Israel, Coming To Terms With Past, May Compensate Victim’s Family
JERUSALEM (AP) _ It was 1973. The Moroccan waiter was walking home from a movie with his pregnant wife in the Norwegian town of Lillehammer. Shots rang out. When the firing stopped, the waiter was dead, mistaken by Israel agents for a Palestinian terrorist.
Twenty-three years later, there are signs Israel may be willing to accept blame for Ahmed Bouchiki’s death.
This week, Israel’s communications minister, Shulamit Aloni, urged Bouchiki’s family to file for compensation. He is the highest-ranking Israeli to suggest that his government become involved.
``Norway is a friendly country. Bouchiki was not a terrorist. We killed him by mistake. Therefore, we should pay compensation provided the claim is submitted in an orderly fashion,″ Aloni told The Associated Press.
The Lillehammer killing is the latest episode to resurface as Israel, now making peace with Palestinians and other Arab neighbors, comes to terms with its violent past.
Also this week, Prime Minister Shimon Peres proposed setting up a government committee to handle compensation claims by Palestinians injured by Israeli troops during the 1987-93 uprising against Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Claims pending in Israel’s courts reportedly total $180 million.
Last year, many Israelis were stunned by war veterans’ revelations that they massacred Egyptian soldiers during the 1956 and 1967 wars.
``Things have changed, Israel is more mature and ready to deal with its past more openly,″ said Yossi Melman, a veteran Israeli journalist and intelligence expert. ``Archives are opening, new material is available to the public.″
Israel has never formally accepted responsibility for the Lillehammer killing, although five people identified in a trial as agents with the Israeli intelligence service, Mossad, were convicted in Norway of involvement. Four men and one woman served prison terms of seven to 22 months.
Ariel Sharon, a former defense minister, said late last year that Prime Minister Golda Meir ordered her security chiefs to kill Palestinians responsible for the 1972 massacre of 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics.
One of them was Hassan Salameh, known as the Red Prince, who was suspected of organizing the Munich attack. He was killed in Beirut in Jan. 1979, by a bomb planted in his car. The Mossad was blamed for his death. Israeli journalist Eitan Haber, late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s top aide, wrote that Israel tried and failed five times to kill him before succeeding.
In a Nov. 1993 television interview, Aharon Yariv, Meir’s adviser on terrorism, made the closest admission to involvement in the Lillehammer killing when he said that Bouchiki bore a close resemblance to Salameh.
``We made all the efforts to ensure that the (correct) man would be recognized and that his family would not be harmed.″ Yariv said. ``The Lillehammer waiter, I was told, looked so similar to Hassan Salameh (that) they could have been brothers.″
In December, the Norwegian government asked its parliament to pay $39,000 to Bouchiki’s widow, Toril Larsen Bouchiki, and his daughter, who was born two months after his death.
The widow wants Israel to apologize and provide similar compensation. A delegation of Norwegian parliament members is expected to bring up the case during a visit to Israel next week.