Major Farran's Hat
Murder, Scandal and Britain's War Against Jewish Terrorism 1945-1948
By David Cesarani
Vintage Books (2010)
Reviewed by Simone Bonim - November 8, 2010
In 1947, during the waning days of the British Mandate in Palestine, a murder was committed. In and of itself, this really wasn't news. Murders were relatively commonplace at this time as various factions jockeyed for power, terrorism, and sectarian violence went on virtually unchecked. However, this murder, the murder of sixteen-year-old Alexander Rubowitz and the subsequent cover-up was, according to historian David Cesarani, the fundamental cause for Britain's failure to maintain their mandate in Palestine and paved the way for the establishment of the modern-day State of Israel.
Cesarani lays out his thesis in his eminently readable book, Major Farran's Hat. Within the pages of this riveting book, Cesarani explains just who Rubowitz was - he was a member of Lohamei HaHerut b'Yisrael (LEHI), a resistance group fighting against the British in Palestine and using tactics along the lines of those used by the Stern Gang. Cesarani details the events leading up to Rubowitz's kidnaping and murder on May 6, 1947 by British Forces, and the ensuing cover-up that reached into the highest ranks of the British establishment who were willing to overlook the blatant murder of a teenager, by British soldiers, merely for political reasons. He also examines the long-term repercussions of this event. Along the way he paints a vivid picture of the political and military situation in Palestine in 1947, the various philosophies that motivated the various Jewish groups that were fighting for an independent Jewish state - and how the motives and actions of these various groups were often at odds with each other.
Cesarani, who is also the author a number of books including Becoming Eichmann and Place and Displacement in Jewish History and Memory: Zakor v' Makor, writes with the fluidity of a novelist. He effortlessly draws you into the tumultuous and violent world of British Palestine in 1947, and introduces you to the major figures involved in the establishment of Israel, including well-known personages as Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, Menachem Begin, Golda Meir, and Sir Alan Cunningham, as well as the lesser known Major Roy Farran who figures prominently in the murder of Alexander Rubowitz.
Major Farran's Hat offers a sobering account of this tragic event, and how British efforts to cover-up the murder caused the Jewish inhabitants of Palestine to lose what little faith they had left in them. The shock waves that rippled out from this event were to become international in scope. All in all, Major Farran's Hat is a fascinating and well-documented account of this pivotal movement in both British and Jewish history.
This edition includes reproductions of several photographs and extensive endnotes, along with Cesarani's detailed and up-to-date bibliography and list of sources, and a glossary and list of abbreviations used in the book.
The First Tithe, by Israel Eldad.
Memoirs and Edifying Discourses of the Hebrew War for Freedom - an insightful and candid account of Eldad's life and involvement with, and actions of, the Lehi Underground Army, also known as the Stern Group, or more derogatorily as the Stern Gang.
The Avengers: A Jewish War Story
, by Rich Cohen.
The unforgettable story of The Avengers, a group of Jewish partisans who inhabited the forests of Eastern Europe during the dark days of World War II and who later went on to fight for Israeli Independence.