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Hebrew University

Hebrew University - Amiram Goldblum (Dept of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Peace Now Founder) has an explanation for the 1983 death of Peace Now activist Emil Greenzweig - the Likud leaders killed him

The organizer of the 1983 demonstration, Naftali Raz, says that if the law stipulates the possibility of an early release, then that is what must be done. Another voice in the same vein is that of Prof. Amiram Goldbloom, who marched alongside Grunzweig in the demonstration. He has no problem with Avrushmi, he says, "but rather with those who incited him and sent him - Ariel Sharon and Tzachi Hanegbi [the present environment minister]. Avrushmi was only a tool and not the person to whom I would attribute that whole terror attack. Sharon, who is now blaming the terrorist attacks on those who dispatch the bombers, will certainly be able to understand that the guilty party is not Avrushmi but himself, for inciting."

 

 

http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/features/to-forgive-but-not-to-forget-1.41190

To forgive but not to forget
The authorities are to decide whether to reduce by a third the prison term of Yona Avrushmi - the man who killed peace activist Emil Grunzweig in 1983 when he threw a grenade at a march organized by Peace Now. An unusual coalition supports his release.

By Sara Leibovich-Dar
Published 27.06.02

Every morning, Yona Avrushmi crosses the road on his way from Maasiyahu Prison in Ramle, to a factory where he works as a welder. "The guy is relaxed, we have never felt a sign of anything from his past," says Leon Shatzman, the plant's foreman. Until about a month ago, Avrushmi worked for a nearby bookbinder, Ya'akov Kenig, who is affiliated with the Chabad movement. "He is very devoted to his work," Kenig notes. "I agreed to employ him even though he killed a Jew, because all people are human beings, no matter what."

Nineteen years after he murdered Emil Grunzweig and wounded eight demonstrators when he threw a grenade at a Peace Now march across the street from the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, was sentenced to life imprisonment and was described as "deficient in his moral sense" during his trial, prisoner Yona Avrushmi is getting a sympathetic hearing. In the evening, after the day's work, he returns to Maasiyahu, where he has comfortable conditions in the section of the prison known as the "hostel." "It's like a hotel," says his lawyer, Dana Haddad. "He is at the prison only to sleep and have breakfast."

He spends weekends and holidays in a rented apartment in Tel Aviv's disadvantaged Hatikva quarter, and has a girlfriend. He is not in touch with his daughter, Meital, who will soon complete her military service, which she did within the framework of the police force. "The whole thing is very hard for her," he says. Avrushmi's parents are dead (his father died in 1990, his mother in 1993) and he is also not in touch with any of his 10 brothers and sisters, though he sometimes calls Orit Brosh, the wife of his youngest brother, Yehoshua, to talk about his plans for the future.

"He wants a quiet life, which will not interfere with his devotion to religion," Brosh says. "After he gets out, he will start his life over in the right way. He has already gone through enough negative experiences and paid for them."

Even though his brother, Yoel Avrushmi, has no contact with Yona, he thinks it is time to release him from prison: "Every extra day that they leave him there will only frustrate him. It's true that he did something very serious, but that deed has already been done. Now it will just be pointless to leave him there."

The parole board is due to meet very soon in order to decide whether to reduce Avrushmi's prison term by a third. His lawyers are certain that he will be released.

On February 10, 1983, the government cabinet held a third emergency meeting in three days to decide whether to accept the report of the Kahan Commission of Inquiry concerning Israel's role in the massacre of Palestinians at the Sabra and Chatila refugee camps in Beirut the previous September, during the Lebanon War. That evening, the Peace Now movement organized a march through Jerusalem to protest the refusal of the defense minister, Ariel Sharon, to resign even though the commission had found that he was "indirectly responsible" for the massacre, and to demand the resignation of the government of Menachem Begin.

After marching through the streets of Jerusalem, where they were attacked both verbally and physically, the demonstrators concluded the protest across the street from the Prime Minister's Office, where the cabinet was meeting. As they were dispersing after singing the national anthem, a grenade was thrown into the crowd. Emil Grunzweig, a veteran peace activist, a reservist in the Paratroops Brigade and a researcher at the Jerusalem Van Leer Institute, was killed, and eight demonstrators were wounded, among them Avraham Burg, the present Knesset Speaker, and Yuval Steinitz, now a Knesset member of the Likud. Grunzweig was the first Jewish fatality in a political demonstration in Israel's history.

Minutes after the incident, the cabinet - which did not know what had happened - voted 16 to 1 (Sharon) to accept the Kahan Commission report in full. Avrushmi, who was then 27, was arrested as a suspect in the murder in January 1984, after what Yosef Burg, the minister of police (and father of Avraham Burg), said at a press conference was "the most complicated and most intensive" investigation ever conducted by the police. On February 10, 1984, a year to the day after the incident, Avrushmi was formally charged with murdering Emil Grunzweig "in cold blood" and "with malice aforethought."

Avrushmi denied all the charges but, in January 1985, was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment. An appeal to the Supreme Court was rejected in February 1987; in February 1995, president Ezer Weizman, commuted his prison term to 27 years. In January 2002, Avrushmi asked the parole board to reduce the sentence by a third.

"I am a home body, a religious person. I will stay home every Friday until the end of Shabbat the next evening," he told the parole board in a hearing on his request for early release.

"The danger represented by the prisoner, even if it has not vanished entirely, has diminished considerable," stated the board, which is headed by Supreme Court Justice Edmund Levy. An appeal by the state against the decision was upheld at a district court, which instructed the parole board to avail itself of a report by a probation officer. Last week, Avrushmi was interviewed by a social worker.

If Avrushmi does go free after serving two-thirds of his reduced sentence, this will be due in no small part to the conciliatory, not to say forgiving, atmosphere in his case. Avrushmi claimed all along that he acted alone, but his statement during his interrogation that "Peace Now [members] are germs that need to be exterminated" and the fact that he became religious shortly after his conviction made him one of the darlings of the right wing. MKs from the Likud and from the ultra-Orthodox Shas party lobbied president Weizman to commute his sentence.

The left, too, has rallied to his support. Avraham Burg visited Avrushmi in prison shortly after his conviction. "He is an unfortunate," Burg wrote in the (now-defunct) daily Davar in September 1985. "He doesn't look like a murderer."

Dedi Zucker, who was an MK of the dovish Meretz party and the chairman of the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, actively worked for Avrushmi's sentence to be reduced. After the commutation, Zucker asked the president to pardon Avrushmi so that he could be released, as was the case with the members of the Jewish terrorist underground in the 1980s. "Alongside punishment there is also compassion and forgiveness by the society, and contrition on the part of the defendant, and therefore I thought he should be given the same treatment as any other criminal. The event was out of the ordinary, but society must take the same attitude it does toward all offenders."

Prof. David Libai also asked the president to commute Avrushmi's sentence when he was justice minister on behalf of the Labor Party: "We have to give these people hope," he says. "If they have no hope they are liable to commit murder in prison."

But doesn't Libai think that a lenient attitude encourages similar actions, such as the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin? "We have to differentiate between the assassin of a prime minister and the prisoner who killed Grunzweig," he explains. "I don't know of any orientation toward forgiveness. To sit in Ramle Prison is not such an orientation. Prisoners there have harsh conditions."

Some of Grunzweig's friends, who were with him at the ill-fated demonstration, are also inclined to forgive Avrushmi.

"It is a bit difficult to object to a reduction of a sentence and to a pardon," says the writer Shulamith Hareven, who took part in the 1983 protest march. "The quality of mercy exists, after all. He has spent the majority of his adult life in prison, and whatever is done won't bring Emil back. It is not just that he threw a grenade. There were disturbances by the right all through the demonstration. It was organized, and it ended in murder by someone who became overwrought."

Yuval Steinitz, now a Likud MK but then a key activist in Peace Now, was wounded by the grenade. He is not opposed to Avrushmi's release after he has served two-thirds of his prison term.

"The parole board should not judge the severity of the event itself," he says. "If the accepted thing is to reduce a prisoner's term by a third, then he should be released as well, irrespective of what the authorities think about the seriousness of the offense or the lesson the public will glean from it. If I have any complaints, they are aimed at the court and at the president who commuted his sentence."

Avrushmi has paid his debt to society, says Janet Aviad, one of the founders of Peace Now, who was standing next to Grunzweig when he was killed. "Avrushmi is contrite, he paid the price and there is no need for more revenge," Aviad asserts.

The organizer of the 1983 demonstration, Naftali Raz, says that if the law stipulates the possibility of an early release, then that is what must be done. Another voice in the same vein is that of Prof. Amiram Goldbloom, who marched alongside Grunzweig in the demonstration. He has no problem with Avrushmi, he says, "but rather with those who incited him and sent him - Ariel Sharon and Tzachi Hanegbi [the present environment minister]. Avrushmi was only a tool and not the person to whom I would attribute that whole terror attack. Sharon, who is now blaming the terrorist attacks on those who dispatch the bombers, will certainly be able to understand that the guilty party is not Avrushmi but himself, for inciting."

"Avrushmi's case reflects the hypocrisy of the system," says Avraham Burg. "The members of the Jewish terrorist underground did not express contrition and yet were pardoned, while Avrushmi was truly contrite. Avrushmi was not an ideological killer, he was incited. I would not have freed the members of the Jewish underground, but Avrushmi deserves to have his sentence reduced by a third, like any other prisoner. The justice system is not only revenge for the individual, it is a lesson for the many, and the lesson here must be one of equality."

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