The Reck­on­ing: Death and Intrigue in the Promised Land — A True Detec­tive Story

Patrick Bish­op

  • Review
By – January 19, 2015

In this true sto­ry, filled with deep intrigue and polit­i­cal dra­ma sim­i­lar to engross­ing fic­tion­al tales writ­ten by John Le Carre or Daniel Sil­va, Patrick Bish­op lays out the his­to­ry of the British Man­date in Pales­tine and all par­ties affect­ed by their rule. He describes the per­son­al and ide­o­log­i­cal clash­es between the British and var­i­ous Jew­ish fac­tions, and between Jews and Arabs. Bish­op focus­es in on spe­cif­ic mem­bers of the British police who were tar­get­ed by Lehi, also known as the Stern Gang.

The author explores the mys­tery of Stern Gang leader Avra­ham Stern’s death. Stern, alias Yair,” was shot four times in the attic room where he was cor­nered by Assis­tant Super­in­ten­dent Geof­frey Mor­ton, Lon­don-born head of the Tel Aviv dis­trict CID. Was he mur­dered in revenge for his role in killing British police, or was he killed sim­ply because he was attempt­ing escape? This mys­tery may nev­er be solved, but read­ers learn much about Stern’s rise to lead­er­ship, his arro­gance and sin­gle mind­ed ambi­tion, his deal­ings with oth­er resis­tance fight­ers, his mar­ried life with Roni, and their sep­a­ra­tion while he was in hiding.

Stern’s col­leagues were divid­ed in their opin­ions about him. Resis­tance fight­ers such as Yitzchak Shamir and Men­achem Begin looked up to him. David Raziel had recruit­ed Stern to the Irgun Zvai Leu­mi, a Revi­sion­ist break­away group from the Haganah. Revision­ists believed that Jews had to fight for their state, dif­fer­ing from the ide­ol­o­gy of Chaim Weiz­mann and David Ben Guri­on, who relied on Britain for their Zion­ist dream. Zeev Jabo­tinsky imag­ined a future Israel as Britain’s ally in the region” and Raziel even­tu­al­ly turned against Stern, fol­low­ing the view that the Irgun Zvai Leu­mi should be help­ing the British rather than fight­ing them.”

Bish­op paints Stern as out­ra­geous and extreme in his actions against the British, so much so that he tried to make a deal with Nazis in his effort to oust the British. In print­ed leaflets, Stern denounced Britain’s refusal to allow refugees from the death camps to enter Pales­tine and urged read­ers to wake up to the fact that the Man­date gov­ern­ment is the ene­my of Zion­ism.” He called any Jews who aid­ed the British cause trai­tors and ene­mies of Israel. Solomon Schiff, the high­est rank­ing Jew­ish mem­ber of the Pales­tine Police Force, was killed by a bomb planned by Stern. The Jew­ish Agency and oth­er lead­ing orga­niz­ers of the Yishuv were open­ly out­raged by Stern’s ter­ror­ist tactics.

The idea that Stern had been mur­dered by the British while attempt­ing escape ele­vat­ed his sta­tus as a sort of mar­tyr and turned the tide of Jew­ish pub­lic opin­ion against the British. British lead­ers set­tled for a pol­i­cy of appease­ment of Stern’s fol­low­ers. The Stern Gang” was soon referred to as the Stern Group.” British rul­ings on ille­gal firearms became dif­fer­ent for Arabs ver­sus Jews. Thor­oughly researched and minute­ly detailed, The Reck­on­ing proves that Stern’s death played a def­i­nite role in the ulti­mate dis­band­ment of the British Mandate.

Miri­am Brad­man Abra­hams, mom, grand­mom, avid read­er, some­time writer, born in Havana, raised in Brook­lyn, resid­ing in Long Beach on Long Island. Long­time for­mer One Region One Book chair and JBC liai­son for Nas­sau Hadas­sah, cur­rent­ly pre­sent­ing Inci­dent at San Miguel with author AJ Sidran­sky who wrote the his­tor­i­cal fic­tion based on her Cuban Jew­ish refugee family’s expe­ri­ences dur­ing the rev­o­lu­tion. Flu­ent in Span­ish and Hebrew, cer­ti­fied hatha yoga instructor.

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