A Commemoration of Rabin Without His Legacy

Rabin stood behind his decision to recognize the Palestinian people. Meanwhile, not a single prominent Arab figure spoke at the memorial on Saturday.

Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat
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Israelis hold placards during a rally to mark the 19th anniversary of the former PM's assassination, Rabin Square, Tel Aviv, Nov.1, 2014. Credit: AFP
Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat

A man once consulted psychiatrists because he thought he was a piece of grain. After many sessions the man was persuaded that he was not a piece of grain, but when he left the clinic and saw a chicken, he fled. He told his disappointed doctors: “I know I’m not a grain, but go tell that to the chicken.”

That, in a nutshell, is our own story, that of the Arabs, with our brethren from the Israeli left.

They explain to us that we don’t have to be afraid of the state as Jewish and democratic, that it will not harm the rights of Arab citizens. Well, dear friends, we believe that you oppose discrimination with every bone in your body, but go persuade the folks in government about the egalitarian nature of “the Jewish state.” Right now they are for all intents and purposes instituting the concept of a Jewish nation state on every grain of soil.

And before you persuade the right, try bringing on board the people who belong to what is known as “the peace camp,” first and foremost former President Shimon Peres, who endlessly praised peace on Saturday night at the rally commemorating the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin.

This he did while not one Arabic public figure appeared among the speakers. With all due respect to the rally and good intentions of the thousands of people who attended, it grates that in terms of its speakers, the rally was purely Jewish.

Yitzhak Rabin was murdered for three reasons: first, that he dared recognize the national leadership of the Palestinian people, the Palestine Liberation Organization; second, that he returned land to the Palestinians, albeit very partially; and third – and most important – that he depended on the votes of the Arab members of Knesset to approve the dramatic diplomatic decision, the Oslo Accords.

In my opinion, that third reason has the greatest weight among the reasons for the incitement campaign against him before he was murdered.

How is it that Rabin, the military leader, flesh of the flesh of activist Zionism, dared make a decision that was based on the majority of citizens, but not on a Jewish majority? And despite it all, the man stood heroically behind his decision. On the eve of his assassination, on the TV program “Moked” he defended using persuasive civil logic, the right of the Arabs to be partners in determining the country’s path.

Thus, the moment that the Arab citizens decided, through their representatives in the Knesset, in favor of an agreement with the Palestinians was a formative moment in Israel’s journey from the state of the Jewish community to a civil state, of which most Jewish thinkers dreamed.

It might be said, and I do not discount it, that the absence of Arabs from the podium at the rally was not due to malice.

But to my mind, it was even worse than that. After all, if the organizers do not take to heart the fact that without the Arab citizens it is almost impossible to effect the change that will extricate the state from the curse of occupation – which breeds brutality, zeal and an intolerable life – then we have a problem.

And it is the duty of sane people to persuade others of the need to involve Arabs, and thereafter to translate that persuasion into deeds.

And so Saturday night we had a rally in memory of Rabin without remembering his legacy. And such a rally portends the future of the age of the Jewish state, in which the Arabs play second fiddle, if they are even in the orchestra.

It is therefore important, based on Saturday night’s gathering, to whisper to the well-intentioned: Do not serve as doves trained to draw other doves into cunning human traps. Thus we enter the trap of the Jewish state, when all the good people welcome us with song and joyful celebration, but when darkness comes, the right will swoop down on us.

Our healthy instincts, as well as our long experience, will prevent us from falling into the trap, even if our path is strewn with flowers.

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