This Week in History: The second Hebron massacre (JERUSALEM POST) By MICHAEL OMER-MAN 02/19/12)
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On February 25, 1994, Baruch Goldstein walked into the Ibrahim Mosque
at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron in his IDF reserve uniform
with his army-issued Galil assault rifle slung over his shoulder,
carrying at least three full magazines of ammunition. The mosque
packed for early-morning Ramadan prayers. As he entered, Goldstein
opened fire at the kneeling worshipers, killing 29 and wounding at
least 125 unarmed Palestinians. After finally running out of
ammunition, he was hit over the head with a fire extinguisher and
beaten to death by survivors of the massacre.
Riots broke out across the West Bank after the massacre and continue
for two days. More than 20 more Palestinians and nearly 10 Jews were
killed in the unrest in the two days following the initial murders.
In the months after, Hamas carried out two terror attacks, which it
said were a response to the massacre in Hebron.
The American immigrant to Israel had been a member of the Jewish
Defense League, a group designated a terror organization by the
United States. In Israel, he was a politician in the Kach Party,
which was banned from the Knesset for inciting racism and later
designated as a terrorist organization in Israel. Years before,
Goldstein reportedly foretold the massacre he would later carry out
to a Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) agent who was monitoring his
outlawed group, according to a report in Yedioth Aharonot at the
time, saying, “there will be a day when one Jew will take revenge on
Israeli authorities, however, maintained that there had been no
warning of the massacre, describing Goldstein as a lone madman. A
subsequent commission of inquiry confirmed that narrative.
Following the events of that day, Israel was forced into reflection.
While a large majority of Israelis condemned the killings, hundreds
would arrive at Goldstein’s grave in the adjoining settlement of
Kiryat Arba to celebrate him and his final deed, a terrorist act. The
grave has become the destination of a small pilgrimage since,
although police subsequently limited access to the site. The Knesset
even passed a law prohibiting memorials to terrorists in response to
a shrine erected for Goldstein.
Taking place in the middle of the peace process of the Rabin years,
the massacre had a long-lasting effect on the city of Hebron.
Following the killings and subsequent rioting, the IDF placed heavy
restrictions on Palestinian movement in the immediately surrounding
In order to prevent further clashes between settlers and Palestinian
residents, the IDF later closed Shuhada Street to Palestinian
automobile traffic and years later, completely sealed it to foot
traffic as well. As a result, Palestinian homes and shops in the area
have been completely shuttered, something that left-wing groups say
is a disproportionate and misdirected response. The site has since
seen yearly protests on the anniversary of the massacre demanding
that Shuhada Street be reopened to Palestinians.
The massacre also had an effect on the peace process, which was in
its most intense times in 1994 during the Yitzhak Rabin premiership.
It quickly became the topic of international condemnation, including
a United Nations Security Council resolution passed some weeks later,
condemning the killings and calling on Israel to guarantee the safety
of Palestinians in the territories.
Israel’s government and leaders took great efforts to mitigate the
emotional and physical scars created by the massacre. Then-president
Ezer Weizman called the killings "the worst thing that has happened
to us in the history of Zionism." Israel, he added, will "have to
toil hard in order to repair the terrible damage and heal the deep
rifts caused between ourselves and the Arabs, and among our own
But the effects of the massacre are still felt on the ground by
residents of Hebron, and support is still expressed for Goldstein and
his final act among extremist Jewish elements. The massacre at the
Tomb of the Patriarchs continues to play a role in the narrative of
the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and leads to occasional clashes on
the ground 18 years later. (© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem Post 02/19/12)
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