Opinion

One Netanyahu and 19 Years of Incitement

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo,  Jerusalem on October 18, 2019.
Sebastian Scheiner / Pool / AFP

Not long before Rosh Hashanah I saw the movie “Incitement,” which describes the events before the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin and the night of the murder itself. A bit later I watched the 10 episodes of the TV series “Our Boys,” set in the summer of 2014. The background is the kidnapping-murder of three Jewish teenagers from the West Bank, but the story focuses on the revenge killing – the kidnapping and burning of teenager Mohammed Abu Khdeir from East Jerusalem by three young Jews, as well as their arrest and trial.

Benjamin Netanyahu called the series anti-Semitic and said TV production company Keshet “slanders me on a daily basis.” The prime minister presumably watched the series. As for me, one comment: 19 years between one murder and the other. The threads of incitement connecting the two. And one Netanyahu.

The Rabin assassination will always be like a stab in the heart. I know every frame of the footage that was shot in the days before the murder and remember who was there and what they said, who went up on the balcony at Jerusalem’s Zion Square and who left it, who shouted and who remained silent.

On the movie screen, the voices and shouts at the square return, the echoes of “Rabin is a murderer, Rabin is a traitor,” and the images of Rabin in an SS uniform. And there is Netanyahu encouraging his supporters and marching at the head of his flock in front of “Zionism’s coffin” at Ra’anana Junction, and rabbis aplenty fired up in their belief that the evil must be uprooted from among us. And there is Itamar Ben-Gvir, the far-rightist, strutting around among the hotheads.

Hatred and incitement, incitement and hatred – which resulted in murder. So it was in 1995 and so it was in 2014. Not wild weeds or the moonstruck margins, but a skein of threads that were spun into the fabric of our lives over the years.

It doesn’t seem that the proximity in time between “Our Boys” and “Incitement” was deliberate, but it’s no coincidence. It was only a matter of time until the incitement, racism and warped feeling of “You have chosen us” and “It’s all ours” would be seen on the small and big screens. (In literature and on stage they have already appeared and will continue to appear.)

That’s why it must be reiterated that the screen has a focused, direct power. Right in front of you, you see who you’re dealing with, where he came from and where he’s going, and what the results of his actions will be. First incitement, then murder, in that order.

The movie and the TV series reintroduce a key question: How it is that since the Rabin assassination the country has filled with wild weeds? They are springing up and flourishing in broad swaths of the land. The question is raised of how the center-left hasn’t been able to fight for the country’s heart, spirit, image, integrity and future. And of how the occupation, the denial of another nation’s rights, has turned us, all of us, into people living next to a routine of apartheid with barely any protest.

The relatively good news appears in the last episode of “Our Boys.” Two of the three perpetrators are sentenced to life, and the third to 21 years. Yigal Amir, Rabin's assassin, is also serving a life sentence.

But you never know. Anyone following the demonstrations in Petah Tikva near the home of Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, anyone who sees the sights and hears the voices can feel another round of incitement; the gatekeepers’ battle to defend their standing is at its peak. Go hope for the best as long as Netanyahu is around.