Volume III 1994 Number 2


THE BACKGROUND AND CONSEQUENCES OF THE MASSACRE IN HEBRON

Israel Shahak

Dr. Shahak, Holocaust survivor, and retired professor of chemistry at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, is chairman of the Israeli League for Human and Civil Rights.

It seems certain that the real story of the February 25, 1994, events in the Patriarch's Cave of Hebron will not be known, even in its rough outline, at least until the secret archives of the Israeli army and Shabak [secret police] are opened. By destroying evidence, preventing professional investigation and spreading massive disinformation, the Israeli army saw to it that nobody, the newly appointed Inquiry Committee included, would learn the whole truth. The army's power to destroy evidence and fabricate stories about the crime itself is indeed formidable; yet it is much less formidable as far as the background of the massacre is concerned, which in my view is no less important than the massacre itself. Fortunately, the control of the Hebrew press by the Israeli government is not as tight as the controls the army exerts in the territories. That is why the Israeli version of the events can be conclusively contested, but it still cannot be rectified to the point of yielding another consistent version. This is also why in this article I have to confine myself to a disclosure of reticences of the army and then to proceed to discussing the background and consequences of the massacre.

To begin with, the Israeli army first deliberately destroyed all on-site evidence of the massacre by cleaning its aftereffects in haste, and only then proceeded to "investigate" it as unprofessionally as possible. On February 27, Nahum Barnea (Yediot Ahronot) informed that the army commanders in Hebron had first evacuated all the survivors, the wounded included, from the Patriarch's Cave, then removed the corpses, and then scoured the hall by cascading water from the largest fire engine in the Hebron municipality. The next day Barnea added new information: that the previous day's cleaning was not considered sufficient and hence, on Saturday, soldiers were ordered to "scrub" the entire hall of the Patriarch's Cave meticulously. But the Israeli army is supposed to observe Sabbath with due rigor, enforced by military chaplains serving in all units -- especially in Hebron, where many officers are religious and the religious settlers can watch how Sabbath is observed. It can therefore be presumed that the scrubbing of the hall was elevated to a level of urgency sufficient to justify the violation of the Sabbath in the eyes of both the army and its rabbis, whom the officers are instructed in such cases to consult.

The "investigation" of the crime was not carried out by the Investigatory Unit of the Military Police, which is reputed for its professionalism and which is routinely called in to investigate serious crimes whenever the army wants to find the culprits. Nor was it carried out by the Military Police itself, routinely called in to solve lesser crimes. It was carried out instead by officers who were present on the spot, headed by the commander of the Central Command and Rabin's military secretary, General Danny Yatom, who is not known to possess any training, skills or talents as a detective. The absence of a serious investigation may be due to the fact that the present chief of staff, Ehud Barak, is known for his aversion to professional investigations of the military, even by the Investigatory Unit of his own army. This aversion is shared by his boss, Yitzhak Rabin. In matters not involving the Palestinians, the Hebrew press repeatedly pointed out that in cases such as the deaths of soldiers due to negligence or discipline infractions, Barak had been often said to suppress evidence, disinform and be otherwise dishonest. He has also often been said to be a careerist, to mingle in politics, and to mislead both the government (presumably on Rabin's orders) and the public. In my own view, he is the most dishonest chief of staff Israel has ever had, and I am not forgetting Rafael Bitan, who served as a chief of staff during the invasion of Lebanon. Suppression of evidence was accompanied by disinformation. A few hours after the mass slaughter, General Yatom convened a press conference at which he stated that "a relative quiet had reigned in the Territories." The lie about the "relative quiet" was too blatant to require a rebuttal: by then everyone already knew that mass demonstrations were being held all over the territories. Furthermore, the soldiers stationed in Hebron, who could, even if indirectly, know something about the circumstances of the crime, were confined to their army bases, where they underwent "an investigation by their commanders." Following a time-honored custom, the army "investigated" only its own soldiers without bothering to summon Arab eyewitnesses.

Anyway, the "findings" of General Yatom's "investigations" seem to surpass all records of deception and disinformation in the army's communications during the intifada. Let me just quote a single such "finding." On February 27 and 28 the Hebrew press reported that Arab eyewitnesses had said that on escaping from the Patriarch's Cave after the slaughter, they were shot at by the soldiers from an army lookout located on a hillock opposite the Cave, and that some of them were then wounded. On March 1, the same papers reported how General Yatom had "explained" this fact at a government meeting. He said that he had asked the soldiers involved, "who could be relied upon to tell me the truth, as the Israeli soldiers generally can" and that the soldiers he queried told him that all the shooting had been into the air. (The poor general has apparently never heard a 26-year-old Israeli joke, according to which the Palestinians must be capable of walking in the air, because soldiers shoot only into the air and yet the Palestinians are being hit.) But "the truth" as communicated to General Yatom by his soldiers apparently didn't suffice to convince the ministers, because he also told them that he himself had inspected the bloodstains on the way between the Cave and the army lookout, to find that "the blood clotted on the ground conclusively proved that it could only have squirted out from the wounds of those hit at in the Cave during their evacuation, and not from any wounds inflicted by shooting from the army lookout opposite [the Cave]." The press didn't dare to ask about the rules of inference followed by General Yatom to reach his conclusions on the basis of inspection of pools of clotted blood. Nor is it known whether any government minister queried the general about this matter.

The official acknowledgments of "shame," "sorrow" and the like were calculated to deceive international opinion and to shore up Israel's reputation no less than the official Israeli version of mass murder. Already a few days after the massacre some Hebrew press commentators were seeing through these apologies. Under the sarcastic title "Let everybody see how nicely Israel professes its shame," Gil Hareven (Maariv, March 4, 1994) commented that "the real message of the Prime Minister was: 'See Jews, how lovely am I ashamed."' She added that shame extended only up to a point. When the Israeli TV listed for the first time the names of the Palestinian victims, not even in a newscast but in another program, the public responded to this innovation by "overwhelming the program editors with protesting phone calls." From that moment on the TV management decided to provide no personal data, such as profession, age or appearance of Goldstein's victims, even though such data are routinely provided about Israeli victims of Arab violence. Hareven adds that "while in our schools there are plenty of students who openly extol the murderer as having done the right thing, our politicians bask in their own self-righteousness. They claim that our deeds are not as important as our ability to make a profound soul-searching thereafter, and that no other people in the world would be capable of a soul-searching as profound as ours." Indeed, within two days walls in West Jerusalem, especially the religious neighborhoods, were already covered by posters extolling Goldstein's "virtues" and deploring that he didn't manage to kill more Arabs. Children of religious settlers coming to Jerusalem to demonstrate were sporting a button "Dr. Goldstein cured Israel's ills." Concerts of religious music and other entertainment events often spontaneously turned into demonstrations of tribute to him. Other forms of public tribute for Goldstein were reported by the press in copious detail (especially by Yediot Ahronot, which has the largest circulation), while no politician uttered a word in protest against such celebrations. Hareven expects "acknowledging shame" will soon become a convenient political expedient in Israeli dealings with the Palestinians. "Whenever the Palestinians with Israeli citizenship again complain about how badly discriminated against they are, they will be told: Don't you see how beautifully are we ashamed?" Hareven comments that to be ashamed is much cheaper than to provide money for Arab schools or to remove the Jewish settlers from Hebron, "regardless of the fact that shame may nicely go together with self-aggrandizement and search for profits.''

There can be no doubt that most, if not all, "shame," "shock" and "deep sorrow about the Hebron massacre voiced by the Knesset, by the Israeli government and government ministers has conformed quite closely to Hareven's strictures. One can even say more: that the acknowledgments of "shame" were quite often deliberately intended to conceal the "business as usual" of continuing cooperation of the Israeli authorities with the settlers. Owing to reiterated professions of "shame," the apartheid regime in the territories and the Israeli army, within which a Dr. Goldstein could thrive and murder, grew closer after the massacre.

President Weizman expressed his "sorrow" perhaps more extravagantly than anybody else. After four days of this extravagance, it turned out that, acting on Rabin's behalf, he was at the same time busy promoting the entry of Rafael Eitan and his Tzomet party to the government coalition. When serving as chief of staff, Rafael Eitan not only became notorious for his repeated exonerations of soldiers who had murdered innocent Arabs (in one case after a protracted torture), but also for referring to the Palestinians as "drugged cockroaches in a bottle." And nothing indicates that he has changed his views since. But Uzi Benziman (Haaretz, March 4) also informs us that while Weizman was expressing his "shock" at the massacre, he was engaged in amiable negotiations with Goldstein's family and his Kach comrades over a suitably honorable funeral for the murderer. 'The Kiryat Arba settlers, among whom many declared themselves in favor of the mass murder in radio and TV interviews, lauding Goldstein as a "martyr" and "holy man," demanded from General Yatom that the funeral cortege parade through the city of Hebron, then under a curfew. Yatom didn't dare to reject this demand outright, but he opposed it on the ground that it could cause "disorders." Thereupon Tzvi Katzover (one of the most extremist among the leaders of the religious settlers) and mayor of Kiryat Arba, phoned Weizman with threats that "the settlers were going to carry out a pogrom" if their demands are not met. Weizman responded to this outrageous threat with favor, and "phoned the Chief of Staff to ask him why the army opposed the demands of the settlers. Barak answered that the army was afraid that Arabs may desecrate [Goldstein's] tomb and carry away his corpse. In further negotiations involving inter alia Barak, Yatom, Rabin, the Kach leaders and Kiryat Arba settlers, Weizman took a consistent position that "the army should pay all the respects to the desires and sensibilities of the settlers and Goldstein's family." Ultimately a compromise satisfactory to all sides was reached. A massively attended funeral cortege would take place in Jerusalem, and the police would close some of the busiest streets to the traffic. And so it was. But following that Jerusalem affair, the murderer was buried with all due ceremony in Kiryat Arba, on the extension of "Kahane Avenue." His tomb, with a permanent guard of honor provided by the army, at once became a site of pilgrimage, not only for the settlers but also for delegations from all the Israeli cities, as noted with revulsion by Nadav Haetzni (Maariv, March 4). According to Benziman, however, the consent of the Kach leaders to this compromise was hard to obtain. General Yatom had to approach them and Katzover in person, promising that "Goldstein's burial in Kiryat Arba is only temporary and that eventually he will be reburied in Hebron." Consent had also to be obtained from the notorious Kiryat Arba rabbi Dov Lior, who had declared that "since Goldstein did what he did in God's name, he is to be regarded as a Righteous Man" (Yerushalaim, March 4). Benziman quotes an explanation of this disgraceful conduct by Weizman's entourage: "After the fact, the officials of the Presidential Residence justify those goings on by the need to becalm the mood of the settlers." His comment is that "one needs to be quite optimistic to expect that, with such attitudes in high places, the [Israeli] government may muster enough courage to do something really significant, like removing the Jewish settlers from the city of Hebron." A demand to this effect has indeed been voiced by some commentators, but it was fiercely opposed not only by the settlers but also by all the right-wing parties.

It can be conjectured that Weizman, Rabin and at least some other politicians expressed their "shock" over Goldstein in order to conceal the norms of apartheid in the territories (and in a milder form in Israel as well) as guiding principles of everything the Israeli authorities did during the massacre and in its aftermath. I will reserve for another occasion the description of the racist manner in which the Israeli police responded to the protests of Israeli Arabs. Of concern here, however, is the fact that after the massacre the apartheid in the territories came to be perceived by some Israelis in a more glaring light than ever before. Professor Ruth Gabizon (Shishi, March 4) thus commented on the difference between the treatment of the Palestinians and the treatment accorded to Goldstein. "For the Israeli authorities to order the demolition of the house inhabited by a Palestinian who killed a single Jew is a routine matter." Moreover, such demolitions are carried out summarily, even before a Palestinian concerned is charged with any crime, or right after he is killed. The mere suspicion of the man's guilt by the army authorities or by the Shabak suffices to prompt a demolition order. In Goldstein's case those very institutions, with the prime minister's backing, pronounced him as being guilty of mass murder at once. Gabizon observes that the interpretation of demolition of houses after a Palestinian is pronounced a murderer

as a collective punishment has been summarily rejected not only by the entire [Israeli] political system, which is known for its cynicism. The Supreme Court which is supposed to guard morality and human rights has also rejected it in principle, without bothering to discuss in any detail the question from either the factual or moral points of view. When some demanded that Goldstein's house be demolished likewise, it instantly became apparent that in the State of Israel doing such a thing to a Jew would be unimaginable. Can we even envisage the possibility that Goldstein' s innocent widow and orphans would be punished for his crime?

Indeed, it is unimaginable. But the same holds true for any family of a Palestinian murderer. Yet the fact is that an overwhelming majority of Israeli Jews have refused to see any analogy between the two situations. Their refusal has been perfectly honest and all too natural after the Supreme Court justices have refused to recognize any correspondence between demolitions of Arab and Jewish houses either. Yet the problem is serious. It can be called solved only if the government formally and openly resolves to no longer resort to house demolitions as punishment of the Palestinians, exactly as it refused to resort to it in Goldstein's case. The problem lies not only in that this form of punishment is utterly repulsive. It also lies in the need to transcend our failure to understand that what in the case of a Jew was unimaginable could as well be unimaginable in an analogous case of a Palestinian.


Gabizon can be presumed to insist that the government renounce the house demolition "formally and openly" since the Israeli authorities are used to granting favors to the Palestinians in the territories without any formality, so as to make it possible to revoke them whenever needed. For example, neither the Civil nor the Military Administration has to this very day published any document authorizing displays of the Palestinian flag as lawful. All that happened was that the Israeli army received orders not to respond to such displays. Tomorrow those orders can change. The demolition of houses is at present discontinued, but in the same manner. (In neither case did the PLO insist on any formal guarantees.) Needless to say, what Gabizon advocates has not even been mooted by any Israeli politician. They have been too busy expressing their "shock."

Gabizon also speaks up about other aspects of apartheid brought into sharper relief by the Hebron massacre. For example, "many Palestinians who murder a single Jew are denied the right to be buried in the presence of their families. They are being buried by the army in cemeteries whose location is unknown. In cases where the victims are Palestinian the army usually demands that their families bury them at nighttime in the presence of a limited number of mourners, so as to preclude incitement." Let me add that such funerals are guarded by soldiers whose task is to enforce these conditions with all rigor.

Relying mostly on a report of Ilana Baum and Tzvi Singer (Yediot Ahronot, February 28) let me describe the funeral accorded to Goldstein through the good offices of Weizman. Its first installment took place in Jerusalem. Among large numbers of mourners (about 1,000 according to other correspondents)

only a few were Kiryat Arba settlers. Without having ever met Goldstein personally, the mourners, most of them Jerusalemites, were enthusiastic admirers of his deed. Many were Yeshiva students. One large group represented the Habad Hassidic movement, another the [anti-Zionist] Satmar Hassids.

Other Hassidic movements were also represented at the funeral in force. Incidentally, Goldstein was at the same time a follower of Kahane and the Lubavitch Rabbi.

People in the crowd awaiting the arrival of the corpse could be heard repeating again and again: "What a hero!" "A righteous person!" "He did it on behalf of all of us." As is usual in such encounters between religious Jews, all the participants turned into a single collective personality, united by their burning hatred of the Israeli media, the wicked [Israeli] government and, above all else, of anyone daring to speak up against the murder.

Before the procession started, some quite well-known rabbis and Gush Emunim members eulogized Goldstein, finding words of commendation for the murder he had committed. Rabbi Israel Ariel said:

The holy martyr Baruch Goldstein is from now on our intercessor in the Heavens. Goldstein didn't act as an individual: He heard the cry of the Land [of Israel] which is being stolen from us day after day by the Muslims. He acted in order to relieve that cry of the Land!

And toward the end of his eulogy Rabbi Ariel said: "The Jews will inherit the Land not by any peace agreement but only by shedding blood." Ben-Shoshan Yeshua, a member of the "Jewish underground" sentenced for murder to life imprisonment, and amnestied after a few years spent under luxurious hotel conditions, opened his speech by lauding Goldstein to the skies, and exclaimed:

"What a shame that even in this holy time there are Jews who pay other Jews for spying on us!" The crowd began to grumble, but then two uniformed police officers appeared in its midst, looking around. Everybody fell silent.

This moment of truth shows in my view that Kahane's followers are not only cruel but also cowardly. They are ready to indulge in the most barbarous cruelties only when they feel strong and only against the weak and unarmed. But as soon as they confront real power, they begin to quake.

The funeral cortege was protected by heavy reinforcements of security forces- the Border Guards, the police and the secret police. None of those forces bothered to hinder the Kahanist goons from assaulting reporters who could be recognized as such (most used disguises), or press photographers who were easily recognizable by their cameras.

An entire unit of Border Guards preceded the cortege, but it was followed by young Kahanists from Jerusalem who kept yelling "Death to the Arabs!" While obviously intending to find an Arab in order to kill him, they could spot none. Suddenly a Border Guard noticed an Arab approaching the cortege. He couldn't be easily seen behind a low fence, but he was coming dangerously close. The Border Guard at once jumped over the fence, stopped the Arab and, using force, led him away to safety before anybody could notice it. He thus saved him from a lynching which would undoubtedly have taken place.

Behind the young Kahanists there was the coffin surrounded by the heads of the Kahanist splinters, some of whom were by then already wanted by the police. The police later claimed that "they couldn't be recognized," although they made no effort to hide themselves in the crowd. On the contrary, they were visible as they extolled Goldstein's virtues. Ilana Baum writes that

Tiran Pollak, one of the Kahane Khai leaders, wanted by the police, granted me an interview near the coffin. "Goldstein was not only righteous and holy," he told me, "but also a martyr. Since he is a martyr, his corpse will be buried without being washed, not in a shroud but in his clothes. The honorable Dr. Goldstein has always refused to provide medical help to Arabs. Even during the War for the Galilee he refused to treat any Arab. The Chief Rabbi of the Israeli army, General Gad Navon, at that time contacted Meir Kahane, asking him to persuade Baruch Goldstein of blessed memory to treat the Arabs. But Kahane refused, on the ground that this would be against the Jewish religion." Suddenly the crowd began yelling: "Death to the journalists!" I looked around and realized that I was the only journalist still inside the crowd of mourners. I clung to Tiran Pollak, begging him "please protect me." I was scared to death that the crowd might recognize me as a journalist.

But this was far from being the end of the story. After Goldstein's coffin was brought to Kiryat Arba under heavy military guard, a second run of eulogies was delivered in the hall of the Hesder Yeshiva Nir, i.e., in a military institution. Goldstein was eulogized there by a whole motley of religious settlers, but also by the above mentioned rabbi Dov Lior. Lior said: "Goldstein was full of love for fellow human beings. He dedicated himself to helping others." It should be explained here that terms like "human being" refer in Jewish Orthodox Law [Halacha] only to Jewish human beings. When used in Hebrew by rabbis they must have that meaning. The same holds true for Yiddish. Although the word "Mensch" is supposed to mean a man, it is actually used only in reference to a Jewish man. This linguistic habit is never mentioned in the United States, least so by Jewish "liberals" or by The New York Times. But, continued Lior in his eulogy, "Goldstein couldn't bear any more the humiliation and shame nowadays inflicted on us, and this was why he took action, for no other reason than glorifying the Jews and sanctifying the Holy Name [of God]." This refers in Orthodox Judaism to Jews killed for their faith, who refused to renounce it even to save their own lives.

Yohay Hakak (Yerushalaim, March 4), tells about another eulogy for Goldstein delivered by Lior a few days later. He recalls that Lior "was several years ago excoriated in the press for recommending that captured Arab terrorists could be used for the purpose of medical experimentation on their bodies." Following the outcry over this recommendation "the attorney general prevented his otherwise guaranteed election to the Supreme Rabbinical Council of the State of Israel." The attorney general refused, however, to "interfere with Lior's current rabbinical duties." Quite a few other eulogies were also reported in the press (and even on radio and TV during the days immediately following the slaughter), but I am not going to cover them here, except to note that they were delivered not only in religious settlements but also in all the religious neighborhoods of Jewish towns in Israel. The Hebrew press reports of these eulogies warrant the conclusion that the bigger and more homogeneous a given religious community was, the more virulent were the terms used in lauding Goldstein and in calling for further massacres of the Arabs.

The approval of Goldstein and his mass murder could also be heard in secular Israeli milieus, especially from the youth, but I will confine myself to covering the adult population. According to Yuval Katz (Yerushalaim, March 4) it is simply not true that "with the sole exception of a few psychopaths, the entire nation, all its politicians included, have been resolutely condemning Dr. Goldstein: even though, luckily for us, all major TV networks in the world were last week still deluded by this untruth." Katz tells us how a popular TV entertainer, Rafi Reshef, "could this week announce the findings of some reliable polls. It is least important that according to one poll about 50 percent of Kiryat Arba inhabitants approve of the massacre. More important is another poll which showed that about 50 percent of Israeli Jews are now more sympathetic toward the settlers than before the massacre. But the most important was the third poll, which established that at least 50 percent of Israeli Jews would approve of the massacre, provided it is referred to not as such, but as a 'Patriarch's Cave Operation':" a better-sounding term already in use by many religious settlers.

Katz reports that the politicians and academics interviewed by Reshef failed to grasp the significance of those findings. Attributing them to some chance occurrence, they refused to comment on them. He tends to excuse them.

I presume that those busy public figures, along with everybody else who this week exerted himself to speak in the name of the entire nation, simply didn't have time to walk the streets in the last days. Yet, with the possible exception of the wealthiest neighborhoods, people could be seen smiling merrily when talking about the massacre. The stock popular comment was: "Sure, Goldstein is to be blamed. He could escape with ease and do the same in four other mosques, but he didn't."

I can only say that my subjective impressions and those of my friends, scattered around Israel, who communicated to me their anguish in their phone calls, corresponded to poll findings reported by Reshef. It appears that people were pretty evenly divided into two categories: one vociferous in cheering the slaughter, and the other keeping silence and condemning the massacre only if encouraged to do so.

Therefore, this was the right time to finally draw the obvious conclusion that we, the Jews, are not any more sensitive or merciful than the Gentiles. Lots of Jews have been programmed by the same racist computer program shaping the majority of the world's nations. We have to acknowledge that our supposed advancement in progressive beliefs and democracy has failed to affect the archaic forms of Jewish tribalism. Those who still delude themselves that Jews might be different than other nations should now know better. The spree of bullets from Goldstein's gun was for them an occasion to learn something.


Katz's views may be the most honest and straightforward among the responses to the massacre, but they were by no means isolated. Some responses voiced in the press with all firmness can be said to articulate those 50 percent of the nation who were shocked by seeing how the other 50 percent rejoiced at the massacre of innocents, and by politicians and "public figures" hiding their heads in the sand like ostriches. Such people appeared to finally realize that Jewish Nazism was very much alive and prospering, even if in the past they would fiercely deny its existence, rebutting those who, like Yeshayahu Leibovitz or myself, had used this term. And they began to ponder openly the implications of their belated discovery.

Curiously, as far as I could notice, this discovery didn't originate from any milieu of Zionist doves, but rather from those who can be said to have been "moderate hawks" who now concluded that some Jewish individuals and organizations fully merited to be labelled likewise. Let me just quote a few sentences from an article written by a veteran and rather hawkish journalist, Teddy Preuss (Davar, March 4):

Certainly, compared to the giant-scale mass murderers of Auschwitz, Goldstein was a quite petty mass murderer. But the recorded statements of him and his comrades prove that they were perfectly willing to exterminate at least two million Palestinians at an opportune moment. This makes Dr. Goldstein quite comparable with Dr. Mengele, and the same holds true for anyone saying that he would welcome more of such Purim holiday celebrations. [The massacre occurred on that holiday.] And let us not devalue Goldstein by comparing him with an Inquisitor or a Muslim Jihad fighter. Whenever an infidel was ready to convert to, respectively, Christianity or Islam, an Inquisitor or a Muslim Jihad fighter would as a rule spare his life. But Goldstein and his admirers are not interested in converting the Arabs to Judaism. As their statements testify, they see the Arabs as nothing more than disease-spreading rats, or lepers, or lice, or other loathsome creatures: which is exactly how the Nazis depicted the Jews. The Nazis believed that the Aryan race alone had laudable qualities which were inheritable, but which could get polluted by sheer contact with the dirty and morbid Jews. Kahane, who found nothing in the Nuremberg Laws to learn from, had exactly the same notions about the Arabs.

Undeniably, Preuss is right.

Needless to say, such views as Preuss's are liable to spoil the official Israeli propaganda line that Goldstein had no, or hardly any, supporters. This is why no Knesset member would utter a squeak against such lies, nor would some press commentators. Like the cover-ups of the circumstances of the slaughter, this cover-up is attributable to the fact that Israel perceives itself as threatened by the consequences of the massacre. The Inquiry Committee, appointed after much resistance, can be expected to turn into another cover-up attempt. If not, too many officers and other security system figures would apparently have to be implicated as Goldstein's accomplices. One can learn about the existence of rumors to this effect obliquely, from a Davar editorial of March 8, which comments with perspicacity on the real aim of the Inquiry Committee. The editorial flatly says,

The Inquiry Committee, headed by the Supreme Court President and comprising his four associates, which begins its public sessions today, cannot be expected to terminate its proceedings except by concluding that Baruch Goldstein had no accomplices in the government or the security system, who either knew his intentions but passed them in silence, or even helped to maximize the number of his victims. Such a conclusion could be pronounced already today, [i.e., before the hearing had begun!]

The editorial commends the Supreme Court president, Judge Meir Shamgar, for "legal skills he displayed already before 1967, when as the Army's attorney general he was drafting plans of how the Territories to be conquered should be governed, and then helped implement those plans after the Six-Day War." The editorial continues, however, by warning Shamgar that

under normal circumstances, the Israeli refusal to accept the legal arguments of foreigners that the Fourth Geneva Convention applies to [the Occupied] Territories has its utility. But this utility becomes problematic when the credibility of Israel in exercising sovereignty in the Territories and protecting their population also becomes problematic. This means that the massacre in Hebron may be exploited as a basis for suing Israel in the International Court in The Hague. This is why we may expect that the report of the Inquiry Committee would be construed so as not to provide ammunition to those willing to file such a suit. On the other hand, however, we also expect that the report would be phrased prudently enough to preclude its easy refutation by international lawyers.

In all probability, the committee's report will indeed faithfully conform to Davar's recommendations.

A political correspondent of Haaretz, Hanna Kim also wrote (March 4) about "Shamgar's attitude toward the Palestinians in the Territories," opining that it "can be inferred from his past verdicts." She deserves to be quoted at length.

Advocate Feldman argued [before Shamgar] that transfers of state-owned land in the Territories to Jewish settlements were illegal because they contradicted international law, which lays down that a conquering state could use such land only either for bona fide security purposes or for the benefit of local population. Feldman concluded that a transfer of land to Jewish settlements constituted a case of illegal expropriation. Shamgar denied the validity of Feldman's claim on the ground that "it lacks topicality" and requested the plaintiffs to refrain from mingling the Court into politics. In the "Sawir Aref case" Shamgar was even blunter. Mr. Aref complained that his land, confiscated on the grounds of security, was then handed over to a neighboring Jewish settlement. Shamgar ruled that Aref was not "an interested party" entitled to file a lawsuit because once his land had been confiscated, its subsequent uses were no longer his business. It became a matter for the politicians.

Shamgar also consistently displayed his leniency toward the settlers, including those convicted of crimes against the Palestinians, but especially toward the soldiers who had fired at the Palestinians. A good case in point is the "Antonina case." It concerned a sergeant called Antonina posted at an Israeli army roadblock in the Gaza Strip which brought the traffic to a standstill. An Arab driver at the very end of the line lost patience and tried to move ahead of other cars, not in order to break through the roadblock but only in order to get nearer to it. The sergeant fired and killed him. He was court-martialed, but acquitted. The army prosecution then appealed to a District Military Court, which convicted him of manslaughter. The sergeant appealed to the Military Court of Appeals which upheld the conviction. Finally the sergeant appealed to the Supreme Court. It was Shamgar who wrote the verdict of Antonina's acquittal. Rebutting the argument of the army prosecution, Shamgar wrote that a soldier cannot be responsible for assessing the scale of danger. If Antonina thought that the driver was a saboteur, he was entitled to kill him on the spot. In other words, an Arab driver who refuses to put up with a traffic jam deserves to be killed.


Quite apart from the Shamgar Inquiry Committee, however, indirect evidence abounds that Goldstein was indeed helped for years by accomplices in the government and the army. Those accomplices had actively supported him during those years, when Goldstein had been repeatedly breaching the basic norms of army discipline. Although the unsupported statements of the Kahanist Tiran Pollak would not have been trustworthy, his already quoted claim that as an army physician Goldstein was consistently and with impunity refusing to treat Arabs, happens to be corroborated. It turns out that Goldstein did so both in the conscript army and the reserves, and that he refused to treat even the Arabs serving in the Israeli army and even under orders from superior officers to provide treatment. The case has been discussed at length by Hebrew papers even though it has not yet been mentioned by a single politician. The first to broach the affair was Nahum Barnea (Yediot Ahronot, February 27), who wrote that

a senior Israeli army officer in the [Hebron] area told me about his two encounters with Baruch Goldstein. The second time he saw him in the company of Kach goons, abusing the President Ezer Weizman during the latter's official visit to Kiryat Arba. But the first time he encountered Goldstein after an Israeli soldier had wounded a local Arab in the legs. The Arab was brought to an army clinic for treatment, but Goldstein refused to treat him. Another army physician had to be summoned to substitute for Goldstein. The officer didn't explain why Goldstein was thereafter not demoted in rank, and allowed to keep performing his duties in the reserves. Incidentally, his misconduct also constituted a violation of the oath he had taken on becoming a doctor, except that for this the Israeli army cannot be blamed.

Barnea makes it clear that the leniency toward Goldstein's misdeeds was not just the army's but that of the entire Israeli establishment, and that it lasted until the massacre. Only from then on the "line" changed: to expressions of "shock" coupled with assertions that Goldstein had acted all alone. Thus, during the first three hours after the slaughter, Rabin and his retinue insisted either that Goldstein was "a psychopath" or else that he had been a good man and a devoted doctor who once happened to act out of a momentary derangement. Interpreting the latter version, Barnea says, with justice, that

within hours a whole edifice of rationalizations was built, according to which Goldstein had been operating under unbearable mental pressures because he had to attend so many wounded and dead, including Arabs. Thus the Arabs were made guilty for what he couldn't avoid to do. The implication ran that the Arabs assaulted him rather than the other way around, and that he really acted for the benefit of the Arabs, by letting them finally realize that Jewish blood could not be shed with impunity.

Let me add two comments to Barnea's factual rendition of the initial Israeli propaganda line. In the first place, insofar as I know, the foreign correspondents who duly repeated the official Israeli version couldn't (or were not allowed to) grasp its implications as perspicaciously as Barnea and other Israeli correspondents did. My second comment is that simultaneously with public expressions of "shock," Israeli dignitaries kept spouting apologetics of Goldstein at restricted-entry meetings. Yoram Nimrod (Davar, March 11) reports that "this week," (i.e., after March 6, which means at least 10 days after the massacre) Rabin said at a closed meeting of "senior officials that 'when Arabs are killing the Jews they always do it deliberately, inter alia in order to kill the peace process. Baruch Goldstein, by contrast, just suffered from a mental derangement.'" Nimrod belongs to the "left" wing of Mapam, which now is a Meretz component. His affiliation nevertheless did not prevent him from cooperating in 1981-82 with Ariel Sharon in promoting the "Village Leagues." Thus his faith in the veracity of "Rabin's Knesset speech, which reiterated the central message of the Zionist movement" can come as no surprise.

Barnea compares Goldstein's attitude toward the Gentiles with that of Rabbi Levinger, whom he interviewed on the day of the massacre. "Levinger was in a good mood, as his arguments about how the religious settlers respond to the massacre had won the day after a three-hour debate at a session of the 'Kiryat Arba municipality' shortly before. The secretary of the 'Council of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza District,' Uri Ariel, proposed to condemn the massacre. Levinger staked his authority behind the proposal that the [Israeli] government should be condemned instead," for putting Goldstein "under an unbearable mental pressure," which propelled him to action. (Terms like "murder," "massacre" or even "killing" have been carefully avoided in all such pronouncements. The terms used instead were "deed," "event" or "occurrence.") Levinger told Barnea, however, that "the resolution does express in passing the sorrow" about the dead Arabs, "even if it emphasizes the responsibility of the government." When Barnea asked Levinger whether he felt sorry, the latter answered: "I am sorry not only about dead Arabs but also about dead flies." So far I have not heard of any rabbi, including those few who after several days did condemn the murder explicitly, dissociating himself from Rabbi Levinger's comparison of Arabs with flies, which vividly resembles Himmler's "Posen speech" to S.S. officers exterminating the Jews.

But let me return to Goldstein's refusals to treat the Gentiles. It turns out that he did it in principle, starting years before the massacre, but already in the capacity of an army physician and an officer. Aryeh Kizel in Yediot Ahronot, and "a correspondent" in Davar reported on March 1 that Goldstein, while still a conscript soon after his immigration to Israel, had been assigned as an artillery battalion doctor in Lebanon and flatly refused to treat the Gentiles. According to Kizel, he then declared straight out: "I am not willing to treat any non-Jew. I recognize as legitimate only two [religious] authorities: Maimonides and Kahane." This declaration was made after a "refusal to treat a wounded Arab" who had to be referred to another military doctor as a result. The "Davar correspondent" reports that

three Druze soldiers who served in Goldstein's battalion approached their commander, requesting him to have another doctor in the battalion because they were afraid that Goldstein would refuse to treat them in case they were wounded. Their request was passed on to the Israeli Army's surgeon general, as a result of which Goldstein was reassigned to another battalion. But he continued to serve as a military doctor both in the conscript army and in the reserves. After some years he was reassigned to the Regional Hebron Brigade of the Central Command, where he began to do his reserve stints about two years ago. Right after receiving this assignment, he told his commanders that his religious faith would make it nearly impossible for him to treat wounded or ill Arabs, and he asked to be reassigned elsewhere. His request was granted, and he was reassigned to a reserve unit serving in South Lebanon.

Of course, the likelihood of causing Arabs to die by criminal negligence was even higher there than in the Hebron area, except that the Israeli media are denied access to South Lebanon. He continued, however, to work as the municipal doctor of Kiryat Arba, treating Arabs only when he absolutely couldn't avoid it.

A colleague of Goldstein from Kiryat Arba's clinic recalled that whenever Goldstein would arrive at a traffic accident and would recognize some of the injured as Arabs, he would attend to them, but only until another doctor arrived. Then he would stop working at once. "This was his personal compromise between his doctor's oath and his ideology," said the colleague.

Kizel adds that the Israeli army found Goldstein's conduct as not requiring any disciplinary measures, whereas a "Maariv correspondent" (March 8) reports that Goldstein's military service record was found to be distinguished enough to select him for a ceremonial promotion from the rank of captain to that of major by the president of the state on the coming Independence Day (April 14).

The best story of Goldstein's relations with the Israeli army and the Israeli political establishment has been provided by Amir Oren (Davar, March 4). According to Oren, the mentioned declaration Goldstein made while serving in Lebanon reached the notice of Yitzhak Rabin as defense minister and of the then-chief of staff, General (Reserves) Moshe Levy, who now serves as one of the five members of the Inquiry Committee. It was the time after the 1984 elections and the subsequent formation of the "National Unity" government in which the Defense portfolio was assigned to Rabin.

When Goldstein's refusal to treat non-Jewish patients became evident to his commanders, both the Artillery Corps and the Medical Corps quite naturally wanted to court-martial him and thus to let the army get rid of him. They took it for granted that this could be easily done, because Goldstein had graduated only from the army's course for medical officers.

This means that Goldstein had no officer training, which normally is a prerequisite for admission to the course for medical officers. "The two Corps also knew that while attending the army's course for medical officers Goldstein let himself become notorious as an anti-Arab extremist." According to other correspondents, some of his fellow trainees then demanded that he be dismissed from the course, but their demand was turned down. Oren says that Goldstein "was already then protected by some highly placed persons in 'senior ministries,' whose identity the Shamgar Inquiry Committee would be well-advised to check. Those patrons also requested that Goldstein be allowed to serve in Kiryat Arba rather than in a combat battalion." Then, however, the case turned into "a bone of contention between the commander of the army's Medical Corps and its chief rabbi," the same who, as noted above, had conducted negotiations with Meir Kahane.

In the end the issue of what to do with an officer who openly refuses to obey orders by invoking Halacha has never been resolved, even if he refused to provide medical help to Israeli soldiers and POWs. But can we avoid being stunned by the army's failure to court-martial Goldstein right off? Why was no order to court-martial him ever issued by the entire chain of command? That chain of command then included the commander of the Northern Command, General (reserves) Orri Or [now a Labor MK and chairman of the Knesset Committee for Foreign and Defense Affairs], and General Amos Yaron, now the commander of the Manpower Department [in the General Staff]. Why did they all refuse to decide anything without first humbly consulting the [chief] rabbi? The already embarrassed Medical Corps now admits that they were then scared by "publicity" which might have propelled the religious parties and religious settlers' lobbies to mess up things even more. It was that fear of publicity which time after time prompted the commanders [of the army] to give in to all kinds of Goldsteins, instead of denouncing their views and court-martialing them.

Oren's story only proves that the influence of religious parties in the Israeli army is very pervasive. The laws of Orthodoxy in the Jewish religion against the Gentiles, as advocated by Kahane vociferously and by the religious parties and religious settlers only a little more diffidently, do have an impact upon the Israeli army. But one can say even more than that. Had Rabin and the army commanders mentioned by Oren felt no affinity whatsoever with Kahane's and Goldstein's views, they would not have given in to the religious parties so readily, sacrificing considerations of military discipline. To say more still, Israeli policies not only toward the Palestinians but also toward all Middle East Gentiles would be neither intelligible nor explainable without the assumption that they are guided by anti-Gentile prejudice. This prejudice is shared by nearly all religious Jews, but both in Israel and in the diaspora it spreads to Jewish secular milieus as well. Rabin's quoted refusal to compare Goldstein to Arabs who kill the Jews has in my view its roots in this obscurantist Jewish tradition. This is why his support for Goldstein in 1984-85 has had its sequel in his excuses for the slaughter, thinly disguised by his hypocritical expressions of "shock."

In contrast to expressions of shock, however, the discussions of the respects in which Goldstein caused injury to Israel could be quite serious. A case in point was the lament of the Haaretz Economic Supplement of February 28, headlined "Goldstein's massacre caused distress on the [Tel Aviv] stock market." Other papers voiced similar sentiments. More interesting, however, were the opinions of Shimon Peres and other senior politicians, speaking not at a Knesset plenum but in the Committee for Foreign and Defense Affairs (Haaretz, March 8). There Peres wasted no time for "shock" over the murdered Palestinians, but perorated instead about "how harmful to Israel were the pictures of the corpses which the entire world could watch." Far from condemning the "armed religious settlers publicly rejoicing and shooting," he only deplored "the harm which pictures of them cause." Here he didn't mean the harm to Israel alone. "The events in Hebron also adversely affected the interests of President Mubarak and King Hussein, and even more of the PLO and its leadership." Then Peres went on to say that "we have had Jewish kibbutzim located in the midst of Arab-inhabited areas for 80 years, and I cannot recall a single instance of such a slaughter, nor of firing at Arab buses nor of maiming Arab mayors."

At this point senior Likud politicians rushed to interpellate Peres. I will quote their interpellations almost verbatim.

The first to interrupt Peres's speech was Sharon. "Kibbutzim are dear to me no less than to you, but there have been plenty of instances when somebody from a kibbutz would go out to murder Arabs." Answered Peres: "The two cases are not comparable, because in the case under discussion the murderer was supported by a whole group of followers." Benny Begin: "Why are you always talking in generalities?" Peres: "I am not. I only maintain that in order to pursue the peace process we need the PLO as a partner, and now this partnership is in straits. Therefore we need to help the PLO." Sharon: "Then you mean that we should help that murderer." Peres (angrily banging at the table): "And what about the Egyptians with whom you people made a peace? Didn't the Egyptians murder any Jews? Really, what's the difference between war and terrorism? Does it make any difference how were the 16,000 of our soldiers killed? Everywhere states are making deals with terror organizations!" Netanyahu: "There exists no state which has made a deal with an organization still committed to its destruction. The PLO has not rescinded the Palestinian Covenant. You are dwelling upon the crime committed in Hebron not in order to reassure people living there, but in order to advance your plan to establish a Palestinian state." Peres: "It is you and your plans which will lead to the formation of a Palestinian state, because it is you, the Likud, who created the PLO in Madrid. It is you who conceived the autonomy in the first place, contrary to all our [previously pursued] aims." Netanyahu: "Autonomy is not the same thing as a state." Peres: "But it is Sharon who is the first to say that autonomy is bound to lead to a Palestinian state.. . . I am not less steadfast than you are, and this is why I have elaborated the most restrictive of possible interpretations of autonomy, in relation to its territory, its powers and its authorities. This is why we are against the international observers and consent only to temporary presence of representatives from the countries contributing money. And as to the Palestinian Covenant, they have renounced it publicly, except that they find it difficult to convene their representative bodies to ratify this renunciation." Begin: "Let me remind you that the PLO has not undertaken publicly to rescind the Palestinian Covenant." Peres (angrily): "I don't give a damn for you and your legalistic verbiage! Arafat said that he renounced the Palestinian Covenant and for me Arafat is the PLO."

Those who still expect the Rabin-Peres government to change its policies under the impact of the massacre would be well-advised to acquaint themselves with this exchange.



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