A furious debate was sparked in Israel this week over the commemoration of Baruch Goldstein, the American-Jewish extremist who committed the Hebron massacre in which he shot to death 29 Muslim worshipers and injured over 100 people in the Tomb of the Patriarchs.
Goldstein was beaten to death by surviving worshipers and is buried in the Kahane Park, which is situated in the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba.
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The killer's grave has become over the years a pilgrimage site for extremist Jews who support him, and a shrine to his memory was set up next to his tomb.
Israeli left-wing party Meretz bashed on Monday the condition of the site, claiming that it extols a murderer.
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The party stated that it will introduce a bill after the April 9 election that will call for a sign to be erected near the grave that will describe the massacre and list the names of the victims. The bill will also call for holding educational activities against violence and racism at the site.
A Meretz source has said that “Goldstein’s tombstone perpetuates a historic distortion. It puts Goldstein in a positive light and there’s nothing there to put his act in the proper context.”
The tombstone praises Goldstein as a “martyr” who “gave his life for the Jewish people, its Torah and its land. He was blameless and upright.”
Meretz also wants to remove Kahane’s name from the park where Goldstien is buried. “The murderer Goldstein is buried in a lovely park in the settlement, like he’s a national hero,” said MK Mossy Raz. “A community that buries a mass murderer like this can only be expressing its leadership’s support for terror.”
Goldstein was a student of the late, racist rabbi Meir Kahane, who has been roiling Israeli politics in recent weeks after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu encouraged a merger of the Habayit Hayehudi party with Otzma Yehudit, an outfit whose members support Kahane.
MK Michal Rozin stressed that these moves are a response to the possibility that Kahane student Michael Ben-Ari, and former Kach activist Itamar Ben-Gvir, who has Goldstein’s picture hanging in his home, could enter the Knesset.
“Twenty-five years since Baruch Goldstein committed a terrible massacre of Palestinians in Hebron, the disciples and supporters of this debased terrorist are coming into the heart of Israeli democracy under the sponsorship of an Israeli prime minister who will sacrifice the whole country to save himself,” she said.
Netanyahu had pressed for the union between the two parties so as to prevent having right-wing votes wasted on a party that wasn’t expected to cross the electoral threshold. The slots assigned to Ben-Ari and Ben-Gvir on the merged ticket – fifth and eighth, respectively – make it likely they will enter the Knesset.
This is not the first time the Knesset has acted to change the glorification of Goldstein’s gravesite. In 1998, a law was passed that forbids the erection of memorials in the occupied territories to terrorists. The law was sponsored by Meretz minister Ran Cohen.
In December 2009, the army removed lamps, planters, prayer books, a fountain, flower beds and a landscaped stone plaza leading to the tombstone. The destruction was accompanied by strong protests, including by Goldstein’s father, who threw hismself on his son’s tomb and threatened Cohen. The law, however, does not apply to gravestone itself.
In the early years, right-wing extremists would gather at the site every Purim, the Hebrew date of the massacre, to read the Scroll of Esther and hold a memorial ceremony. There were also scuffles there between right-wing and left-wing activists. Locals say that nowadays the entire Kahane Park is rather neglected.