Ben Gurion U
Tel Aviv U
U of Haifa
Israeli Academic Extremism
Israeli Academic Extremists outside
Anti-Israel Petitions Signed by Israeli
How to Complain
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."
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,"
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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