Sunday, June 22, 2008

Who Killed Arlozoroff?

In an article in Haaretz, Tom Segev quotes a doctor who treated Haim Arlozoff as saying it was an Arab who killed him. Menachem Begin established a

The piece is entitled
The Makings of History / Whodunit:-

On the evening of Friday, June 16, 1933, Chaim and Sima Arlosoroff set out for a walk along the Tel Aviv beachfront. Chaim, one of the leaders of Mapai (the Land of Israel Workers Party - the predecessor of today's Labor Party), did not return home: He was shot and later died at Hadassah Hospital.

Seventy-five years later, the argument about who murdered him continues with the same political and emotional fervor that led to the establishment of an investigative committee in 1982.

This week, the Yitzhak Rabin Center for Israel Studies initiated one discussion; the Jabotinsky Institute initiated another. The first accuses the other of having done it; the other replies that the Arabs did it. Thus politics overshadows one of the most important details, which is that Arlosoroff died as a result of medical neglect: Had he received proper treatment immediately, it is quite possible that his wounds would not have been fatal. However, like the question of who pulled the trigger and why, there are also contradictory testimonies about the care Arlosoroff received at the hospital.

According to the report of the investigative committee, about two and half hours elapsed between the time Arlosoroff was shot and when he began receiving the appropriate treatment. The report quoted one of the doctors who performed surgery on him, Dr. Max Marcus: He said that had a blood transfusion been given to the wounded man earlier, he would have been saved.

When Arlosoroff was brought to the hospital, there was no doctor on the premises who could carry out an emergency operation, a major failure. The first people to arrive at the hospital were not doctors but rather all sorts of political figures. The doctors trickled in later one by one. During some of this time, Arlosoroff was still conscious; a nurse injected him with painkillers.

However, there is evidence the investigative commission was apparently not aware of, and this is the testimony of Mali Danziger, the sister of the first justice minister, Pinchas Rosen. This was recorded by Shimshon Chalfi, along with other testimonies of Tel Aviv veteran citizens, some of which were published in a book by his daughter Raquel. According to Danziger, a messenger arrived at her home to summon her husband, Dr. Felix Danziger, to the hospital. By the time he arrived, it was too late.

The investigation committee noted the names of five doctors who treated Arlosoroff, and Danziger's name was not among them. When she gave her testimony, Mali Danziger was 97 years old; her son Michael completed her statement: "My father came home that same night and he was so angry at what had happened he was unable to speak. Dr. Marcus, a surgeon who worked with my father and had been with him that night in the operating room, came home with him and told my mother and me: 'The medical equipment at Hadassah was faulty.' When Dr. Danziger gave the order for a saline drip - which should have been done three hours earlier - it emerged that the drip tube was leaking. The doctor in charge of Hadassah stopped the holes in the tubing with a handkerchief. Dr. Danziger performed the surgery and removed the bullet. When it became clear that Arlosoroff had died, Dr. Danziger stripped off his surgical gloves, flung the implements on the floor and cried: 'It wasn't the Arab who killed Arlosoroff, but rather this pigsty!'" At that time, Danziger was the proprietor of another hospital of his own.

The idea that Jews killed Arlozorff, and specifically members of the Betar and the Revisionist Movement, caused a deep split in Zionist ranks. Menachem Begin, once Prime Minister, appointed a state commission of inquiry.

Back in 2000, Tel Aviv University reported in connection with this subject:-

A forthcoming article by TAU Prof. Asher Maoz deals with two controversial issues: the ability of courts of law to ascertain truth and the role of judicial and quasi-judicial institutions in establishing historical facts. These questions are examined against the background of two painful episodes in Israel's short history: the pre-statehood murder of Mapai leader Haim Arlosoroff and the trial of Israel Kastner. The rival Revisionist Movement was accused of incitement against Arlosoroff, and two of its members were accused of murder and were acquitted for lack of sufficient evidence. Five decades later, Prime Minister Menachem Begin established a State Commission of Inquiry to investigate the accusations...The article criticizes such uses of legal institutions to arbitrate between conflicting historical narratives to create an official history. Even if "historical truth" is possible, the task of establishing it should not be left to legal institutions. History and philosophy should remain open to free public debate and disagreement.

The article can be accessed here.

And here is how a Hebrew University site relates to the issue:-

On a balmy Friday evening in June 1933, after his Shabbat meal, Arlosoroff was walking in the Tel Aviv streets near the ocean. Two men came up to him and asked him in Hebrew for the time. As he looked into his watch, a flashlight was shone in his face, followed quickly by two shots from a revolver. The two assailants ran away, leaving a thirty-four year old man dying in the arms of his wife.

Two men were arrested for the shooting and a third man for the plotting of the assassination. These men, who strongly denied the allegations, were followers of Jabotinsky. The subsequent trial brought out inter Jewish hatred that continues until this day. The men were finally acquitted for lack of evidence, but this brought a serious rift in the Zionist groups. Even today, there are various theories about the murder, was it Arabs from neighboring Jaffe in search of robbery or rape, or was it someone from inside the Mapai leadership that envied the young Arlosoroff's ability to reach the workers, or was it the opposition Revisionists? We will never know.

A decision from the Zionist groups was made to come together and much negotiations were needed to come to agreements that would heal the rifts and soothe the wounds of the various sides. Finally an agreement was reached, but at the last minute, David Ben Gurion, who was to become the first Prime Minister, refused to several demands. The Zionist unity scheme met a bitter death.

The Jewish Agency site has the incident described thus:-

In 1933, in the middle of his great work as a Zionist political leader and as a writer with great influence, Chaim Arlosoroff was murdered. He was killed while walking with his wife on a beach in Tel Aviv. Even today the mystery of who killed him has not been solved. Some think that other Zionists who disagreed with his views killed him; another opinion is that two Arabs did it.

Menachem Begin establsihed a State Commission of Inquiry and here's a reaction from Yossi Ahimeir in Azure:-

...Surprisingly, though, Hazo­ny makes no mention of the fact that in the 1980s [Rabbi Eliezer] Berkovits was one of the three members of the national commission of inquiry into the 1933 murder of the Zionist leader Chaim Arlosoroff. Prime Minister Menachem Begin appointed the commission in 1982, and it delivered its findings on June 4, 1985.

Unlike the two other members of the committee, the late justices David Bechor and Max Kenneth, Berkovits was not a judge. This did not prevent him, however, from writing a comprehensive twenty-four-page opinion at the end of the deliberations. The opinion’s opening paragraph tells us something about its author, and certainly strengthens Hazony’s characterization of him as a “Jewish moral theorist.” Berkovits writes:

There is no doubt not only that the accused, Avraham Stavsky and Tzvi Rosenblatt [members of Vladimir Jabotinsky’s Revisionist movement], had no part in the murder of Dr. Arlosoroff, but that there was no basis on which to charge them. Since the murder was a national tragedy, around which an entire episode in the history of the yishuv [Jewish community] in the land of Israel was woven--an episode that, unfortu­na­tely, has not until now come to a close--we must emphasize the main arguments that led us to our conclu­sion. My conclusion is founded on the examination of the witnesses who appeared before the commission, and a personal investigation of police files from the preliminary investigation and the records of the district court that at the time deliberated on the murder investigation prior to the trial of the accused.

At the conclusion of his report, he writes: “Stavsky and Rosenblatt, undoubtedly, had no part in the murder of Dr. Arlosoroff. Without question, the entire aim of the police investigation was to bury the truth. It is about cases such as this that the prophet laments: ‘And he hoped for justice, but behold, there was injustice.’”(Isaiah 5:7)

Berkovits, who passed away seven years later, was indeed a moral man. Just like Justices Bechor and Kenneth, and following in the footsteps of R. Abraham Isaac Kook, he drew his conclusions and expressed his opinion on the case not only on the basis of intuition and belief, but also on the basis of facts and their sound analysis. He is greatly to be credited for having taken part in the commission of inquiry and its unanimous verdict.

Yossi Ahimeir
Ramat Gan

Back in 2005, Sarah Honig wrote in the Jerusalem Post:-

the Discover Tel Aviv Walking Tours Center is today organizing a pilgrimage to "political assassination sites" around town. Its designated culmination is Kikar Rabin, but the spurious starting point is the beach where Haim Arlosoroff was shot.

The center's promo tendentiously defines that homicide as political. It mentions that "suspicion fell on those who were Arlosoroff's greatest opponents - the Revisionists."

Absent are the facts that in 1934 all three Revisionist defendants were acquitted (one, Avraham Stavsky, would 14 years later be slain on the Altalena by Rabin's unit); that in 1942 two Arab bandits confessed to the crime; that the 1973 publication of late police inspector Yehuda Arazi's 1933 investigation documents disproved all residual innuendo and that in 1982 a judicial inquiry commission cited evidence that the accused were framed.

The antiquated Arlosoroff libel remains a viable vehicle for the politics of incriminating insinuations. I wasn't the only one to identify the connection between one wrenching calumny and the other.