In the 10-month terror wave, the Justice Ministry unit for investigating the police often does not even question the officers involved, let alone open a probe.
In the 10-month wave of lone-wolf attacks by Palestinians, many of them stabbings, only once have the police been thoroughly investigated and questioned on suspicion of opening fire in violation of regulations. This, despite video evidence showing that officers may have acted improperly.
For its part, the Justice Ministry’s unit for investigating the police says it must consider “the obligation to let the police fighters protect the lives of the public effectively ... out of recognition that a police officer who happens upon a terrorist attack uses his judgment and makes decisions in a very few seconds.”
There are several key examples from the past 10 months; one took place on October 12, two weeks into the terror wave, when 17-year-old Mustafa al-Khatib went to the Lions Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem. The police say he pulled out a knife and tried to stab a Border Police officer. The officer, who was wearing a protective vest, was unharmed and Khatib was shot and killed.
Khatib’s family did not accept the police’s version and asked the Justice Ministry’s unit for investigating the police to look into the matter, as is customary when the police shoot someone dead.
Four months later, the family finally received an answer. “No evidentiary basis exists that shows the committing of a criminal act by any of the police officers,” the unit wrote.
But the case file shows that the investigators never even questioned the officers involved. They sufficed with the report the policemen wrote after the event and the internal police inquiry in which the three officers were questioned.
And the report by the three cops — the only report in the file sent to the Khatib family’s lawyers — did not even concern the incident in which Khatib was killed. It was about an incident that occurred two days earlier.
Security-camera video that Haaretz has obtained shows how Khatib shoved a policeman and then ran from police officers; only then was he shot in the back. The investigators also did not question eyewitnesses.
Because the police objected to an autopsy, an autopsy was conducted at Al-Quds University’s forensic medicine institute, at the initiative of the family’s lawyers from rights groups Adalah and Addameer. The autopsy’s findings were consistent with the video: The shots that killed Khatib were aimed at his upper body.
“The evidentiary file raises [the suspicion] that there are many investigative flaws in this incident and many questions in the case,” said Fadi Khoury, one of the lawyers. He said the Justice Ministry unit “completely relied on the police’s conclusions, even though the visual documentation of the shooting clearly raises [the suspicion] that it violated the regulations on opening fire.”
The Justice Ministry investigators said the police were forced to open fire.
In the past 10 months, a number of requests have been submitted to the Justice Ministry about examining the rules concerning the shooting of assailants. But in all but one incident, the cases have been closed without the unit investigating and questioning the officers.
Another such incident took place only two days after Khatib was shot, after a 72-year-old woman was stabbed in Jerusalem’s Central Bus Station. Police shot and killed the suspect, 22-year-old Ahmed Abu Shaaban, near the station. In a video, a police officer can be seen opening fire while Abu Shaaban was lying on the ground.
Abu Shaaban’s family said he was not involved in the attack and asked the Justice Ministry to investigate. The answer was similar to that in the Khatib case.
“From an examination of the relevant material, it seems the shooting happened immediately after Ahmed stabbed a 72-year-old woman, and after he was identified by civilians as the person who committed the stabbing, and while he was still holding the knife in the city center,” wrote Liora Nahon, the deputy head of the Justice Ministry unit. She said the police had to shoot to prevent further stabbings.
When Adalah sought to appeal the closing of the case and receive the material that produced the decision, it received a surprising answer: “There is no material in our file except for the complaint received in our department from your organization.”
The unit told Haaretz this response was apparently sent because the materials involved had not been electronically scanned. Either way, the decision was based on testimony gathered by both the police and Justice Ministry investigators.
“I think that if there is an a priori assumption that the police officers in a case acted legally, and the only way to discover that they acted improperly is based on internal police memos or questioning when one avoids questioning witnesses and gathering objective evidence, this guarantees that every case will be closed and a case of violating [regulations] will never be found,” said Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer, vice president of the Israel Democracy Institute and a professor emeritus of law and former law dean at Hebrew University.
The rules on opening fire
Repeatedly appearing in these cases are the regulations on the police opening fire. The rules of engagement state that officers must warn that they intend to shoot, and must first shoot in the air.
“It is possible to do without the warning when there is seen to be a real and immediate threat to the life or body of the police officer or another person,” the regulations state. “The police officer is required to use the weapon with maximum caution, in a way that will cause as light an injury as possible.”
But last October then-Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein said the regulations on opening fire should be even more carefully adhered to. “The use of [live] fire after danger has been prevented to life or limb will be a deviation from the law’s instructions,” Weinstein said.
Five months ago, the Justice Ministry unit received another case on exactly this question. On March 8, Bashar Masalha went on a stabbing spree on the Jaffa promenade, killed American tourist Taylor Force and wounded 11. Police shot and killed Masalha.
In a video of part of the incident, Masalha can be seen lying on the ground apparently unable to get up. A police officer and an older police volunteer are seen standing over him, their guns out.
Bystanders can be heard telling the volunteer things like: “Give it to him in the head, don’t be afraid, give it to him in the head. Good, you’re a king.” A policeman is then heard telling his superiors over the radio, “I’ve neutralized him.” But the bystanders keep egging the volunteer on to “give it to him in the head.”
At that point, at least one shot is heard, apparently from the volunteer. That shot is suspected of causing Masalha’s death. Afterward, the other policeman can be heard saying,
“Yossi, enough! He’s lying there neutralized. What are you doing firing for no reason?” A civilian can also be heard urging the police to stop shooting.
Immediately after the events, the Justice Ministry unit announced that it was investigating, but Haaretz has learned that the volunteer has never been questioned. In fact, it has not yet been decided whether his testimony is needed. The case has not been closed, but it is not clear whether or when the investigation will be completed.
In the 10-month terror wave, the only police officer investigated on suspicion of opening fire in violation of regulations was the officer who shot two Palestinian teenagers who stabbed two people with scissors in Jerusalem in late November. One of the female attackers was killed and the other seriously wounded.
This investigation has not yet produced a decision, even though the police officer, a sapper who happened to be passing by, was questioned under caution that he might be charged back in December. The decision is now up to Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit.
The investigation seems to have been opened only because of the intervention of Mendelblit’s predecessor Weinstein and State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan. The Justice Ministry hitherto opposed an investigation.
According to one of the police officer’s lawyers, “It became clear that the sapper called out to the terrorists to toss their weapons away, but they refused. If our client had not happened to be passing by, the incident would have ended differently.”
In February, Israel Defense Forces chief Gadi Eisenkot touched on the incident indirectly when he was asked by a high school student whether the army’s rules of engagement put soldiers at risk. Eisenkot said the rules were good.
“The IDF cannot speak in slogans such as ‘if someone comes to kill you, kill them first,’ or ‘everyone who carries scissors should be killed.’” Troops can act only if there is threat to life, Eisenkot said.”I don’t want a soldier to empty a magazine on a girl with scissors,” he added.
In such cases, soldiers can be investigated by the Military Police, not the Justice Ministry.
Disciplinary proceedings only
Haaretz has also learned that another police officer was investigated on suspicion that he acted improperly after a terrorist attack, though he did not shoot. In a November incident in south Tel Aviv, two Israelis were stabbed to death by a Palestinian who worked in a nearby restaurant and had a permit to work in Israel.
In this incident, after the assailant was subdued by civilians, a police officer arrived who is now suspected of attacking the assailant when there was no longer a need to do so. The police say the officer is expected to face disciplinary proceedings; he could be dismissed.
Still, many cases that end with the death of the assailant don’t reach this stage, and police and witnesses don’t get questioned by the Justice Ministry unit. In an October stabbing case, East Jerusalem resident Fadi Alloun moderately wounded a 15-year-old boy. A video shows that Alloun was shot dead by a police officer while walking from the scene. Civilians can be heard shouting “Shoot him” and telling Alloun “You’re going to die.”
The Justice Ministry justified closing the case by saying the video and testimony of two eyewitnesses showed that “after Alloun came close to the police officer and threateningly waved the knife, he was shot by a police unit .... The police unit fired at the center of Alloun’s body to neutralize him.”
The Justice Ministry unit told Haaretz that firing at the center of an attacker’s body is a matter of judgment based on the fear the assailant will try to kill others. Thus the case was closed because no crime was committed, the unit said.
Prof. Amichai Cohen, a research fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute and a professor of law at Ono Academic College, has criticized the way Justice Ministry investigators rely on the conclusions of internal police inquiries. The main lesson learned by the army in recent years is that a criminal investigation can’t be based on an internal inquiry by the military unit involved, Cohen says.
After the 2014 Gaza war, the army set up an independent system of “factual inquires” outside the regular chain of command. Conclusions are sent to the military advocate general to decide whether to open an official investigation. In comparison, the Justice Ministry unit is only authorized to conduct a criminal investigation, which creates a media storm and a stigma by its very existence, Cohen says.
The Justice Ministry unit’s treatment of complaints is also sometimes lacking outside the lone-wolf terror wave. This has been the case with four complaints about police attacks filed by Palestinian rescue workers and Physicians for Human Rights. The cases were quickly closed.
“Our conclusions were reached, among other reasons, because of a lack of cooperation on your part during the investigation,” the unit said.
In one case, Ra’ed Fathi Yakub al-Khutri, who works for the Red Crescent Society, said that in October 2015, when he arrived with his ambulance to evacuate people during confrontations near Al-Bireh in the West Bank, he was attacked by the Border Police. After evacuating a man injured during the clash, the police fired at his vehicle a number of times. Later, after he stopped, a police officer kicked a volunteer, he said.
In January he testified in a Justice Ministry investigation but since then no one has been in contact with him on the matter, he said. In April he was told the case had been closed in light of “his lack of cooperation.”
The Justice Ministry unit told Haaretz: “It is possible that because of a technical mistake an incorrect statement was sent to the complainant. At this stage the file is under consideration by the appeals department.”
The Justice Ministry’s unit for investigating police officers said in response: “The wave of terrorism that has struck the country recently has included numerous incidents of the use of deadly force by police officers who found themselves at the scene of an attack facing those who went out into city streets armed with [knives and other] weapons and showed intent to kill Israelis .... In a large number of these cases, the police officer who fired was not necessarily a skilled combatant but someone who for the first time happened upon an extreme event and responded instinctively.”
The unit said it thus had to “carefully preserve the delicate and fine balance between the legal requirements and the essential need to protect human lives of any person, and between the obligation to let the police fighters protect the lives of the public effectively ... out of recognition that a police officer who happens upon a terrorist attack uses his judgment and makes decisions in a very few seconds.”
According to the unit, “Most of the incidents ended with findings that rule out a suspicion of criminal offenses in accordance with the laws of self-defense accepted in law and justice.”
As for the allegations about the harassing of medical teams, the Justice Ministry unit said: “Without the cooperation of the complainants, and without receiving their versions, it is impossible to carry out the relevant investigative activities. There is no reason to examine the operation logs and the forces that operated during incidents without receiving the complainants’ version of events, without which there is no basis for investigating a suspicion of carrying out a criminal offense.”
For 60 years, the establishment, media and courts have colluded to hide the truth about this ugly affair that dismantles the Zionist story we like to tell ourselves.
If the issue of the missing Yemenite Jewish children did not involve an ethnic as well as a criminal angle, it would have been resolved a long time ago. But who will dare admit that many Jewish children were abducted from their parents by other Jews, in a phenomenon with racist overtones, right after the Holocaust? Thus, the story is buried deep underground, evidence is destroyed and the public is lied to for over 60 years.
There were abductions of Yemenite Jewish children, and these were deliberate and systematic. One can learn about them first of all from the testimonies of the parents. Anyone disbelieving them should examine the filters through which they allow reality to permeate their consciousness. I immediately believed these parents when I first interviewed them in 1994 on Israel Radio. Their testimonies were clear and incisive, unless you believe that Yemenite Jews are chronic fantasizers. That would dovetail with statements such as “we established this state and you should be grateful that we’ve brought you here,” which I’ve been hearing lately.
When a woman gives birth to a healthy baby who is shown to her, and right after that a doctor comes in and tells her that since she “pressed too hard” the baby was stillborn, one doesn’t need a high school diploma to realize that the baby was kidnapped. When 40 babies are sent together from the Atlit transit camp to Jerusalem for “immunization” and they never return, any reasonable person understands that what happened was not “immunization.” If three Yiddish speakers arrive at the baby dorms at the Ein Shemer camp in the evening hours, after most staff members and mothers have gone, and collect babies from their cribs before disappearing forever, even a Yemenite speaker can understand that something is rotten.
There are many more such testimonies. One can add to these reports by Knesset members in the 1950s and 1960s, telling of sales of children for money and a “black market for children.” There are also the words of Justice Shneur Zalman Cheshin in that period, describing fictitious adoption papers that were granted by wily ruses. One realizes that this was a covert and comprehensive scheme.
It’s not as far-fetched as it may sound today. It’s hard to convey the depth of racism toward immigrants from Yemen felt by leaders of the Jewish community, among them, David Ben-Gurion himself, as well as various administrators who dealt directly with immigration and absorption of newcomers. Horrified caregivers and nurses reported that Yemenites don’t feed their children unless there are leftovers after the adults finish eating; that they give them coffee (their coffee was made from the caffeine-free husks of coffee beans, laced with cinnamon and ginger, but nurses heard ‘coffee’ and passed out); that Yemenites don’t really care if they have one child more or two less. Thus you get “moral legitimization” for transferring babies from “unfit” parents to those who are fit, as if people who considered themselves gods were handling babies as if they were playing Lego. The media were overall sympathetic to the establishment, gleefully disseminating the same racist message, as if the state’s leaders, doctors, nurses and heads of the medical establishment all sprang out of the same ideological womb, with a common heart beating in all of them. The media thereby legitimized the removal of these children from their parents.
One could of course argue that all the committees set up to examine the issue determined that none of this really happened. Let’s ignore the first two, in 1967 and 1988, irrelevant committees that had no authority, and focus on the state commission of inquiry. Never has there been a commission of inquiry in Israel which has gone to such great lengths to pursue a clear objective of not finding anything. Paradoxically and woefully, it revealed numerous findings that pointed to systematic and deliberate abductions. However, the commission made great efforts to ignore these findings, submitting an embarrassing and shameful report in 2001, limping along with excuses and meanderings only for the purpose of absolving the state from any responsibility for the affair, while avoiding greatly shaming it.
Behind the scenes of this commission there was an apparatus meant to conceal evidence, one which would do honor to any totalitarian state: Archives were destroyed, documents were falsified, witnesses reported that they had been threatened and important testimonies were heard behind closed doors. Aside from a handful of journalists, such as Ehud Ein-Gil from Haaretz and Kalman Liebskind from Makor Rishon, no one bothered reading the commission’s report, let alone examining its veracity.
Thus, the families were thrice betrayed: Once by the powerful, violent and arrogant establishment of the 1950s, then, by the courts and finally, by the media. Three power hubs, which in a democracy are supposed to sustain a system of checks and balances, instead embraced each other in a hug, unparalleled in the annals of the state, and which only Yemenite immigrants who had “arrived from the Middle Ages” could have generated. Human rights groups and enlightened fighters for the liberty and welfare of Palestinians, foreign workers, and virtually anything that moves joined in the arrogance of power brokers, suffering from a blind spot that has persisted for over 60 years.
This affair is not a “Yemenite Jews affair” but a black stain on the blue and white flag. It reflects collective guilt and a comprehensive and ongoing moral failure.
This is what needs to be done now: Expose the entire truth, analyze it, understand it, mourn it and cry out over it. Ultimately, forgiveness may follow. This will be painful. The kidnapping affair dismantles the Zionist story we like telling ourselves, of the miraculous State of Israel, moral and gracious. The continued whitewashing of the affair shatters everything we believe we are today.
Settlers are trying to spin water shortages as a problem that affects both Palestinians and Jews in the same manner. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
The recent reports on water crisis in Palestinian areas of the West Bank were accompanied by a story of another water shortage: this time in Israeli settlements. Let’s get one thing straight — there has never been a “water shortage” in the settlements. When settlers open up the tap at home or in their garden, the amount and quality of the water is identical to that which comes out in most homes to the west of the Green Line. Yes, there were several recent instances in which the water supply was cut off temporarily in a number of settlements (generally for a few hours), during which the authorities provided settlers water from water tanks. One can safely say that not a single settler was left thirsty.
A West Bank water crisis for Palestinians only By Stephanie Westbrook | November 22, 2014
Visualizing Occupation: Distribution of Water By +972 Resources | July 2, 2012
Israel is pulling the West Bank out from under Palestinian feet By Natasha Roth | September 11, 2015
Anyone who has had the opportunity to see how the settlers work the media will not be surprised that the issue made headlines. By exaggerating the water shortage, the settlers hope to achieve two complementary goals: neutralizing criticism of outright discrimination by the the state in everything having to do with the quantity of water sold to Palestinians (which makes up only a small percentage of water in the West Bank, the rest goes to West Bank settlements and Israel), while using the cynical and empty claim that the water shortage affects “both Arabs and Jews.”
The second goal is put pressure on right-wing politicians to approve budgets for establishing new water infrastructure, in order to meet the demand, which will likely skyrocket in the coming years — assuming the number of settlers continues to grow at the current rate (five percent per year, twice as much as the population growth in Israel).
Turning water into wine
The following is the story of water in the West Bank from a less well-known perspective: that of Israeli agriculture. Here are just a few statistics on Israeli agriculture in the West Bank:
Today settlers control almost 25,000 acres in the West Bank. Approximately 19,000 of them are spread out along the Jordan Valley and its northern beach at the Dead Sea. The rest of the land is around settlements and in outposts across the mountainous region in the central and western part of the West Bank. Around 6,800 acres — nearly 30 percent of all Israeli agricultural land in the West Bank — is owned by Palestinians, and which was taken over by settlers in contravention of Israeli military law. This happened with the active aid of the authorities or due to a lack of enforcement.
Following the Oslo Accords, Israeli agricultural land was expanded to a little less than a third of the total agricultural territory owned by settlers. Of all the agricultural land that has been added since, nearly 3,000 acres have popped up around settlements in the hilly areas of the West Bank, where mostly religious, ideological settlers reside. The relative growth of agriculture around these settlements (which were never intended to be agricultural settlements in the first place) was far quicker than that in the Jordan Valley, while the majority of the land transferred over for settler use belongs to their Palestinian neighbors.
Since the signing of the Oslo Accords, Israeli agriculture has become the main driver in taking over new territory in the West Bank, and especially the hilltop settlements. However as opposed to Israeli agriculture in the Jordan Valley — usually on land that Israel took over formally and transferred to settlers — the agriculture around the hilltop settlements is the result of forceful takeovers by the settlers themselves, who enjoy the cooperation and near-total support of the authorities.
The most popular branch of Israel’s hilltop settlements is dedicated to vineyards. Over 1,000 acres of vineyards are planted on private Palestinian land (over half of which was expanded after Oslo). Although this phenomenon is common across the West Bank, the settlements of Shiloh, Kochav HaShachar, Elon Moreh, Psagot, Ofra, and Susya lead the pack.
According to conservative estimates, 170,000 liters of water are necessary for irrigating a fifth of an acre of vineyards per year. If we multiply this number by the number of acres of vineyards planted illegally on private Palestinian land, we reach over 740 million litters of water.
Now divide this number by 250 liters — the average quantity of water consumed per person in Israel — and you can provide enough water for 3 million people for a single day water shortage for several hours some weeks ago) with enough water to last 20 months.
It turns out that Israel’s unwillingness to enforce its own laws, not to mention respect the property rights of Palestinians whose land was stolen, doubly harms those Palestinians. The water that could have been flowing through their hoses is now watering the land that was taken from them and transferred over to their neighbors.
The unequal division of water in the West Bank is connected, among other things, to the fact that Israel allocates large quantities of fresh water for Israeli agriculture adjacent to settlements, a third of which goes to private Palestinian lands, a situation the state should have prevented in the
first place.Dror Etkes follows Israel’s land and settlement policy in the West Bank. This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.ay. On the other hand, this same quantity can supply the 4,500 settlers of Kedumim (which experienced
In turning down petitions by assailants' families almost completely, court gives green light to destroying all of one home, upper floors of other.
Israel's High Court of Justice on Sunday denied petitions by the families of the two terrorists who committed the shooting attack at Tel Aviv's Sarona Market last month, thus allowing the demolition of the families’ homes to go ahead.
Justice Esther Hayut, Uri Shoham and Uzi Vogelman unanimously approved the demolition, except for the lower story of one of the attackers’ homes.
The two attackers, Khaled Mahamra and Mahmoud Mahamra, are cousins who lived in Yatta and Khirbet Reka near Hebron. They killed four Israelis and wounded 41 in the attack.
Khaled’s family, represented by Hamoked: The Center for the Defense of the Individual, argued in the petition that there was no connection between him and the house slated for demolition; for the past two-and-a-half years Khaled had been studying in Jordan and would come home infrequently. The family also claimed that he returned home only just prior to his arrest because he had decided to stop his studies and work in Israel illegally for a few months.
Mahmoud’s family, also represented by Hamoked, argued that the lower floors of their home should not be destroyed, since Mahmoud lived on the third floor, in a separate unit. The other floors house the parents and four of their eight children, as well as a large storeroom and a candy factory that provides the family with its livelihood.
The family also argued that had they known of Mahmoud’s plans in advance, they would have immediate taken steps to prevent him from taking part in the attack.
In response, the state argued that it had classified information showing that Mahmoud’s brother was privy to Mahmoud’s intent to carry out the attack, as well as information about the father’s access in recent years to weapons.
Justice Shoham wrote in his opinion that the court should totally reject the petition by Khaled’s family and partially accept Mahmoud’s family’s petition by demolishing only the third floor.
“There’s a need to take exceptional steps to create the required deterrence, in order to try and limit as much as possible the criminal terrorist activity that does not balk at the indiscriminate murder of Jews just because they’re Jews,” Shoham wrote.
His colleague Hayut concurred with Shoham’s ruling, as did Vogelman, although he added a personal objection in principle to demolishing the homes of terrorists’ families.
“As I’ve already said elsewhere, although I do not share what’s stated in it, this regulation [allowing such demolition] obligates us until it is changed, if ever, by an expanded panel,” Vogelman wrote, and added, “On this basis I submit to the response reached by my colleagues.”
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Levy Kampos remembers clearly what happened when the deadly blast went off on that fateful July morning in 1946 - so does Sarah Agassi, who called the hotel to inform them of the bomb her group left there.
Monday, July 22, 1946 began as an ordinary work day for Shoshana Levy Kampos. Early in the morning the 21-year-old Jerusalemite reported to the city’s King David Hotel, the headquarters of the British Mandate government.
Levy Kampos who came to Palestine from Germany in the late ‘30s, graduated from the prestigious Evelina de Rothschild school in Jeruslem in 1944 and landed a coveted, well paid job as a typist and shorthand typist in the British administration.
That day she was supposed to deal with documents about equipment and food supplies for the British army in Palestine. But a phone call in the late morning cut short her routine. “We got a message that there was ‘going to be an explosion,’” she recalled this week in an interview in her Jerusalem home. “But the man in charge, Shaw [Chief Secretary for the Government of Palestine, Sir John Shaw], said we weren’t to leave work under any circumstances,” she says.
For 21-year-old Sarah Agassi it also started out as another day in the office. In the morning she came to the Amamit health maintenance organization in Jerusalem, where she worked as a secretary. A few hours later Yitzhak Avinoam, the Jerusalem commander of the pre-state underground militia Etzel, “came and told me to get out of my office,” she said this week at a Ramat Efal retirement home, where she lives. He gave Agassi, who was an Etzel operative, a secret mission together with another operative.
“We were told to stand opposite the King David Hotel, watch our guys going in, wait for instructions and telephone the hotel, the nearby French consulate and the Palestine Post offices and warn them that bombs had been placed,” she says.
Agassi waited near the YMCA building, opposite the hotel, while seven Etzel operatives entered it. One of them was her brother, Yehoshua Gal. They were disguised as Arab waiters, carrying six large milk pitchers loaded with 350 kilograms of explosives and a self-detonating device. They put the pitchers in the hotel café’s kitchen and fled.
When she saw her brother running out of the hotel, Agassi called the hotel. “This is Etzel. We put bombs in there. Clear the people’ we told them,” she says.
The response was disparaging. “They laughed and said, ‘those bloody Jews won’t tell us what to do,” she recalls.
Levy Kampos, who will be 91 in two days, remembers clearly what happened at 12.37 P.M. that day. “It was pitch dark and there was a terrible explosion. I couldn’t see a thing. I thought everyone was killed, until I heard someone clear his throat. Everything was full of smoke and soot,” she says.
When she started seeing the extent of the disaster she ran from the place crying. Agassi was in a safe place by then. “I saw a huge mushroom rising and said to myself, ‘I did it,’” she says.
Not for nothing was the grand King David Hotel chosen to be the target of the attack. It was a symbol of the British government. The attack was in revenge for Operation Agatha, (or Black Sabbath, as it was called by the Jews), in which the British carried out raids, arms searches and mass arrests in Jewish cities and kibbutzim a month earlier.
The explosion demolished all seven floors of the hotel’s southern wing and 90 people – British, Arabs and Jews – were murdered. “Dozens of people were killed for nothing. But some still see it as a ‘success,’” says historian Ruth Lamdan, of Ramat Hasharon. Her father, Zvi Shimshi, a clerk for the British Mandate, was murdered in the attack. He was 35-years-old; she, a child of three.
Every year Lamdan publishes a mourning ad in memory of the bombing’s fatalities in Haaretz, the newspaper that slammed the perpetrators and their commanders at the time. “A horrific crime” and “atrocious attack” the paper called the operation.
“The so-called cause for which such deeds as yesterday’s are done is the Jewish state. But even if this cause is achieved, will it be a Jewish state?” Haaretz’s editorial asked the following day. “What value would this state have, if we must turn our backs on all our traditional values and violate all the commandments concerning the relations between people, to win it? What point would there be to this state if its citizens lose their Jewishness and human qualities?”
Levy Kampos, Agassi and Lamdan will take part Firday in an event marking the attack’s 70th anniversary, at the Rabin Center in Tel Aviv. The event will be broadcast live on the center’s Facebook page. Asked after all these years if she has any regrets about her part in the act that took the lives of dozens of innocent people, Agassi doesn’t hesitate.
“I was a soldier, I have no regrets. I did my duty. The British helped the Arabs a lot; for us they made laws. They hurt the Jews, so we tried to overcome.
“It totally undermined them. After that they were afraid to walk around in Jerusalem, and walked only in twos and threes,” she says.
Avinoam died last year at the age of 94. In an interview with the documentation project Toldot Yisrael he said, “after that action the countdown for the British’ leaving the country began. After that the British government and its central nervous system was undermined.”
Lamdan disagrees. “It was the most awful, pointless terror attack that ever took place here,” she says. “It changed nothing and did no good at all. It’s all nonsense.”
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