Yitzhak Berman, catalyst for Sabra and Shatila massacre inquiry, dies at 100

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Yitzhak Berman, who quit Menachem Begin’s government to protest its resistance to investigating the causes of the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacre, has died.

Berman died and was buried Sunday on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem with a Knesset honor guard, Israeli media reported. He was 100.


The former spy made his mark on Israeli history in the wake of the Sabra and Shatila massacre, during which Israel’s Phalangist allies in Lebanon killed more than 1,000 Palestinian civilians in refugee camps from Sept. 16 to 18, 1982.

The energy minister at the time, he was outraged at Prime Minister Begin’s resistance to establishing a commission of inquiry.

His resignation on Sept. 30, 1982, the threat of others to follow and a mass protest in Tel Aviv all led Begin to set up the Kahan Commission, which found that high-ranking officials — notably Defense Minister Ariel Sharon and Chief of Staff Rafael Eitan — bore personal responsibility for not stopping the massacre.

The findings forced the resignation of Sharon, Eitan and others.

Berman, born in Berditchev, Ukraine, had worked before Israel’s establishment both for British intelligence and for the Irgun militia.

He joined the General Zionist Party, which eventually merged with Begin’s Herut to form the Likud, and was Knesset speaker from 1977 to 1981.

“All those who knew him knew a true Israeli and Jewish patriot, and I think he was also an exemplary public figure,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday in announcing Berman’s passing to his Cabinet.