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Yitzhak Kahan Dead at 72

April 26, 1985
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Yitzhak Kahan, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court who conducted the inquiry into the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camp massacres in 1982-83, was buried in Haifa today. He died yesterday at the age of 72. Kahan was born in Lemberg, Austria-Hungary. He studied law and economics before immigrating to Palestine in 1935.

One of Israel’s most prominent jurists, Kahan served on the Bench for over 40 years. He was appointed to the Supreme Court 15 years ago and retired in 1983, shortly after the findings of the Kahan commission were published.

The commission, headed by Kahan, was established as a result of an unprecedented outpouring of senti- ment in Israel over the massacre of hundreds of Palestinian civilians by Christian Phalangists, then allies of Israel, at the two refugee camps in West Beirut in September, 1982. Premier Menachem Begin, who initially opposed the inquiry, named Kahan, a religious Jew, to head the panel. Kahan selected Supreme Court Justice Aharon Barak and Gen. (res.) Yona Efrat as its other members.

Their report, published in February, 1983, was critical of several leading Israeli political and military figures, including Begin himself. It found the then Defense Minister, Ariel Sharon, indirectly responsible for the massacre for failing to prevent the Phalangists from entering the refugee camps located in an area under the control of the Israel Defense Force. Sharon was forced to resign, but Begin retained him in his Cabinet as a Minister-Without-Portfolio.

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