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Rabin Memorial Rally: The courage to change

Most Israelis don’t want incitement and a discourse of hate. It’s time to enlist them, instead of pushing them away
Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid speaks at a rally marking 23 years since the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, at Tel Aviv's Rabin Square on November 3, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid speaks at a rally marking 23 years since the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, at Tel Aviv's Rabin Square on November 3, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

What happened here 23 years ago was meant to transform us into better people. That’s what you expect after a trauma. That we would at least grow from it. That we would learn and develop from it.

It didn’t happen. We’re not any better. The murder didn’t bring us closer together. Incitement continued to be a tool. Paranoia went back to managing us. Every debate is black and white: Us and them, good and bad. Hatred, fear and violence are part of the political discourse.

The murder of Yitzhak Rabin wasn’t only a murder, it was also a death threat. A threat of the next murder. When a prime minister is murdered, it becomes a possibility. It’s a gun which is placed on the table before us. That gun is there once again.

It is precisely because I’m not on the left, because I have political disagreements with the left that I feel a responsibility to issue a warning: When the government says anyone who thinks differently is a traitor and collaborator, they lead us down a dangerous path. It has to stop.

There are fringes on the right. There are fringes on the left. We have a duty to stand against them. But not everyone who thinks differently is an extremist and an existential threat. It wasn’t the entire right that murdered Rabin. It isn’t the left that’s responsible for terrorism.

Cynical politicians use our fears as a weapon. They break every rule of decency and unity. They fracture Israeli society from within. So it’s time to stand opposite them and say – there are rules.

In a democracy there are rules. I greatly respect initiatives like Tzav Pius, but change won’t come from a poster with a kibbutznik and a settler embracing. Change will come from clear rules which everyone adheres to.

You can’t spread lies. You can’t distort everything your rival says. You can’t make comparisons with the Holocaust. You can’t misuse the power of office. You can’t use God, He isn’t a politician. You can’t weaken the institutions which strengthen us — the courts, the police, the officers of the IDF, the media, the opposition. You can’t kill.

We’ll need to fight for these rules. We won’t give up because we have the strength to bring about change. We have more partners than we think. They’re waiting for us. On the right, on the left, in the center. They are waiting to see if we will extend our hand towards them or shout abuse at them. We have gone through so much together already, we can’t stop now.

It’s time for a change in Israel. It’s time for us to believe in ourselves once more. Believe in our ability to be better. The majority of Israelis don’t want incitement and a discourse of hate. They don’t want to live under the threat of murder. It’s time to enlist them, instead of pushing them away. The LGBT community and Orthodox Jews. The national camp and human rights groups. Ashkenazim and Sephardim. Students of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and disciples of Aharon Barak.

The vast majority of Israeli citizens first and foremost want one thing — to live together. There are people we can work with. We have the strength to be better. For the first time in a long time, I am full of hope. The Israeli public is beginning to awaken. I meet them in Arad and in Beer Sheva, in Rishon and in the Krayot, in the Golan Heights and in the Negev. Far more young people who care. Far more women entering into the arena. Together, we’re finding within us the courage to change.

The courage to change, more than anything, is the legacy of Yitzhak Rabin.

About the Author
Yair Lapid is a member of Knesset and the chairman of the Yesh Atid party.
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