Israeli Leftists, Have You Learned Nothing From Rabin's Assassination?

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A so-called 'black flag' protest following Benny Gantz's decision to join a Netanyahu-led unity government, Tel Aviv, March 29, 2020.
A so-called 'black flag' protest following Benny Gantz's decision to join a Netanyahu-led unity government, Tel Aviv, March 29, 2020.Credit: Meged Gozani

It’s actually the left, so it seems, that failed to learn the lesson from Yitzhak Rabin’s murder. That’s the only possible explanation for the increasing use of the word “traitor” and its derivatives against Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz and his party, and against Zvi Hauser and Yoaz Hendel’s Derekh Eretz faction.

How is it possible that the same people who made Rabin’s assassination a touchstone of their worldview and squeezed out of it every last drop of potential to attack the right are now hurling the accusation of treason at politicians whose only sin was to stand by their word? The only possible conclusion is that the left objects to use of the term, except when it comes to assailing the right. Nothing to do with values or principles, it’s only a matter of positions.

Democracy and freedom of expression in Israel can definitely withstand the use of “traitor.” Gantz, Chili Tropper, Hendel and Hauser will survive the slurs, and if they haven’t developed a thick skin by now then it’s about time they do so. The issue, though, isn’t their emotional resilience, it’s the hypocrisy of the left.

For years it has been asserted that by calling Rabin a traitor, the right sanctioned his murder. The famous video in which Benjamin Netanyahu urged the audience not to call Rabin a traitor did not help, nor did the desire of parts of the right to join in memorials for the slain prime minister. The left persists in slandering the nationalist camp, with Rabin’s assassination as the formative event that made the word “traitor” the advance force of this assault.

Now the use of this word has received sanction. It is ubiquitous not only on social media but also in respectable opinion pieces, aimed at those who preferred a unity government over a minority left-wing government. People who just a moment ago defended Gantz against fascist “squads” now gather together, wearing black shirts, to protest against the traitors. It isn’t only accusations of treason. It’s also wishing them dead and accusing them of Nazism, fascism and who knows what else. Gantz must miss the days when the left welcomed him.

If the myriad obscenities being showered upon him were from the right, he long ago would have been assigned bodyguards and treated to headlines along the lines of “The right learned nothing from Rabin’s murder.”

The anger at these politicians comes down to the issue of a minority left-wing government, now obsolete. The fact that Gantz and the other members of his Hosen L’Yisrael party reiterated all along that they would not form a government that depended on the Joint List alliance of predominantly Arab parties doesn’t change a thing. They are still “traitors.” It’s not as if there’s any lack of genuine treason in Israel, mainly on the part of people who are closer to the left. Do we need to mention the actions of former Balad MKs Azmi Bishara and Basel Ghattas? After all, it’s a fact that Nitzan Horowitz, Ofer Shelah and Yair Lapid are willing to accept Balad as a legitimate political partner on which to rely.

It’s also not as if the insults and imprecation were reserved for social-media “trolls.” Well-known figures also choose to pour fuel on the fire rather than try to lower the flames. Is there no senior politician on the left like Horowitz (who hosted a show on Army Radio with Hendel) or Lapid (whose late father, Tommy Lapid, insisted that Netanyahu did not call Rabin a traitor) who, like Netanyahu, will now address their constituents and say: “He is in error, he’s absolutely not a traitor, we are all one nation”? Apparently not. You learned nothing from Rabin’s murder.

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