Jewish radicals hostile to Arab-Israeli harmony

November 06, 1994|By Doug Struck | Doug Struck,Jerusalem Bureau of The Sun

HEBRON, Israeli-Occupied West Bank -- Baruch Marzel has a simple solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the West Bank: Drive the Arabs out.

How?

"Give me 24 hours of power. They'll leave without us asking them. We wouldn't have to kill them," said Mr. Marzel, head of the Jewish "Kach" organization, officially banned as a terrorist group.

Israeli authorities are worried about Jewish radicals such as Mr. Marzel, especially now that the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron, closed since Jewish settler Baruch Goldstein killed 29 Muslims praying there Feb. 25, is to be reopened.

The reopening of the tomb commemorating the patriarch Abraham is bound to heighten tensions in this angry city revered by Jews and Muslims alike as the burial place of Abraham. They have been killing each other in this place for years. And now, the Israeli army will not only be on guard for Palestinian violence. It will be watching for violence from Jews as well.

Since the massacre, Israel has confronted the existence of a "Jewish Underground," based in the right-wing Jewish settlements of Hebron and adjoining Kiryat Arba, and led by extremists such as Mr. Marzel.

He is on six months of house arrest, after serving six months in prison. While he was detained, police arrested at least 14 other Jewish settlers -- including an officer in an elite army unit and two rabbis -- on suspicion of plotting violence against Palestinians.

Most were released without charges, their interrogation mainly a warning that the police are watching. Five remain under charges. Two are brothers whose alleged attempt to murder a Palestinian was like a scene from a spy movie.

The two, Yehoyada and Eitan Kahalani, stopped a Palestinian bicyclist Sept. 2 outside Jerusalem, according to the charges. Eitan Kahalani allegedly pointed an automatic rifle at the Palestinian's head and pulled the trigger.

The weapon did not fire. A government infiltrator had secretly removed the firing pin.

The disclosure that the Israeli secret service had planted at least one spy among the right-wing settlers was a sign of the abrupt change in the government's estimation of the threat from the group.

Until February's massacre by physician Goldstein, the settlers were viewed by most Israelis as a noisy sideshow.

But even while Goldstein's act was portrayed as an aberration, the praise for him and throngs at his funeral showed a startling depth of support.

Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin seemed surprised by the intensity of that support. He lashed out at the right-wing settlers.

"Sensible Judaism spits you out," he told the settlers in an emotional address to the Israeli Parliament shortly after the massacre. "You are an errant weed. . . . You placed yourself outside the wall of Jewish law. You are a shame on Zionism and an embarrassment to Judaism."

Israeli authorities concluded that other settlers were willing to under take violent acts and began a sweep of arrests.

In addition, the government issued restraining orders against more than 20 settlers, barring them from going to the scene of the massacre.

Mr. Marzel and eight other members of the banned Kach and Kahane Chai organizations were detained for six months immediately after the Hebron massacre.

They were held without charges and without trial as a "threat to security" under procedures usually used against Palestinians.

Mr. Marzel was the last of the group to be picked up.

He was caught after a month, hiding in the home of another

settler, Yoram Skolnik, who was in jail for having shot to death a Palestinian as he lay handcuffed on the ground.

"It was a mitzvah" -- a good deed, Mr. Marzel said of that slaying.

Mr. Marzel, 35, was the longtime deputy of the anti-Arab Rabbi Meir Kahane, who was assassinated in New York in 1990.

His philosophy provides a look at the motives of the extremists now troubling Israeli society.

For 10 years, Mr. Marzel has lived in a cramped trailer on a hilltop in Hebron, a city of 100,000 Arabs and about 200 Jewish settlers. Another 5,000 Jews live in Kiryat Arba.

"Hebron is a Jewish City. It has a majority of Arabs, but it's a Jewish city," he said.

The city has been a bloody landmark in the Israeli-Arab experience.

Jews who settled in the city center in 1968 said they were reclaiming property from which Jews were driven out and killed during a rampage by Arabs in 1929.

Mr. Marzel and the other six families beside him are heavily guarded by Israeli troops.

Mr. Rabin complained last week that it takes three battalions of about 300 soldiers each to guard the settlers who live in the center of Hebron. Other officials have suggested evacuating those settlers.

"I won't go alive," Mr. Marzel said flatly. "They would take my body out of here, not me."

Born in Boston

Mr. Marzel is a pudgy, full-bearded man, born in Boston when his American-born parents were back for a visit after moving to Israel.

He has a U.S. passport, which he says has expired.

He has seven children-- the latest born while he was in prison.

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