Gaining access to the archival material
A few days after Purim, the Government of Israel decided to set up a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the “Massacre which occurred in the Cave of Machpelah.”
One of the members appointed - Professor Menachem Ya’ari - had in the past attended demonstrations of the left-wing “Peace Now” movement and had also attended its meetings. Thus his appointment initially caused Likud Knesset member Michael Eitan to demand his disqualification and this roused the ire of the “Peace Now” movement! It is very possible that when Judge Shamgar invited Ya’ari to sit on this Commission, he did not know of his involvement with this movement; at all events he remained a member.
The Commission got to work very quickly by Israel’s standards. All the sessions were broadcast on the radio and television. As I have already said, when listening to these sessions I was struck by the fact that even before hearing all the evidence, several members of the Commission were already referring to Baruch Goldstein as a “murderer”!
A few months later, a Report of the findings of this Commission numbering over 300 pages was published. It was naturally published in Hebrew, the official language of Israel, but since Hebrew is a language which does not rank high in the number of speakers on the face of the earth, the Israel Foreign Ministry excerpted several chapters of this Report in English, for the benefit of the world. This translation was also sent, together with “Steps taken by the Israeli authorities in the aftermath of killings,” to the United Nations “as a matter of courtesy.”
Soon after publication of the Report, an article by Haggai Segal entitled “A failure to inform” appeared in the “Jerusalem Post” pointing out facts which the press conveniently omitted to report. He wrote: “The public doesn’t know that the commission charged a key witness from the Wakf 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.”
All this made me decide to investigate the affair. The Report had stated that the minutes of open sessions of the Commission and other material not deemed secret were open to the public for inspection. However I soon found out that it was not so simple!
I went to the then new building of the Israel Supreme Court, which is situated not too far from the office of the Prime Minister in Jerusalem. It was in this building that the sittings of this Commission took place.
I was directed from office to office, grilled as to why I wanted to refer to these documents and given excuses why I could not see them! I did however learn that they were in fact not there but in the State Archives.
I then contacted the State Archives and was given a different round of excuses as to why I could not refer to this material. After two letters which I wrote to the Supreme Court remained unanswered, I decided to write directly to Judge Meir Shamgar.
Here is a translation from the Hebrew of my letter:
“The Shamgar Report states on page 254: “Minutes of open sessions and exhibits which are not classified for reasons of state security, will be open for inspection by all those who are interested.’
“However from my personal experience this is not so! I have been trying over a long period of time to get access to this material but without success!
“I bring to his Honour the Judge the various answers which I have received from different clerks, together with my comments:
1. One requires an authorisation from the Registrar of the Supreme Court
Why does one require an authorisation to inspect material which is ‘open for inspection by all those who are interested’?
2. One is obligated to detail the reasons why one wants to inspect the material
Why is it necessary to detail the reasons to inspect material which is ‘open for inspection by all those who are interested’?
3. One is obligated to specify exactly which part of the material one wishes to inspect.
Let us suppose that a member of the public wishes to inspect a particular subject in the material, but because he does not know its location, he needs to do a search. In addition it is possible that someone wishes to make a general inspection of the material. Don’t these people have a right to inspect the material?
4. It is not accurate that the material is open for inspection by the public
A very strange answer!
“I therefore very much request from his Honour the Judge that he ensure that the above material should be ‘open for inspection by all those who are interested’ without inconvenience to the public and without ‘interrogations’.”
Following this letter, I received a telephone call from a member of the staff of the State Archives. They were extremely apologetic and said there had been a misunderstanding. They informed me that Judge Alon Gillon, the Registrar of the Commission had been ill for several months and I would henceforth have free access to this material. I must acknowledge that when I subsequently arrived there on numerous occasions for this purpose, they were very helpful indeed.
A week or so later I also received a letter from Judge Gillon confirming what the staff member of the State Archives had said to me in his telephone conversation.
I should also mention that it was not easy to purchase a copy of the Report. I was told that one had to go in person to the Supreme Court to buy it - even if one lived at the other end of Israel! It could not be sent by post. Haggai Segal had also commented on the difficulties in obtaining a copy.
At the time I got the impression, I sincerely hope erroneously, from the difficulties in purchasing the Report and the difficulties I initially experienced in access to the archival material, that “someone” was not keen on too close an investigation. In this context, it could possibly be relevant to mention the following: Yitzchak Rabin who was then both Prime Minister and Minister of Defence (and thus in possession of the most highly classified material), was opposed to the setting up of a Commission to investigate this incident. Only after the members of his Cabinet insisted on such a Commission did Rabin agree! Rabin, at his own request, gave all his evidence behind closed doors. (In contrast, even the Chief of Staff gave only the classified part of his evidence behind closed doors.)
In addition to the published Shamgar Report, there is also a “secret supplement.” Avraham Ben-Yosef, who is the Mayor of the Hebron Jewish Municipal Council, and in this position visits many army and civilian offices, saw in the offices of the Regional Commander and the Area Commanding General, a supplement to the Shamgar Report consisting of a collection of stapled papers marked “secret”. Needless to say, he was unable to read it. According to “leaks”, this secret supplement states that Baruch Goldstein’s act was a pre-emptive strike to prevent a massacre of Jews.
In the early part of 1995, I spent ten or eleven days going through over two thousand pages of minutes of the open sessions of the Shamgar Commission. I also went through hundreds of associated documents (exhibits) and letters written to the Commission by members of the public. Each day I listed the pages I needed photocopies of and passed them on to the Staff to photocopy. By the end of my work there, I had photocopied three hundred pages.
From this material, I wrote up my first version of the facts leading up to Purim 1994 and what happened on that day in the Cave of Machpelah. At a later date, I made a number of revisions and corrections to my research and brought out a new version. My paper which was originally written in English was then translated into Hebrew.
I had a meeting with Tzvi Katzover, the Mayor of Kiryat Arba and his spokesman Tzuriel Popovitz (now Tzuf) at which I handed them a copy of my paper. Seeing that people who had written things about Baruch Goldstein, which were not to the liking of “certain people” had found themselves subject to police investigation, I requested that Katzover ask the Legal Advisor to the Kiryat Arba Local Council to read my paper and check that there was nothing there which could be interpreted to be illegal. I said that if the paper was found to be in order, the Local Council was free to use it. Later on Popovitz informed me that their Legal Advisor had read it and said there was nothing illegal in it.
In the spring of 1998, a long article appeared in the weekly newspaper “Kol Hashavua,” which extensively utilised my paper and agreed with its conclusions. A few weeks later, an English translation of this article was circulated. A Russian translation of the first version of my paper was also circulated.
Were Arabs planning an attack against the Jews?
A study of the Minutes of the proceedings of the Shamgar Commission (over 2,200 pages in open sessions alone) reveals that intelligence sources had reported on an impending attack by Arabs against Jews in Hebron in the period around Purim. This was not just a stray statement given by one witness, but the clear and unambiguous testimony of no fewer than nine officers in the defense establishment!
These witnesses were Colonel Moshe Zin, an officer of the Operations Department of the Central Command ; Colonel Amnon Sufrin, an intelligence officer of the Central Command ; Major Dov Stelman, the army Commander of the Cave of Machpelah ; Lieutenant Colonel Ami Burger, an officer of the Operations Department of the Central Command ; Major Dan Reshef, an intelligence officer of the Hebron Brigade ; Colonel Shalom Goldstein, the Military Governor of Hebron ; Lieutenant Ilan Biton, assistant army Commander of the Cave of Machpelah ; Lieutenant Yitzchak Hamudot, a Commander of the Tanks Company and deputy Commander of army unit assigned to Cave of Machpelah ; and Colonel Yoav Galant.
From the evidence given by these witnesses we can see that during the two and a half weeks prior to Purim a number of warnings of an attack had been received. Intelligence reports on a planned Arab attack against Jews in Hebron were received around the 6th February and the 10th February, and further reports were received during the days preceding Purim. Two of the witnesses added that they would give additional details in a closed session of the hearings. It is also probable that in the closed minutes and exhibits additional such warnings are given Major Stelman referred to an intelligence report of a planned attack on Jews on their way to the Cave of Machpelah, and the context may indicate that he was referring to Purim.
Further confirmation of these warnings comes from the submission to the Shamgar Commission by Yisrael Ben-Aharon who was on army reserve duty in the Hebron area during the entire month of February. He wrote that during that month there were a large number of warnings of an impending Arab attack on the Jews in Hebron. The number of these warnings increased towards Purim, and they were very serious indeed.
Following the killings by Baruch Goldstein, the local Jerusalem weekly paper “Kol Ha’ir” reported that in Kiryat Arba they were saying that the Military Governor of Hebron had said that Baruch Goldstein’s actions had prevented a massacre of Jews. Of course such a newspaper statement is pure hearsay, but it is perhaps significant that no denial of this alleged statement by the Military Governor appeared in either this or subsequent editions of this paper.
A similar assessment was made by Yisrael Ben-Aharon. He had been called as a witness for the prosecution in the case against Michael Ben-Chorin for publishing the memorial book “Baruch Ha-Gever” - (details are given later). Under cross examination he was asked whether Goldstein’s actions could have prevented a massacre of Jews, to which Ben-Aharon replied that “this is possible.”
In the book “Baruch Ha-Gever”, Ruthi Moshe, a resident of Kiryat Arba reported that she had ordered cupboards from a Hebron Arab. Towards the end of the day before Purim, even though he was tired from the fast of Ramadan, he insisted on coming and taking the measurements but Ruthi suggested waiting till after Purim. He answered that something would happen on the morrow and there would be a curfew. She added that she would supply the name of this Arab if necessary. I contacted Ruthi but for some reason she declined to give me the name. However at a later date, she was a witnesses for the defence in the “Baruch Ha-Gever” case. Under oath she testified that this Arab had warned her when he heard that she intended going to the Cave of Machpelah on Purim to hear the reading of the Megillah. He said: “It is not worth it. Don’t go to the Cave of Machpelah. Go to Kiryat Arba. It is safer.”
Another Jewish resident of the area, Yitzchak Matoof, reported that a Hebron Arab he knew well, warned him not to be in Hebron at the end of the week of Purim. I spoke to Matoof for more precise details but he could not be sure whether the Arab had stated the Friday of Purim or the following day.
The seriousness of the situation can also be gauged by the fact that three days before Purim, a meeting was called at a few hours notice, by Major General Shaul Mofaz, Commander of the Judea and Samaria Division. Present at the meeting, in addition to General Mofaz, were Colonel Meir Kalifi, Commander of the Judea Brigade, and the Mayor and Councillors of Kiryat Arba. At that meeting General Mofaz informed those present that they had information that a terror organisation was planning to execute a serious attack, and thus the residents should be exceedingly careful and alert during the coming days. Another indication of the gravity of the situation is that this was the first time ever that a Major General of the Israeli army had convened such a meeting.
After Dr. Goldstein heard about this meeting with General Mofaz, he went to Avraham Ben-Yosef and said in a voice full of emotion and on the verge of tears, “Will you allow this to happen? Why not take action to avoid this catastrophe.” Baruch Goldstein would repeat this statement to anyone who would listen.
After she heard about these warnings of a massacre, Yirat Sharbaf, a resident of Hebron, met with General Mofaz and asked what was being done on this matter. He answered that they should stay indoors. Are we returning to the days of the ghettos?
From the evidence given before the Commission, we can see that these intelligence reports came from not just one, but several different sources. In addition to the General Security Forces (“Shabak”) which was the main source, reports also came from the Civil Administration and from the Brigade.
The significance of these intelligence reports coming just before Purim can be seen from the evidence of the witness Major Stelman who testified that in the period prior to a few weeks before Purim there had been no such reports.
In addition to the various intelligence reports, there were also other possible indications of an impending massacre. One of them was the cry of “Itbach al-Yahood” (“Slaughter the Jews”) by a multitude of Arabs, which was heard on several occasions in the Cave of Machpelah in the days preceding Purim. History has shown that this is not an everyday cry. In 1929, prior to the massacre of 67 Jews in Hebron, this cry was heard both on the day of the massacre and also on the day preceding the massacre.
Although there had been very many skirmishes between Arabs and Jews in the Cave of Machpelah since 1967, two witnesses, both of whom were qualified by virtue of their experience to talk on this subject, testified that they had never heard “Itbach al-Yahood” shouted before in the Cave of Machpelah. The two witnesses were Freddie Kuskus, the Operations Officer of the Border Police Unit in Hebron and Moshe Givati, a former Brigade Commander in Hebron and now a writer and lecturer on matters concerning the army and security. However, during the week before Purim, the slightest of skirmishes would cause Arabs in the Cave of Machpelah to riot and yell “Itbach al-Yahood”!
Five days before Purim, on the night of Saturday, 19 February, a group of 120 Americans went to visit the Cave of Machpelah. Although the soldiers had insisted that Arabs not go into the courtyard of the Cave whilst the Jews were there, a group of Arabs (numbering 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.
Three of those who had been present, Carl Bishop, Reuben Margules and Joseph Gottlieb submitted information to the Shamgar Commission and asked to be allowed to give evidence, or offered to supply further information. In addition Professor Alfred Hassner of Bar-Ilan University enclosed a letter published in the “Jerusalem Post” by Carl Bishop and suggested that Bishop be invited to give evidence. In his submission, Bishop also 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 Machpelah 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. The Shamgar Commission did not invite even one of these Americans to give evidence!
A further incident of the Arabs shouting “Itbach al-Yahood” in the Cave of Machpelah occurred on the night before Purim (i.e. on the Thursday night). It had been agreed between the Sheikh of the Cave of Machpelah, a representative of the Moslem Wakf (Sheikh Ataf Hamori) and the Military Governor of Hebron that the Jews could pray on the night of Purim in the Isaac Hall of the Cave, until eight o'clock. However, at about a quarter past seven, about three hundred Arabs assembled in the adjacent hall and demanded to be allowed to enter the Isaac Hall immediately. They then began to yell “Itbach al-Yahood.” Numerous witnesses to the Commission testified about this shouting, and there can be absolutely no doubt whatsoever of its accuracy!
[The Military Governor suggested a link between these disturbances and the fact that some Arab terrorists had been killed that day near Jerusalem. However in the past there had been many cases of Arab terrorists being killed, yet this did not cause disturbances in the Cave of Machpelah!]
It was not just a few individual hotheads yelling “Itbach al-Yahood,” but a large number of Arabs. The soldier Private Niv Drori testified that this yelling could be heard far outside the building. Although the Jews left the Cave of Machpelah at about eight o'clock that evening, the security forces who had been considerably reinforced after the Arabs began their disturbances that evening, remained there until about eleven o' clock - namely, about three hours after the Jews had left!
It may be significant that during these Arab disturbances that evening, the metal detector at the east gate of the Cave was damaged - (this is discussed later).
A Jewish worshipper at the Cave on that Purim night, Nechama Mushnik, reported: “Arabs behind the metal divider were screaming and gesturing menacingly. The army had to clear a place for me to leave the Cave. Arabs spat on me.”
The arrangements for Purim were not “sprung upon” the Arabs at the last moment. They had been made about a week before with the Sheikh of the Cave together with a representative of the Moslem Wakf, thus one might reasonably assume that the Arabs of Hebron were aware of the arrangements in advance. A few Arab witnesses in fact denied knowledge of the arrangement, but the very same Arabs likewise denied that anyone had yelled “Itbach al-Yahood.”
Furthermore, the Military Governor of Hebron pointed out to the Commission that the previous Purim had also occurred during the Moslem month of Ramadan, and a similar arrangement had been made for the Jews to pray in the Isaac Hall on the night of Purim, yet there had been no untoward incidents then; the Arabs had waited outside and made no disturbances.
[Ramadan is the 9th month in the Moslem calendar. Every day during this month, Moslems fast from dawn when they can distinguish a white thread from a black one, until sunset. Since the Moslem year is about 11 days shorter than the civil year, Ramadan will “move” around the civil year, making a complete cycle in about 33 years. Thus, for example, Ramadan sometimes occurs during the short cold winter days and sometimes during the long hot summer days. In 1973, Ramadan occurred during the autumn and hence the 1973 “Yom Kippur War” is known in Arab circles as the “Ramadan War.”]
Evidence on the atmosphere in Hebron prior to Purim comes from Miriam Levinger, the wife of Rabbi Moshe Levinger. The Levingers have lived in the centre of Hebron since 1981 and so have had considerable experience on gauging the mood of the Arabs. Miriam stated: “Ominous dread before Purim. Something terrible was going to happen. Arabs were mocking us and spitting at us. A noose was being tightened.”
There were also other warnings of a planned Arab attack. An entry in the Log of the Operations Room of the Civil Administration, Hebron District, dated 24th February, 9:30 a.m. states that a leaflet had been distributed in Hebron saying that on the 25th or 26th February, the stress being on the 25th (i.e. Purim), an [Arab] terrorist attack would take place in Hebron. The existence of this leaflet, which had been circulated in Hebron by the Hamas, was also reported in the Shamgar Report.
This leaflet was also referred to in the newspaper “Yediot Aharonot” of 25th February, 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 the Hamas. [One should note that this newspaper had already been printed before Goldstein's act.]
It is true that in any town there are people who distribute leaflets but are not to be taken too seriously; however it is not so in this case. Major General Danny Rothschild, the Activities Coordinator in the Territories, pointed out to the Commission that during the last few years it was the Hamas who had assisted the Arabs by, for example, building schools and orphanages, and hence they had a great deal of influence with the Arab population. Captain Eyal Ziv, advisor on Arab affairs in Hebron, reminded the Commission that since the Arabs of Hebron are religious Moslems, extremist Islamic groups are very strong and active there. Brigadier General Moshe Ya'alon, who until August 1993 had been Commander of the Judea and Samaria Division, testified that since summer 1992, the Hamas inspired shooting incidents in Hebron had increased. The security situation in Hebron had in fact so far deteriorated that Brigadier General David Agmon, advisor on the subject of the Intifada, informed the Commission that he had advised Jews not to walk around Hebron unarmed, and even then not to go alone.
There are also reports of a warning to stock up with food being broadcast over the local Mosques' loudspeaker system. This warning was taken seriously by the local population. This we know from a submission to the Shamgar Commission by army reservist Yisrael Ben-Aharon, who wrote that he had heard, over the army walkie-talkie, a report for the intelligence officer of the Brigade to the effect that the market in Hebron was overflowing with produce and that people were buying large quantities.
Batya Cohen lived in Hebron. She came to Israel from Syria and so she understands Arabic and is able to converse with the local Arabs. She reported that an Arab woman had told her that a leaflet had been distributed two weeks before Purim instructing the Arabs to store up food for an expected, extended curfew. I asked Batya for the name of this Arab woman. She was reluctant to give it to me in case this were to cause problems for the Arab woman. Batya also said that just before Purim, she had heard screaming in Arabic over the loudspeakers that the holy land must be recovered from the “evil people.”
Another Hebron Jewish resident (identified as Mrs. Y.S.) who understands Arabic related that before Purim, she heard instructions to the Arabs on their loudspeakers to store up food.
So far we have spoken about warnings of attacks against Jews which were planned for the period around Purim in Hebron. Did any of these warnings pinpoint the Cave of Machpelah on the morning of Purim itself? A positive answer to this question was given by Lieutenant Yitzchak Hamudot in his testimony to the Shamgar Commission. He said that all the warnings, orders and explanations which were circulated in the days leading up to Purim, referred to a planned attack on the Jews during their prayer service in the Cave of Machpelah at half past seven on the morning of Purim. A similar statement was reported in the newspaper “Yom Layom” by Yigal Amitai and Yitzchak Kainan, who said they had received information from senior officials in the intelligence service [“Shabak”] that the Hamas had planned a massive attack on the Jews in the Cave of Machpelah on the morning of Purim. Obviously, a report in a newspaper has less weight than testimony given before the Commission; however this newspaper report is in accordance with Lieutenant Hamudot's testimony, and also, as we shall see, with the warning given immediately before Purim, that Arabs might try and smuggle explosives into the Cave of Machpelah.
Arabs in Hebron obviously knew that large numbers of Jews were expected in the Cave of Machpelah on Purim morning, since it had been agreed about a week before Purim, between the Sheikh of the Cave, a representative of the Moslem Wakf and the Military Governor, that the Jews be allowed to use the Isaac Hall between seven o'clock and nine-thirty.
Sergeant Kobi Yosef who was on guard duty at the entrance to the Cave of Machpelah testified to the Shamgar Commission that on the days immediately before Purim, warnings were given to the guards that Arab terrorists might try to smuggle explosives into the Cave of Machpelah inside cases or bags and therefore all bags and cases had to be checked.
Situated at the main and east gates to the Cave are detectors to detect any metal i.e. weapons, being smuggled into the building. At the time of that Purim, they were old models which were unreliable. Sergeant Kobi Yosef testified that the detector at the east gate had not been working all the time he had been on duty at that gate, namely the two weeks prior to Purim, and the members of the Commission wrote that it had not worked for several months. The detector at the main gate which was usually in order, was not working on the morning of Purim.
Requests had been made over a year earlier to replace them, but these requests had not been acceded to for budgetary reasons.
Arabs were no doubt fully aware of the state of these detectors. They entered the Cave every day to pray.
According to entries in the Logs of the Operations Rooms of both the Judea Brigade, and the Judea and Samaria Division, during the Arab disturbances on the night before Purim some Arabs damaged even further the already non-functioning detector at the east gate.
At about 5 o’clock on the morning of Purim, an extremely large number of Arabs arrived at the Cave - about 500 men and 300 women. Many hundreds passed through the east gate (where the detector had not been functioning for some time), within the space of a very short period - about a quarter of an hour. According to the official minutes of the Commission on its visit to the Cave, almost all the Arabs entered via this east gate. Although there was nothing to stop them from entering via the main gate, very few chose to do so. From a purely statistical angle, we would have expected far more Arabs to have entered by the main gate. Why did they choose a gate where they knew the metal detector to be out of action? (Although the detector at the main gate was not working on the morning of Purim, there is no evidence that this fact was known in advance.)
Due to the large numbers of Arabs arriving within a short space of time, the soldiers at the gate were only able to do a body search on a small percentage - perhaps about 12 percent - of the men. According to Second Lieutenant Rotem Ravivi, who at the time was Duty Officer of the Cave of Machpelah Company, a search was made only on those Arab men who appeared to the guards to be suspicious characters. No search whatsoever was made on the 300 Arab women - there were not even any women soldiers in the area to carry out such a search. In any case, the orders stated that women were not to be searched. As the witness Ilan Tur pointed out to the Commission, the Moslem women wear long robes - and anything could be hidden under these robes.
An indication of the large number of Arabs who arrived that Purim morning at the Cave, can be seen from the fact that it was not possible to accommodate all of them in the Isaac Hall, and so the Arab guards in the Cave directed the women to an adjacent room. According to the Arab guard, Haj Ahmad Nasr, this was the first time in 27 years that this had occurred, two Moslem worshippers, Muhamed Sari Al-Jibri and Melicha Ja'abri also gave similar evidence on this point. However, another Arab guard, Isma'il Hasalmon, contended that it had on occasion occurred before.
We have already shown that the impending massacre of the Jews in Hebron was well known to the Arabs of Hebron. It is possible that the reason that an unprecedented number of Arabs came to the Cave of Machpelah that Purim morning was to at least to watch, if not to physically take part, in such a massacre. If this is indeed so, could they still be classed as “innocent bystanders”?
[It is a known fact that in Moslem countries, crowds come to watch executions, whippings and punitive amputations and cheer. For example, when Elie Cohen was hanged in the public square in Damascus, his hanging was shown live in its entirety on Syrian Television.. When an Arab who had collaborated with Israel was publicly executed by a Palestinian Authority firing squad in Shechem (Nablus), thousands of Arab spectators were present, applauding. ]
It may be relevant here to say a few words about Margalit Har-Shefi. The Supreme Court upheld her prison sentence of nine months in jail because she knew of Yigal Amir’s intention to kill Yitzchak Rabin, and she did not report it to the authorities. Likewise, Arabs of Hebron knew of the plans for the massacre of Jews, but they did not report this information to the authorities. Why has no Arab been brought to trial for this offence?
In its Report, the Shamgar Commission was very critical of the fact that Arabs were allowed into the Cave on Purim morning without any check of what they might be bringing in. In its own words: “No-one was authorised to waive the inspection of individuals entering the Cave, especially at a time when a warning of a possible Hamas attack had been issued. The lack of effective inspection of Moslem worshippers entering the Cave was a deficiency in the security arrangements.”
Another point to note was raised by Shmuel Margy, Chairman of the Kiryat Arba-Hebron Religious Council. Margy testified to the Commission that in the Cave of Machpelah were storerooms to which the only keys were in the hands of the Moslem Wakf. The Israeli army did not have the keys to these storerooms. The strong desirability of the army's having a set of these keys is of course obvious. Anything could be hidden in these storerooms.
From all the above, we can clearly see that Arabs had ample opportunity to smuggle weapons into the Cave of Machpelah; weapons which they illegally possessed and did not hesitate to use against Jews. During the six months prior to Purim, Jews in the Hebron area were shot at no fewer than six times; these shootings resulted in the deaths of three Jews (Efraim Ayoubi, Mordecai Lapid and his son Shalom) and ten injured.
The question now is, did Arabs in fact smuggle arms into the Cave of Machpelah? As we shall see, there were reports of finding an M-16 rifle (and possibly also other weapons) in the Cave after Baruch Goldstein's death.
One of these reports was submitted in a signed statement to the Shamgar Commission by Mordecai Saied, a resident of Kiryat Arba. Saied had been standing by an army jeep at about six o'clock on the morning of Purim outside the Cave of Machpelah. At that time he heard over the army walkie-talkie, a soldier inside the Cave saying he had found an M-16 rifle wrapped in a kaffia. Saied offered to testify before the Shamgar Commission but was informed by them that there was no need for his testimony.
Did this M-16 rifle belong to one of the Jews who was present at the time in the Cave of Machpelah? According to the Shamgar Report, Goldstein had with him just a Glilon rifle and a pistol, none of the other Jewish worshippers had either an M-16 or a Glilon rifle, and the two soldiers Sergeant Kobi Yosef and Private Niv Drori, who were by the east gate, had Glilon rifles.
It could be suggested that the soldier found, say, a Glilon and had misidentified it as a M-16. However, it is very difficult to believe that a soldier would make such an error.
Another source substantiating the finding of weapons in the Cave is to be found in a letter submitted to the Shamgar Commission by Rabbi Shimon Ben-Zion. In it he wrote that both senior and junior officers had reported the finding of three automatic weapons in the Cave - a Karl Gustov, an M-16 and a Kalashnikov.
I spoke to Rabbi Ben-Zion a few weeks later for further details. He said he had again spoken to the officers, but now they were denying that weapons had been found. Why the sudden denial? [According to Barry Chamish, in his investigation of the Rabin assassination, he found a similar phenomena - people who gave information immediately after the assassination would later deny this very same information. ]
An army officer who was present that Purim morning in the Cave of Machpelah - (I have his name and rank) - informed Miryam Goldstein that weapons had in fact been found in the Isaac Hall.
Reference to an M-16 in the Isaac Hall is also found in the entries of the various Logs of the Operations Rooms of the army, the border police, etc. These entries state that an M-16 and a pistol on the body of Dr. Goldstein had “disappeared” or “had been snatched away.” However, none of the soldiers entering the Isaac Hall after the shooting reported in their statements to the police that they had actually seen an M-16 in that room, although, if as reported, it was wrapped up in a kaffia, it might not have been noticed, especially as there were a lot of other kaffias, metal poles, etc, scattered about.
There is a further point concerning the finding of weapons in the Cave of Machpelah, but since it is based on speculation rather than on hard facts, I have left it to the end.
It concerns the hospital to which the wounded were sent. In Hebron, as at Purim 1994, there were two general hospitals, the Alia which is run by the Civil Administration and the Al-Ahli which is a private hospital run by an Islamic organisation. In all respects the Alia was the better of the two hospitals - it had more beds and its medical treatment was superior and furthermore it is closer to the Cave of Machpelah. One would therefore have expected that the Arabs would have preferred that their wounded be sent to the Alia hospital rather than the Al-Ahli. However this was not the case. The wounded and their Arab helpers wanted the wounded to be sent to the Al-Ahli. Over 100 wounded Arabs were sent there but only 26 to the Alia! On this the Shamgar Commission wrote in their Report that the Arabs involved in evacuating the wounded preferred to risk the lives of the wounded rather than send them to the Civil Administration Hospital Alia. In addition the (Jewish) Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem offered assistance including the taking in of wounded but this was refused and in spite of its immense size and international reputation, only four wounded reached this hospital about two hours after the strike, and three more arrived later.
It is interesting to speculate whether the reason for the Arabs’ refusal to send their wounded to a Jewish or Civil Administration hospital was connected with the possible presence of hidden weapons amongst the wounded or even the danger of disclosure by one of the semi-conscious Arabs of Arab plans for a massacre of Jews.
Let us now summarise the evidence and indications that a massacre of Jews was planned to take place that Purim morning in the Cave of Machpelah. There is the evidence given under oath to the Shamgar Commission by Lieutenant Yitzchak Hamudot; the newspaper statement by Yigal Amitai and Yitzchak Kainan who said they received the information from senior officials in the intelligence service; the warning that arms were going to be smuggled by Arabs into the Cave of Machpelah immediately before Purim; damage to the metal detectors on the gate to the Cave of Machpelah on the night before Purim; the clear warning given by an Arab to a Jew not to go to the Cave of Machpelah on Purim; the fact that almost all the Arab worshippers on Purim morning entered via the gate where they knew the metal detectors were broken; the statements regarding the finding of weapons in the Cave of Machpelah after Dr. Goldstein’s act. Possibly the unprecedented number of Arab worshippers that Purim morning and the fact that they refused medical treatment except in the Islamic hospital are also indications of the impending massacre of Jews at that time and place. There is also the undenied reported statement of the Military Governor who said that Baruch Goldstein prevented a massacre of Jews.
As far as the date of Purim is concerned for this planned massacre, there is the warning of the Hamas and also the warning given by Hebron Arabs to Jews they were friendly with. In addition, evidence of an imminent massacre of Jews comes from the numerous warnings received by the military, civilian and intelligence services; the warnings by Arabs to the Arabs of Hebron to hoard food in preparation for a prolonged curfew; and the repeated calls at that period to the Hebron Arabs to slaughter the Jews.
It is relevant to mention that the area in the Cave of Machpelah where Jews regularly pray, is an enclosed area. It would thus be very difficult, if not impossible, for many Jews to escape to the outside, if the place was full of a large number of Arabs ready to massacre them.
There are still a lot of questions which remain unanswered with regard to that Purim morning. For example, of the 800 Arabs in the Cave of Machpelah at the time of the killings, only a small percentage were called to give evidence to the police or at the subsequent Shamgar Commission sessions. Who chose which Arabs were to be questioned by the police or to appear before the Shamgar Commission, and on what basis was this choice made?
Was Baruch Goldstein aware of a planned Arab attack?
Earlier, we offered evidence to show that Arabs were planning an attack against the Jews in Hebron in the Cave of Machpelah on the morning of Purim. Although ordinary civilians are not privy to military warnings of imminent attacks, Dr. Baruch Goldstein was not an ordinary civilian in this respect, but a member of a medical team that would have been called out if such an attack had taken place, and Dr. Goldstein would have been given advance warning by the authorities of the likelihood of such an attack, so that the necessary preparations could be made to meet such an emergency.
Yitzchak Bouaniche, Director of the Defence Department of the Kiryat Arba Local Council, when questioned by the Attorneys Michael Shaked and Dafna Beinwall at the Israel Supreme Court stated that warnings of imminent attacks were always passed on to Baruch Goldstein. [Yitzchak Bouaniche was killed during an army action to prevent Arab terrorists from breaking into Kiryat Arba on a Sabbath evening at the end of 2002.]
More specifically, Councillor Bella Gonen of the Kiryat Arba Local Council, in a signed statement, said that after the meeting with General Mofaz three days before Purim, (details of this meeting have been given above), the defence and medical teams of Kiryat Arba, (the latter headed by Dr. Goldstein), were informed of the warnings and enable them to make the necessary preparations. Similar information was also given by Shlomo Edelstein, who at that period was on reserve army duty in the Operations Room of Kiryat Arba.
Shmuel Cytrin of Kiryat Arba was told by Baruch Goldstein that he had been told by the army two days before Purim “to prepare for a massacre” by the Arabs of Hebron.
We can thus see that Dr. Baruch Goldstein did not get his information from rumours or idle gossip. He was officially informed of these warnings by official Israeli sources.
In her testimony before the Commission, Miryam Goldstein stated that her late husband Baruch had considered that the Jewish settlers had been abandoned as a result of the inability of the Israeli government, the army and the police to do their job properly, but he had never said that he would go out and kill Arabs.
In a similar vein Yitzchak Bouaniche pointed out in his statement, that since September 1993, the security situation of the settlers had declined. Jews had been killed or seriously injured in a large number of terrorist attacks, and each attack had been accompanied by a decrease in the number of soldiers and look-out posts in the area. The army had stated that their hands were tied by orders of the Government.
Mayor Tzvi Katzover in his testimony made these same points, adding that he had personally discussed the matter with the Head of Central Command, Major General Danny Atom, who said that he himself had given an order not to shoot at Arabs who were throwing massive rocks at Jews.
Jews have not only been seriously injured by these rocks - a number have been killed. Early examples of those killed by these rocks are Esther Ohana, Benny Meisner, and Chaim Sharabani. [A room in the Kiryat Arba Public Library was dedicated to the memory of Esther Ohana by the then Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Mordechai Eliahu. Taking part in the dedication ceremony was a small girl who had been seriously injured by one of these rocks and as a result has to go through life with a metal plate in her head in place of a bone. ]
The Shamgar Commission in its Report fully accepted the fact of the deteriorating security situation of the Jewish settlers and expressed an understanding of the frustration of the Jews in the area. The Commission wrote: “Since the outbreak of the intifada, this [Jewish] population has lived under the shadow of constant physical threat, principally when driving on the roads, but also within the settlements themselves. In situations where an Israeli settler, for one reason or another, passes through densely populated Arab settlements, the physical threat is even greater, and a settler who does this unarmed puts his life at risk ... life for Jews in the area has become unbearable... breaches in law and order by Arabs have become a permanent phenomenon ... The authorities' helplessness in enforcing the law is apt to make the residents feel abandoned and accordingly encourages them to take the law into their own hands.”
The Report quoted statistics from the beginning of the intifada until the beginning of April 1994 for Judea and Samaria: 154,754 reported cases of rock-throwing, 5,655 firebomb attacks, 2,979 assaults and knifings, 821 shooting incidents, 256 hand grenades thrown, 64 Israelis killed and 3,866 injured.
The Report categorically rejected the right of individuals to take the law into their own hands and any justification for their breaking the law. . This statement of the Shamgar Report is, of course, correct. Respect for the law is the fundamental basis of society. Disrespect would soon lead to anarchy.
However, a former Supreme Court Judge Haim Cohn in an essay entitled “The Right and Duty to Resist Authority” took a rather different view of this question. Judge Cohn wrote: “He whose conscience compels him to disobey a law will not flinch from the danger of punishment.... The resistance of individuals... is not to be trifled with, especially in a democracy. The more there are such individuals... the [more the] chance of making an impression and becoming influential grows.”
Did Baruch Goldstein pre-meditate the killings?
In its “Conclusions,” the Shamgar Report states that Goldstein's act was “premeditated.” The Report uses as proof of "premeditation", a conversation Baruch Goldstein had with Meir Lapid (son of murdered Mordecai Lapid) and an interview he gave to an American reporter, both of them in the weeks before Purim.
Before analysing these two items, let us point out that what Meir Lapid and the American reporter allege Dr. Goldstein said is of course hearsay. In addition, when these accounts were published, Baruch Goldstein was already dead, and could not therefore question their accuracy. However, let us for the sake of argument assume that the reports of this conversation and interview are accurate.
Meir Lapid when questioned by the Attorney Dafna Beinwall at the Israeli Supreme Court, began by saying that his conversation with Baruch Goldstein had been purely theoretical. The attorney asked Lapid if Goldstein had ever said that it was necessary to kill Arabs in the Cave of Machpelah or some other place? Lapid did not answer this question in the affirmative, but said that they had discussed in a general way the necessity of killing. This expression “necessity of killing” is of course extremely vague, (and Baruch Goldstein is no longer alive to give clarification). It could mean: in peacetime, in wartime, in time of civil war, self defense, pre-emptive strike, murder, etc. In addition there is obviously a world of difference between talking on a theoretical level about the necessity of killing and committing a premeditated murder. This is especially so in the case of a non-violent person, and the Commission themselves concluded that Baruch Goldstein did not participate in violent activities. Mayor Tzvi Katzover, who had known Baruch Goldstein well over a period of years told the Commission that Goldstein could not “hurt a fly” and said that had he [Katzover] been asked he would have said that Goldstein would be the last person to commit such an act.
The interview with the American reporter was published in the Hebrew press after the death of Baruch Goldstein. According to the reporter, Goldstein said that in the coming years he might find himself in jail. Needless to say, very few indeed, of the prison population are there for committing murder! It is probable that Baruch Goldstein was intending to participate in protest action against the Israeli Government's policies, actions which might go against the law and for which he could find himself in jail. It is also possible that he considered that as he was a Kach member, he might like Rabbi Meir Kahane and another member of the Kach party, Baruch Green, be locked up for a long period without trial, under the heading of “administrative detention.”
[To go out and kill Arabs was completely contrary to the views of the founder and leader of Kach, Rabbi Meir Kahane, of whom Baruch Goldstein was a disciple. To quote from Kahane’s book “Uncomfortable Questions for Comfortable Jews”: “I do not hate Arabs. I love Jews,” “Kahane ... never remotely calls for the deliberate, premeditated killing of Arabs.” I have also heard him, in a lecture which he gave at the Community Centre (“Matnas”) of Kiryat Arba, say that he wishes the Arabs residing in Israel well - but outside Israel.]
The Shamgar Report itself divided the illegal actions of the Jewish settlers into three categories: i) disruption of order, such as blocking of roads, ii) rowdiness against Arabs, such as breaking of car windscreens or overturning market stands, iii) shooting at Arabs. For any of these three categories one could find oneself in jail!
According to the American reporter, Baruch Goldstein considered that since co-existence with the Arabs was not possible in Eretz-Israel, and the Jews were prevented by the Israeli army from taking revenge or frightening the Arabs, the solution was the transfer of the Arabs from Eretz-Israel; if this were not done the Arabs would expel the Jews.
[It is important to state here that it is a common error and a complete rewrite of history to say the idea of transferring Arabs from Eretz-Israel originated with Rabbi Meir Kahane. Theodor Herzl, David Ben-Gurion, Chaim Weizmann, Moshe Sharett, Berl Katznelson - in fact the majority of Zionist leaders, as well as famous non-Jews such as President Franklin Roosevelt and President Herbert Hoover and also many pro-Arab people have proposed the transfer of Arabs from Eretz-Israel. They foresaw the serious problems and friction that would arise from an Arab presence in a Jewish State. This is a subject on which I can speak with authority. Since 1984 I have been researching this subject and have brought out several books on the subject, These books can be found at, for example, The Jewish National and University Library at Givat Ram Jerusalem. My latest book on this subject entitled “A Historical Survey of Proposals to Transfer Arabs from Palestine 1895-1947” can be found on the Internet:
At the end of the interview, the interviewer asked Goldstein if his position as a doctor was in conflict with these views, to which the latter answered with a Biblical verse, “A time to kill, a time to heal.” The newspaper sensationalised its article by making this quote the heading! The Shamgar Commission summarised this interview in their Report, but perhaps significantly omitted this final quote. They presumably realised that one could not derive Baruch Goldstein's intentions from a Biblical quotation.
Even if the above material was not pure hearsay, an attempt to prove from this material that Dr. Baruch Goldstein premeditated the killing of Arabs, cannot, in my opinion, stand up to any serious scrutiny!
The Shamgar Commission also brought Dr. Goldstein’s preparations and conduct on the morning of Purim as proof of premeditation. From this, there is no doubt that his act was premeditated. However, these things were done after he had been told by the defence establishment to prepare for an attack by Arabs against the Jews.
If he had just wanted to massacre a large number of Arabs, why choose the Cave of Machpelah as the venue? Colonel Meir Kalifi pointed out to the Commission that he could have killed an even greater number of Arabs a little later in the day in the Hebron market place near to “Gross Square.” [This square is named after the 18 year old Yeshiva student Aharon Gross who was brutally murdered by Arabs in the centre of Hebron in 1983.] Furthermore, in an open space such as “Gross Square,” (unlike the enclosed Isaac Hall of the Cave of Machpelah), Baruch Goldstein would have had a chance to escape after such an attack.
1. There is much evidence and many indications that the Arabs were planning a massacre of Jews on the morning of Purim in the Cave of Machpelah.
(i) Evidence given on this point both under oath to the Shamgar Commission and from other sources, both Jewish and Arab. (ii) An intelligence report that on the days immediately prior to Purim, Arabs might try and smuggle explosives into the Cave of Machpelah. (iii) Ample opportunity to smuggle in weapons due to a broken metal detector, damaged even further by Arabs on the night before Purim. (iv) The attendance of an unprecedented number of Arabs who entered the Cave of Machpelah unsearched early in the morning of Purim in the course of a very short span of time, mainly via the gate where they knew the metal detector to be broken. (v) Reports of weapons being found in the Isaac Hall of the Cave of Machpelah after Baruch Goldstein’s actions.
2. The shouting by hundreds of Arabs “Slaughter the Jews” in the days and hours preceding Purim is reminiscent of the shouting which preceded the massacre of 67 Jews in Hebron in 1929.
3. In his position as a medical doctor, Dr. Baruch Goldstein was officially informed that the Arabs were planning an attack against the Jews in Hebron.
4. The evidence shows that Baruch Goldstein planned his act only after he had been told by the defence establishment to prepare for a planned attack by the Arabs against the Jews.
5. Baruch Goldstein was particularly concerned by what he saw to be the unwillingless of the authorities to do anything to prevent this planned massacre of Jews.
6. Baruch Goldstein considered that the authorities had been helpless in the past in dealing with attacks on Jews. This view was shared by the Shamgar Commission in its official report.