JERUSALEM (Jun. 16)
The murder 52 years ago of Haim Arlosoroff, a rising star in Labor Zionist politics, for which three Revisionist militants were tried and subsequently acquitted for lack of evidence, was the subject of a 202-page report released here this month by a three-man panel appointed by the Likud-led government of Premier Menachem Begin in March, 1982.
The murder, on June 16, 1933, stirred the “yishuv”, the Jewish community in Palestine, as few other events during those alternately violent and calm years of the inter-war period. It created a deep schism in political circles and added to the embitterment between the left and right wings of the Zionist movement.
While the report which Begin’s panel labored for two years, generated little excitement Begin was elated by the findings of his commission which were precisely what he had hoped they would be. After sitting the evidence — 1933-34 police files, 1934 transcripts of the Mandate court proceedings and other archival material — and questioning 47 witnesses, the three accused Revisionists were cleared of all suspicion in connection with the murder.
ALL 3 ACCUSED ARE DEAD
The three, Abba Achimeir, Avraham Stavsky and Zvi Rosenblatt, who belonged to the ultra-rightist Brit Habiryonim group of the Revisionist movement, are long dead. But, as Begin noted in one of his rare public comments, “at least their families can now read that they were completely innocent. Justice has been done and this is a good day for Israel.”
Begin commissioned the inquiry, which opened on April 19, 1983, because the acquittal of the three Revisionists a half century ago did not remove the taint of suspicion.
Arlosoroff was director of the Jewish Agency’s political department at the time of his death. He was one of the most promising young leaders of Mapai, a forerunner of the present Labor Party. He was killed while strolling on the Tel Aviv beach with his wife. Even after the accused men were freed for lack of evidence, Mapai charged that the Revisionists, if not directly responsible, had incited the murder. The Revisionists, in turn, accused Mapai of blood libel.
PERES NOT INTERESTED
The panel, composed of David Bechor, a former Supreme Court Justice, who was chairman; Rabbi Eliezer Berkovits; and Max Kennet, a former President of the Tel Aviv District Court, also cleared the Labor Movement of the blood libel charge. But it was unable to conclude whether or not the murder was a political act by any party or even to guess who the killers were. That apparently accounts for the “ho hum” reaction of most Israelis to the report.
Ironically, although it was Begin who initiated the inquiry, it was Laborite Premier Shimon Peres who received the panel’s report. Peres told the three investigators that he had opposed the inquiry two years ago and has not changed his mind. He said he has not yet read the report because there are far more pressing items on his agenda.