The Goldstein Incident in Hebron, Twenty Five Years Later
by ARIEL NATAN PASKO
Now that we understand that we live in the era of “Fake News,” – what once was called “Yellow Journalism” – where left-wing media hysteria, pre-judgement, and playing loose with the facts to further an agenda, reins supreme; I think it behooves thinking people to take a second look at an incident that occurred before the internet era, and brought immediate universal condemnation in the media, before it was even investigated.
What really happened twenty five years ago, in Hebron, at the Ma’arat HaMachpela – the Cave 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, February 25, 1994. Its been portrayed for over two decades as a premeditated, causeless attack. But a study by Rabbi Dr. Chaim Simons, published in 2004 entitled, “Did or Did Not Dr. Baruch Goldstein Massacre 29 Arabs?” questions that “common knowledge,” and raises some serious issues, that after twenty five years, still 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 of 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, as well as a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Chemistry, from the University of London. 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 in 1988. Its probably the most thorough academic review of the issue, and is 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, to take place that Purim morning in the Cave of Machpela. Dr. Goldstein was an emergency doctor for the Kiryat Arba Terrorist Attack Response Team, and had been forewarned by security sources. 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 Dr. Baruch Goldstein could possibly come under one of these headings or a combination of two or even all three.” But he then stresses “that I do not offer any conclusions on this question.”
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 among Israeli government officials just after the incident, describing it with the value-laden term “massacre” even before a full inquiry of the events could take place. Rabbi Dr. Simons prefers to use the more neutral term “killing” throughout his work.
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, however. Such as that Goldstein was in fact attacked first and responded in self-defense. Remember, the only eyewitnesses, are the Arabs that were involved in the event. Or, 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 security service or army was involved in the attack itself. Which would have served PM Rabin’s purposes, since he was eager to find justification to remove the Jews from Hebron at the time. None of these alternatives were investigated by the Shamgar commission.
Rabbi Dr. Simons takes issue with the workings of the Shamgar Commission itself – the commission of inquiry set up to investigate the event. 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,” [rather than alleged killer] 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 proven 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, but to help facilitate the international media’s reporting on it, the Israeli Foreign Ministry translated selected excerpts. Was there bias on their part, about what was translated? An agenda? In another five years, i.e. in 2024, after thirty years, the records will be opened for public perusal, unless the authorities declare “for security reasons” they must remain closed, which would give another twenty years to hide the truth.
Rabbi Dr. Simons also refers to Haggai Segal’s article, entitled “A Failure to Inform,” which appeared in the Israeli newspaper 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 Yitzhak 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 before the Shamgar Commission of over nine officers from the defense establishment regarding their intelligence reports two-and-a-half weeks prior to Purim, about a planned Arab attack on the Jews of Hebron, numerous other sources he quotes corroborate that testimony. 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 Yedioth Ahronoth 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 to follow a gigantic attack against the Jews by Hamas. The existence of this leaflet was also reported in the Shamgar Commission Report.
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 the Jews there being threatened, 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 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 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 – which was published – and a Bar-Ilan University professor submitted the “Letter to the Editor” in a brief 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. 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, and not one of the women. After the Goldstein incident, three automatic weapons were found in the Machpela – other than Goldstein’s weapon – including one wrapped in an Arab keffiya (headdress). 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 issue 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 her husband’s 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 that “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 worshiper, 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 that his father, Ayub Abu-S’nina, immediately 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 worshiper, 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 worshiper, 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 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 made their way 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 Muslim worshipers. 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 worshipers 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 Beinisch decided not to open criminal proceedings against the Arabs, who were accused of murdering Baruch Goldstein. In June 1995, the Legal Adviser to Rabin’s Government, Michael Ben-Yair, endorsed Beinisch’s decision. Beinisch was then appointed to the Supreme Court of Israel, in December 1995, and later became it’s 9th president. Beinisch was also appointed chair of the Central Elections Commission.
An Israel Democracy Institute Researcher, Dr. Dana Blander, has asserted that “Israel’s Central Elections Committee is no different than the various Knesset parliamentary committees and is subject to political bias. As a result, even though its chair is a Supreme Court Justice, its decisions are tainted by partisan interests, and its make-up is inappropriate for the administrative and quasi-judicial functions it performs.” The Central Elections Committee, is the first filter, to decide which parties get to run in elections. The Supreme Court has final say.
Were these political appointments payback? And for what? What’s being hidden from us?
Rabbi Dr. Simons points out [in 2004], “To date, no Arab has been charged with Baruch Goldstein’s murder,” and fifteen years later in 2019, still no one has been charged. Why not?
“This can be contrasted with the case of a Jewish settler, Yoram Skolnik,” Rabbi Dr. Simons points out, “who killed an Arab terrorist after he had been disarmed” [in 1993]. “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 Gal’on 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.”
Then there’s the case of Elior Azaria, tried and convicted, for killing an already disabled Arab terrorist in 2016. After Azaria’s release, Education Minister Naftali Bennett said, “I was the only one who said at the beginning of the road: Wait, there has not been an investigation, the entire process has been polluted in the form of ‘no going back’. We first of all have to be with the soldiers and not rush to decide their fate. He was wronged.”
Rabbi Dr. Simons then says, “To the best of my knowledge, Zahava Gal’on has never challenged the fact that the Arabs who murdered Baruch Goldstein have never been brought to trial!”
Why haven’t they? Why does the Israeli media go into a frenzy when a Jew kills an Arab, but are much more sedate, when Jews are being attacked and killed? In a democracy, the law should be applied equally, by the authorities. In a democracy, the media and politicians should be equally disturbed by unlawful killings.
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 since the mid-1990s, the Oslo War (second Intifada), the Intifada of Knives, etc., events of the past take on new shades of meaning. I feel Rabbi Dr. Simons’ seminal book sheds much needed light on the Goldstein incident, and is well worth reading for those who seek the truth about what really happened, and to understand the surrounding environment and circumstances, it occurred within.
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…”
That goes for the investigations into Trump and Netanyahu today, and Dr. Goldstein in the past.
Ariel Natan Pasko, an independent analyst and consultant, has a Master’s Degree specializing in International Relations, Political Economy & Policy Analysis. His articles appear regularly on numerous news/views and think-tank websites and in newspapers. His latest articles can also be read on his archive: The Think Tank by Ariel Natan Pasko. (c) 2019/5779 Pasko