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The Tobianski Affair

(June 30, 1948)

Meir Tobianski was born in Kovna (now Kaunas) in 1904, and came to Mandatory Palestine in 1925. For most of his adult life, he was affiliated with the Haganah, mostly concurrently with civilian jobs. In 1947, he began working as an engineer in the Jerusalem electricity company. Once the war started, he commanded various bases in the Jerusalem area. On June 29, he and his troops swore allegiance to the just-created IDF. The next day he traveled down to Tel Aviv on errands.

While in Tel Aviv, he was accosted by some officers who summoned him to an urgent meeting. They took him to a building up the road back to Jerusalem and interrogated him, accusing him of transferring sensitive information to the enemy. He admitted giving some information to British colleagues in the electricity company. At this stage, his interrogators, Issar Beeri, Avraham Kraemer (Kidron), Binyamin Gibli, and David Karon, declared themselves a military court, sentenced him to death, and had him shot the same day – June 30, 1948. His body was dumped in a nearby hole. His wife was told his fate only a few days later.

Issar Beeri, who played a key role in the creation of a military intelligence branch during the War of Independence, was tried and discharged from the IDF in February 1949. He was not charged with the killing of Tobianski, but for the murder of an Arab-Israeli named Ali Kassem, who had been a Haganah informer suspected of being a double agent.

A few months later, the newly appointed Attorney General, Yaacov Shimshon Shapira, insisted Beeri be tried for the unlawful killing of Tobianski, but encountered resistance since he had already been discharged from the army. Shapira insisted and, in an important case demonstrating the supremacy of the rule of law, Beeri was convicted. He was sentenced to one day in jail, but pardoned that same evening by the president.

Beer’s three subordinate officers who had served as the judges, fared better. They were not tried on the grounds that they had been following Boeri’s orders, had assumed they had the authority to act as they did, and had been convinced of Dubinsky’s treason.

Avraham Kraemer changed his name to Kidron, and eventually rose to become the General Director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. David Karon worked for the Mossad, spending years in Teheran. Binyamin Gibli remained in the IDF, achieved the rank of Colonel, and was the director of Military Intelligence in the 1950s.

Meir Tobianski was exonerated in 1949. He is buried in the military cemetery on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem.

Source: Israel State Archives