Lehi propagandists developed a litany of hatred and invective against their enemies: the primary enemy was, of course, Britain; but their venom was directed with hardly less poisonous content against their foremost secondary enemy - the mainstream Zionists. The Zionist Organization and its leadership were denounced in Lehi literature as spineless traitors and collaborators with the arch-enemy, British imperialism. Weizmann, they complained, 'followed the old-established line of shtadlanut'.15 The Haganah (the underground military organiza? tion of the Jewish Agency) would, according to a Lehi leaflet of November 1947, become 'Ben Gur? ion 's own ss regiment to enforce his dictatorship in the Jewish Ghetto of Palestine'.16 When the Vaad Leumi, the National Council of the Yishuv, con? demned terrorism, the response of Lehi was even more vitriolic: 'Jewish blood is free of charge in the opinion of the Vaad Leumi. Jewish blood is grease to smear the wheels of Ben Gurion's State Coach.'17 Calling for resistance to the nascent Jewish state in a partitioned Palestine, Lehi declared: Tt is our bounden duty to revolt against any Councils of Elders set up over us after the Nazi model.'18 (Of</page><page sequence="5">76 Bernard Wasserstein course, at the time when these unflattering com? parisons were evoked in Lehi propaganda, Lehis own equivocal contacts with the Nazis were not public knowledge.) Some of these elements in the ideology of the Lehi leadership only reached their full flowering in its post-war propaganda. But in their essence they can be seen at every stage of the plot to murder Lord Moyne. For it is certain that the primary motive for the assassination was by no means mindless revenge. It was on the contrary a carefully planned and coolly calculated act designed primarily to be 'propaganda of the deed' after the fashion of the Russian anarchists of the late 19th century. In his memoirs, published in Hebrew in Israel in 1975, Nathan Friedmann-Yellin records that the idea of murdering the British Minister in the Middle East had originated in the mind of Stern himself in the summer of 1941. Stern felt that such an attack 'would be a lesson to the world and to the Yishuv that our fight is not one against the British Administration in Palestine but against Britain herself. It would be an example and model to enslaved peoples that here we rise in revolt against this mighty empire, and we shall not stop until we achieve independence.' The plot had been tempor? arily shelved when R. G. Casey was appointed Minister Resident in Cairo in 1942, since it was felt that 'an attack on an Australian would not serve our purpose and would not make the required impression in the world'.19 With the appointment of Moyne as Casey's successor in January 1944 the plan was reactivated. The propaganda aim of the assassination was further apparent in the actions and declarations of the two assassins after their capture. The list of books requested by Eliahu Bet-Tsuri in November 1944, while he was held in the Central Prison in Cairo pending trial, gives an indication of the intellectual outlook of the Lehi diehard; it consisted of the following books: the Bible, Lowdermilk's Palestine: Land of Promise, 'a book of poems in English bound in a blue cover by Rudyard Kipling', a history of Egypt, 'When a People is Fighting for its Freedom' by Joseph Klausner, and a Hebrew work entitled 'In the Days of Italy's Renaissance'.20 The last-named work was concerned not, as might be thought, with the period of the Borgias, but with that of the Risorgimento and the unification of an independent Italy in the mid-19th century. Lehi had derived from their founder (who had been a student in Italy) a fascination with the heroes of the Risorgimento, and were fond of comparing them? selves to the romantic guerrillas of the struggle for Italian independence. Every act and statement by the two assassins after their capture was framed in debased Garibaldian style. A letter written from gaol by Eliahu Hakim to his family in Haifa stated: 'In the first minutes after my capture I was a little depressed, but now I am absolutely calm and my conscience is settled because I have the feeling that I have done my duty... I am prepared for every? thing.'21 The trial of the two men was held before an Egyptian court, and the accused sought to utilize this fact to turn the proceedings into an anti-imper? ialist tour de force of propaganda. Bet-Tsuri told the court: 'Great Britain is the country of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. In England they are all Dr Jekylls, but when they take the boat for the colonies they all become Mr Hydes.' Hakim declared: We are accused of the murder of Lord Moyne. We did it intentionally and with full premeditation. But we accuse the British Government of having killed intentionally and with full premeditation hundreds and hundreds of our brothers and sisters. Lord Moyne was representing this criminal policy in the Middle East. We are coming from a people educated on a book, the Bible, where it is written: Thou shalt not kill. But if we took a gun to shoot, it is because we knew we were doing an act of justice. We demand to the Court if we must be tried by the laws of justice and moral[ity], or by the laws of exploitation and slavery.22 After the inevitable guilty verdict and the refusal to commute the death sentence, the two men were said to have walked into the execution chamber singing Hatikvah and chanting hymns.23 The pro? paganda intent of all this is readily apparent. Two interesting indications of the assassins' ideological outlook are, first, the insistence of Bet-Tsuri that he was not a Zionist but was rather demanding the independence of his homeland; and, secondly, the attempt to impress the Egyptian court by the expression of anti-imperialist sentiments. The British authorities were fully aware of the propaganda intentions of the assassins and of their organization. For this reason delivery of the letters written by the accused to their families was delayed lest their contents be published. British censorship</page><page sequence="6">The Assassination of Lord Moyne 77 in Egypt forbade the transmission by foreign corre? spondents to newspapers abroad of the contents of the speeches in court by the accused. C. L. Sulz berger reported in the New York Times that corre? spondents were permitted to describe Bet-Tsuri's speech only as a 'political tirade'.24 Nevertheless, the speech served its purpose: its gist was widely publicized by Lehi publicists, particularly in the usa, and there is no doubt that the bravado of the accused was of distinct service to Lehi propaganda. Moreover, the apparently sympathetic reception accorded by sections of the Egyptian public to the anti-British sentiments expressed in the court was a boon to Lehi, which saw this as a powerful demonst? ration of the efficacy of 'propaganda of the deed' in bringing out the latent identity of interests between Jewish and Arab nationalisms. A French-language leaflet published by Lehi in 1947 pronounced: It is the duty of the entire Jewish people to support the demands of Egypt regarding the evacuation of the British army from that country... We all form together a common front against the same enemy, and with the same objective . . . The Egyptian masses will understand that, and will be convinced that what they felt already three years ago was correct: namely, that it was not in vain that Eliahu Bet-Tsuri and Eliahu Hakim killed Lord Moyne on Egyptian soil, and it was not in vain that they mounted the scaffold in Cairo. In effect, by carrying out this act of war against the enemy of their people, they also represented objectively the will of all the peoples oppressed and exploited at the order of British ministers.25 So much for the motives of the assassins. Let us now turn to the victim of the crime. What was the character and outlook, particularly on the Jewish question, of Lord Moyne? It is apparent that the choice of Moyne as target for the assassination was not personal and was in a sense fortuitous. He was selected primarily by virtue of the office which he held. Indeed, as we have seen, the decision by Stern to organize the murder of the Minister Resident was made three years earlier, long before Moyne was appointed to the post. That the decision to kill Moyne was not actuated primarily by personal animosity was stressed by Eliahu Bet-Tsuri in a statement which he made in the course of his preliminary examination by the Egyptian Procura? tor-General on 10 November 1944. Bet-Tsuri explained: 'No calculations were made as to whether Lord Moyne was a good man or a bad man. It was considered only that he was the key man for Britain in governing the Middle East, and as such is responsible for what is happening in Palestine.'26 Nevertheless, after the event, it was clearly in the interest of Lehi to portray Moyne in its propaganda as a supremely wicked exponent of British imperia? lism and enemy of the Jewish people. A Hebrew flysheet circulated by the group immediately after the murder pronounced Moyne 'a sworn enemy of the Hebrew nation and of its land'.27 It cited a speech on Zionism made by Moyne in the House of Lords in June 1942 at a time when he had been temporarily out of office. It further accused him of having been responsible for the British Govern? ment's refusal to admit to Palestine the Jewish refugees on board the ss Struma in February 1942, and for the subsequent death by drowning of most of those on the ship. Another count in the Lehi indictment against Moyne was his alleged responsi? bility for the deportation by the Palestine Govern? ment in December 1940 of over 1500 Jewish refugees to the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius where they remained interned until after the end of the war. Later Lehi propaganda repeated and expanded on these themes. Benjamin/Budovsky wrote: Lord Moyne had assiduously studied and imbibed the Hitlerian theories of race. The Jews, he maintained, are a mixture of many races, a melange of various peoples under the sun, unlike the Arab tribes who are of pure Semitic blood... It was Lord Moyne who wrought the tragedy of the Struma and delivered hundreds of innocents :o death in Neptune's vast cavernous bosom under the whelming green waves [sic]. Budovsky added a further charge against Moyne: Tt was he who founded the Arab League as a weapon against the Jewish people.'28 Yet another item is added by Friedmann-Yellin, and it is one that has gained considerable popular currency: this is the allegation that, in mid-1944, when Joel Brand, an emissary from the Jewish community in Budapest, arrived in the Middle East with the notorious message from Adolf Eichmann to the effect that the Gestapo would be willing to exchange a large number of Jews for lorries to be supplied to the Germans by the western Allies, Moyne stated: What would I do with a million Jews?'29 Against all this we may record Churchill's statement in the Souse of Commons on 7 November 1944, the day after the murder of his friend: T can assure the</page><page sequence="7">78 Bernard Wasserstein House that the Jews in Palestine have rarely lost a better or more well-informed friend.'30 Which of these two views of Lord Moyne approaches more closely to the reality of the man? Let us first dispose of two red herrings. The first is Moyne's supposed statement regarding the mess? age brought by Brand from Eichmann. In his account Friedmann-Yellin states that Brand was taken to Cairo where he was interviewed by Moyne who, it is said, made the offensive remark in Brand's presence.31 The truth is that Brand almost certainly never met Moyne, and that there is absolutely no reliable evidence that Moyne ever uttered the words which have been attributed to him again and again by Lehi propagandists and their supporters and dupes. The tale originates in a confused account given by Brand himself of an encounter in a club in Cairo towards the end of the war with an unidenti? fied senior British official. It was in the course of this meeting that Moyne was said to have uttered the much-quoted remark. But in Brand's 'as-told-to' autobiography, written for him by Alex Weissberg and published in 1958 under the title, Advocate for the Dead: The Story of Joel Brand, Brand admits that his interlocutor was not, in fact, Moyne at all, although he had mistakenly thought so at the time.32 In spite of this retraction the remark continues to be widely attributed to Moyne, most recently on the occasion of the transfer to Israel for state burials with full honours of the bodies of Moyne's assassins. Of course, on such an occasion the story served a useful purpose for Lehi's latter day champions: however, it may safely be dismissed by historians as baseless. The second red herring is Moyne's supposed Nazi-type racialist beliefs. The attribution of such sentiments to Moyne is based mainly on a passage in a speech delivered by him in the House of Lords on 9 June 1942. This is what Moyne actually said: It is very often loosely said that the Jews are Semites, but anthropologists tell us that, pure as they have kept their culture, the Jewish race has been much mixed with Gentiles since the beginning of the Diaspora. During the Babylonian captivity they acquired a strong Hittite admix? ture, and it is obvious that the Armenoid features which are still to be found among the Sephardim have been bred out of the Ashkenazim by an admixture of Slav blood.33 These words were seized upon by the Lehi propa? gandists as evidence that Moyne believed in an ideal purity of race in the Nazi fashion, and that he regarded the Jews as impure and therefore in some sense inferior. In fact, Moyne's speech, when placed in the context of his known views on matters of race can be shown to contradict this interpretation totally. Moyne was himself an anthropologist and ethnographer of some note. He had led a number of expeditions to remote parts of the globe in order to study varieties of animal and human types. In a book which he published in 1936, Moyne gave an account of one such expedition to the remote regions of New Guinea. He described the purpose of the journey as follows: 'Whilst planning the expedi? tion I read We Europeans by Julian Huxley and A. C. Haddon, which argues convincingly that owing to repeated crossings of earlier inhabitants with recur? rent waves of invading people, "so far as European populations are concerned, nothing in the nature of 'pure race' in the biological sense has any real existence." I was anxious to see whether the same variety of type exists among the native peoples of New Guinea.' Some 300 pages later, after a detailed description of some of the peoples of New Guinea, whose height, girth, head-size, and other vital statistics Moyne and his colleagues had carefully measured and compared in the course of their trip, Moyne gives his conclusion as follows: 'Even un? trained eyes could not miss the curious contrast between New Guinea and Europe in the matter of racial uniformity. Looking at any collection of people in European countries, a great diversity of type is seen ... In New Guinea, as compared with Europe, there is often a striking uniformity in particular areas, with marked differences between one area and another.'34 If we consider Moyne's House of Lords speech in the light of these remarks, Moyne's attitude becomes clear: he regards some races as pure, that is inbred; and other races as mixed, that is the product of interbreeding with other races. Into the first category he places some of the tribes of remote parts of New Guinea; into the second he places all European peoples, including the Jews. In the 1930s the population of New Guinea was generally regarded as one of the most primitive and 'backward' peoples on earth. We can be certain that when Moyne argues that some New Guinea tribes are racially uniform, he is not suggesting that they are thereby superior to Euro? pean races. When Moyne states that the Jews are</page><page sequence="8">The Assassination of Lord Moyne 79 racially mixed he is putting them into the same category as every other European race, including the British. To interpret his speech as signifying that he considered the Jews as an inferior race after the Nazi fashion is therefore nonsense. Indeed, by arguing that the most 'primitive' of known races is racially 'pure', whereas the most 'advanced' are racially intermixed, he is precisely contradicting one of the basic premises of the Nazi racialist ideology. From all this it will be evident that there is no substance in the charge of racialist anti-Semi? tism made against Moyne on the basis of his House of Lords speech. What then were Moyne's real views on the Jewish question and the problem of Palestine? The minutes of two interviews which he gave to Zionist representatives during his tenure of the Colonial Office in 1941-2 help us to answer this question. The first interview was with Professor Lewis Namier and Berl Locker on 3 June 1941. On this occasion Moyne stressed one point: he insisted 'that Palestine could not solve the whole Jewish prob? lem'. He further stated 'that the mandate would have to be terminated. The balance between the two nations [Arabs and Jews] could no longer be held by British bayonets.' Moyne argued 'that some other territory would have to be found in Central or Eastern Europe because it would not be possible to accommodate in Palestine all the Jews who would have to leave their present places of residence.' Moyne added that he had discussed the matter with the Polish Prime Minister, Sikorski, who agreed with this view.35 The second interview took place some weeks later. This time the Zionist representa? tive was Weizmann, who described the meeting as follows: 'Lord Moyne was pensive for a little while, and then started to speak of a Jewish State. He said that they would have to start with a Federation of Palestine, Trans-Jordan, and Syria; but the forma? tion of such a Federation should be conditional on the creation of a Jewish State. Dr Weizmann said that this seemed to him to be a line to follow.' The discussion then moved on to a consideration of the possibility of a deal between the Zionists and Ibn Saud, along lines suggested by St John Philby, the British explorer turned Muslim, and confidant of the ruler of the Arabian desert. [Dr Weizmann] told Lord Moyne that he believed that the Jews would be willing to advance between fifteen and twenty million pounds to Ibn Saud for development purposes. Lord Moyne said that some Arabs would have to be transferred, and wondered whether this could be done without bloodshed. Dr Weizmann said that it could be done if Britain and America talked frankly to the Arabs; they should tell them that they had received 97 cents to the dollar, and that that ought to satisfy them. Lord Moyne said that if transfer were to take place he would like it to be done without friction. Lord Moyne had then asked: 'What about the frontier?' Dr Weizmann replied that there was no line except the Jordan Valley. Lord Moyne went on to say that the White Paper would become obsolete, and Dr Weizmann commented: the sooner the better.36 These two sets of minutes show that Moyne's attitude towards Zionism, although by no means that of an outstanding champion or supporter, cannot be characterized as totally hostile. It is true that he refuses to accept that Zionism alone can furnish a complete solution to the lewish question; but, at the same time, he looks forward to an end to the mandate, and the rendering obsolete of the White Paper; he not only speaks favourably of a lewish State, but appears ready to consider the possibility of moving some Arabs out of Palestine into neighbouring territories. In the context of 1941 this latter suggestion in particular can hardly be argued to bespeak enmity to the Zionist cause. A distinction should, however, be drawn between Moyne's thinking on the future political structure of Palestine, and his day-to-day administration of Palestine as Colonial Secretary between 1941 and 1942. In the latter role, his decisions were uni? formly in accord with the restrictive immigration provisions of the 1939 White Paper. The Lehi suspicions that he had played a predominant personal role in the decisions which led to the sinking of the Struma in February 1942 are, it must be said, borne out by the evidence of the official files in the Public Record Office. In fact, at a crucial stage in the official consideration of the Struma case, it was a personal intervention by Moyne which tipped the scales against the admission of the refugees on board the Struma to Palestine.37 Nor, in spite of his view that territories other than Palestine should be havens for lewish refugees, was Moyne prepared to permit the entry of significant numbers of Jewish refugees to British colonies other than Palestine, or to other areas under British control. When a proposal was mooted in 1943 for the admission of some Jewish refugees to Cyrenaica, then under</page><page sequence="9">8o Bernard Wasser stein British military control, Moyne (at that time Deputy Minister Resident in Cairo) strongly opposed the scheme, the effects of which, he declared, would be 'disastrous', 'would have the worst possible effect on [the] Senussi, and [would] gravely complicate the whole status quo of [the] Arab question'.38 On the basis of these decisions Moyne can hardly be argued to have been - as Churchill characterized him in the House of Commons after his death - one of the best and best-informed friends of the Jews of Palestine. Nevertheless, there is evidence that during the last year of his life, as Minister Resident in the Middle East, Moyne's views on Palestine, and particularly on the future constitutional develop? ment of the country, gradually shifted in a Zionist direction. Churchill himself, in an interview with Weizmann on 4 November 1944, two days before Moyne's assassination, urged the Zionist leader to visit Moyne in Cairo. Churchill added that 'Lord Moyne had changed and developed in the past two years.'39 Although the Prime Minister did not specify the nature of the 'development' that had occurred in Moyne's views, the evidence now available in the archives shows that the ideas on the future of Palestine which Moyne had adumbrated speculatively in his talk with Weizmann in July 1941 had by the summer and autumn of 1944 become the subject of detailed ministerial discus? sion at the highest level. In July 1943 the Cabinet had decided to set up a committee to report on future policy in Palestine. The committee included at least two noted pro-Zionists, Sir Archibald Sinclair, Secretary of State for Air, and Leopold Amery, Secretary of State for India. The com? mittee's terms of reference included an instruction that they should examine the practicability of partition of Palestine, along the lines first advocated by the Royal Commission on Palestine under Lord Peel in 1937. By November 1943 the committee had reached agreement on a partition plan which divided Palestine into a Jewish state, a small residual British mandatory area, and an Arab state to be joined in a large Arab federation of Greater Syria. The Cabinet approved the partition plan in principle in January 1944, but strong opposition to the proposals was expressed by the Foreign Secre? tary, Eden (who was supported by the Chiefs of Staff and by some British representatives in the Middle East, most notably Lord Killearn, British Ambassa? dor in Cairo), and this opposition delayed any further consideration of the plan at Cabinet level until the autumn of 1944. Moyne played a central role in the work of the Cabinet Committee, and his support for the partition proposals (coupled with that of the retiring High Commissioner in Palestine, Sir Harold MacMichael) was a powerful element in securing agreement on the partition scheme. Moyne opposed the inclusion of the Negev desert in the proposed Jewish state, and he laid particular emphasis on the vital necessity for combining partition with the creation of a Greater Syrian federation so as to reduce Arab antagonism to? wards the scheme as a whole.40 On the principle of partition and the establishment of a Jewish state, Moyne's position differed from that of nearly all the British civil and military officials in the Middle East: the consensus of British official opinion in the area opposed partition and opposed a Jewish state; Moyne supported both. At the moment of his assassination, the Cabinet was on the verge of reaching a final decision on the Cabinet Com? mittee's scheme. Moyne's attitude towards the Jewish problem and the Palestine question can therefore be summed up as follows: he was not an enthusiastic supporter of Zionism after the fashion of Churchill or Amery; but he was by no means a resolute opponent of Zionism either; he believed that Zionism could not by itself afford a complete solution of the Jewish problem; some territory for the settlement of Jews would have to be found elsewhere, although he was not clear where that might be; he was not opposed in principle to the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine; during the war the White Paper would have to be main? tained in force, and as Colonial Secretary in 1941-2 he implemented its immigration provisions rigor? ously; but after the war a Jewish state should be established in a partitioned Palestine, and the Arabs should be appeased by the linking of the Arab areas of Palestine to a larger Arab federation. What, finally, were the consequences of the Moyne assassination? Perhaps the most striking effect was on the thinking of the Prime Minister. The killing marked something of a watershed in Churchill's attitude towards Zionism. Hitherto he had been forthright and unwavering in his advo</page><page sequence="10">The Assassination of Lord Moyne 81 cacy of a Jewish state in Palestine after the war, and in his condemnation of the White Paper policy. After the murder Churchill told the House of Commons: If our dreams for Zionism are to end in the smoke of assassins' pistols and our labours for its future to produce only a new set of gangsters worthy of Nazi Germany, many like myself will have to reconsider the position we have maintained so consistently and so long in the past. If there is to be any hope of a peaceful and successful future for Zionism, these wicked activities must cease and those responsible for them must be destroyed root and branch.41 At the same time the Prime Minister, although grieved at the loss of a personal friend, did not join in the semi-hysterical reaction of the British mili? tary and civil authorities in the Middle East. The Middle East Defence Committee, vehemently sup? ported by Lord Killearn, urged that 'something drastic or dramatic' should be done by the British in reaction to the assassination, and cited as a model to be followed the firm action taken in 1924 in response to the murder of Sir Lee Stack, Sirdar of the Egyptian Army and Governor-General of the Sudan.42 On that occasion the British High Com? missioner in Egypt, Viscount Allenby, had delivered a humiliating ultimatum to the Egyptian Govern? ment, declaring that the murder of Stack held up Egypt 'to the contempt of civilised peoples', ordering payment by the Egyptian to the British Government of a fine of ?500,000, and insisting on 'ample apology'.43 In the present case the Middle East Defence Committee urged that there should be a complete disarmament of the irregular Jewish forces (that is the Haganah as well as the terrorist groups), and suspension of all further Jewish im? migration to Palestine. However, neither of these recommendations was put into effect. The first was rejected because the Government was informed that disarmament of the Haganah, now a well organized force with more than 36,000 members, would require two British infantry divisions, two air squadrons, and a 'show of force' by a battleship at Haifa and a cruiser at Jaffa; these forces were required for duties elsewhere at the end of 1944.44 Moreover, to have disarmed the Haganah would have meant destroying the one force which had a serious chance of getting rid of the terrorist move? ments: the Haganah, even before the assassination of Moyne, had been engaged in a full-scale cam paign against the dissidents; after the murder this was pressed home with even greater urgency.45 Nor was immigration halted altogether, for Churchill concluded that a total suspension of immigration might merely play into the hands of the terrorists. Churchill exerted strong personal pressure on the Egyptian Government to ensure that the death penalty against the assassins was put into effect. His attitude to Zionism did not change overnight, and he did not lose his head in the crisis and overreact, thereby giving further ammunition to the terrorists. But his support for the Zionist movement, more than four decades old, was sever? ely shaken, and he was no longer to be the Zionists' most forthright champion in Westminster and Whitehall as he had been in the past. The most important immediate evidence of the change was the shelving, after the assassination, of the consideration by the Cabinet of the scheme for the partition of Palestine. This plan had been scheduled for consideration by the Cabinet in the very week that Moyne was killed. At his meeting with Weizmann on 4 November (two days before the murder) Churchill had admitted that the rumours of the scheme were based on fact, and had added that, although he had not studied the proposals in detail, he was in favour of partition. While refusing to discuss details on a map, the Prime Minister said that in his own opinion the Negev should form part of the projected Jewish state. Weizmann did not argue for or against partition, saying that his only requirement was that the area allotted to the Jews should provide room for a large number of Jews, perhaps a million, who might be displaced after the war. Churchill, while stressing the opposition to Zionism which existed particularly in his own party, assured Weizmann that such opposition only hardened his heart. Weizmann had been much encouraged by this interview, and declared that he put his faith in the Prime Minister and President Roosevelt.46 In other conversations with British statesmen and officials about this time Weizmann, without being specific, made it clear that he would be prepared to coun? tenance the idea of partition in principle as he had done at the time of the Peel Commission in 1937, although now as then he intended to argue about the size of the area to be allotted to the Jewish State. But the Moyne murder effectively destroyed the</page><page sequence="11">82 Bernard Wasserstein Cabinet Committee's scheme, which was indefi? nitely shelved, and had still not been considered by the Cabinet when the war ended. Did the Moyne murder then eliminate the oppor? tunity of the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine in 1945? It should be emphasized that there was no certainty before the murder that the Cabinet Committee's report would be adopted as formal Government policy. The powerful opposition to the scheme consistently voiced by the Foreign Office and by most of Moyne's own colleagues in the Middle East had not abated, and it is entirely possible that these powerful voices would have succeeded in further delaying the adoption of the scheme by the Cabinet. But there is evidence that in the first week of November 1944 Churchill was pressing for an immediate Cabinet decision on the matter, and he too could cite powerful voices in favour of the scheme, among them the Colonial Secretary, the Labour ministers, and not least Moyne himself. If he had got his way, and if the Moyne murder had not supervened, Churchill would then have gone to the Yalta Conference with Stalin and Roosevelt in early February 1945 with a clear Palestine policy in his pocket. As it turned out Palestine was not discussed in the formal sessions of the conference, but it was mentioned informally in a brief discussion at dinner on 10 February at Yalta. Roosevelt, according to the minutes taken by Charles Bohlen of the American delegation, 'said that he was a Zionist, and asked if Marshal Stalin was one'. Stalin 'said that he was one in principle but he recognized the difficulty'.47 Churchill was significantly and uncharacteristically silent on the Palestine issue at Yalta. The occasion is striking as the first definite signal by the Soviet Government of its change of direction on the Palestine issue (although there had been some veiled hints earlier in the war that a shift in policy might be impend? ing). The stage was thus set at Yalta for a potential agreement among the big three on the Palestine issue. But Churchill, personally disillusioned, and without Cabinet approval of the partition scheme in his pocket, did not pursue the matter. Several recent authorities, among them Professor Yehuda Bauer, Sir Isaiah Berlin and Dr Michael Cohen, have suggested that the assassination of Lord Moyne thus represented a lost opportunity for the Zionists. There can, of course, be no certainty about such matters, but there is some solid historical evidence on which to ground the speculation that, but for the Moyne murder, the State of Israel might have been established with the active support of all three great powers in 1945 rather than 1948. To sum up: the Moyne murder was not an act of mindless vengeance, but a meticulously planned operation with an overriding purpose of propa? ganda for the political ideology of the Lehi group, an ideology whose primary aim was the destruction of British power in Palestine by any means, including collaboration with Hitler. The character of Lord Moyne and his political views were irrelevant as motives for the killing: Moyne was selected merely because of the office be held; indeed, the murder of the Minister Resident was decided on by Abraham Stern long before Moyne assumed the office. It was only after the murder and in the face of shocked indignation among the Yishuv as well as elsewhere that a formidable indictment of alleged crimes against the Jewish people was publicized by Stern Group supporters. Some of these crimes, notably the supposed conversation with Brand and the Nazi type racialist views attributed to Moyne, were completely false. Moyne's attitude to the Jewish question, if by no means actively sympathetic was, particularly towards the end of his life, favourable to the establishment of a Jewish state in part of Palestine after the war. At the time of his assassina? tion the British War Cabinet was on the verge of taking a definite decision on a partition scheme for Palestine, in the framing of which Moyne had played a central role, and which provided for the creation of a Jewish state. As a result of his murder that scheme was shelved, and the fulfilment of the political aims of the Zionist movement was probably much retarded. A historical verdict on the Moyne assassination must therefore surely be that it represented, as Weizmann put it, a 'profound moral deterioration',48 and also that, conceived as an act of supreme realpolitik, it was in reality an act of the utmost political lunacy. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I wish to thank the following for their help and advice in connexion with this paper: Mr E. Breindel, Mr B. Hoffman, Dr N. Lucas, Professor A. Wasserstein and Mr D. Wasser? stein.</page><page sequence="12">The Assassination of Lord Moyne 83 NOTES 1 Report of Assistant Provost Marshal, Special Investigation Branch, Cairo, Nov. 1944, Public Record Office, Kew (pro) fo 921/211. 2 Casey to Croft, 16 Nov. 1944, ibid. 3 Minute dated 23 Nov. 1944. 4 Martin to Churchill, 8 Nov. 1944, pro prem 4/51/11/1518. 5 Palcor Bulletin, 13 Nov. 1944 (cyclostyled), Central Zionist Archives, Jerusalem (cza) Z4/4484. 6 The Times, 23 Nov. 1944. 7 B. Z. Dinur (ed.) Sefer Toldot Hahaganah III (Tel Aviv 1972) pp.49 7-9 8 Le-or ha-gardom, Nisan 5705, (April 1945, cyclostyled) cza S25/5676. 9 Leo Benjamin, Martyrs in Cairo (2nd rev. edn. New York 1953) P-I3 10 J. C. Hurewitz, The Struggle for Palestine (New York 1950) p.92. 11 L.H.I. Bulletin, no. 8, Nov. 1947 (cyclostyled). 12 Quoted in Hurewitz, Struggle for Palestine, p.288. 13 Fighters for the Freedom of Israel: An Outline of Foreign Policy, Eretz Israel 1947 (cyclostyled). 14 L.H.I. Bulletin, no. 9, Nov. 1947 (cyclostyled). 15 Outline of Foreign Policy. 16 L.H.L Bulletin, no. 7, Nov. 1947 (cyclostyled). 17 L.H.I. Bulletin, no. 10, Dec. 1947 (cyclostyled). 18 Outline of Foreign Policy. 19 Natan Yellin-Mor, Lohamei Herut Yisrael (Tel Aviv 1975) pp.211-12. Friedmann-Yellin later took the name Yellin-Mor. 20 Eliahu Bet-Tsouri to M. Bethzoury, 15 Nov. 1944, pro fo 921/211. 21 Eliahu Hakim to S. Hakim, n.d., ibid. 22 Transcripts of declarations to court by Bet-Tsouri and Hakim, cza s25/5676. 23 Report by Richard Wyndham (Cairo) for News of the World (London), not passed by Palestine press censorship for publication in Palestine, cza s2 5/5676. 24 New York Times, 12 Jan. 1945. 25 Front de combat pour la liberte d'Israel, no. 7, Nov. 1947. 26 'Statement given by Eliahu Bet-Tzouri and Eliahu Hakim on their examination by the Procurator-General', 10 Nov. 1944, pro fo 921/211. 27 Cyclostyled leaflet dated Cheshvan 5705, Nov. 1944. 28 Benjamin, Martyrs in Cairo, p. 15. 29 See e.g. Aharon Cohen, Israel and the Arab World (London 1970) p.288. 30 Hansard, House of Commons, 7 Nov. 1944. 31 Yellin-Mor, Lohamei Herut Yisrael, p.213. 32 Alex Weissberg, Advocate for the Dead: The Story of Joel Brand (London 1958) p.167. 33 Hansard, House of Lords, 9 June 1942. 34 Lord Moyne, Walkabout: A Journey in Lands Between the Pacific and Indian Oceans (London 1936) pp.5, 285-6. 35 Memorandum on meeting at Colonial Office, 3 June 1941, cza a 312/16. 36 Memorandum on interview, 29 July 1941, cza Z4/14884. 37 Lord Moyne to Richard Law, 24 Dec. 1941, pro co 733/449 (P3/4/30). 38 Moyne to Foreign Office, 8 July 1943, pro fo 371/36714 (W9992/1731/48). 39 Chaim Weizmann, Trial and Error (London 1949) p. 536. 40 Michael J. Cohen, Palestine: Retreat from the Mandate (London 1978) pp. 169-70. 41 Hansard, House of Commons, 17 Nov. 1944, p.338. 42 Minister Resident's Office, Cairo, to Foreign Office, 18 Nov. 1944, pro fo 371/42823/23. 43 Text of Allenby's ultimatum, 22 Nov. 1924, in Viscount Wavell, Allenby in Egypt (London 1943) p. 113. 44 Commander-in-Chief, Middle East (General Paget) to Chiefs of Staff, 27 Nov. 1944, pro fo 371/40138/42. 45 Yehuda Bauer, From Diplomacy to Resistance: A History of Jewish Palestine 1939-1945 (New York 1973) pp.311-33. 46 Accounts of interview in J. M. Martin to Sir G. Gater, 4 Nov. 1944, pro prem 4/52/3/410; and Weizmann to Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver, 7 Nov. 1944, Weizmann Archives, Rehovot. 4 7 Foreign Relations of the United States: The Conferences at Malta and Yalta 1945 (Washington D.C. 1955) p.924. 48 Weizmann, Trial and Error, p.538.</page></plain_text>