Mowed down dozens of Muslim worshipers with an
automatic rifle as they knelt in prayer at a mosque.
Cracked over the head by a fire extinguisher hurled by someone in the
crowd and then beaten lifeless.
Baruch Kappel Goldstein
(Hebrew: ברוך גולדשטיין;
December 9, 1956 – February 25, 1994) was an American-born Israeli
physician who perpetrated the 1994 Cave of the Patriarchs massacre in
the city of Hebron, killing 29 Muslims at prayer in the Ibrahimi Mosque
(within the Cave of the Patriarchs) and wounding another 150 in a
Goldstein was born in Brooklyn, New York to an
Orthodox Jewish family. He attended the Yeshivah of Flatbush religious
day school and Yeshiva University. He received his medical training at
Albert Einstein College of Medicine. He belonged to the Jewish Defense
League (JDL), a militant Jewish organization founded by Rabbi Meir
After emigrating to Israel, 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.
In the autumn of 1993, in recognition of his medical
work, Goldstein received two citations from the Israeli Army. In January
1994, Major Dr Yitzchak Ashkenazi, the local medical officer of the
district of Judea and Samaria recommended Goldstein for promotion to the
rank of Major in the Israeli Army.
the Patriarchs massacre
On February 25, 1994, that year's Purim day,
Goldstein entered a room in the Cave of the Patriarchs serving as a
mosque, wearing "his army uniform with the insignia of rank, creating
the image of a reserve officer on active duty" (Shamgar report). He then
opened fire, killing 29 people and wounding 150 (A Time magazine
article reported that Israeli officials counted 39 killed and
Palestinians reported 52 killed).
Mosque guard Mohammad Suleiman Abu Saleh said he
thought that Goldstein was trying to kill as many people as possible and
described how there were "bodies and blood everywhere." After being
subdued with a fire extinguisher and disarmed, Goldstein was beaten to
death. According to Ian Lustick, 'by mowing down Arabs he believed
wanted to kill Jews, Goldstein was reenacting part of the Purim story'.
Palestinian protests immediately followed the
shooting, leading in the following week to the deaths of 25 Palestinians
and five Israelis.
According to Aditi Bhaduri, writing in The Hindu,
following the massacre, Israel imposed a two-week curfew on the 120,000
Palestinian residents of the city, while the 400 Jewish settlers
remained free to move around.
Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin telephoned PLO
leader Yasser Arafat, and described the attack as a "loathsome, criminal
act of murder". The Israeli government condemned the massacre, and
responded by arresting followers of Meir Kahane, forbidding certain
settlers from entering Arab towns, and demanding that those settlers
turn in their army-issued rifles.
Treatment of non-Jews
Israeli press reports stated that Goldstein refused
to treat non-Jews, even those serving in the IDF, and this was reflected
in comments by his acquaintances.
Gravesite and shrine
Goldstein is buried across from the Meir Kahane
Memorial Park in Kiryat Arba, a Jewish settlement adjacent to Hebron.
The park is named in memory of Rabbi Meir Kahane, founder of the Israeli
far-right political party Kach, a group classified by the United States
and Israeli governments as a terrorist organization. Goldstein was a
long-time devotee of Kahane.
The gravesite has become a pilgrimage site for those
with extreme right-wing political views; a plaque near the grave reads "To
the holy Baruch Goldstein, who gave his life for the Jewish people, the
Torah and the nation of Israel."
In 1996, members of the Labor Party called for the
shrine-like landscaped prayer area near the grave to be removed, and
Israeli security officials expressed concern that the grave would
In 1999, following passage of a law designed to
prohibit monuments to terrorists, and an associated Supreme Court ruling,
the Israeli Army bulldozed the shrine and prayer area set up near
Cave of the Patriarchs massacre
The Cave of the Patriarchs massacre
occurred when Baruch Goldstein, an Israeli settler and member of the far-right
Israeli Kach movement, opened fire on unarmed Palestinian Muslim
worshippers praying inside the Cave of the Patriarchs mosque in Hebron
in the West Bank. It took place on February 25, 1994, during the
overlapping religious holidays of Purim and Ramadan. Between 39 and 52
Muslims were killed and more than 100 others wounded. The attack ended
when Goldstein was subdued and beaten to death by the survivors.
The attack set off riots and protests
throughout the occupied territories, and an additional 19 Palestinians
were killed by the Israeli Defense Forces within 48 hours of the
Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin
condemned the attack, describing Goldstein as a "degenerate murderer",
"a shame on Zionism and an embarrassment to Judaism".
Goldstein was praised as a martyr by
Jewish extremists in Hebron and his grave subsequently became a site of
"pilgrimage" for his supporters.
Baruch Goldstein, an Israeli settler
originally from the United States, had previously been involved with the
Jewish Defense League, a controversial extremist group which has been
characterized by the Federal Bureau of Investigation as a terrorist
organization, and by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-Arab
hate group. In 1981, Goldstein wrote in a letter to the editor published
in the New York Times, that the
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... 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.
After immigrating to Israel, Goldstein
became involved with Kach, and had a strong personal relationship with
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
The Israeli government divided the
Cave of the Patriarchs into two sections, one for Jewish worshippers and
the other for Muslim worshippers. At 05:00 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
Shortly afterwards, Baruch Goldstein,
a Jewish resident of the Kiryat Arba settlement and member of the
Kahanist movement, 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 35 rounds each. 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 cave and positioned to the rear of the Muslim worshippers, he
opened fire with the weapon, killing 29 people and injuring another 125.
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 also
reports that he had thrown grenades into the worshippers. Yasser Arafat
suggested that the attack was the work of up to 12 men, including
There were also various questions as
to the Israeli guards outside the cave having opened fire; while Israeli
military officials claim that no Israeli troops fired on the Palestinian
worshippers, the New York Times reported that over 40 different
Palestinian eyewitnesses, many of them confined to hospital beds with
gunshot wounds and thus "unable to compare notes", all corroborated that
three Israeli guards opened fire in confusion as the Muslims fled the
shrine, with one firing into the crowd.
The testimony of various Israeli
military officials was often contradictory. For instance, a Major
General asserted that the guards had fired only in the air, but the
guards themselves later testified to firing some 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
Goldstein's actions were immediately
condemned by the Israeli government, the mainstream Israeli parties and
the Israeli populace in general. The Kach movement, with which he was
affiliated, was outlawed as a terrorist organization. The cabinet agreed
to take away the weapons of some right-wing extremists and put them in
In an address to the Knesset, Prime
Minister Yitzhak Rabin denounced the US-born Goldstein. In words the New
York Times described as "stunningly harsh, almost Old Testament in their
damnation", Rabin, addressing not just Goldstein and his legacy but also
other militant settlers, suggested,
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.
Binyamin Netanyahu, head of the right
of centre Likud party declared, "This was a despicable crime. I express
my unequivocal condemnation."
The Israeli government appointed a
commission of inquiry headed by then
president of the Supreme Court, Judge Meir Shamgar. The commission in
epilogue to its report called the massacre "a base and murderous act, in
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
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 that:
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
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."
A poll of 500 Israeli adults for the
International Centre for Peace in the Middle East found that 78.8
percent of people condemned the Hebron massacre while 3.6 percent
Some of Goldstein's friends claimed
that Goldstein experienced an emotional crisis in the previous December,
when two of his friends were ambushed by Arab attackers near Kiryat Arba.
As head of the local emergency medical team, Goldstein was called, and
Mordechai Lapid and his 19-year-old son died in his arms. At Goldstein's
eulogy Rabbi Dov Lior of Kiryat Arba stated: "Goldstein could not
continue to bear all the cases he was seeing as a doctor; he might have
gone insane from all he went through." Rabbi Lior added that "since
Goldstein did what he did in God's name, he is to be regarded as a
Righteous Man" and asserted that Goldstein was "a martyr of God"; "His
hands are innocent, and his heart is pure."
Immediately after the attack, Mike
Guzofsky, spokesman for Kahane Chai in New York and a close friend of
Goldstein said, "He wanted to stop the peace process dead. He couldn't
have picked a better day – Purim, when Jews fight back."
Many Hebron Jews claimed that
Goldstein, in his capacity of head medical officer in Kiryat Arba, was
aware of inside information warning of an upcoming Arab pogrom and acted
in order to prevent this. They also alleged the failure of the army to
provide proper security under said threat of attack.
A pamphlet named Baruch Hagever was
published in 1994 and a book called Baruch Hagever: Sefer Zikaron la-Kadosh
Baruch Goldstein in 1995, in which 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
Rabbi Yitzhak Ginzburgh has been
detained by Israeli authorities several times in conjunction with his
praising the massacre, supposedly according to his interpretation of the
writings of the Lubavitcher rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson.
According to Ginzburgh, given the political status of the West Bank, the
killing of Arab noncombatants is "fully legitimate".
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.
According to one visitor to the
gravesite in the wake of the attacks, "If [Goldstein] stopped these so-called
peace talks, then he is truly holy because this is not real peace." Some
visitors kissed and hugged the gravestone, or even kissed the earth
under which Goldstein was buried, declaring him a "saint" and "hero of
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 continued to celebrate the anniversary of the massacre
in the West Bank, sometimes even dressing up themselves or their
children to look like Goldstein.
In the United Kingdom, Chief Rabbi Dr.
Jonathan Sacks stated,
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
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 fund-raising
for Goldstein's victims.
Angry mobs began rioting in the
aftermath of the massacre, which led to the deaths of 26 more
Palestinians and 9 Israelis. As a reaction to the trauma induced in
children in Hebron, the Palestinian Child Arts Center (PCAC), a non-governmental,
non-profit 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.
The first suicide bombing carried out
by Palestinian militants was launched by Hamas' Izzedine al-Qassam
Brigades in 1994, in retaliation for the massacre carried out by
Goldstein. Eight people were killed and 34 wounded in the attack which
took place in Afula on April 6, 1994, at the end of the forty day
mourning period for Goldstein's victims.
Arab public and governments
In Amman, Jordan, 77-year-old British
tourist Howard Long was stabbed by Arab protesters. The attacker, Khalid
Husni Al-Korashi, was subsequently arrested and the Jordanian Interior
Ministry called for its citizens to show calm and restraint in their
In March 1994, a Jewish American was
shot to death by a Lebanese immigrant in New York City, in what
prosecutors attributed to retaliation for the massacre.
In february 1994, Goldstein gunned down 29 Arab
worshippers at al-Ibrahimi mosque. The shrine, the traditional burial
place of the biblicial Abraham, is also revered as the Cave of the
The segment of Shuhada Street - Martyrs' Street -
opened today had been closed to Palestinian traffic except ambulances
and municipal vehicles since February 1994, when Baruch Goldstein, a
Jewish settler and immigrant physician from New York City, gunned down
29 Muslim worshipers in a Hebron mosque.
Israel feared that the street, which passes by heavily
guarded compounds where 500 Jewish settlers live, would be the scene of
Palestinian retribution. Palestinian traffic is still prohibited from
the part of Shuhada Street directly in front of the settler enclaves.
Five years after the massacre, Israel opened the main
road in the West Bank city of Hebron to Palestinian traffic that,
strangely had been closed to Palestinians after the massacre even though
the gunman was Jewish.
Dozens die in attack on Mosque,
Workshipers are mowed down by jewish
The Phoenix Gazette
February 25, 1994
An American immigrant armed with an automatic rifle
mowed down dozens of Muslim worshipers as they knelt in prayer at a
mosque today and then took his own life. The massacre ignited riots that
spread throughout the occupied lands.
Hospital officials said 50 Palestinians were killed
and 170 wounded in the mosque attack and subsequent riots, which spilled
over into other West Bank towns, the Gaza Strip and the old walled city
of Jerusalem. There was no estimate of how many people died inside the
At least 40 in West Bank mosque
Jewish man opens fire
The Boston Globe
February 26, 1994
HEBRON, Israeli-occupied West Bank -- With Palestinian
worshipers kneeled in early morning prayer, a Jewish settler yesterday
entered a packed mosque and opened fire with a rapid-firing assault
rifle, killing at least 40 and wounding scores in one of the worst
massacres of the century-long Arab-Jewish conflict.
'Massive rush' to only exit stymied
by lone gunman
Mosque survivors carry out dead
The Arizona Republic
February 26, 1994
It was 5:45 a.m. in the Ibrahim Mosque and 800 Muslim
worshipers, their heads bowed in silent dawn prayer, knelt in neat rows
on red carpets.
Then shots rang out. The gunman was Baruch Goldstein,
38, a Brooklyn, N.Y.-born physician from Kiryat Arba, a nearby
settlement. Wearing the olive-green uniform of an Israeli army major, he
burst into the Ibrahim Mosque in the Cave of the Patriarchs, a shrine
holy to both Jews and Muslims.
Mosque killer a zealot who hated
Militant settler talked of slaying
The Phoenix Gazette
February 26, 1994
Three months ago, Baruch Goldstein seemed to capture
the mood of the most militant West Bank settlers when he spoke of taking
the law into his own hands.
"We are fed up, and with God's help we will
establish the State of Judea," he told a radio interviewer.
"And then we will deal with the Palestinians ourselves."
Doctor's suicide attack preceded by
loving visit with his 4 children
The Arizona Republic
February 26, 1994
Baruch Goldstein lovingly rocked his children on his
lap in synagogue, only hours before he slaughtered dozens of Palestinian
worshipers in a Hebron mosque on Friday.
He was 38, a father of four, a doctor who treated
trauma victims. But the New York-born Jewish settler knew how to hate.
Troops added to massacre, sources
Mistook gunman for ally under attack
The Arizona Republic
February 27, 1994
Israeli TV reported Saturday that some of the victims
of the massacre in the Mosque of Abraham were killed by Israeli soldiers
who rushed in after a Jewish settler opened fire on praying Palestinian
men and boys.
Mosque gunman's mother says she's
proud of him
The Boston Globe
March 5, 1994
JERUSALEM -- The mother of Baruch Goldstein, the
Jewish settler who massacred about 40 Palestinians in a Hebron mosque a
week ago, says she is proud of her son.
"I always thought to myself, 'When would someone
get up and do such a thing?' And in the end, my son did it," Miriam
Goldstein told the weekly Shishi newspaper.
AP LOWERS DEATH TOLL AT MOSQUE TO 30 AFTER FAMILIES
The Boston Globe
March 6, 1994
JERUSALEM -- Thirty Palestinians were shot to death by
Jewish settler Baruch Goldstein in the Hebron mosque massacre, rather
than 39 as reported earlier, according to an Associated Press check
The revised figure brings the overall death toll of
Palestinians killed in the massacre and in rioting since then to 55. In
addition, three Israelis, including Goldstein, have been killed since
Mosque killer aided, testimony
Israeli guards tell of second settler
The Boston Globe
March 18, 1994
JERUSALEM -- In dramatic testimony that raised the
possibility mass murderer Baruch Goldstein had an accomplice, two
Israeli army guards yesterday said a second settler entered Hebron's
Tomb of the Patriarchs on Feb. 25 shortly after gunman Goldstein did.
The guards testified that when Goldstein went into the
tomb he was armed with a different gun from the Galil assault rifle
found by his body after the massacre of Muslim worshipers. The second
settler was carrying a Galil, they said.
Palestinian panel says troops fired
The Boston Globe
March 26, 1994
WASHINGTON -- A Palestinian inquiry into the Hebron
mosque massacre will conclude that Israeli soldiers joined a Jewish
settler in firing at Arab worshipers, the inquiry commission's chairman
Dr. Abdul Hafeez Ash-hab said that although the
commission has no forensic or other physical evidence, several
eyewitnesses have said they saw at least two soldiers in addition to
Jewish settler Dr. Baruch Goldstein firing at people in the mosque.
Gunman in mosque acted alone,
israeli report says
The Boston Globe
March 27, 1994
JERUSALEM -- Jewish settler Baruch Goldstein acted
alone when he killed 29 Palestinian worshipers in a Hebron mosque in
February, the Israeli commission of inquiry said in its report issued
The report, praised by the government and rejected by
Palestinian leaders and some on Israel's political left, did not call
for criminal indictments or a reexamination of the military's procedures
and standing orders.
Massacre at mosque
Dr. Baruch Goldstein was so blinded by enmity
toward Arabs as to seem "batty" even to some of his fellow
ultra nationalist, fervently religious neighbors in the Jewish
settlement of Kiryat Arba, near Hebron in the West Bank.
About a year ago, he was heard to prophesy, in a
synagogue no less, that "there will come a day when a Jew will get
up and kill many Arabs for killing Meir Kahane" -- the Jewish
zealot slain in New York City in 1990.
But this was no simple crazy act. Goldstein was a
fanatic who took precise steps carefully calculated to reach a clear, if
evil, goal. Presuming the American-born doctor intended to kill the
Palestinian-Israeli peace process while avenging what he considered
crimes against Jews, he chose time, place and method well to produce the
most inflammatory effect possible. What better time than a Friday, the
Islamic holy day, during Ramadan, the month of fasting and prayer, the
same day as the Jewish feast of Purim, which commemorates the killing of
the Persian royal minister Haman and his followers before they could
carry out a planned massacre of Jews? What better place than the Ibrahim
Mosque, where Muslims pray at the Tomb of the Patriarchs -- a site
thought to contain the graves of the prophets Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,
guaranteed to draw a wall-to-wall crowd of worshippers? What better
method than to spray clip after clip of bullets into them without
Which Goldstein did, with shocking efficiency. By 5:20
a.m. about 700 men, women and children, having risen in the dark to down
a hurried breakfast, had jammed into the mosque for the dawn prayers
that mark the start of the sunrise-to-sunset fast on each of the 30 days
of Ramadan. Prayers had just begun; the worshippers were kneeling
forward on plastic mats, touching foreheads reverently to the floor.
Mohammad Suleiman Abu Sarah, a mosque guard, saw
Goldstein, well known to the Muslims as a troublemaker, approach. He was
wearing a reserve captain's olive-green army uniform and a yarmulke and
carrying a military-issue Galil assault rifle. As a Jew living in the
occupied territories, he was entitled to carry the weapon wherever he
went. Speaking good Arabic, "he asked to go inside during the
prayers," said Abu Sarah. "I said it is forbidden. He said, 'I
am the officer in charge here, and I must go in.' " With that,
Goldstein swung his rifle butt into Abu Sarah's shoulder, knocking him
down, and then rushed into the mosque.
Inside, Goldstein "didn't say even one
word," reported Abu Sarah. He simply took up a position close to
the backs of the worshippers in the rear row and opened fire. "I
saw seven people die immediately," said Abu Sarah. "They were
hit in the head, and their brains spilled out. It was total chaos.
Everyone was running here and there to try and hide. The mosque was full
of blood and wounded people, dead people."
A second guard, too scared to give his name,
corroborated: "People started screaming and running away. Others
who were hit were calling for help. People were swimming in blood. It
was difficult to distinguish between the dead and the living, because
everyone was covered in blood." Worshippers raced outside with
bodies and jammed them into ambulances without pausing to sort the
living from the dead. Ambulance driver Khaled Jaabry discovered only
when he reached a local hospital that among the wounded he carried there
were his own son and brother.
The firing inside the mosque continued for about 10
minutes, but the confusion outside the blood-soaked shrine lasted far
longer than that. A particularly hot issue is whether some worshippers
were shot by Israeli soldiers amid the chaos that Goldstein started. The
second guard said he saw three men in Israeli army uniforms enter the
mosque and shoot. Israeli TV, quoting army sources, gave a different
version: two soldiers rushed into the mosque, saw worshippers starting
to overpower Goldstein, interpreted the scene as an attack by
Palestinians on a uniformed Israeli and opened fire. Nabil Shaath, the
Palestine Liberation Organization's chief peace negotiator, claimed that
eight worshippers were killed at the mosque entrance by Israeli
soldiers. Even if true, these contentions would not necessarily point to
the conspiracy that P.L.O. chief Yasser Arafat alleged; the few soldiers
on the scene could simply have panicked as hundreds of frantic and
bleeding Palestinians fled the carnage.
The Israeli army said a preliminary investigation
indicated that Goldstein had acted alone, firing about 100 bullets;
investigators recovered roughly that many casings from the mosque floor.
The most the army would concede on Saturday was that when worshippers
started pouring out of the mosque in great numbers, soldiers outside did
fire -- but supposedly only warning shots in the air. But the charges
were serious enough to initiate an official investigation. Military
sources also said some Palestinians may have been trampled to death in
the headlong rush to escape the bullets. All told, the total of dead and
wounded last Friday exceeded even the number Goldstein could have hit,
hard as he was trying. Israeli officials counted 39 people killed at the
mosque; the Palestinians figured 52, plus 70 wounded.
Those figures leave out one more death: that of
Goldstein. He was eventually cracked over the head by a fire
extinguisher hurled by someone in the crowd and then beaten lifeless. He
seems to have expected something of the sort: before leaving on his
murderous foray, he sent goodbye notes to the town council of Kiryat
Arba and to a colleague who had worked with him at the clinic there,
indicating that he would not return. To the co-worker he wrote, "I
enjoyed working as a doctor. Wishing for full redemption."
This was the doomsday scenario friends of the peace
process had long imagined, anticipated, dreaded. All it would take was
one crazy extremist from either side to open fire on an opposing crowd,
and the Israeli-P.L.O. accords would fall apart.
Ever since the September peace accord was signed on
the White House lawn, radical settlers, especially from the Kahane
movement, have been loudly announcing their determination to take
matters into their own hands to stop the delivery of land they consider
their biblical birthright into the hands of the Palestinians. Settlers
in Hebron have been caught on videotape firing repeatedly on Palestinian
stone throwers. Jewish militants have stopped Palestinians on the roads
and harassed them. The Israeli army for the most part has stood by,
doing nothing to subdue them.
Yet the ramifications of the Hebron massacre may not
be quite what was anticipated. Arafat spoke with justifiable outrage and
a hint of reluctance to continue negotiating, but he kept his options
open. Yitzhak Rabin made a point of sounding genuinely horrified when he
called Goldstein "deranged," and he extended
uncharacteristically warm offerings to the Palestinians while imposing
unheard-of measures against the settlers. Bill Clinton, with unusual
decisiveness, made merit out of mayhem and invited both parties to
resume their talks in Washington immediately. The Hebron rampage may end
up achieving the opposite of what Goldstein intended: speeding up the
Israeli-P.L.O. peace negotiations rather than wrecking them.
That is still far from a certainty, since the massacre
touched off stone throwing and rioting throughout the Israeli-occupied
territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Israeli soldiers firing on
protesters killed 19, bringing the total for Friday and Saturday to
somewhere between 58 and 71, depending on the toll in the mosque;
another 250 people were wounded in the riots. Friday was the bloodiest
day in the occupied Palestinian lands since Israel conquered them in
Displaced Palestinians demonstrated in Lebanon, Jordan
and Syria, countries that are negotiating with Israel. In Israel proper
there were outbreaks of stone throwing among Arabs in such cities as
Nazareth and Jaffa, an ominous development: Israeli Arabs, while
sympathetic with their brethren in the occupied territories, have hardly
ever resorted to violence.
The air rang with the sort of cries for blood that can
make continued talk of peace a hollow mockery. "Today is for the
Jews, but tomorrow is for us," vowed a Palestinian on the sacred
grounds of Jerusalem's Dome of the Rock. Even Freih Abu Middain, the
normally moderate head of the bar association in the Gaza Strip, talked
of future bloodshed: "Had this massacre happened after we had a
Palestinian police force, we would be going into the Jewish settlements
and killing at least 100 people there. Our people will not remain
But in the fanatic Jewish precincts in Hebron,
settlers danced in the streets and praised Goldstein's martyrdom. The
Purim parades continued as if nothing had happened, and some residents
of Kiryat Arba called his act "a great gift." One settler,
stopped by a soldier as she tried to assault a Palestinian journalist,
shrieked, "We should kill 500, not 50!"