Cave of the Patriarchs massacre
|Cave of the Patriarchs massacre|
Cave of the Patriarchs in 2009
|Date||February 25, 1994|
|Jewish terrorism, Mass murder|
|Deaths||30 (including the perpetrator)|
The Cave of the Patriarchs massacre, also known as the Ibrahimi Mosque massacre or Hebron massacre, was a shooting massacre carried out by American-Israeli Baruch Goldstein, also a member of the far-right Israeli Kach movement. On February 25, 1994, Goldstein opened fire on a large number of Palestinian Muslims who had gathered to pray inside the Ibrahimi Mosque (also Mosque of Abraham), at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, West Bank. It took place on February 25, 1994, during the overlapping religious holidays of both Jewish Purim and Muslim Ramadan. The attack left 29 people dead and 125 wounded. Goldstein was only stopped after he was overpowered and beaten to death by survivors.
The massacre immediately set off mass Palestinian protests and riots throughout the West Bank, and within 48 hours, nine Palestinian protesters had been killed by the Israeli Defense Forces. Goldstein was widely denounced in Israel and by communities in the Jewish diaspora, with many attributing his act to insanity. Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin condemned the attack, describing Goldstein as a "degenerate murderer", "a shame on Zionism and an embarrassment to Judaism". Some Jewish settlers in Hebron lauded him as a hero and viewed his attack and subsequent death as an act of martyrdom.
Background of Baruch Goldstein
In the 1970s, Baruch Goldstein, who was born and lived in Brooklyn, New York, was a charter member of the Jewish Defense League, a militant group deemed terrorist by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and an anti-Arab hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
After emigrating to Israel in 1983, he served as a physician in the Israeli Defense Force, first as a conscript, then in the reserve forces. Following the end of his active duty, Goldstein worked as a physician and lived in the Kiryat Arba settlement near Hebron, where he served as an emergency doctor. Israeli press reports stated that Goldstein refused to treat Arabs, even those serving in the IDF; this was also reflected in comments by his acquaintances.
Goldstein became involved with Kach, and maintained a strong personal relationship with Rabbi Meir Kahane, the militant Jewish nationalist whose views, regarded by the Israeli government as racist, had caused his party to be banned from the Knesset in 1988. Kahane was assassinated in 1990 by Arab militant El Sayyid Nosair, and Goldstein reportedly swore to take revenge for the killing.
Goldstein expressed anti-Arab feelings far before the massacre. He was known to refuse to treat Druze soldiers who served in the West Bank, believing it was against Jewish laws to treat non-Jews even for pay. In 1981, Goldstein wrote a letter, published in The New York Times, which said that Israel "must act decisively to remove the Arab minority from within its borders", which "could be accomplished by initially offering encouragement and incentives to Arabs to leave of their own accord". In October 1993, inside the Ibrahimi mosque, acid was poured over the floor, leaving giant holes in the carpets, and six worshippers were assaulted. From the evidence of the sanctuary guards, Goldstein was identified as the culprit. A letter was written to Yitzhak Rabin, the then Israeli Prime Minister, by the Muslim authorities "regarding the dangers" of Goldstein and asking for action to be taken to prevent daily violations of the mosque. Four years before the massacre, an agent of Shin Bet, the Israeli internal security service, who had infiltrated Kach, passed a warning to his superiors about the danger posed by Goldstein. The agent ascribed to Goldstein the statement, "There will be a day when one Jew will take revenge on the Arabs."
The Israeli government divided the Cave of the Patriarchs into two sections, one for Jewish worshippers and the other for Muslim worshippers. At 5:00 a.m. on 25 February, 800 Palestinian Muslims passed through the east gate of the cave to participate in Fajr, the first of the five daily Islamic prayers. The cave was under Israeli Army guard, but of the nine soldiers supposed to have been on duty, four were late turning up, and only one officer was there.
Shortly afterwards, Goldstein entered the Isaac Hall of the cave. He was dressed in his army uniform and carried an IMI Galil assault rifle and four magazines of ammunition, which held a total of 140 rounds in 35 rounds per each magazine. He was not stopped by the guards, who assumed that he was an officer entering the tomb to pray in an adjacent chamber reserved for Jews. Standing in front of the only exit from the hall and positioned to the rear of the Muslim worshippers, he opened fire, killing 29 people and wounding another 125. There were reports that he had thrown grenades at the worshippers. According to survivors, he bided his time until sujūd, the part of the prayer where worshippers prostrate with their heads on the floor. After someone in the crowd hurled a fire extinguisher, which struck him on the head, he was overcome and then beaten to death.
Reports after the massacre were often contradictory or ambiguous. There was initial uncertainty about whether Goldstein had acted alone; it was reported that eyewitnesses had seen "another man, also dressed as a soldier, handing him ammunition".
There were many testimonies that made mention of Israeli guards outside the cave having opened fire. Israeli military officials claim that no Israeli troops fired on the Palestinian worshippers. However, The New York Times interviewed over 40 different Palestinian eyewitnesses, many of whom were confined to hospital beds with gunshot wounds, and thus "unable to compare notes". All witnesses corroborated that three Israeli guards opened fire, likely in panic amid the confusion, as the Muslims fled the shrine, with at least one soldier firing into the crowd. During the inquiry, an Israeli army official said three worshippers died in the stampede following the attack and five Palestinians were killed in street battles within Hebron later that day. Tikva Honig-Parnass wrote that 10 Palestinians were killed and more than 100 injured by Israeli soldiers who continued to shoot at those who were trying to flee the mosque, at those who were evacuating the wounded, and at people who had gathered at the hospital. She also reported that in the following 48 hours, 7 Palestinians were killed and more than 200 injured by soldiers at demonstrations. In the first 6 days following the massacres, 21 Palestinians were killed by live ammunition from the IDF.
The testimony of various Israeli military officials was often contradictory. For instance, Danny Yatom asserted that two of the guards had fired six or seven shots in the confusion "but only in the air," while the two guards themselves, Sgt. Kobi Yosef and Sgt. Niv Drori, later testified to firing four shots "chest high". The guards' testimony was also at odds with the testimony of their ranking officer in claiming they had seen another Jewish settler enter the cave bearing arms.
List provided by the Palestine Human Rights Information Center.
The Kach movement, with which Goldstein was affiliated, was outlawed as a terrorist organization. The cabinet decided to confiscate the weapons of some they regarded as right-wing extremists and put them in administrative detention. The Israeli government also took extreme measures against Palestinians following the massacre, banning them from certain streets in Hebron, such as Al-Shuhada Street, where many Palestinians have homes and businesses, and opening them to the exclusive access of Jewish Israelis and foreign tourists.
In an address to the Knesset, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin denounced Goldstein. Rabin, addressing not just Goldstein and his legacy but also other settlers he regarded as militant, declared,
You are not part of the community of Israel... You are not part of the national democratic camp which we all belong to in this house, and many of the people despise you. You are not partners in the Zionist enterprise. You are a foreign implant. You are an errant weed. Sensible Judaism spits you out. You placed yourself outside the wall of Jewish law... We say to this horrible man and those like him: you are a shame on Zionism and an embarrassment to Judaism.
Rabin, who regarded settlements as a cancer on Israeli society, considered that his failure to close down the Jewish settlements in Hebron after the massacre one of his greatest political mistakes.
The Israeli government appointed a commission of inquiry headed by then president of the Supreme Court, Judge Meir Shamgar. The commission in the epilogue to its report called the massacre "a base and murderous act, in which innocent people bending in prayer to their maker were killed". Among its specific conclusions were:
- Goldstein acted alone in planning the massacre, telling no one of his scheme.
- Coordination between the IDF, the police, and the Civil Administration was problematic.
- The political leadership and security forces could not have been expected to predict the massacre.
- Testimony from survivors referring to IDF assistance and grenade explosions in the massacre was found to be contradictory and inconsistent; investigators did not find any grenade fragments.
- There were, as claimed by some Jews seeking to justify Goldstein's actions as a preemptive strike, substantial warnings of a coming Hamas terror attack against Jews. It further stated:
- 8.2a "... warnings were issued regarding an expected attack by Hamas following the distribution of its leaflets in Hebron."
- 8.7a "Following an incident in Abu-Dis, which ended in the deaths of a number of members of Az-A-Din Al-Qassam [of Hamas], emotions ran high among the Moslem worshipers (about two hundred), who shouted hostile slogans ("Qassam", "kill the Jews"), [at the Jewish worshipers], making it necessary to call in army and Border Police forces. According to one of the Moslem witnesses, the Jews also shouted hostile slogans." (This is in reference to persons present on the previous evening.)
- 8.8a "Those in charge of security at the Tomb were given no intelligence reports that an attack by a Jew against Moslem worshipers could be expected, particularly since intelligence reports warned of the opposite: an attack by Hamas. Therefore, there was concern about an attack by Arabs against Jews."
Critics of the commission have suggested that Shamgar's judicial record has "consistently displayed his leniency toward the settlers, including those convicted of crimes against the Palestinians, but especially toward the soldiers who had fired at the Palestinians" and that his career reflected a history of pro-settler activism by promoting expropriation of Palestinian land to Jewish settlement that are against international law.
There was widespread condemnation of the massacre in Israel. A poll found that 78.8% of Israeli adults condemned the Hebron massacre while 3.6% praised Goldstein. The Jewish Settler Council declared that the act was "not Jewish, not humane."
Most religious leaders denounced the attack. The Sephardi Chief Rabbi said "I am simply ashamed that a Jew carried out such a villainous and irresponsible act" and suggested that he be buried outside the cemetery. His Ashkenazi counterpart Yisrael Meir Lau called it "a desecration of God's name." Rabbi Yehuda Amital of Gush Etzion said Goldstein had "besmirched the Jewish nation and the Torah." Some rabbis reacted with ambivalence to the massacre, and a few praised Goldstein and called his undertaking "an act of martyrdom." In eulogising Goldstein, Rabbi Israel Ariel called him a "holy martyr" and questioned the innocence of the victims by claiming they were responsible for the massacre of Hebron's Jews in 1929. Rabbi Dov Lior of Kiryat Arba said he was a saint whose "hands are innocent, his heart pure" and compared him to the martyrs of the Holocaust. At the time, settler rabbi Yitzhak Ginzburgh was the only prominent Orthodox rabbi who praised the massacre. He has since been detained several times for espousing extremist views.
Veneration of Goldstein
In the weeks following the massacre, hundreds of Israelis traveled to Goldstein's grave to celebrate Goldstein's actions. Some Hasidim danced and sang around his grave. Although the government has said that those who celebrated the massacre represented only a tiny minority of Israelis, a New York Times report states that Israeli government claims may understate the phenomenon.
In a pamphlet titled Baruch HaGever[Note 1] published in 1994, and a book of the same name in 1995, various rabbis praised Goldstein's action as a pre-emptive strike in response to Hamas threats of a pogrom, and wrote that it is possible to view his act as following five Halachic principles.
The phenomenon of the adoration of Goldstein's tomb persisted for years, despite Israeli government efforts to crack down on those making pilgrimage to Goldstein's grave site. The grave's epitaph said that Goldstein "gave his life for the people of Israel, its Torah and land". In 1999, after the passing of Israeli legislation outlawing monuments to terrorists, the Israeli army acted to dismantle the shrine that had been built to Goldstein at the site of his interment. In the years after the dismantling of the shrine, radical Jewish settlers would celebrate Purim by invoking the memory of the massacre, sometimes even dressing up themselves or their children to look like Goldstein.
Such an act is an obscenity and a travesty of Jewish values. That it should have been perpetrated against worshippers in a house of prayer at a holy time makes it a blasphemy as well... Violence is evil. Violence committed in the name of God is doubly evil. Violence against those engaged in worshipping God is unspeakably evil.
An editorial in The Jewish Chronicle written by Chaim Bermant denounced the Kach organisation to which Goldstein belonged as "Neo-Nazis" and a U.S. creation, funded by American money and a product of American gun culture. The same edition also reported that some Liberal synagogues in the UK had begun fundraising for Goldstein's victims.
Palestinian protesters took to the streets in the aftermath of the massacre. There were widespread protests and clashes in both the occupied territories and within Israel itself, in Nazareth and Jaffa. The Israeli army reported five Palestinians killed in clashes the same day within Hebron. Clashes in Hebron continued into May when 10 Palestinians were wounded by fire from settlers and Israeli soldiers. As a reaction to the trauma induced in children in Hebron, the Palestinian Child Arts Center (PCAC), a non-governmental, nonprofit organization was founded. The activities of the centre primarily involve the intellectual development of Palestinian children, and to reinforce a positive role for the child within Palestinian society and culture.
Two separate suicide bombings took place in March 1994, carried out by Palestinian militants inside Israel and launched by Hamas' Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, in retaliation for the massacre carried out by Goldstein.[i] A total of 15 Israeli civilians were killed and 34 wounded in the attack, which took place in Afula on April 6, at the end of the forty-day mourning period for Goldstein's victims. Those were the first suicide bombings carried out by Palestinian fighters inside Israel. According to Matti Steinberg, who, at the time, was the Shin Bet head's advisor on Palestinian affairs, up until then Hamas had refused to attack civilian targets inside Israel, and the change in Hamas' policy was a result of Goldstein's massacre.
The Cave of the Patriarchs massacre is also referred to as the Tomb of the Patriarchs massacre and the Hebron massacre, one of two events given that name, the other being the 1929 Hebron massacre.
- List of massacres in the Palestinian territories
- 1994 Brooklyn Bridge shooting, an act carried out in response to the massacre
- ברוך הגבר; meaning both Baruch the Man and "blessed be the man". From Jeremia 17:7
- Yoram Peri, The Assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, Stanford University Press, 2000, pp.100-103 : The Hebron massacre in perspective.
- Tuman, Joseph S. (2003). Communicating Terror: The Rhetorical Dimensions of Terrorism. Sage Publications, Inc. p. 93. ISBN 1-4129-7324-4. Retrieved 2010-03-13.
Although Goldstein did not say anything during his attack to explain his actions, it is known that the night before his assault he had attended a service at the Jewish side of the Cave of the Patriarchs where after listening to the traditional reading from the Scroll of Esther, he told others there that they should all behave like Esther. The timing of his attack the next day at the same site hardly seems the product of happenstance or coincidence. It was the day of Purim. Moreover, although his actions seemed to be the product of a mind that had snapped or become depraved, there did not seem to be any sign that he was suffering from a mental disorder. His actions were deliberate and intentional. Goldstein was troubled by the ongoing peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians in Oslo and openly concerned that a Palestinian state was about to be created. His attack on Muslim worshippers at the same site, while Purim coincided with Ramadan, was an attempt to cast himself symbolically in the story as Mordecai. Indeed that was exactly the way his actions were interpreted by other settlers at Kiryat Arba, and in the years to come after 1994, there would be numerous instances in which the settlers would celebrate Purim by also invoking Goldstein's memory and image in a provocative manner.
- "When Fury Rules". Time. March 7, 1994. Retrieved 2010-04-28. (non-free webpage)
- Settlers remember gunman Goldstein; Hebron riots continue. Avi Issacharoff and Chaim Levinson, Haaretz, 28 February 2010
- The Goldstein massacre and the danger of escalation | The Times of Israel
- The ethics of war in Asian civilizations: a comparative perspective by Torkel Brekke, Routledge, 2006, p. 44
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- Alan Cowell (March 2, 1994). "West Bank Massacre; In 'Tragic Error,' Soldiers Kill a Settler". The New York Times.
- Youssef M. Ibrahim (March 6, 1994). "The World; Palestinians See a People's Hatred in a Killer's Deed". The New York Times.
- Sarah Helm (February 28, 1994). "Hebron settlers shed no tears after slaughter: Militant Jews are turning mass killer Baruch Goldstein into a folk hero, writes Sarah Helm from Kiryat Arba". The Independent.
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- BBC NEWS "Goldstein had lived in Israel for 11 years and was a doctor in the Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba, just outside Hebron." "As the settlement's main emergency doctor he was involved in treating victims of Arab-Israeli violence."
- Mass-mediated Terrorism Brigitte Lebens Nacos, Rowman & Littlefield, 2002
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Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg is correct when he asserts that in annexing Judea and Samaria (which he refers to as the West Bank), with its large Arab population, Israel would be endangering its Jewish character. According to statistics published by the Israeli Government in 1980, the Arabs of Israel have an average of eight children per household, as compared with an average of 2.9 children per Jewish home in Israel. However, Rabbi Hertzberg fails to note that even within the pre-1967 borders of Israel this same disparity of birth rates, associated with a declining Aliyah, assures Israel of an Arab majority in Israel (70 years?) unless steps are taken to prevent this from occurring. Ceding the "West Bank" to the "Palestinians" would, therefore, not solve the problem which Rabbi Hertzberg raises; it would serve only to further jeopardize Israel's security and betray a Biblical trust.
The harsh reality is: if Israel is to avert facing the kinds of problems found in Northern Ireland today, it must act decisively to remove the Arab minority from within its borders. This could be accomplished by initially offering encouragement and incentives to Arabs to leave of their own accord, just as the Jewish population of many Arab countries has been persuaded to leave, one way or another. Before instinctively defending democracy as inviolate, Israelis should consider whether the prospect of an Arab majority electing 61 Arab Knesset members is acceptable to them. Israelis will soon have to choose between a Jewish state and a democratic one.
Baruch Goldstein Brooklyn, June 30, 1981.
- Helm, Sarah. Jewish killer attacked mosque last year: Evidence is mounting that Baruch Goldstein was known to be dangerous well before the massacre. The Independent. March 1, 1994.
- Report of Shamgar Commission p. 15
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- "Hebron Massacre: Hell comes to a holy place", The Independent (London), 27 February 1994
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- Amos N. Guiora, Freedom from Religion: Rights and National Security, Oxford University Press, 2013 p.39 and n.15.
- quotes from The Jewish Chronicle (London) 4 March 1994, pp. 1, 2
- Commission of Inquiry Into the Massacre at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron - Excerpts from the Report
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- Jacobson 1997, p. 91
- Rayner 1998, p. 90
- Hacohen 2008, pp. 5–6
- Inbari 2012, pp. 134–6: "The response of Rabbi Shlomo Aviner to the massacre was characterized by ambivalence."
- Linnan 2008, p. 198: "Despite general and overwhelming condemnation from Jews around the world about this unprovoked attack on unarmed civilians, a few rabbis and lay leaders in Israel and North America praised Goldstein's murderous action and death as an act of martyrdom (Kiddush Hashem)."
- Gorenberg 2002, p. 205: "Did he kill innocent people? The same supposedly innocent people slaughter innocents in 1929... The whole city of Hebron slaughtered Jews then. Those are the 'innocent people' who were killed in the Tomb of the Patriarchs," said Ariel."
- Lichtenstein & Lior 1994, p. 59: "Yes, I did eulogise the late Baruch Goldstein (may God avenge his blood), who was lynched by the non-Jews in the Cave. A Jew who is killed because he is a Jew must certainly be called a kadosh, a holy martyr, just as we refer to the kedoshei ha-Shoah, the holy martyrs of the Holocaust, without investigating their previous conduct. How much more so in this case , for we knew him intimately as God-fearing and compassionate, as one who loved humanity and saved lives. [...] In my eulogy, I intentionally did not mention the deed, but focused on his personality and his achievements, and I did not take a public position on the deed."
- Cohen 2012, p. 283: "In 1994, Ginzburg was the only Orthodox rabbi of stature who praised Baruch Goldstein's massacre..."
- Israeli Rabbi Indicted for Inciting Racism, Forward, (June 06, 2003).
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- The Jewish Chronicle (London) 4 March 1994, p. 1 and then expanded on p. 23
- Chaim Bermant "Has one settler settled the settlers future?" in The Jewish Chronicle (London), 4 March 1994
- The Jewish Chronicle (London), 4 March 1994
- Palestinians Battle Israelis To Protest Hebron Massacre, NY Times, Feb 27, 1994
- Israeli Army Kills 3 Arabs in Hebron, NY Times, March 24, 1994
- Settlers and Soldiers Wound 10 Arabs in Hebron Clashes, NY Times, May 17, 1994
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