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The National Inciter

Will the ceremony in Rabin Square be political or nonpolitical? Yitzhak Rabin's murder was political, and that is how it must be remembered

Niva Lanir
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Yitzhak Rabin grins at hecklers who interrupted his speech during a Knesset debate in Jerusalem, October 5, 1995
Yitzhak Rabin grins at hecklers who interrupted his speech during a Knesset debate in Jerusalem, October 5, 1995Credit: Associated Press
Niva Lanir

Every year, for over 20 years, the same argument is revived: Will the ceremony in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square commemorating the square’s namesake be political or nonpolitical? For 23 years I’ve thought this debate was unnecessary. Yitzhak Rabin wasn’t murdered in action while playing in the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. His murder was political, and that is how it must be remembered. And thanks to anyone who is uncomfortable with that. They know the reason why.

But ... There’s always that ‘but’: Every year somebody asks why a political rally should be held in memory of the prime minister; why divide rather than unite? For the benefit of anyone who asks, let me recall some relevant events and quotations from October 1995. The list can be expanded for reuse next year, and the year after that. A short anthology of lies and incitement:

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October 5, 1995: A right-wing protest in Jerusalem’s Zion Square. Posters depicting Rabin in an SS uniform are held up to the Likud party leaders, who stand on a balcony facing the square. Benny Begin, Dan Meridor and David Levy walk out. Benjamin Netanyahu and Ariel Sharon wave in support to the crowd, Netanyahu with his arm outstretched and his hand in a fist. That evening, David Levy says: “There’s an incited crowd here that is doing greater damage to Israel than the biggest left-wingers.”

October 5, 1995: Then-Construction and Housing Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer is attacked in his car on his way to the Knesset, by right-wing protesters. “It was like Hamas in Lebanon,” he said after being rescued from the car.

October 10, 1995: A forum is held at the Wingate Institute in Netanyahu. Rabin is booed. An audience member lunges at him in attack.

October 12, 1995: The main headline of the Yedioth Ahronoth daily: ‘Shin Bet fears an attack by extremists on Rabin and senior officials,’ referring to Israel’s national security service. The main headline in Haaretz: ‘Rabin to hold consultations on the attacks against him. Police fear attacks on cabinet members.’

October 13, 1995: Rabin, speaking at an exhibition of the Armored Corps in Tel Aviv’s Malkhei Yisrael Square, now Rabin Square: “Right-wing leaders lend legitimacy to the efforts of Kahanist hotheads to attack me and [other] cabinet members. What the far right is doing today, inspired by Likud, have no equivalent in a democracy.”

October 19, 1995: Likud says it’s considering asking the police to investigate Rabin in the light of “revelations” that the Labor Party is organizing activists to disrupt Likud election rallies. Netanyahu: “Rabin is the national inciter.”

We still haven’t mentioned the Talmudic “slay before you are slain” teaching that rabbis threw into the ring and the many other signals that predicted what would happen: A group of hotheads demonstrated every Friday outside Leah and Yitzhak Rabin’s home in Tel Aviv and threatened that they would meet the same demise as Mussolini and his wife; the slogans “Rabin is a murderer” and “Rabin is a traitor,” painted on signs, on city walls and on bridges across the country; the Kahanists who peeked out of their hideouts, and the leader of them all: the leader of the opposition. The man who launched his career by inciting against Rabin in the summer and fall of 1995, and has remained a national inciter ever since. The man who told Rabin in the Knesset in April 1995: “You’re not afraid but we are afraid of the courage of the general of defeat, the hero of surrender. The man who is incapable of saying no to Arafat.”

So said Netanyahu, the man who is incapable of saying no to his own wife; the national coward, who is afraid of the left (“they’ve forgotten what it is to be Jewish”), of Israeli Arabs (“they’re going in droves to the polls”) and of the refugees who will flood the country and of the foreigners who will mix with the population.

Netanyahu, the man who appeared at a protest at Ra’anana Junction walking before a coffin labeled “Rabin is killing Zionism,” this man who by his own words made himself an untiring inciter. The national inciter.

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