February 10, 1983, started off grimly, and only got worse as the day wore
Three days earlier, the Kahan State Commission of Inquiry into the
massacre of Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps near Beirut
published its report. It concluded that Israel – whose troops were in Lebanon at
the time – was indirectly responsible, and called for the dismissal of Ariel
Sharon as defense minister, among other things.
RELATED:Man who killed peace activist released from prison
The dispute between the
right- and left-wing camps – which had been reignited after the Six Day War –
deteriorated sharply after the First Lebanon War. The more radical elements
opposed the war altogether; the more moderate ones were shocked by the massacre
of hundreds of Palestinians in the camps.
In September, at least 200,000
protesters gathered in the square in front of Tel Aviv City Hall (later renamed
Kikar Rabin) to demand an independent inquiry into the events leading to the
The Left’s activism was anathema to the Right – including many
Sephardic voters living in the capital’s distressed neighborhoods, who were
strong supporters of prime minister Menachem Begin.
Tensions were already
high when the Peace Now movement decided to hold a protest march from downtown
Jerusalem to an empty patch of land opposite the Prime Minister’s Office, where
the cabinet was meeting to consider the Kahan Committee
The march along Rehov Bezalel towards the Prime
Minister's Office was rife with tension. Police cordoned off the sidewalks,
where angry opponents gathered to jeer and insult the marchers.
were minor incidents along the way, but the protesters reached their destination
safely, and listened to the speeches.
After the rally ended, while the
protesters were dispersing, an explosion – which turned out to be caused by a
hand grenade – ripped through the grounds, killing Peace Now activist Emil
Grunzweig and wounding 10 others, including future Knesset Speaker Avraham
The incident caused shock throughout the country, and the schism
between Right and Left had reached an unprecedentedly dangerous
The perpetrator of the attack, Yona Avrushmi, turned out to be a
petty criminal who had spent time in prison after being convicted of a litany of
violent crimes – including attacking a policeman, committing an indecent act
against a child, assault and using threats to extort.
The police failed
to find other suspects who might have helped or incited Avrushmi to throw the
grenade – although skeptics continue to believe that more sophisticated
political elements had put him up to it.
He was convicted of murder and
given a mandatory life sentence, which was commuted to 27 years in prison by
president Ezer Weizman in 1995.
In 2002, after completing two-thirds of
his sentence, Avrushmi asked the Parole Board for an early release.
board agreed, but changed its mind after being instructed by the Supreme Court
to reconsider the matter, and assess whether he still posed a danger to
Once again, the Parole Board agreed to Avrushmi’s early release
request, and the district court upheld the board’s ruling.
court accepted the state’s appeal and ordered the board to rethink its decision
on the basis of an opinion submitted by a psychologist, who wrote an evaluation
“There is a possibility that [Avrushmi] has severe
personality problems, and belongs to those who are hostile to authority, and can
hold extreme political or religious views,” the psychologist
“Their conduct is unstable and unpredictable and they have
severe problems controlling their urges. It does not appear that they learn from
their mistakes and when they commit crimes, they tend to be cruel and violent
ones. Their actions often appear to be illogical and planned
However, the psychologist added that there were two
contradictory trends in Avrushmi’s behavior: One of them indicated that Avrushmi
was unpredictable; the second that his conduct has become more moderate over the
He wrote that the latter possibility seemed more
However, in a second opinion submitted in 2005, the psychologist
wrote that Avrushmi’s basic personality was problematic and criminal, and if
released too early, he might kill or violently attack again.
Avrushmi’s parole requests were turned down, and he was released on Tuesday
after completing his entire prison term.
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