As a four-year-old girl, Niva Grunzweig believed she was responsible for her father Emil’s murder by right-wing extremist Yona Avrushmi, who threw a grenade at a Peace Now demonstration in Jerusalem in 1983.
Thirty years later to the day, Niva stood outside the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem and told the small crowd gathered there to honor her father that she held the state responsible for his death.
“I blame the State of Israel for the murder of Emil Grunzweig, my father,” she said.
“When I was a child, I thought my father’s murder was about me. Maybe I did something bad to deserve it.
When I was older, I was angry at him, at my father,” said Niva.
“Why did he go to the rally? Why hadn’t he stayed home? Why didn’t he fulfill his responsibility to me, his obligation to stay alive to be my father?” she asked.
In the end, Niva said, she understood his death had nothing to do with him, with her, or even with fate.
It was the state, she said, that failed in its responsibility to protect its citizens, from what she has come to categorize as a terror attack.
In her last year as a first degree student at Hebrew University, Niva said she was disqualified from applying for a scholarship granted to family members of terror victims, as the state did not consider her father’s murder an act of terror.
“I was in shock,” she said.
An act of terror, she said, is designed to sow fear and terror by disrupting and demoralizing normal lives, often with a political objective, Niva noted.
In the aftermath of her father’s death, she said, her family fears attending demonstrations in Israel. This is true among others she knows, Niva continued, including those who have left the country as a result of her father’s death.
From the state’s perspective, justice was done in that her father’s killer was tried and jailed. “But that is only a partial truth, that covers the real truth,” she said.
The government or the public has not been active against those who supported and encouraged her father’s killer, she said, adding that there are not enough laws against incitement and the school curriculum has not been significantly changed.
“I accuse her [Israel] for failing to prevent the murder, but also for encouraging the killer to throw the grenade. Mostly I blame her for continuing to be a country where violence rules.
This is both a personal and public accusation. Just like my father’s murder was private and political,” Niva explained.
As a child, she said, she began and ended all her diaries with a line about her father’s death at the demonstration.
“I couldn’t write in them after such an introduction, it was too painful, to frightening and too sad,” she added.
But, Niva said, she hopes there could be a sequel in which the government takes steps to ensure that the state is a “sane and proper” place to live, by taking responsibility to stop the violence, hatred and racism within it.
“I would want to raise my children in that kind of state, because I would not fear that they would become orphans,” Niva said.
Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On sent out a statement in which she warned that 30 years later, Peace Now and left-wing organizations still face incitement and delegitimization when they criticize government policies.
Emil Grunzweig, the son of Holocaust survivors, had served in three wars and had been involved in a number of education projects designed to promote understanding and effect conciliation between Israelis and Palestinians. He was the only person killed in the February 10, 1983 grenade attack, which injured a number of others including Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and former Knesset speaker Avraham Burg.
Neither Grunzweig’s family nor the Peace Now leadership at the time attributed blame to Avrushmi, who they said had been a victim of right-wing incitement, and cast the blame instead on former prime minister Ariel Sharon and former minister Tzahi Hanegbi.
Burg at one time visited Avrushmi in prison, and pronounced him to be a poor wretch who had been a pawn in the hands of those who wanted to destroy Peace Now.
Avrushmi was sentenced to life imprisonment, which was commuted to 27 years by thenpresident Ezer Weizman. He was released from prison in January 2011.
On Sunday, President Shimon Peres wrote a letter to the Grunzweig family.
“Emil’s brutal murder at the hands of his own people during a peaceful demonstration in the heart of Jerusalem has not been forgotten, even after three decades,” said Peres.
“It reminds us where wild incitement, jealousy and intolerance for other opinions and views, leads,” he said.
“Emil, the officer educator, peace activist, paid with his life for his participation in a legitimate protest march in the sacred space of freedom of expression,” Peres said.
As a nation that carries with it the legacy of “thou shalt not kill” and as a democratic country in which pluralism is a norm, Israel can never come to terms with the blind, uncompromising hatred of violent extremists, Peres added.
“We will condemn them in the strongest language and we will uproot them as an alien implant from the reality of our lives, our heritage and the path of peace and justice in which we believe,” Peres said, going on to lament that Grunzweig had been killed by a fellow Jew.