A murderer like any other
Of course Yitzhak Rabin's assassin, Yigal Amir, should serve the heavy sentence given him, but the series of abusive measures that have been attached to his life term is intolerable. Amir is a murderer like any other murderer - no better, no worse - and his punishment should be commensurate with penalties imposed on any other murderers.
This abuse has to be stopped. Of course Yitzhak Rabin's assassin, Yigal Amir, should serve the heavy sentence given him, but the series of abusive measures that have been attached to his life term is intolerable. Amir is a murderer like any other murderer - no better, no worse - and his punishment should be commensurate with penalties imposed on any other murderers.
In moral terms, his action was no more repulsive than Eli Pimstein's when his murdered his young daughter, nor was it more cruel than the act perpetrated by Zvi Gur, who kidnapped and murdered Oron Yarden. Nonetheless, Amir can only dream about the prison conditions these other murderers (who are also serving long sentences) have.
Israeli society has never liked ideological criminals, even if it has displayed excessive indulgence toward the murderers of Arabs. Israelis who spied on their own country out of sheer greed generally received lighter sentences than those who betrayed the country due to a world view. The persecution of Yigal Amir stems from the same vindictive impulse that drove policies toward Mordechai Vanunu, who did not murder anyone. Amir is the absolute enemy of the people; he is the devil incarnate. The right will never dare to come out in his defense, lest it be blamed once again for his action; the left dumps on him all of its anger and frustration; and even human rights organizations, which courageously defend the rights of Palestinian terrorists, keep mum when it comes to Amir's case.
Among other things, nobody dares ask why he has to be kept in solitary confinement. Does his presence in jail pose such a threat to anyone? Any why must he be monitored round the clock on camera? What is he going to do in his cell: murder another prime minister?
Isolation for such a long period of time can only cause major emotional-psychological damage to a prisoner. It is a form of punishment that is not written in our law books, it is characteristic of cruel regimes, and it is defined as torture by human rights organizations. No prisoner can be rightfully tortured - and Yigal Amir is no exception. Since there is no objective reason to account for the solitary confinement, it can only be inferred that it derives from the same thirst for vengeance that motivated policies toward Vanunu. The judicial system - which authorized the policy of solitary confinement without blinking an eye - has surrendered to the voice of the masses.
Amir does not pose any danger to the public greater than that of a pedophile. But while child molesters are given prison furloughs, nobody even considers the idea of Amir having one. Nor is any thought given to the idea of reducing his prison term, as happens in cases of other murderers.
Authorities have also enacted double standards with regard to Amir's request to marry and consummate his union. Why was Ami Popper, who murdered seven Arabs, allowed to have sexual relations with his wife, whereas this basic right is denied to Amir? Who has given the head of the prisons service the right to deny Amir's request to marry, and to ignore the opinion of legal experts who say he has no authority to reach such a decision? Denying Amir the right to conjugal relations, which has been rationalized on the grounds of stopping Amir from "siring descendants," is tainted by a desire to dehumanize the assassin.
Yigal Amir is not a monster who must be stopped from having offspring. He is a human being, and his basic rights must be defended, in the same way the rights of other prisoners are protected. This includes the right to get married. With Amir, everything is permitted: his family members (including his mother, a preschool caretaker, and his brother, a soldier) can be demonized simply because they are related to him. The rabbis, who might have inspired Amir to commit the murder, got off scot-free; only his relatives have been treated like lepers.
Laden within this abusive treatment is the policy of viewing him as the patriarch of all vile sin, and to attribute all depravity to him. In this way, the right can shirk responsibility for the public atmosphere which produced the murder by pinning all blame on Amir personally; and the left can use Amir to excuse its failures since the Rabin assassination. Have the Oslo accords run aground? Has the public turned its back on the left? It's all Amir's fault. And there's the flip side: the left can console itself by pining about how everything would have turned out better had Rabin remained alive.
Both the left and the right distort the truth: the right, as a whole, bears responsibility for the murder, and the left can't blame the assassin for its own flaws. In actual fact, nobody knows how things would have turned out had the assassination not happened, but it is doubtful reality would have changed.
Amir will have to spend the greater part of his life in prison. That, indeed, is right. But now that he is behind bars, society can treat him with some modicum of humanitarianism. The health of democracy is partly measured by its attitude toward those who would subvert it.