‘Godfather of Israeli Army’ John Henry Patterson’s Belfast Memorial Defaced With ‘Scum,’ ‘Nazis’
A Belfast war memorial for the officer who led the British Army’s “Zion Mule Corps” and “Jewish Legion” fighting against the Ottoman Empire in Gallipoli and Palestine during World War I was discovered Friday morning to have been defaced during the night, the UK’s The Independent reported on Saturday.
According to the report, the words “scum” and “Nazis” were scrawled on a mural honoring Lieutenant Colonel John Henry Patterson, an Irish Protestant who became an ardent Zionist after the war.
Stephen Silverman, the director of investigations and enforcement at the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, told The Independent: “Whilst his men fought with distinction, Lt.-Col. Patterson had to defend them from the anti-Semitism of his superiors, even threatening to resign his commission.”
Patterson and his wife both died and were cremated in 1947 in California. Patterson’s grandson said, however, that one of his grandfather’s final wishes was that he and his wife eventually be interred in Israel, near the men he commanded during the war. His wish would be granted in December 2014, when the ashes of the Pattersons were transferred to Moshav Avihail, north of Tel Aviv.
At the reinterment ceremony, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Patterson the “godfather of the Israeli army.”
Netanyahu had more than a national interest in Patterson, however, as the Irish officer had been close friends with his father, Benzion. According to the Israeli prime minister, Benzion named his first son, Yonatan – who was killed in the 1976 Entebbe Raid — after Patterson. Patterson attended Yonatan’s circumcision ceremony, and gave him a silver cup engraved with the words: “To my beloved godson Yonatan from Lt.-Col. John Henry Patterson.”
According to the UK’s ITV, this is not the first time that Patterson’s memorial has been vandalized.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland said it was treating the incident as a hate crime.