Rabin's Murderers Are Still Free and Happy

Moshe Negbi
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Moshe Negbi

Yigal Amir is in jail but his senior partners to the murder of the prime minister are still free and happy. Amir himself testified about those partners already on the night of the assassination when he said in his investigation: "Without the rabbinical ruling or the 'din rodef' [the right to pursue and kill someone who has supposedly sinned] that applied to [Prime Minister Yitzhak] Rabin, issued by a number of rabbis that I know about, I would have had difficulty murdering. A murder of that kind must have backing. If I did not have backing ... I would not have acted."

The criminal code stipulates that someone who urges another to perform a criminal act "by persuasion, encouragement or demand" bears the same criminal responsibility as that of the criminal he pressured. That is to say, the rabbis who issued the "din rodef" about the prime minister, and in that way gave backing to Amir, are assassins just like him, and they were supposed to spend the rest of their lives in prison like him. However they have remained free and obviously are also happy. From their point of view, the murder of the prime minister was a perfect crime that paid - it achieved its aim and they did not have to pay any price for it.

Rabbi Yoel Bin-Nun was the first to denounce the rabbis who backed Yigal Amir.Credit: Limor Edrey

The responsibility for this amazing failure, in the granting of immunity to those rabbis, lies mainly with the legal authorities. Why did they fail? The only convincing explanation I heard came from Rabbi Yoel Bin-Nun, the first to denounce the rabbis who permitted the shedding of Rabin's blood. When the rabbi was asked why he did not go to the police with the names of those rabbis rather than to the Chief Rabbinate, he said he had learned that the law-enforcement authorities were afraid of dealing with them and their extremist followers.

That is to say, there is a fearful catch here. When we are referring to an extremist rabbi with zealous followers, the authorities are afraid that if they bring him to trial because of his rulings there will be a terrible riot on the part of his followers. But after all, an extremist rabbi of this kind, whose followers are prepared to use violence at his behest, is also the one whose ruling creates the most concrete danger of permitting the blood of someone. It therefore transpires that the fear mentioned by Bin-Nun paralyzes the authorities' ability to deal explicitly with incitement of the most dangerous type - the type that has already led to the murder of a prime minister here.

This fatal fear and the existential necessity to overcome it should have been the focus of the ceremonies held to mark the anniversary of Rabin's assassination. Instead of lighting candles and singing the "Song of Friendship" and the "Song of Peace," it should be essential to protest against the fact that those responsible for the murder of a prime minister are walking around free, and to warn that for a democracy where the authorities are afraid of the murderers, instead of the opposite, there is no survival. However the organizers of the ceremonies, for the most part, preferred to exchange the difficulties of coping with the lessons of the assassination for nostalgic yearning for the magnificent acts of the dead prime minister. Perhaps this was a way of repressing the trauma, but perhaps also the organizers were afraid to arouse the ire of the violent fanatics.

Whatever the case may be, the fact that the memorial ceremonies marking the assassination were replaced by memorial ceremonies for the murdered prime minister embodies harsh implications. In the summary of the report by the state commission of inquiry that looked into Rabin's assassination, former Supreme Court President Meir Shamgar and Prof. Ariel Rosen-Zvi quoted the sages who said that bad culture within a person's house was worse than the war of Gog and Magog.

The committee cautioned that "it is vital that we should know how to uproot the bad culture that has developed among us." But the repression and exclusion of the assassination, its perpetrators and its lessons from the memorial ceremonies ensure that the bad culture, and those who disseminate it, will continue to corrupt souls, minds and hearts here, while nothing stands in the way.

The writer is the legal analyst of Israel Radio and a senior lecturer at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

קראו כתבה זו הבעברית: הרוצחים עדיין חופשיים ומאושרים