Goldstein and Hebron Ten Years Later
Ariel Natan Pasko
02 March 2004
A new study by Rabbi Dr. Chaim Simons reexamines the Baruch Goldstein massacre, ten years later.
What really happened
ten years ago, in Hebron, at the Cave of Machpela -- the Tomb of the Patriarchs
-- or as the Arabs call it the Ibrahimi Mosque? The short answer everyone
"knows," is that Dr. Baruch Goldstein carried out a massacre on the Jewish
Holiday of Purim, Feb. 25, 1994. But a new study by Rabbi Dr. Chaim Simons,
entitled, "Did or Did Not Dr. Baruch Goldstein Massacre 29 Arabs?"
has just appeared for the tenth anniversary of the event. In it, he questions
the "common knowledge" and raises some serious issues that need to be addressed.
Lest one think that Rabbi Dr. Simons is some right-wing crackpot, his thoroughly
researched work of about 150 pages, includes 714 footnotes and a bibliography
of over 150 books, journal and newspaper articles, interviews, archival records,
and quotations from legal sources from Israel, England, America, Canada,
Australia, and Jewish Law.
According to the biographical information on his website, Rabbi Dr. Simons
holds a Bachelor of Science degree with First Class Honors in Chemistry and
Physics from the University of London and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in
Chemistry from the same University. He also holds a Bachelors degree in Educational
Technology. He possesses a Rabbinical Diploma and is a qualified teacher
with decades of experience in education, which includes the setting and marking
of matriculation exams in Israel. Rabbi Dr. Simons has written a number of
books and booklets on a variety of subjects, including "International Proposals
to Transfer Arabs from Palestine 1895-1947: A Historical Survey," published
by KTAV (1988), probably the most thorough academic review of the issue and
also available on his site. So, he's a serious scholar.
Rabbi Dr. Simons states in the book's dedication, "In the interests of truth
and justice, a Commission of Inquiry should be established -- the composition
of which to be acceptable both to the Israeli authorities and to the Goldstein
family -- whose sole function would be to determine whether the killings
by Dr. Baruch Goldstein should be classed as a massacre of Arabs or a pre-emptive
strike to prevent a massacre of Jews."
Rabbi Dr. Simons reviews the events leading up to Goldstein's attack. He
raises the issue of Goldstein's prior knowledge of intelligence warnings,
that Arabs planned a massacre of Jews -- Goldstein was an emergency doctor
for the Kiryat Arba Terrorist Attack Response Team -- to take place that
Purim morning in the Cave of Machpela. He Discusses whether Goldstein "planned"
an attack on Arabs or "responded" to what he saw as the Israeli Army's indifference
to an impending attack on Jews. He questions, "What if a Government Fails
to Act?" and then analyzes the legal status of "Killings Sanctioned By Law,"
discussing "killing as an act of self-defense," "killing due to necessity,"
and "killing during a war."
Rabbi Dr. Simons concludes that, "The killings by Baruch Goldstein could
possibly come under one of these headings or a combination of two or even
all three." But then he stresses "that I do not offer any conclusions on
Some of the more interesting points Rabbi Dr. Simons makes in his book include
his description of the near "lynch" atmosphere in the media and by Israeli
government officials just after the incident, describing it with the value-laden
term "massacre," before a full inquiry of the events could take place. Rabbi
Dr. Simons prefers to use the more neutral term "killing" throughout his
Rabbi Dr. Simons works on the assumption that Baruch Goldstein went out to
kill that morning, as did the Shamgar Commission, which shows the slanted
nature of the commission's investigation. Several other theories of what
took place that morning exist, that Goldstein was in fact attacked first
and responded in self-defense -- the only eyewitnesses are the Arabs that
were involved in the event -- that the Israeli Army passively let him carry
out the killings, to avoid the tragedy of an attack on the Jews of Hebron,
or as the Arabs claim, the Israeli Army was involved in the attack itself.
None of these alternatives were investigated by the commission.
Rabbi Dr. Simons takes issue with the workings of the Shamgar Commission
-- the commission of inquiry set up to investigate the event -- itself. He
points out their refusal to take testimony in multiple instances. He then
shows the biased composition of the commission including a known left-wing
activist and "Peace Now" supporter, Professor Menachem Ya'ari, and an Arab
Judge, Abed el-Rahman Zouabi.
Rabbi Dr. Simons states, "if we study the minutes of the proceedings of the
Shamgar Commission, we can see that three of its five members -- Judge Abed
el-Rahman Zouabi, Lieutenant General (res.) Moshe Levy, and Professor Menachem
Ya'ari -- were describing Baruch Goldstein as a "murderer" even before they
had heard all the evidence...It was not just a stray remark by one of the
members of the Shamgar Commission. Baruch Goldstein was called a "murderer"
no fewer than 17 times by Judge Zouabi, 6 times by Moshe Levi and twice by
Menachem Ya'ari [at the beginning stages of the hearings]...It is a cardinal
principle of law that a person is innocent until proved guilty. If a majority
of the Commission had already decided that Baruch Goldstein was a murderer
before hearing all of the evidence, then the objectivity of the section of
the Report dealing with Baruch Goldstein is surely put in doubt!"
The Shamgar Commission's Report was only published in Hebrew and to help
facilitate the international media's reporting on it, the Israeli Foreign
Ministry translated selected excerpts.
Rabbi Dr. Simons also refers to Haggai Segal's article, entitled "A failure to inform," which appeared in the Jerusalem Post
on July 11, 1994. Segal wrote about the commission's findings, pointing
out facts that the media conveniently ignored. Segal wrote, "The public doesn't
know that the commission charged a key witness from the Wakf [Islamic Trust]
with giving false testimony, expressed an understanding of the motivations
of the Jews in Hebron, indirectly rebuked Yitzchak Rabin, and even mentioned
the purchase of the Cave of the Patriarchs by Abraham from a local merchant...[The
Commission considered that] 'the release of the terrorists [over 1000 in
May 1985] raised tension between the Jewish residents and the Arab population
of the area. Oddly, we didn't hear this quote on the radio. And, wonder of
wonders: it didn't appear in the press. For some reason, but apparently not
by chance, the media have failed to mention the astounding statistics for
Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] collected by the commission [regarding
the countless attacks by Arabs against Jews]...An additional section, as
yet uncited, verifies the claim of the residents of Kiryat Arba that Goldstein
acted fearing a massacre from the other side...Not even one reporter quoted
the commission's sensational recommendation that the intifada be crushed."
Rabbi Dr. Simons brings another interesting fact to light. Besides the voluminous
testimony of over nine officers from the defense establishment -- to the
Shamgar Commission -- on their intelligence reports for two and a half weeks
prior to Purim, about a planned Arab attack on the Jews of Hebron, and the
numerous other sources he quotes that corroborate that, even the mainstream
Israeli media reported on the impending danger.
A leaflet was being circulated in Hebron by Hamas, saying that on the 25th
or 26th of February -- the 25th being Purim -- a terrorist attack would take
place in Hebron. This leaflet was referred to in an article in the newspaper
Yediot Aharonot, the morning of February 25th -- note, this was printed before
Goldstein's act -- which said that the Arab residents of Hebron were notified
by means of leaflets, loudspeakers and inscriptions on walls to stock up
with food in anticipation of a long curfew which would follow a gigantic
attack against the Jews by Hamas. The existence of this leaflet, which had
been circulated in Hebron by Hamas, was also reported in the Shamgar Commission
Rabbi Dr. Simons informs us that in the week prior to that Purim morning,
there were several incidents of Arab mobs at the Cave of Machpela shouting
"Itbach al-Yahood-Slaughter the Jews!" This included threats to the Jews
there, being spat upon, and struck.
Rabbi Dr. Simons describes an incident that happened five days before Purim,
when a group of 120 Americans went to visit the Cave of Machpela. Although
the soldiers had insisted that Arabs not go into the courtyard of the Cave
whilst the Jews were there, a group of Arabs -- between 50 and 100 -- succeeded
in bursting into the courtyard screaming "Itbach al-Yahood." At that time,
the Jews were peacefully praying the evening service. One of the Americans
present referred to three other occasions during the days before Purim --
twice on the Sabbath and once on the following Wednesday -- when he visited
the Cave of Machpela and was subjected to Arab rioting, insults and, on two
of these occasions, the yelling of "Itbach al-Yahood." He added that on each
visit he was personally threatened and struck by Arabs. He wrote a letter
to the Jerusalem Post about his experiences -- that was published
-- and a Bar-Ilan University professor submitted the "letter to the editor"
in a letter to the commission. The Shamgar Commission did not invite the
American who was attacked, to give evidence.
Other elements of the picture that Rabbi Dr. Simons informs us about include,
that the metal detector at the East Gate where most of the Arabs entered
that Friday Purim morning was damaged the night before. That an unusually
large number of Arabs came to the Machpela that Friday -- some 500 men and
300 women -- only a handful of the men were searched, but not one of the
women. And that after the Goldstein incident, three automatic weapons were
found in the Machpela -- other than Goldstein's weapon -- including one wrapped
in an Arab Keffiya (scarf). All these elements point to a planned attack
on the Jews at the Cave of Machpela that Purim morning.
Rabbi Dr. Simons also raises the issues of how Baruch Goldstein died and
asks why haven't the Arabs involved in his murder been prosecuted. He points
out that the pathologist's report says that numerous blows to the head, from
all directions -- from long blunt instruments -- caused Goldstein's death.
It also speaks of a smashed in skull, damage to the brain, broken ribs and
a broken left arm. In her evidence to the Shamgar Commission, Goldstein's
widow, Miriam, said that the face was so mutilated that even Baruch's brother
had difficulty in identifying him.
Rabbi Dr. Simons then asks, "Why was the body in such a state? Did the Arabs
have to do all this as an act of self-defense?" He states, "the answer can
be found in statements made by Arabs who were in the Isaac Hall at the time."
According to Rabbi Dr. Simons, a Muslim worshipper, Awad Abu-S'nina, present
in the Machpela, testified to B'Tzelem -- an organization that describes
itself as "The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied
Territories" -- that while Goldstein was changing the magazine in his rifle,
Awad grabbed the weapon and immediately his father, Ayub Abu-S'nina, took
the weapon from him and threw it aside. B'Tzelem's report was handed over
to the Shamgar Commission
Rabbi Dr. Simons continues, when questioned by the police, another Muslim
worshipper, Al-Mutlab Natshe, described how about ten Arabs then fell on
Goldstein, knocked him onto the ground and beat him to death with metal poles.
A 12-year-old boy, Ala S'eid Ali Ashur, stated that a large number of Arabs
beat Goldstein with a fire extinguisher and the metal poles from the room
dividers. Another Muslim worshipper, Ashraf Karaki, told the police that
he saw Baruch Goldstein lying dead on the floor with a lot of blood on his
neck and head and he also saw a large metal pole on his body and a large
number of similar type poles around him.
Testimony also comes from Israeli Army Private Avihai Zahala, who saw over
the closed-circuit television system operating in the Cave of Machpela, that
after the shooting ended, about three Arabs with metal poles going towards
the area of the Hall where Goldstein was killed.
Rabbi Dr. Simons then concludes, "From all this we can see that Baruch Goldstein
was beaten to death after his rifle had been taken from him. This fact is
confirmed in two places in the Shamgar Report, and this Report specifically
states that this was done by Moslem worshippers. Furthermore, the official
death certificate issued by the Israeli Ministry of the Interior, states
the cause of death as murder."
The police investigated the murder of Baruch Goldstein and by December 1994,
they reached the conclusion that he had been murdered in cold blood by Muslim
worshippers after his weapon had been taken away.
One of the Arabs present that Purim in the cave of Machpela was a collaborator
with the Israeli authorities. This collaborator knows the names of the Arabs
who murdered Baruch Goldstein and also to which organization they belong.
But State Attorney Dorit Benish -- later appointed a judge to the Israeli
Supreme Court -- decided not to open criminal proceedings against the Arabs
who were accused of murdering Baruch Goldstein. In June 1995, the Legal Adviser
to the Government, Michael Ben-Yair, endorsed Benish's decision.
Rabbi Dr. Simons points out that, "To date, no Arab has been charged with
Baruch Goldstein's murder. This can be contrasted with the case of a Jewish
settler, Yoram Skolnik, who killed an Arab terrorist after he had been disarmed.
Skolnik was immediately arrested, charged, brought to trial and sentenced
to life imprisonment for murder. Later, President Ezer Weizman reduced Skolnik's
sentence first to 15 years and then to 11 years. After serving 7 years, a
parole board followed standard practice and took off one third of his remaining
sentence for good behavior. This did not find favor with Meretz Knesset Member
Zahava Galon, who challenged the parole board's decision in the High Court,
who then ruled that this decision was unacceptable. Yoram Skolnik thus remained
in jail. To the best of my knowledge, Zahava Galon has never challenged the
fact that the Arabs who murdered Baruch Goldstein have never been brought
Why haven't they? In a democracy, the law should be applied equally.
As with most good research, Rabbi Dr. Simons raises many more questions than
he answers. Although, I must tell you, he does quite a job of informing one
of the facts, relating to before, during, and after the Goldstein incident.
With the rise of vicious, unrelenting Arab terror against Jews in Israel
these last few years, the events of the past take on new shades of meaning.
I feel Rabbi Dr. Simons' book sheds new light on the Goldstein incident,
and is well worth reading for those who seek the truth about what really
happened and its surrounding circumstances.
In conclusion, I want to point out that Rabbi Dr. Simons states, "I myself
wish to stress that I strongly deplore and condemn any form of killing of
innocent people whether Jewish or non-Jewish, not sanctioned by law, or indeed
any form of injury or harassment of such people not sanctioned by law. However,
I can pass no judgment on Dr. Baruch Goldstein since the incident has never
been adjudicated. As was quite rightly repeatedly pointed out when a number
of prominent people were being accused of various crimes, one can criticize
or condemn their actions only after a court of law has found them guilty..."
Ariel Natan Pasko is an independent analyst & consultant. His articles can be read at: www.geocities.com/ariel_natan_pasko.
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