State of Israel 'imposes terror on its citizens' to keep us quiet

February 12, 2013
Sarah Benton

Niva Grunzweig. “The State of Israel is guilty of my father’s murder in various ways.” Photo by Olivier Fitoussi

Daughter of slain peace activist Grunzweig: Israel imposes terror on its citizens

Thirty years after the murder of her father at a peace rally, Niva Grunzweig says the state should recognize its responsibility for the murder, and take steps to repair it.

By Nir Hasson, Ha’Aretz
February 10, 2013

The daughter of a left-wing activist killed 30 years ago said Sunday that Israel still “imposes terror on its citizens in various violent ways.”

About 100 Peace Now members gathered in front of the Prime Minister’s Office Sunday to mark the 30th anniversary of the murder of Emil Grunzweig, who was killed when a right-wing protester threw a grenade at a peace demonstration.

In a speech, Grunzweig’s daughter Niva, 34, accused Israeli governments over the years, not just Yona Avrushmi, the man who threw the grenade, over the death of her father.

“As far as the State of Israel is concerned, the only one guilty of my father’s murder is Yona Avrushmi,” Grunzweig said. “But that’s only a half-truth that’s meant to cover up the truth. The truth is that the State of Israel is guilty of my father’s murder in various ways, and until it recognizes its responsibility for the murder and acts to repair it, justice has not been done.”

According to Grunzweig, “the state devoted resources to find the person who tossed the grenade, but did nothing about those who supported this murderer. On the contrary, although those supporters were known to the public and the government, no steps were taken against them.”

She said no law had been passed against incitement to violence and no significant changes had been made to school curricula. The public discourse did not condemn those supporters, she said.

“The state didn’t really try to find out how a person was murdered because he expressed an opinion on the left of the political map, because he demonstrated against [the state] and its conduct,” she said.

“As a child, I thought my father’s murder was related to me. Maybe I had done something bad and deserved it. When I grew up I was angry at him – why did he have to attend that demonstration? Why didn’t he stay home? Why didn’t he fulfill his obligation to me, the obligation to live and be my father?” she added.

“For years I’ve realized that it’s neither me nor him. It happened to us, but it’s not our fault. But it’s not fate’s fault either. The pain is tremendous, but it wasn’t inevitable or necessary. Murder and killing can be prevented. And political murder can be prevented. The state is responsible for ensuring the safety of its citizens and residents.”

Grunzweig pointed a finger at the state, where she said violence is a dominant element. “It’s both a personal and a public accusation, just as my father’s murder was both personal and political. I grieve the loss of my father but also the fact that as a citizen of the state I’m exposed to violence daily,” she said.

“My father’s murder is an example of this violence, which is etched forever on my body and in my memory. The State of Israel imposes terror on its citizens in various violent ways so that we citizens who are critical of the government will give up the struggle for a saner life – a life where a person can go out to demonstrate on the street without fear of being murdered.”

Grunzweig added that Israel can be a sane and livable place if it recognizes its responsibility for daily violence, hatred and racism. “Recognizing the responsibility of the state is an act of apologizing. I want to imagine a moment when Israel’s leader admits that the state engages in various types of violence against its citizens and apologizes to them,” she said.

“Then we can start again and replace the … violence with a desire to create a good atmosphere for all the citizens and noncitizens living in this country. I want to raise my children in such a country, because in such a country I’m not afraid that they’ll grow up orphans.”

The Peace Now activists also said the murder had been forgotten deliberately. Naftali Raz, who organized the demonstration in Jerusalem where Grunzweig was killed, said that in a conversation at the Prime Minister’s Office none of the security guards had heard of Emil Grunzweig or Avrushmi.

According to Peace Now leader Yariv Oppenheimer, “what would have happened had the situation been reversed, God forbid, and a left-wing activist had murdered a right-wing activist at a demonstration? Today there wouldn’t be a school in the country that didn’t begin the day with a lesson on democracy.”

On Sunday, Oppenheimer read out a letter from President Shimon Peres. “The echoes of the despicable murder of Emil Grunzweig by a member of his own people during a peaceful demonstration in the center of Jerusalem have not died down after three decades,” wrote Peres.

“They once again remind us all where unbridled incitement, jealousy and intolerance of other opinions and viewpoints lead. His murderer sought to strike at the soul of Israeli democracy, and there is no atonement for his deed.”

Jan. 26, 2011, Yona Avrushmi leaves prison after serving a 27-year sentence.  Avrushmi was a petty criminal of low intelligence who acted 3 days after the Kahan State Commission of Inquiry  found the Israeli government indirectly responsible for the Sabra and Shatila massacre – to the fury of the right wing.   Avrushmi says he hurled the grenade ‘because of incitement’.    Photo by Alon Ron

Man who killed left-winger at ’83 protest released

No one but reporters and photographers awaited Yona Avrushmi outside Hadarim Prison.

By Yaniv Kubovich, Ha’Aretz
January 27, 2011

The convicted murderer of an Israeli peace activist was released from prison yesterday after serving 27 years. Yona Avrushmi, who threw the grenade at a Peace Now demonstration that killed Emil Grunzweig, left prison wearing a large skullcap and carrying a small backpack.

He tried to avoid the many journalists waiting for him when he came out of Hadarim Prison, pushing photographers aside. He ran around the parking lot for 10 minutes to see if a relative or friend had come to pick him up.

When Avrushmi realized no one had come to get him, he stood in the pouring rain, refusing to speak to reporters. Bus drivers passing by stopped to pick him up but he declined. It took several minutes for him to hail a cab and leave.

On February 10, 1983, a left-wing rally in Jerusalem called for the implementation of the Kahan Commission report; that panel investigated the massacre in the Sabra and Chatila refugee camps during the first Lebanon war. Avrushmi threw a live grenade into the crowd, killing Grunzweig and wounding nine others.

Avrushmi was convicted of murder and received a life sentence, and his petition to the High Court of Justice was rejected. In 1995, President Ezer Weizman commuted his sentence to 27 years.

After Avrushmi had served two-thirds of his sentence, he submitted an appeal for early release but was turned down. Retired Supreme Court Justice Miriam Ben-Porat, who heard the petition, later wrote in Haaretz that the crime was “an extreme example of the blind hatred that can accompany disputes between political movements, strong enough to serve as a motive for murder of a person whom the murderer does not even know, only because that person stood among the members of the movement [the murderer] hates.”

In 2002, Avrushmi’ssentence was further reduced by a third; the prosecution appealed this, but lost. However, after the drug Ecstasy was discovered in Avrushmi’s urine on his return from a furlough, the High Court left the decision to the Prison Service. The service revoked the reduction and ruled that Avrushmi would serve his entire 27-year sentence.

Over the years, Avrushmi was awarded long furloughs and worked as a welder in a workshop near the prison. He also worked in the Elite candy factory, which employs prisoners undergoing rehabilitation.

About six months ago, while driving with other prisoners to work at Elite, Avrushmi said a prison guard called him a murderer. Avrushmi tried to attack the guard, after which his furloughs were curtailed.

Eliezer Grunzweig, the victim’s brother, said yesterday: “I hope Avrushmi will deal with his rehabilitation and not with incitement. I hope this event will cause politicians to make another reckoning before they embark on incitement campaigns. I want to thank the prosecution for its determined war, for not giving in to Yona Avrushmi for even one day less than the punishment he was given.”

According to Avrushmi’s attorney, Avi Aviram, “Avrushmi served his entire sentence, and I hope he will now get his life back together. He has expressed full remorse for his deeds.”

Avrushmi is divorced and has one daughter, with whom he maintains infrequent contact.

Avrushmi plans to live in the Hatikva neighborhood of south Tel Aviv, where he has rented an apartment. He intends to work as a welder.

He has said in the past that he regretted the murder, which he said he committed because of incitement.

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