Our mainstream media could hardly contain their glee last week when the state
attorney flatly rejected pleas to accord Margalit Har- Shefi a retrial.
Opinion-molders bristled indignantly at the very suggestion that she might be
exonerated. This, they righteously pontificated, would constitute a first step
to releasing Yitzhak Rabin’s assassin Yigal Amir.
Just 19 years old at
the time, Har-Shefi was arrested post-assassination in 1995 because she was
Amir’s classmate and friend. The prosecution alleged she knew of his intentions
yet failed to phone the police. Eventually she was tried, convicted and
imprisoned for the rarely prosecuted offense of not preventing a
It was all shades of the Shadow – that icon of oldtime radio,
comics, pulp fiction and the movies – who knows what evil lurks (or doesn’t) in
the hearts of men (and presumably women too). Seemingly only Israeli judges
possess Shadow-like infallible preternatural penetrating powers to ferret out a
girl’s deepest and darkest secrets.
Har-Shefi’s ordeal lasted years. She
lost successive appeals and was imprisoned in March 2001. Throughout, she
vehemently denied advance knowledge about the assassination. The majority of
judges, presumably having accessed her innermost consciousness, ruled
otherwise. It was her word against their opinion. There wasn’t a shred of
corroborating evidence against her.
CONTRAST HAR-SHEFI’S case with that
of Yasra Bakri of the Galilee Arab village of Bueina, who was acquitted in 2005
of the identical accusation. On August 2002, on her way to Safed, Bakri was
warned to leave the bus. She grabbed her girlfriend, also Arab, and both
hurriedly got out, without tipping off passengers waiting to board that very bus
at that same stop. A while later, at Meron, the suicide-bomber detonated his
charge, taking nine lives.
Bakri not only let others get on the condemned
bus, but she never alerted the police. Having read her thoughts, the judge
generously gave her the benefit of his doubt.
Bakri’s case, however,
brimmed with corroboration. Normal passengers, having paid full fare,
don’t flee without cause and catch a cab instead. They don’t inconvenience
themselves and incur hefty expense for nothing.
Moreover, the bomber
spent his last days in Bakri’s village, harbored by her relatives (who were
tried and convicted). Bueina is no sprawling metropolis. It stands to reason
that he recognized her and she understood the nature of his warning.
such evidence ever existed against Har-Shefi. During her association with Amir
there wasn’t a blot on his record. Indeed, Amir’s other friends, exposed to the
same rhetoric from him, weren’t prosecuted, to say nothing of Shin Bet
agent-provocateur Avishai Raviv, who didn’t pay for his pivotal role in the
conspiracy and who actively helped build the case against Har- Shefi. She was
the only settler in Amir’s entourage, perhaps making her the perfect target for
Her parents received hate-mail, including a letter accusing
them of having raised a “malignant tumor in your criminal
The media focused on her relentlessly and
maliciously. The hapless teen was raked over the coals even for such
transgressions as changing her haircut or attending a bat mitzva. She was fired
from her job and became a despised public enemy. If Amir was Clyde, Har-Shefi
was demonized as his Bonnie.
Upon Har-Shefi’s release in August 2001, she
was greeted by protesters who screamed “murderer” at her. When Bakri was let off
the hook, the media feted her. She, family and friends were sympathetically
BUT THE bias against Har-Shefi was decisively underscored
when it became evident that her prolonged torment was for naught. Then Shin Bet
chief Ami Ayalon could have ended the willful abuse in an instant. He verified
this himself, when boasting in 2007 that he possessed “intelligence information”
clearly establishing that “Har-Shefi didn’t imagine what Amir planned. I
know – I was Shin Bet head.”
Ayalon took over the Shin Bet from Carmi
Gillon shortly after the assassination and stayed on for five years, precisely
when poor Har-Shefi sought desperately to extricate herself from the crime of
befriending the wrong coed. Both Ayalon and Gillon affirmed afterward that
Har-Shefi wasn’t guilty and supported presidential clemency to reduce her
sentence by a third (when the parole board refused).
However, in real
time Ayalon allowed his agents to lie prodigiously and incriminate a faultless
adolescent, without lifting a finger. The case couldn’t be pursued were the
serving chief of the Shin Bet resolutely upright – whether publicly or behind
Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch must have also
entertained suspicions. When serving as state attorney (from early 1989 through
the end of 1995), she approved fielding Raviv as a Shin Bet
It was Raviv who handed TV newsmen a small homemade
photo-montage of Rabin in SS uniform, one to this day exploited to besmirch
Rabin’s legitimate political opponents. The assassin himself was Raviv’s
sidekick, goaded by him to do the deed.
On September 22, 1995 – only
weeks before the assassination – Israel state television titillated its viewers
with particularly eerie footage shot in the wee hours in a deserted graveyard. A
group of adolescents clustered around a tombstone, apparently taking part in a
creepy clandestine initiation. The fact that their supposedly secret ceremony
was conducted obligingly before TV crews astoundingly didn’t undermine the
credibility accorded the sensational videos.
That rite caused a covert
Jewish “terror ring,” dubbed Eyal, to burst irresistibly onto public awareness.
The post-assassination Shamgar Commission of Inquiry would reveal it as
stage-managed, a fake, a set-up.
Raviv was the ringleader who swore in
“recruits” to the bogus underground. To garnish this defamatory exploit with
“moral authority,” he chose as his theatrical setting the last resting place of
Lehi leader Avraham “Yair” Stern, who was cold-bloodedly murdered by the British
in February 1942. Raviv even had his eccentric followers sing out Yair’s anthem
” (Anonymous Soldiers).
AS IT later emerged, this was all
part of a scheme to tarnish the ideological so-called Right, to paint its
adherents as wild-eyed hooligans and hotheaded nutcases who instigate mayhem and
violence and relish nothing more than tossing flaming matches into our regional
Someone was clearly interested in amplifying Raviv’s
shenanigans and he got unstinting resonance, especially when Raviv implicated
Eyal for the homicide of an Arab slain by fellow Arabs in Halhoul that
A subsequent suit against Raviv for libel and his macabre
midnight pageant was closed – for “lack of public interest” – by Edna Arbel,
Beinisch’s best friend, successor as state attorney and now a Supreme Court
In 2003, Raviv was absolved of the very charge he
badgered Har-Shefi to “confess” to in the Shin Bet interrogation facility. This
time judicial telepathy yielded the reverse results and press tolerance proved
It would take persistent probes and obstinate
litigation to belatedly wrest information about high-level cover-up collusion.
Beinisch maintained she “never permitted” Raviv to “incriminate innocent
We have to take her word for it because we’ll never know for
sure. Maybe a retrial was vetoed so that we’d never find