Incitement by Other Means

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking at a rally in memory of slain former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in Jerusalem, November 10, 2019.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking at a rally in memory of slain former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in Jerusalem, November 10, 2019.Credit: Emil Salman

It’s not enough that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has never taken responsibility for creating the atmosphere of incitement that preceded the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin; this week he took it further and assumed the position of the incitement victim.

In his address on Mount Herzl he illustrated what is meant when people say that history is written by the victors. “Over the years since the murder I’m hearing the false argument that when a fanatic called Rabin [a traitor], I stood by, remained silent, didn’t respond or even encouraged it … but a lie that’s repeated many times doesn’t turn into truth,” he said.

At a Knesset session honoring Rabin held later in the day, in response to the criticism leveled against him by Rabin’s grandson, Yonatan Ben Artzi, he addressed Kahol Lavan chairman Benny Gantz, saying, “They call me a traitor every day. I haven’t heard you or anyone else here condemn it when they’re coming to murder a prime minister.”

Thus, without a trace of shame or fairness, Netanyahu has completely scrambled history: Rabin, who was actually murdered, wasn’t a victim of a formidable incitement campaign, in which Netanyahu, as head of the opposition and a staunch opponent of the Oslo Accords played a key role, Instead, Netanyahu, who continues to incite against anyone who’s perceived as standing in his way – from the Palestinians through Israeli Arabs, the left, human rights groups, academia, artists, the media, and ending with the police, the president and the legal system – was the real incitement victim whose life is now in danger.

Not only that, but Netanyahu continues to promulgate the revision of the hateful discourse that preceded the assassination and belittle its severity. “What I said then is that Rabin was mistaken, but he’s not a traitor. We are one people,” he said in his speech at Mount Herzl, as if one video in which he is heard saying things in that spirit for the record is enough to erase from Israelis’ memories what happened here in the 1990s and his part in the campaign that led to the murder.

Nor should one fall into the new rhetorical trap the right is planting for the peace camp, when it seeks to portray the Oslo Accords as a “historic mistake,” or “wild dreams,” as Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein described them on Monday. The path from there to calling the architects of Oslo, Rabin chief among them, “the Oslo criminals” is shorter than it seems.

It is historic gall to ignore the fact that the Rabin assassination achieved its goal and stopped the peace process in its tracks; moreover, during all the years in which Netanyahu was in power, the right never considered withdrawing from the Oslo Accords. On the contrary; it was nourished by the fruits of Oslo, whether from the security cooperation with the Palestinian Authority, the economic and diplomatic expansion that followed, or the peace treaty with Jordan that never would have been signed without the Oslo Accords.

Rewriting reality the way Netanyahu and the right are doing with regard to Oslo and Rabin is just a continuation of the incitement by other means.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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