The Real Significance of Baruch Goldstein
written by Israel Shahak and Norton Mezvinsky
The story of the massacre committed by Baruch Goldstein in the Patriarchs' Cave in Hebron on February 25, 1994, is well known. Goldstein entered the Muslim prayer hall and shot worshippers mostly in their backs, killing 29, including children, and wounding many more. In this chapter we shall not describe that massacre; rather we shall focus upon Goldstein's career prior to the massacre and upon the reactions of the Israeli government and fundamentalist Jews to the massacre a short time after it occurred. This should provide a vivid illustration of Jewish fundamentalism. We shall extend our discussion of some details until the summer of 1998.
One important background fact about Goldstein exemplifies the influence of Jewish fundamentalism in Israel: long before the massacre, Goldstein as an army physician repeatedly breached army discipline by refusing to treat Arabs, even those serving in the Israeli army. He was not punished, either while in active or reserve service, for his refusal because of intervention in his favor. Political commentators discussed this story in the Hebrew press even though not a single Israeli politician referred to it. This story deserves detailed exploration in our analysis of Jewish fundamentalism.
In his March 1, 1994, Yediot Ahronot article, Arych Kizel, a regular Davar correspondent, wrote that Goldstein, shortly after immigrating to Israel and as a conscript assigned to an artillery battalion in Lebanon as a doctor, refused to treat Gentiles. According to Kizel, Goldstein, after refusing to treat a wounded Arab, declared: "I am not willing to treat any non-Jew. I recognize as legitimate only two [religious] authorities: Maimonides and Kahane." Kizel further reported:
Amir Oren, who subsequently became the military correspondent of Haaretz, provided the most complete story of Goldstein's relations with the Israeli army and the entire Israeli political establishment in his March 4 Davar article. According to Oren, after the 1984 elections and the subsequent formation of the national unity government, then Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin and then Chief of Staff General Moshe Levy learned about Goldstein's refusal to treat non-Jews in Lebanon. Oren wrote:
According to other Hebrew press reports, some of Goldstein's trainee colleagues demanded that he be dismissed from the course; their demand was refused. Oren related: "(Goldstein) was already then protected by highly placed people in senior ministries. Those patrons requested that Goldstein be allowed to serve in Kiryat Arba rather than in a combat battalion." The situation then developed into "a bone of contention between the commander of the army's medical corps and its chief rabbi." Oren continued:
Many sources corroborated Oren's hinting that this Goldstein situation did not constitute a unique case. The story told by Oren revealed the pervasiveness of the religious parties' influence in the Israeli army. Jewish orthodoxy's stance against non-Jews, as openly advocated by Goldstein's idolized leader, Rabbi Meir Kahane, was--and still is--an essential position held by the major religious parties. As such, this stance has had a strong impact upon the Israeli army. Had Rabin and the army commanders mentioned by Oren, moreover, felt no affinity whatsoever with Kahane's and Goldstein's views, they would not have given in to the religious parties with such abandon and thus sacrificed all consideration of military discipline. Israeli policies, directed towards Palestinians, other Middle East Arabs (perceived by Zionists as non-Jews) and people of other nations, are only explainable by assuming that they are based upon anti-Gentile feeling. The anti-Gentile feeling is strongest among the most religious Jews but exists as well in this secular milieu. This is the reason why support for Goldstein in 1984 and 1985 had a sequel in the excuses by many Israeli leaders for the slaughter. These excuses were thinly disguised by mostly hypocritical expressions of shock.
Goldstein's refusal to give proper medical treatment to non-Jews continued after he was transferred to Kiryat Arba. In his February 27,1994 Yediot Ahronot article, Nahum Barnea wrote:
Barnea made clear that the entire Israeli establishment, not just the army, was responsible for the leniency granted to Goldstein for his misdeeds. The leniency lasted until the massacre. Only after the massacre did the official line change to shock, coupled with assertions that Goldstein had acted alone. Thus, during the first three hours after the slaughter Rabin and his retinue insisted either that Goldstein was a psychopath or that he was a devoted doctor who happened to suffer a momentary derangement. Barnea reported: "Within hours a whole edifice of rationalization was built, according to which Goldstein had allegedly been under unbearable mental pressure, because he had to attend so many wounded and dead [persons], including Arabs." The men who propagated this lie knew that Goldstein had refused to treat Arabs. Barnea continued: "Thus, the Arabs were made guilty for what he could not avoid doing. The implication was that the Arabs assaulted him rather than the other way around and that he really acted for the benefit of the Arabs by letting them finally realize that Jewish blood could not be shed with impunity." This brazen lie was maintained as long as possible before being abandoned without apology. The propagation of such a lie reveals the influence of Jewish fundamentalism upon the secular parts of the Israeli establishment.
Goldstein represented Jewish fundamentalism in the extreme. Some of the Gush Emunim leaders at the time of the massacre were only a bit less extreme. Barnea compared Goldstein's attitude toward non-Jews with that of Rabbi Levinger, the Gush Emunim leader whom he interviewed on the day of the massacre:
In the discussion the terms "murder," "massacre" or "killing" were avoided; instead the terms used were "deed," "event" or "occurrence." The reason is that according to the Halacha the killing by a Jew of a non-Jew under any circumstances is not regarded as murder. It may be prohibited for other reasons, especially when it causes danger for Jews. In many cases the real feelings about a Jew murdering non-Jews, expressed in Israel with impunity, correspond to the law. Levinger told Barnea that the resolution "expresses in passing" the sorrow about dead Arabs "even though it emphasizes the responsibility of the government." When asked by Barnea whether he felt sorry, Levinger answered: "I am sorry not only about dead Arabs but also about dead flies."
Goldstein on principle had refused to treat non-Jews for many years before the massacre. He worked as the municipal doctor of Kiryat Arba and treated Arabs only when he could not avoid doing so. Barnea quoted one of Goldstein's colleagues from the Kiryat Arba clinic who recalled that "whenever Goldstein arrived at a traffic accident spot and recognized that some of the injured were Arabs, he would attend to them but only until another doctor arrived. Then, he would stop treating them. 'This was his compromise between his doctor's oath and his ideology,' said his colleague."
The Halacha enjoins precisely the behavior of Goldstein's refusing to attend non-Jews. The Halacha dictates that a pious Jewish doctor may treat Gentiles when his refusal to do so might be reported to the authorities and cause him or other Jews unpleasantness. There is reason to believe that whenever doctors as pious as Goldstein were forced to treat Arabs they behaved as did Goldstein. In his previously cited Yediot Ahronot article, Arych Kizel added that the Israeli army found that Goldstein's conduct did not require any disciplinary measures. A Maariv correspondent wrote in his March 8, 1994 article that Goldstein's military service record was sufficiently distinguished to earn him a ceremonial promotion from the rank of captain to that of major. The president of Israel would have officially awarded this promotion on April 14, 1994, Israel's independence day. Only Goldstein's death, which occurred at the time of the massacre, prevented what would have been a revealing promotion.
An even greater example ofJewish fundamentalism's influence upon the secular part of the Israeli establishment can be detected in the official arrangement of Goldstein's elaborate funeral at a time that the deliberate character of the massacre could not be denied. The establishment was affected by the fact, widely reported in the Hebrew press but given little place in the foreign press, that within two days of the massacre the walls of religious neighborhoods of west Jerusalem (and to a lesser extent of many other religious neighborhoods) were covered by posters extolling Goldstein's virtues and complaining that he did not manage to kill more Arabs. Children of religious settlers who came to Jerusalem to demonstrate sported buttons for months after the massacre that were inscribed: "Dr. Goldstein cured Israel's ills." Numerous concerts of Jewish religious music and other events often developed into demonstrations of tribute to Goldstein. The Hebrew press reported these incidents of public tribute in copious detail. No major politician protested against such celebrations.
President Weizman expressed more extravagantly than others his sorrow for the massacre. Weizman, as reported by Uzi Benziman in his March 4, 1994 Haaretz article, was also engaged in lengthy and amiable negotiations with Goldstein's family and Kach comrades concerning a suitably honorable funeral for the murderer. Kiryat Arba settlers, many of whom had already declared themselves in favor of the mass murder in radio and television interviews and had lauded Goldstein as a martyr and holy man, demanded that General Yatom, the commander responsible for the Hebron area, allow the funeral cortege to parade through the city of Hebron, in order to be viewed by the Arabs even though a curfew existed. Yatom did not object outright to the demand but opposed it as something that could cause disorder. Tzvi Katzover, the mayor of Kiryat Arba and one of the most extreme leaders of the religious settlers, telephoned Weizman and threatened that the settlers would make a pogrom of Arabs if their demands were not met. Weizman responded by telephoning the chief of staff and asking why the army opposed the demand of the settlers. According to Benziman, Chief of Staff Barak answered: "The army was afraid that Arabs would desecrate Goldstein's tomb and carry away his corpse." In further negotiations involving Barak, Yatom, Rabin, Kach leaders and Kiryat Arba settlers, Weizman assumed the consistent position, as stated by Benziman, that "the army should pay respect to the desires and sensibilities of the settlers and of the Goldstein family." Ultimately, the negotiated decision was that a massively attended funeral cortege would take place in Jerusalem and that the police would close some of the busiest streets to the traffic in Goldstein's honor. Afterwards, the murderer would be buried in Kiryat Arba along the continuation of Kahane Avenue. According to Benziman, Kach leaders at first rejected this compromise. General Yatom had to approach the Kach leaders in person and beg them abjectly for their agreement, which he finally secured. Yatom also had to obtain consent from the notorious Kiryat Arba rabbi, Dov Lior. As reported in the March 4, 1994, issue of Yerushalaim Lior declared: "Since Goldstein did what he did in God's own name, he is to be regarded as a righteous man." Benziman explained the conduct of Weizman and his entourage: " After the fact the officials of the presidential mansion justify those goings on by the need to becalm the settlers' mood." After the funeral the army provided a guard of honor for Goldstein's tomb. The tomb became a pilgrimage site, not only for the religious settlers but also for delegations of pious Jews from all Israeli cities.
The details of Goldstein's funeral as arranged through the office of President Weizman are significant. The facts below were taken mostly from the Ilana Baum and Tzvi Singer report, published in Yediot Ahronot on February, 28 1994. The funeral's first installment took place in Jerusalem. Among the estimated thousand mourners only a few were settlers from Kiryat Arba. Baum and Singer noted: "Without having met Goldstein personally, other mourners most of whom were Jerusalemites, were enthusiastic admirers of his deed. Many more were Yeshiva students. A large group represented the Chabad Hassidic movement, another group [consisted of anti-Zionist] Satmar Hassids." Other Hassidic movements were also well represented. (Not mentioned in the English-language press, Goldstein, a follower of Kahane, was also a follower of the Lubovitcher rabbi.) Baum and Singer continued:
Before the start of the procession well-known rabbis eulogized Goldstein and commended the murder. Rabbi Israel Ariel, for example, said: "The holy martyr, Baruch Goldstein, is from now on our intercessor in heaven. Goldstein did not act as an individual; he heard the cry of the land of Israel, which is being stolen from us day after day by the Muslims. He acted to relieve that cry of the land!" Toward the end of his eulogy Rabbi Ariel added: "The Jews will inherit the land not by any peace agreement but only by shedding blood." Ben-Shoshan Yeshu'a, a Jewish underground member, sentenced to life imprisonment for murder and amnestied after a few years spent under luxurious hotel conditions, lauded Goldstein and praised his action as an example for other Jews to follow.
Border guards, police and the secret police protected the funeral cortege. Baum and Singer related:
Behind the young Kahane group members was a coffin, which was surrounded by leaders of Kahane splinter groups, some of whom were wanted by the police. (The police and the secret police claimed later that they did not recognize these wanted leaders. The press correspondents easily recognized them.) Baum wrote:
Military guards transported Goldstein's coffin to Kiryat Arba through Palestinian villages. A second round of eulogies was delivered in the hall of the Hesder Yeshiva Nir military institution by a motley of religious settlers, including the aforementioned Rabbi Dov Lior. Lior said: "Goldstein was full of love for fellow human beings. He dedicated himself to helping others." The terms "human beings" and "others" in the Halacha refer solely to Jews. Lior continued: "Goldstein could not continue to bear the humiliations and shame nowadays inflicted upon us; this was why he took action for no other reason than to sanctify the holy name of God."
Tohay Hakah reported in Yerushalaim on March 4,1994 upon another Lior eulogy of Goldstein a few days after the funeral. He recalled that Lior several years ago was excoriated in the press for recommending that medical experiments be performed on the live bodies of Arab terrorists. The outcry against this recommendation influenced the attorney general to prevent the otherwise guaranteed election of Lior to the Supreme Rabbinical Council of Israel. The attorney general, however, did not interfere with Lior's current rabbinical duties. The press reported upon other eulogies, delivered not only in religious settlements but in religious neighborhoods of many Israeli towns during the days immediately following the slaughter. The Hebrew press reportage of these eulogies suggests that the most virulent lauding of Goldstein and the calling for further massacres of Arabs occurred in the more homogeneous religious communities.
The approval of Goldstein and his mass murder extended well beyond the perimeters of the religious Jewish community. Secular Israeli Jews, especially many of the youth, praised Goldstein and his deed. That Israeli youth were even more pleased by the massacre than were the adults is well-documented. The concern here nevertheless will be with the adult population, which in many ways is the most significant. According to Yuval Katz, who wrote an article published in the March 4, 1994 issue of Yerushalaim, it is not true that "with the exception of a few psychopaths, the entire nation and its politicians included, has resolutely condemned Dr. Goldstein, even though, luckily for us, all major television networks in the world were last week still deluded by this untruth." Katz told how a popular television entertainer, Rafi Reshef, who was not controlled as tightly as the moderators in sedate panels, "could this week announce the findings of some reliable polls." Katz continued:
Katz reported that the politicians and academics interviewed by Reshef failed to grasp the significance of those findings. Attributing them to a chance occurrence, they refused to comment upon them. He tended to excuse them:
The impression of many other Israelis corresponded to the Reshef findings. People were rather evenly divided into two categories: in one category the people were vociferous in cheering the slaughter; in the other category the people mostly remained silent and condemned the massacre only if encouraged to do so. Katz continued:
The wise comments of Katz were not heeded in Israel except by a minority. It may be that had more Israeli Jews paid attention and heeded the words of Katz the murder of Yitzhak Rabin would have been averted. In the view of this book's authors, the important difference between the real shock caused by Rabin's murder and the lack of shock caused by Goldstein's massacre lies in the fact that Goldstein's victims were non-Jews.
Although less direct than Katz, many other commentators in the Israeli Hebrew press have focused upon that part of the Israeli Jewish public who were shocked by the rejoicing over the massacre of innocent people and disturbed by the apologia offered by many politicians and public figures. Some of those people who were shocked described the backers of and apologists for Goldstein as "Nazis" or "Nazi-like." These same people, who can be considered moderate hawks rather than Zionist doves, had before the massacre reacted negatively to the use by a few Israeli Jewish critics of such terminology in describing a part of the Israeli Jewish population. These "moderate hawks" had habitually labelled many Arab organizations, such as the Abu Nidal group and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, "Nazi" or "Nazi-like." They did not repudiate their views about these Arab organizations; they merely concluded that some Jewish individuals and organizations also merit being so labelled on equal terms with some Arabs. The prestigious journalist, Teddy Preuss, reflected upon all of this in a most severe but substantially representative manner in his March 4, 1994 Davar article:
Really, Kahane had the same notions about non-Jews. Although less scathing than Preuss, other Israeli commentators suggested the same consideration.
In contrast to the above criticism were the even more numerous comments about the harm caused to Israeli Jews by the Goldstein massacre. The lament in the February 28, 1994 Haaretz Economic Supplement, for example, was headlined: "Goldstein's massacre caused distress on the Tel-Aviv stock market." Other papers voiced similar sentiments. More importantly, Shimon Peres and other senior dovish politicians presented a typical political apologia in their criticism of the massacre, which they delivered in a meeting of the Knesset Committee for Foreign and Defense Affairs. Specific detail of this meeting is included below to illustrate the real opinions of most Israeli politicians and their general disregard of a major massacre of non-Jews except as it affected the interests of Israel and its allies. A March 8, 1994 Haaretz article reported the discussion at this meeting. Peres wasted no time expressing heartfelt shock about the murdered Palestinians but spoke instead about the harm to Israel caused by the "pictures of corpses that the entire world could watch." Peres did not condemn the armed religious settlers for their public rejoicing and shooting; he deplored the harm caused to Israel and to themselves by the pictures of them. As quoted in Haaretz, Peres added: "The events in Hebron also adversely affected the interests of President Mubarak and King Hussein, and even more of the PLO and its leadership." Peres then went on to say: "We have had Jewish Kibbutzim located in the midst of Arab inhabited areas for 80 years, and I cannot recall a single instance of such a slaughter nor of firing at Arab buses nor of maiming Arab mayors." At this point in the discussion senior Likud politicians interpolated Peres. As reported in Haaretz:
The above passage shows, among other things, that knowledge of Israeli politics and more generally Jewish affairs can be best attained by using the original sources of what Jews say among themselves.
The continuing process of Goldstein's elevation to the rank of saint by groups of Israeli Jews and his worship as such began soon after the massacre. In his February 28, 1994 Haaretz article, Shmnuel Rosner recounted a sermon delivered on the Sabbath after the massacre by Rabbi Goren, the former chief military rabbi and chief rabbi of Israel. Rosner wrote: "Goren's conclusion was that next time an authorization would be needed for a massacre. The authorization should come from the community 'not from the [present] illegal government."' Rosner observed that the audience liked Goren's sermon but would have preferred, as would numerous other Israeli Jews, that the army rather than Goldstein had committed the massacre.
In the days and weeks after the massacre, appreciation of Goldstein and his deed spread throughout the Israeli religious community and among its supporters in the United States. The initial expressions of that appreciation may be most significant, because they were spontaneous and because they illustrated the influence, even beyond the messianic community, of an ideology that approved indiscriminate killing of Gentiles by Jews. Avirama Golan described in her February 28, 1994 Haaretz article how news about Goldstein on the day of the massacre became known in the overwhelmingly Haredi city of Bnei Brak and how the next day a religious Jewish crowd reacted with praise of Goldstein during a mass entertainment event. The massacre occurred on Purim, the festival during which religious Jews are merry and sometimes drink alcoholic beverages to the point of drunkenness. Bnei Brak streets were filled to capacity by joyful celebrants that day; a special security force, comprised of religious veterans of the Israeli army's elite units, had been hired by the mayor to enforce order and modesty. Golan described the response in the streets to the spreading news of the massacre:
Jumping to the evening of the next day, Golan continued: "Masses of religious Jews were expected to come to Yad Eliahu Stadium [the biggest in Israel] to be entertained by the famous religious jazz singer, Mordechai Ben-David. For months before the massacre, this evening had been planned as a demonstration intended to save the land of Israel from Rabin, Peres and other Jewish infidels." All factions of the religious community were represented in the crowd. Golan again continued:
No wonder that Dov Halvertal, a member of the almost defunct faction of the NRP doves, told Golan: "This Purim joy epitomizes the moral collapse of religious Zionism... If religious Zionism does not undertake soul-searching right now, I doubt if it will ever have another opportunity."
Subsequent developments showed that neither the religious Zionists nor other factions within the Jewish religious community were or are in any mood to engage in soul-searching. On the contrary, the appreciation of Goldstein and the feeling that Jews have a right and duty to kill Gentiles who live in the land of Israel are growing. In his March 23, 1994 Haaretz article, Nadav Shraggai discussed the visit of a delegation of all Israeli branches of the Bnei Akiva, the large youth movement affiliated with the NRP, to Kiryat Arba and Hebron, which was then under a curfew selectively applied to its Arab inhabitants. The purpose of this visit was to "encourage Jewish settlers." Yossi Leibowitz, a settler leader from Hebron, as described by Shraggai, "beaming with satisfaction visible in his face asked the delegation: 'Have you already visited the tomb of holy Rabbi Doctor Goldstein?'" The visitors rejected the suggestion but did not utter one word of rebuke to the worshippers of the new saint. They then had to withstand a flurry of abuse from their local Bnei Akiva comrades who argued that their refusal to pay homage to Goldstein amounted to support of the left. Local rabbis affiliated with the NRP seconded the denunciation. Rabbi Shimon Ben-Zion, a senior teacher in the local Hesder Yeshiva and hence a state employee, delivered a eulogy of Goldstein and of what he called "his act." He added: "[If the government] keeps bowing low to Arabs, all of whom are murderers, [and if] the Jews fail to establish a firm rule over the land of Israel [there will be] more Goldsteins." Most visitors made counter-arguments; they were nevertheless influenced by their hosts' arguments; they came to believe that their duty to support the Jewish settlers in Hebron was more important than any minor disagreements about Goldstein's sainthood.
Gabby Baron reported in the March 16, 1994 Yediot Ahronot:
Neither Education Minister Arnnon Rubinstein nor Prime Minister Rabin uttered a single word in condemnation of the incident.
On April 5, 1994, Israeli radio reported that Rabbi Shimon Ben-Zion had distributed a leaflet among the Kiryat Arba and Hebron settlers requesting financial contributions for a book about "Saint Baruch Goldstein." On April 6, Yediot Ahronot published the text. The book refers to Goldstein as "Rabbi Doctor Baruch Goldstein of blessed memory, let the Lord avenge his blood." The Kiryat Arba municipal council backed the ideas of Ben-Zion. In his April 5, 1994 Haaretz article, Arnnon Barzilay reported that two days earlier Gush Emunim leaders, including Mayor Benny Katzover, had an amicable talk with Prime Minister Rabin who apologized to them for his past outbursts against them and promised never to repeat them. (The outbursts anyway were intended for consumption of the Israeli "doves," Arafat and the Western media.) The two sides agreed to cooperate closely in the future. Thus, Rabin understandably found it ill-advised to say anything about Rabbi Ben-Zion's idea.
About one year later the Kiryat Arba municipality obtained a permit from the Civil Administration of the Occupied Territories to build a large and sumptuous memorial on Goldstein's tomb, which has become a place of pilgrimage. Thousands of Jews from all Israeli cities, and even more from the United States and France, have come to light candles and pray for the intercession of "holy saint and martyr," now in a special section of paradise close to God and able to obtain for them various benefits, such as cures for diseases from which they suffer, or to grant them male offspring. The visitors have donated money for Goldstein's comrades. No Orthodox rabbi has criticized this.
The well-publicized worship of the new saint has brought increasing opposition from secular Jews. (The opposition of Palestinians, especially those living in Hebron, to the hero-worship of Goldstein and to the monument to this mass murderer are not within the scope of this book but should be obvious.) After a long campaign in the press, Knesset members passed a piece of legislation in May, 1998, that prohibited the building of monuments for mass murderers and ordering removal of existing ones. The Israeli army should have removed the monument immediately after passage of the law in the Knesset. Instead army spokesmen announced that negotiations over the Goldstein monument were on-going with Goldstein's family and local rabbis.
The book in praise of Goldstein, titled Blessed the Male, was published in 1995 and sold in many editions. Most of the readers were from the religious public. The book contained eulogies of Goldstein and halachic justifications for the right of every Jew to kill non-Jews. Rabbi Yitzhak Ginsburgh, the then head of the Kever Yosef (tomb of Joseph) Yeshiva, located on the outskirts of Nablus, wrote one chapter of that book. The essence of Rabbi Ginsburgh's views were presented in Chapter 4. His and other such ideologies, even if expressed more cautiously, explain Goldstein's massacre, the considerable support Goldstein and later his followers have received from religious Jews and the ambiguous attitude of Israeli governments to this crime. Those people, especially Germans, who were silent and did not condemn Nazi ideology before Hitler came to power are also, at least in a moral sense, guilty for the terrible consequences that followed. Similarly, those who are silent and do not condemn Jewish Nazism, as exemplified by the ideologies of Goldstein and Ginsburgh, especially if they are Jews, are guilty of the terrible consequences that may yet develop as a result of their silence.