Baruch Goldstein

The perpetrator of the Hebron massacre is both vilified and celebrated.

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The commission stated that the Israeli security services failed to prevent the massacre due to poor coordination between the IDF, the police, and Hebron's Civil Administration, understaffing at the site, and faulty security equipment (metal detectors and closed circuit TV), not as the result of a conspiracy.

Moreover, no warnings of an attack on Muslims had been received by Israeli intelligence; in fact, the security services were on high alert following warnings of a planned attack by Hamas on Hebron's Jews. The Commission uncovered no evidence of a second shooter, grenade use, or collaboration by IDF soldiers, and dismissed reports to this effect as unreliable.

Reactions in Israel

In the wake of the massacre, the Israeli government and the Chief Rabbis unreservedly condemned Goldstein's actions. Prime Minister Rabin announced to the Knesset: "we say to this horrible man and those like him: you are a shame on Zionism and an embarrassment to Judaism."

The Cabinet decided to pay compensation to Goldstein's victims and enacted a series of measures designed to neutralize extremist elements among the Jewish population of the West Bank: administrative detention orders against individuals deemed to present a threat to public security, the disarming of people suspected of using their weapons for purposes other than self-defense, and the outlawing of the two extremist organizations, Kach and Kahane Chai.

In Hebron itself, the government adopted a policy of legal and geographical separation between the city's 450 Jewish settlers and its 120,000 Palestinian residents. This policy included the establishment of checkpoints within the city (a situation unlike that of any other West Bank town) and curfews aimed at the Palestinian population.

The Palestinians reacted to the massacre with fury. Angry mobs rioted across the West Bank and Gaza, leading to the deaths of 26 Palestinians and nine Israelis. The rioting spread to Jerusalem's El Aqsa mosque: Palestinian youths aimed rocks at policemen stationed below the Temple Mount and hundreds of rioters stormed the Mughrabi gate in an attempt to attack Jewish worshippers at the Western Wall. The police responded by firing rubber bullets and tear gas to drive back the crowd.

Across the Arab world, Palestinian and other Muslim religious leaders called for vengeance against Jews. In the following months, Palestinian terror organizations perpetrated a series of attacks against Israeli civilians.

For the Israeli Left, the aftermath of the massacre highlighted the inequitable treatment of Palestinians by the government and security services. Human rights organization B'tselem, for example, pointed out that in the month following the massacre, 13 Palestinian civilians were killed by the IDF in Hebron alone; over the following 18 months, this figure rose to 27.

Ruth Gavison, professor of human rights at the Hebrew University, noted that although the state regularly demolishes the homes of suicide bombers' families in the wake of attacks, it was apparent that meting out similar treatment to Goldstein's (Jewish) family would be unimaginable. Similarly, many Palestinian murderers are denied the right to be buried in the presence of their families, and even the funerals of Palestinian victims of terror are closely controlled by the security forces to prevent incitement and rioting.

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Matt Plen

Matt Plen is the Chief Executive of Masorti Judaism in the UK. He has taught and trained educators in diverse institutions in Israel, the UK and the USA and is currently researching his doctorate on Critical Pedagogy and Jewish Ideologies of Social Justice.