Enough With the Rabin Memorial Rallies

The life and death of Yitzhak Rabin should be remembered at state memorial ceremonies, in the education system, and in the media, not by clinging to the past.

Uri Misgav
Uri Misgav
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Israelis rally to mark the 19th anniversary of the former PM's assassination, Rabin Square, Tel Aviv, Nov.1, 2014.
Israelis rally to mark the 19th anniversary of the former PM's assassination, Rabin Square, Tel Aviv, Nov.1, 2014. Credit: AFP
Uri Misgav
Uri Misgav

They need to stop holding the annual rally in memory of Yitzhak Rabin. Although organized by good people with good intentions, these rallies serve no purpose and leave an uncomfortable feeling.

Next year will mark 20 years since the assassination of the best and most courageous prime minister to have served here since Israel’s first, David Ben-Gurion. That’s sure to boost motivation for the mother of all rallies in the Tel Aviv square now bearing Rabin’s name.

I can just see the aerial photographs that would appear on the front pages of the popular dailies the next day, emblazoned with the headline “20 Years Later.” But it would actually be better to use the occasion to officially refrain from such gatherings. Anyone requiring such seasonal dates to commemorate something will at least have the satisfaction that, this year, the date of the anniversary of the assassination coincided on both the Hebrew and Gregorian calendars. Now, though, it’s time to move on to more effective forms of activity.

The repeated attempts to create a kind of revival gatherings for the peace camp in Rabin Square is doomed to failure. And it’s the organizers who end up the losers.

It’s a double-edged sword. Although they may dream of a show of power, the organizers risk a demonstration of weakness. It’s not only the risk of a low turnout, but also that those in attendance will be too homogenous.

There is also something to right-wing gripes that the week of remembrance is improperly exploited for political gain. “Festirabin,” they call it. True, Rabin’s murder was political and must be remembered as such. But nearly two decades later, any self-respecting political camp must stop hanging its hat on the mantra that the country was stolen from it on that November 4, 1995.

They stole the country from you? So steal it back! Furthermore, it was a theft of limited proportions. Since Rabin’s murder, three prime ministers have taken office here with pretensions of representing “the center bloc” or “the sane majority.” They had aspirations for territorial compromise, and they were not stopped by Rabin’s assassin, Yigal Amir, and his mentors.

Above all, the annual memorial rallies symbolize incomprehensible ideological weakness – as if the very existence of the political camp and its supporters is derived from their belonging to the political bloc Rabin led just prior to his death. It’s baseless and divorced from reality, and it reflects a clinging to the past, instead of fighting for the present and tending to the future.

It is this last task over which the leaders of the Israeli Peace Initiative movement (“Yisrael Yozemet” in Hebrew) have toiled. They are worthy people who seek to rescue the country from the paralysis and destruction that the diplomatic stalemate has created.

Their political philosophy is focused on creating a vision and diplomatic horizon, but their latest rally opened with a recording of Rabin’s final speech, followed by the event’s main guest of honor, Shimon Peres.

Are a prime minister slain 19 years ago and a 91-year-old former president really the most powerful ammunition currently in the arsenal of the peace camp, and its hope?

And if that’s not enough, there has now been a split among memorial rally organizers. It’s become a farce at this point.

At the “political” rally, they speak about peace and statesmanship, and a change of priorities. At a second “state” gathering, the talk is of democracy and tolerance. It’s a kind of big, town square, social teach-in – the type youth movements organize so that Israel’s president and the Bnei Akiva religious youth movement can both take part. It’s time to put an end to this farce.

Rabin the man, and his murder, can be remembered at state memorial ceremonies, in the education system, and in the media. But his ideological and political legacy has to be translated into ideological and political action. He was a fighter and a man of action.

The fitting way to honor his memory is to stand tall and instill a sense of practicality and fighting spirit. Better that than convening over and over in the square bearing his name and, in the words of the Aviv Geffen song, urging him “to be strong up there.”

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