'Celebrated' Israeli General's Criminal Legacy Would Best Be Forgotten, Not Perpetuated

Rehavam Ze’evi does not deserve to have a law stipulating his commemoration - and leaders on the right must not fight for him for the sake of political considerations.

Rehavam Ze'evi (right) with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 1999.
Government Press Office

The initiative to close the book on the legacy of Rehavam Ze’evi in the wake of the investigation by the “Uvda” (“Fact”) television show should have come from both sides of the political spectrum. Any intelligent person now understands that the people who objected at the time to the bill promoting his commemoration were correct. Such laws had previously been passed by the Knesset only for prime ministers and the founders of Zionism.

As of now, however, the effort to stop the commemoration of Ze’evi with taxpayer funds are coming solely from the left, which is too bad. Do the people in Kulanu, Likud and Habayit Hayehudi really want their children to look up to a man who according to several accounts raped at least one woman and exploited his rank and position to systematically sexually assault additional young female soldiers? Do they want someone who associated with criminals and allegedly made active use of their services, including an effort to silence a female journalist, to serve as a model for their own children? A racist, who did not quail at murdering prisoners of war and defiling enemy corpses, and who championed the expulsion of Arabs from the territories?

The attempt to argue that teaching Ze’evi’s legacy focuses solely on its “positive” aspects — that is, his love for the Land of Israel, as his family has claimed in media interviews — recalls the children of a Mafia don praising their father as an exemplary family man. Their remarks are irrelevant to the issues presented in the investigative report. If one wants to instill love of the land, there are plenty of people more worthy of emulating who do not bear Ze’evi’s moral stains.

Rehavam Zeevi during his time as head of the Israeli army's Central Command.
Daniel Rosenblum  

Right-wing figures must not line up and dance cowardly dances to the tune of Bezalel Smotrich’s flute out of political considerations. Ze’evi does not deserve to have a law stipulating his commemoration, and his legacy would best be forgotten, not perpetuated.

If the right, including that in the opposition, does repulse the move to revoke the commemoration law, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon should courageously utilize his authority to freeze funding for this unworthy enterprise. Thus, even if the law is not voided, hundreds of thousands of parents will not have to explain to their children who this person, whose legacy they are forced to study, really was.

Those educators who spoke up as soon as the report was aired deserve praise. Refusal to cooperate with this insane project will also let the decision-makers know that Israelis are no longer willing to forgive sexual offenses and other criminal behaviors, no matter when they happened and even if they were perpetrated by “celebrated generals.”