Aliyah Cabinet Cancels Meeting on Lhanghal Case As Police Investigation Continues Under Wraps
(October 27) A hastily called meeting of Israel’s Aliyah Cabinet, summoned this week by Minister of Immigration and Absorption Pnina Tamano-Shata to discuss the October 6 murder of Yoel Lhanghal, has been just as hastily canceled at the last moment. No reason for this was given by the ministry.
The Aliyah Cabinet, a rarely convened forum of ten ministers appointed to deal with special situations involving immigrants to Israel, was scheduled to meet on the morning of Thursday, October 27. Among those invited to participate in the session was Degel Menashe’s managing director Yitzhak Thangjom. “Naturally, I’m disappointed that the meeting was called off,” he told our Newsletter. “It would have been an occasion to discuss the problems of the B’nei Menashe at the highest level.”
Thangjom had intended to present the Aliyah Cabinet with a proposal to conduct surveys that would determine how serious anti-B’nei Menashe prejudice in Israel is. “We don’t know as much about the subject as we need to know,” he said. “Many B’nei Menashe feel that Yoel Lhanghal’s murder was motivated by racism. Perhaps it was. To be honest, though, this isn’t clear. We’re still in the dark about many things. Even Yoel’s own family doesn’t know the whole story.”
This was confirmed this week by visitors to the Lhanghals’ home in Nof Hagalil, which has continued to be besieged by condolence callers many days after the formal shiv’a for Yoel came to an end.
“The police have told us very little,” they quoted Gideon Lhanghal, Yoel’s father, as telling them. “We don’t even know if Yoel was stabbed by a knife or killed by some other weapon or blow. The autopsy findings haven’t been revealed to us.”
These remarks were at variance with earlier reports of the police’s confirming that Yoel was the victim of multiple stab wounds. The tight-lipped behavior of the police even toward Yoel’s family, our Newsletter was told by a criminal lawyer it consulted, is not unusual in such a case. “An investigation can be harmed by a premature disclosure of the facts known to the police,” it was explained to us. “This can give the accused or their lawyers an opportunity to concoct explanations, or to coordinate testimony, in advance of an indictment, which can be very damaging to the prosecution.”
The fears that have circulated of a police whitewash to exonerate Yoel’s murderers were, our source thought, unfounded. Even, he said, if the police in Kiryat Shmona, where the murder took place, had wanted to shield the local teenagers who killed Yoel, this would not be possible. The sacking last week of Kiryat Shmona police chief Nir Sasson for his mishandling of the incident has focused the public spotlight on it, thus precluding any suppression of evidence, and in any case, the investigation has been passed on to a central unit and is not in the hands of the Kiryat Shmona police station. “If it has been slow,” our source said, “this has probably been for good reasons. Yoel was killed by five or six boys attacking him at once, and the police must try to determine whether the lethal blow or blows was delivered by one of them, some of them, or all of them. From the videos of the incident that I’ve seen, this isn’t easy.”
It would be less complicated, the lawyer explained, if most of the attackers hadn’t been teenagers. He cited Paragraph 29 of the Israeli criminal code, which states that, whereas all the participants in a crime are guilty of it to the same degree, minors can be an exception when “they have served as the tool of someone else.” Since reportedly only two of the accused, the only ones said still to be in police custody, are of legal age, defense lawyers for the others might claim that their clients were their “tools” and cannot be held guilty of murder.
Meanwhile, “Helping Yoel’s Family,” a public fund-raising campaign for the Lhanghals conducted under the auspices of Giveback, an Israeli Website for charitable giving, has managed to raise nearly 400,000 shekels, 80 percent of its stated goal.
"We wish to show Yoel’s parents,” the campaign’s organizers declared, “that they are not alone, to help them economically to raise their children and meet their own needs, to perpetuate Yoel’s memory, and to pay for what legal help they will need.”