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February 19: The Lehi Leader Who Moved Left

February 19, 2016

220px-Nathan_Yellin-MorPolish-born Nathan Yellin-Mor (Friedman), a leader of the so-called “Stern Gang” (Lohamel Herut Israel), the rightwing Jewish militia of pre-state Palestine that was responsible for several atrocities, including (with Irgun) the Deir Yassin massacre, died at 67 on this date in 1980. Yellin-Mor was arrested by the British in Syria in 1941 while he was seeking negotiations with Nazi Germany; he was smuggled out of British detention two years later and became one of a triumvirate of Stern Gang leaders who replaced their commander, Avraham Stern, after he was killed by the British in 1942. Yellin-Mor was arrested again after the assassination of the UN mediator Count Folke Bernadotte in 1948, but was included in a general amnesty in 1949 and was elected to the first Knesset. Soon after that, he moved radically left: In 1956, he worked with Uri Avneri to established a political group dedicated to a Jewish-Arab federation in Israel-Palestine; after the Six-Day War, he opposed the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and was soon advocating negotiations with the PLO. Yellin-Mor was an anti-religious columnist for the Algemeiner Zhurnal and a talented writer in Yiddish and Hebrew.

“The Lehi had leftist anti-imperialist ideological components as well as rightwing aspects. It refused to be accountable to any Zionist organization including the Jewish agency... Lehi was a self-proclaimed terror group, its terror being mostly aimed against the British. A quote from their newspaper reads: ‘But above all terror is part of our political battle under present conditions and its role is large and great.’ ” —Encyclopedia of the Middle East