Yehoshua Zettler, organizer of the assassination of UN mediator and Swedish Count Bernadotte in 1948, died a few days ago at the ripe old age of 91. Unfortunately, fate permits murderers to die in their sleep while the good die by the muzzle of a Tommy gun. Zettler was a leader of the Jewish ultra-nationalist terror group Lehi, who devised a plan to kill a newly appointed UN mediator, who had suggested that the UN assume control of Jerusalem and that Palestinian refugees be permitted to return to their homes. Lehi viewed him as a stooge of the British and was afraid that the Jewish provisional government would accept his proposals. They did not know at the time that Ben Gurion had decided to reject them and fight.
Lehi’s brutal murder was, in effect, Israel’s first attempt to bar the Right of Return for the Palestinian refugees exiled due to pre-war ethnic violence. It also pointed the way to Israel’s use of violence in pursuit of political objectives, a hallmark of future government policy (cf. targeted assassinations).* And finally, it foreshadowed Jewish nationalist paranoia regarding the intervention of foreign nations and bodies in Israel’s affairs, a theme that persists to this day.
Lehi has also proven an inspiration for other Jewish terrorists like Rabbi Meir Kahane and extremist settlers who routinely organize pogroms against Palestinian villagers.
One of the Lehi leaders who approved the execution of the Bernadotte plan was future prime minister Yitzchak Shamir. Zettler had earlier participated in the Deir Yassin slaughter, which was led by another future prime minister Menachem Begin.
After the Bernadotte murder, David Ben Gurion disbanded Lehi and arrested its members for being members of a banned organization. But miraculously, they were all released five months later under a political amnesty. No one was ever charged with the killing. Lehi’s brave members revealed their participation in the assassination in 1977 after the statue of limitations had expired.
It is a sad twist of fate that I published news of the death of the eloquent Zionist and Occupation critic, Amos Elon, yesterday night. And today I publish news of the death of a Jewish thug terrorist, Yehoshua Zettler.
* It was not, however, the FIRST political assassination in Zionist history. That distinction goes to the Jewish (probably Revisionist) thugs who assassinated Labor (Mapai) leader, Chaim Arlosoroff on a Tel Aviv beach in 1933.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.