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Executed, Then Exonerated

Lawrence Bush
May 19, 2017

Meir Tobianski, an officer in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) who was executed as a traitor for allegedly passing targeting information to Jordanian artillery forces during Israel’s War of Independence but was fully exonerated one year later, was born in Kovno, Lithuania on this date in 1904. Tobianski had served as a major in the British army during World War II, as a captain in the Haganah, and as the commander of Camp Schneller, a military base in Jerusalem. By 1948, he was working for the British-run Jerusalem Electric Corporation and was knowledgeable about the location of several arms manufacturers in Jerusalem. When these factories received direct hits from Jordanian artillery, he was arrested, interrogated, and summarily executed by firing squad. Isser Be’eri, the first director of Israel’s intelligence force, was chiefly responsible for Tobianski’s fate, and the following year he was accused of another quick execution based only on suspicions. In the course of investigating Be’eri, the commission of inquiry exonerated Tobianski posthumously. In July 1949, David Ben-Gurion issued a public exoneration of Tobianski and had his remains reburied with full military honors. Four months later, Isser Be’eri was found guilty of manslaughter by the Tel Aviv District Court. He was pardoned by President Chaim Weizmann.

“On June 30, 1948, Tobianski was kidnapped and driven to a depopulated Arab village (present-day Harel, Israel), where four intelligence officers demanded to know if Tobianski had given any information to his British colleagues at the utility (he had), and then declared him condemned as a spy. (Efficiently, they had already prepared the firing squad ahead of time.) [Be’eri’s three] subordinates [in the case], who were never charged, had long careers in Israeli intelligence . . .” --Executed

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.