In Israel, Lethal Bullets Whistle From Right to Left Only

Ravit Hecht
Ravit Hecht
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25,000 candles lit during a memorial event commemorating the 25th anniversary of the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in Tel Aviv, Israel, October 29, 2020.
Ravit Hecht
Ravit Hecht

“We must all condemn acts of political violence .... Twenty-five years after Rabin’s murder, there is explicit incitement to assassinate the prime minister and his family, and hardly anyone says anything.”

These stunning words were spoken Thursday by none other than Benjamin Netanyahu, opposition leader in August 1995. Back then, Netanyahu was warned by the head of the Shin Bet security service, Carmi Gillon, that the atmosphere he was helping fan endangered Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s life.

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During the 2015 campaign following a disturbance by leftist activists at an election rally, Naftali Bennett, today a leading candidate for prime minister, also compared himself to Rabin. “The left has learned nothing from Rabin’s assassination,” he said.

He even addressed the chairman of the Zionist Union, a now defunct center-left party, that notorious bully Isaac Herzog: “The writing is on the wall and you can stop this and calm things down. You must not maintain the right to silence when left-wing activists, including members of your party, are partners to violent incidents against my party.”

So here we see two representatives of the right melding with the memory of Rabin and taking ownership of Victimhood Square – in a total reversal, of course, of what happened in reality.

It can’t be helped: Demonstrations – however wild they might be – can’t be compared to an act of murder. Shouted condemnations – however insulting they might be – aren’t comparable to din rodef – the Jewish law that states it’s permissible to kill someone who’s trying to kill you and let’s you put a contract out on someone’s head, validated by religion.

The high levels of loathing that opponents of Netanyahu feel toward him – and those levels are indeed high – don’t even resemble the expressions of hatred of Rabin by the right during the Oslo process. Rabin was accused of treason, and stopping him was depicted as an existential and historic necessity.

Even though the left isn’t free of violent practices (arrogance, for example), the bullets that end lives always whistle from one direction: from right to left. This situation repeats again and again, even now. The left is protesting in a very sharp way – in the very fact of insisting on protesting during a pandemic and not setting aside even for a day the efforts to delegitimize Netanyahu.

And it’s doing this via crude placards and ridicule, but ultimately, it’s the right that beats people up on street corners. It’s the right that can’t control its hands and impulsive movements. It’s the right that has failed the test of “civilized behavior” and is spiraling into physical harm.

This knowledge isn’t hidden from the right, which is ashamed of its violence and inability to overcome it. Playing the victim has an element of violence as it shunts aside the real victim, Yitzhak Rabin, the leader of the left. It’s an attempt to flee the embarrassing position of the aggressor, to cleanse the guilt feelings and act like the goody-goody leftist, whose tongue may be strong but who is more vulnerable in body.

(In 2014, Bennett made a video in which he dressed up as a leftist hipster who apologized for everything he did. Even parody, it seems, is chosen by the industrious subconscious.)

Like a child who submits to the taunts of his more sophisticated brother, a power relationship that ends with a punch, the right is mainly a victim of its own inability to restrain itself. Even though it’s strong to the point of bursting, the right is addicted to its inferiority feelings, which are seen in an exaggerated and warped playing of the victim, and in endless weepiness over exclusion and oppression. These also serve as one of its most effective means of recruitment.

It’s not clear if this process – which also justifies endless cynicism – is conscious. What is certain is that it’s an integral part of the rightist operating system, especially of Netanyahu.

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