During the week following Purim, the Knesset held two lengthy debates on the Cave of Machpelah killings.[58] In both the debates, members of the Knesset from both right and left wing parties, from the religious and secular parties, from the Jewish and Arab parties all condemned Baruch Goldstein in the strongest possible terms. He was described as a despicable murderer, a base murderer, an insane murderer and a scoundrel, a number of the members identifying Baruch Goldstein by name.[59] It was one of the rare occasions when there was unity in the Knesset!

Had Baruch Goldstein already been found guilty of perpetrating a massacre, then such condemnation would have been fully and totally justified.

But this was not the case! No court of law had found him guilty - not even the Shamgar Commission had yet met!

Although there had not as yet been an investigation, it was right and proper for the Knesset to hold a session to talk about what had happened in the Cave of Machpelah that Purim. However such a session should have been solely to express extreme sorrow at the loss of life and limb and to resolve that a full inquiry in accordance with judicial principles would be held to investigate what had happened.

On 27 February 1994, the Prime Minister of Israel, Yitzchak Rabin, wrote to President of the Supreme Court, Judge Meir Shamgar informing him that on that same day the Government had decided that “the massacre which occurred in the Cave of Machpelah...” was of such great public importance as to warrant the establishment of a commission of inquiry to investigate it.[60] Accordingly, Judge Shamgar wrote a document appointing the other members of this Commission of Inquiry. In this document he included the phrase: “appointment of a Committee of Inquiry in connection with the massacre which occurred in the Cave of Machpelah...”[61] As one can see, both in the decision of the Government and the document of Judge Shamgar, the events which occurred in the Cave of Machpelah are described as a “massacre”. Since no investigation had yet taken place, surely it would have been far more proper to have used a neutral term such as “event” rather than “massacre”?

Even quicker off the mark than the Prime Minister was Arab Knesset Member Abdul Darawshe. Already on Purim, he filed a petition with the High Court asking them to order the government and the army to set up an independent commission of inquiry; take weapons away from “extremist” settlers; put such settlers in administrative detention; seal or destroy the house of Baruch Goldstein; and put a curfew on Kiryat Arba. Since the Cabinet agreed to his first three demands, he withdrew this petition.[62]

The newspapers and electronic media in Israel and indeed the rest of the world, were at that period full of this event, the overwhelming majority strongly condemning Baruch Goldstein. However one cannot blame most of them. They had not prior to this time ever heard of Dr. Baruch Goldstein and on the face of what was reported (and perhaps, more significantly, what was not reported) assumed he had perpetrated a massacre, in the same way as gunmen in different parts of the world who had gunned down innocent people.

As an example of public ignorance, let us take an exchange of letters in 1995 between about 9 people which appeared on the Internet and dealt with the Jewish religious aspects of Baruch Goldstein’s actions.[63] What is noteworthy is that these people seem to have been completely unaware of the fact that there was massive evidence showing that the Arabs of Hebron were planning an imminent massacre of the Jews.

The power of the media today is immense. Gruesome pictures accompanied by a selective commentary can influence and prejudice the viewer. These are the methods used by some reporters to indoctrinate the public at large with beliefs which are often far removed from the true facts. It has even been said that the choice of one word over another can subtly shape audience opinion.

More serious even than media distortions, was that any person making a statement about Baruch Goldstein which could be twisted so as to imply that the speaker was praising a massacre, could find himself summoned for police questioning. A case in point was Rabbi Dov Lior, the Chief Rabbi of Kiryat Arba.

In November 1996, Ya’acov, the elder son of Baruch Goldstein celebrated his Barmitzvah. At the celebration, during the course of an address, Rabbi Lior said, “Go in the way of your father. He was a righteous and very brave man.”[64] I myself was present at this celebration and heard his speech at first hand but did not find anything in it that praised Baruch Goldstein’s actions of that Purim. However some left wing politicians who were not even present thought otherwise! Knesset Member Yossi Sarid applied to the Attorney General to have Rabbi Lior immediately suspended and demanded that an investigation be opened against him for incitement.[65] A question was also addressed in the Knesset to the Minister of Internal Security (Police) by Arab Knesset Member Ahmed Said. In reply the Minister answered that the matter had been investigated by the police and they intended summoning Rabbi Lior to the police station for questioning.[66] Indeed the police went to Rabbi Lior’s house and questioned him for about fifteen minutes on this matter.[67] Rabbi Lior described this interpretation of his speech as “a wicked distortion.”[68]

On the first anniversary of Baruch Goldstein’s death, his family and friends planned to arrange a memorial service by his grave, as is customary in Jewish tradition. On hearing of this, the Minister of Absorption, Yair Tzaban, who is a member of an extreme left wing party, approached the Attorney General with a request that the army prevent the service taking place.[69] Likewise the Minister of Education, Amnon Rubinstein, who is of the same political party, approached the army with a similar request.[70] The army declared a 20 km. area around Kiryat Arba as a closed military area![71] However, everyone who wanted to attend had no trouble in reaching Kiryat Arba and the service took place as planned, with a very large turnout, which included Knesset Member Professor Shaul Gutman, and former Knesset Member Rabbi Eliezer Waldman. The keynote speaker at a service which followed in a local Synagogue, was Rabbi Dov Lior.[72] Since then, memorial services have taken place every year.

Even the Israeli school network became involved. Following Dr. Goldstein’s action, the Ministry of Education published a booklet which suggested ways to initiate classroom discussion on the subject.[73] The booklet said that the teachers should stress the importance of law and order and the obligation of everybody to observe the law.[74] It goes without saying that observance of the law is a vitally important subject to be stressed in any educational system. However this booklet “judged” Baruch Goldstein to be guilty in the same way as the politicians and the media had - indeed the booklet was built around this fact. It is a pity that this opportunity was not utilised by the Ministry of Education, (a Ministry whose function is to educate its citizens), to show that the very same law which is incumbent on every citizen to observe, does not condemn a person as guilty without proper judicial proceedings.

There were a few articles in the press which explained the background to Baruch Goldstein’s actions. One of these was a whole page article written by Yisrael Goldstein, Baruch’s father, which appeared in the New York paper, “The Jewish Press” in October 1994.[75] A letter in this same newspaper saying that Goldstein “pre-emptively struck, thus saving many Jewish lives” was written by a non-Jew, Carl Bishop, who was present in the Cave of Machpelah several times in the days preceding Purim and could thus assess the situation at first hand.[76] There were also several similar articles by Dr. Manfred Lehmann[77] and Arnold Fine[78] which appeared in the American Jewish papers.

A similar type of article[79] and an editorial[80] in a Canadian paper “The West Island Suburban” caused unpleasantness for the writer of the article, Dan Nimrod, and also for the editor of the newspaper. Nearly a year later, a complaint was lodged with the Press Council of Quebec by a certain John Dirlik.[81] By that time I had done a considerable amount of research on Baruch Goldstein’s killings and I was requested to help in this matter. I therefore sent my findings to the Editor of “The Suburban” to assist him in answering this complaint.[83]

To return to the period immediately following Purim 1994: Having come originally from England, I was sure that there would be adverse comment about Dr. Baruch Goldstein in the British Jewish Press. Therefore on the basis of my preliminary investigations I wrote a letter to the largest circulation Jewish newspaper of Britain, the “Jewish Chronicle,” giving the background to the event. I sent my letter by fax and within just half an hour I received a telephone call from the editor of the “Letters to the Editor” page of the newspaper. He said he wanted to publish my letter and even though he had already set up the typeset for that week’s edition of the paper, he would reset it to incorporate a shortened version of my letter. He explained that there was not room at that stage for the entire letter. A condensed version appeared which indeed incorporated my major points.[83]

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 criticise or condemn their actions only after a court of law has found them guilty.

Many prominent figures and ordinary citizens were besmirched in the press and electronic media, yet were later all found to be innocent!

Ehud Barak found himself in this unenviable position. It occurred in November 1992 when he was Chief of Staff. In an army training accident at Tze’elim 2, five soldiers were killed. Ehud Barak was accused by the media of ignoring the wounded soldiers in the field and fleeing. An investigation of the incident was made by the State Comptroller and the results of this investigation, which came out more than six years after the incident, exonerated Barak of any wrongdoing. Barak stressed that he was “sure the report [of the State Comptroller] will show that the slander against me is without basis.” He demanded the immediate publication of the report.[84]

Another prominent Ehud whose reputation was tarnished by the media was Ehud Olmert, the Mayor of Jerusalem. In November 1996, he was indicted on fraud charges. The matter came before the Tel Aviv District Court who cleared him of these charges.[85] Mayors of other major cities - Herzliya,[86] Petah Tiqva,[87] Eilat[88] - have also had criminal charges brought against them, but were acquitted in the courts.

Ya’acov Ne’eman felt it proper to resign his position of Minister of Justice, after he was charged with perjury and suborning a witness. In the subsequent trial he was acquitted, but despite being found innocent, he never regained his position as Minister of Justice.[89]

In this context, we should also remember the Arlosoroff case. In 1933, Chaim Arlosoroff, a leader of Mapai (the Zionist Labour Party) was assassinated in Tel Aviv.[90] This caused the Zionist Left to circulate a calumny against the Revisionists (the Zionist Right) accusing them of the assassination. They were called murderers and it was dangerous for a Revisionist to walk in the streets. Although there was evidence in the hands of the Left to show that the Revisionists were not involved in the assassination, it was suppressed. Even so strong a left-winger as Shulamit Aloni could not accept such conduct and she wrote, “What sort of loyalty does a person owe his party and leader that he collaborates in concealing witnesses, suborning perjury. suppressing documents? I am perplexed and embarrassed by the sort of loyalty which sociopolitical pressure could impose on otherwise intelligent and honest folks.” For decades the Left continued to insist that Arlosoroff was assassinated by the Revisionists, and only after Menachem Begin came to power in 1977, was an independent Commission of Inquiry set up to investigate the matter. Its conclusions showed that Arlosoroff was in fact not killed by the Revisionists.[91] False accusations which had been made for nearly half a century could be put to rest.

“If this could happen to me it could happen to any citizen in the country” said Avigdor Kahalani, a former Internal Security Minister of Israel. Kahalani had just been acquitted of charges alleging that he had obstructed justice and had passed on secret information.[92]

Indeed, even the ordinary man in the street has sometimes found his name besmirched in the press for committing a crime of which he was completely innocent. On this, Chaim Herzog, a former President of the State of Israel wrote, “After the tragic murder of a young Israeli at a demonstration in favor of peace with the Arabs, several suspects were arrested and saw their names in headlines before the real murderer was finally sentenced to life imprisonment. A totally innocent suspect left the country when life became unbearable for his family. Headlines were more important than the truth, but the Knesset would do nothing about it.”[93]

A similar incident arose after a hoax telephone call to the Knesset reporting the death of Knesset Member Amnon Rubinstein. After a memorial prayer, a minute’s silence and a eulogy had been held in the Knesset plenum, it was discovered that Rubinstein was not dead![94] The matter was put in the hands of the police and a few days later a completely innocent elderly couple were arrested and accused of making this hoax telephone call. Despite their denials they were interrogated for several hours at the police station and then released on bail.[95] Their names were reported on the electronic media and in the newspapers where their photographs also appeared. All this caused them great distress, and they suffered public humiliation, until a few days later when the real perpetrator was found. [96]

As a result of my preliminary investigations into the Goldstein case, I realised that much of the background to the killings was not being disclosed and that in the interests of justice the entire matter needed to be investigated. Listening on the radio to the proceedings of the Shamgar Commission which were broadcast live, I would repeatedly hear the members of the Commission describing Baruch Goldstein as a “murderer” even before hearing the evidence. This reinforced my view that further investigation was necessary.

As will be described in detail in the following chapters, I examined all the open material connected with the Shamgar Report and in the summer of 1995 brought out the results of my research. I afterwards rechecked and revised the material and brought out a corrected version. This later version was used as an exhibit in the trial of those accused of publishing the book “Baruch Ha-Gever.” My conclusions on this material are available for consideration by an investigative commission.

Since I knew Dr. Baruch Goldstein personally, I do not feel that I can come to an objective decision on the reasons for his act. An independent investigative commission is required to come to such an objective decision.

Baruch Goldstein’s act could be linked with such legal issues as “pre-emptive strikes”, “lesser of two evils”, “activities in time of war” or more likely a combination of these issues. I shall therefore quote material such as statutes, legal precedents and writings of legal authorities, and offer my conclusions on this material for consideration by the investigative commission.

I wish to stress that I am offering all this material solely as one would submit material to a Court or Commission of Inquiry for their consideration.

I am certain that this material is not exhaustive. It goes without saying that in the same way, any other person has every right to submit other material to an investigative commission for their consideration.

to continue

to footnotes

to contents

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

to view "The Collected Writings of Rabbi Dr. Chaim Simons" please click here