Hebron settlers shed no tears after slaughter: Militant Jews are turning mass killer Baruch Goldstein into a folk hero, writes Sarah Helm from Kiryat Arba

'THERE are no innocent Arabs. These deaths were necessary and it is necessary to kill a lot more. Baruch was a hero, a hero of all the Jews. He was a perfect man, a kind man and a sweet man.'

The words of the settler were only just audible yesterday over the sound of the thunder and driving rain which swirled around the Hebron settlement of Kiryat Arba as the moment for the funeral approached. A few yards behind, sods of thick orange mud were slopping into a newly bulldozed grave, dug in the settlement's Kahane Park, named after Rabbi Meir Kahane, the militant anti-Arab leader assassinated in 1990 in New York.

From this far corner of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, it is possible, on a clear day, to see down to the busy streets of Arab Hebron's Old City, where stands the Tomb of the Patriarchs, scene of Baruch Goldstein's slaughter of at least 43 Muslims at Ramadan prayers.

'All of them have done evil,' continued Shmuel Hacohen, 34, an immigrant from Virginia in the US. 'I have served in the Lebanon war - I have seen how Arabs kill Jews. They have the blood of Jews on their hands. They have killed Jews in ways I cannot explain,' he said, grimacing with disgust. 'They had cut bits off people's bodies. Their so-called mosque is the burial place of our forefathers. There they sing 'Death to the Jews' - is that what you call innocent people?'

His friend, David Bar Avraham, described Islam as 'a poison in the world . . . The imperialists of Islam have taken our land here. It was not murder or killing, it was vengeance. Was it murder to kill Hitler?'

A loudspeaker voice came booming through the fog: 'The funeral of Baruch Goldstein will take place at 6pm.' Two-way radios announced that the cortege had just left the Jerusalem morgue to make the 15-mile journey along the most hostile road for Jews in the West Bank. Palestinian refugees, caged in their camps, hurled rocks at every passing car yesterday; many Arabs, confined to their homes under curfew, hung out black flags to mourn their dead. Nervous young Israeli soldiers, freezing in the storm, laid spikes at every junction and watched the road from Palestinian roofs.

In Kiryat Arba they had heard the news that the Israeli cabinet had decided to act against some Jewish extremists. The 'fascist Rabin' had ordered the arrest of three militants in the settlement that morning. But yesterday the Jews of Kiryat Arba were under no curfew: they were moving freely through Hebron under full army escort and patrolling their settlement with loaded rifles.

Outside the Kiryat Arba coffee- house, young religious students with Uzi sub-machine-guns mingled with soldiers awaiting the funeral. Reports had reached the waiting mourners that the Chief Rabbinate had refused permission for the ritual washing of the corpse. And the settlers were angered that the body was to be 'buried in a park like a dog'.

The 'Nazi' Israeli government had refused permission for Goldstein to be buried in the Jewish cemetery in the centre of Hebron. 'The army fears that the Arabs will go and dig up the body and pull it apart,' said one mother of eight. 'But we are not afraid of the Arabs. We have no pity for them. Why should we? Do they have pity for Jews who are killed?'

No Arab, not even an Arab worshipper shot in the back while at prayer, can stir remorse in the heart of a Hebron settler. No single word of condemnation of the massacre has yet issued from Hebron's 7,000- strong Jewish community, who have all moved to live here since Israel seized the territory in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, building their settlements on confiscated Arab lands in their determination to claim the land as theirs.

'The killing was very good,' said Yoni Cohen, 13. 'It shows the Arabs we have the power.' 'I think it is good - the Arabs are terrorists,' said Ben Desta, whose family came from Ethiopia five years ago.

The mourners were concerned yesterday only over the death of one man: Baruch Goldstein. Martin Luther King, Samson, Kennedy were among the names which came to people's lips as they sought to extol the virtues of the Brooklyn-born Jew, whose good works in Hebron are being spun into legend in the streets where he lived.

'There was not one night when he didn't go to sleep in tears at the pain of the Jewish people. He was the best doctor I have ever known, said Shmuel, who migrated from Moscow ten years ago.

TUNIS - Morocco's King Hassan has told the Palestine Liberation Organisation leader, Yasser Arafat, that he will 'adopt' all the families of the Hebron mosque victims, Reuter reports.

Leading article, page 13

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