Victims always remember / living in the bubble

“Let’s take out the story about Rabin,” my publisher’s editor suggested, as we discussed a short-story collection I’m about to publish. “The topic of Rabin’s murder has been done to death,” she said.

Has it? Since I stood on the balcony at City Hall on that fateful night 23 years ago, shortly before Rabin was shot dead, I’ve never felt that too much has been written about it. At least, not about the importance of the murder. There’s been plenty of “we need to unite the nation” and “we must make the annual memorial events apolitical.” Many writers urged the mourning, hurting part of the people to embrace “the other side.” So, those whose hopes for a new future had been crushed should embrace those who in their vicious incitement had accused Rabin of being a traitor.

Every year, as the memorial day loomed, arguments erupted on whether there should be a political rally. And every year the organizers sanitized it of political content so that right-wing politicians could also speak. But Yigal Amir murdered Rabin at a political rally for his political views. He murdered Rabin for wanting to make peace and stated stated he would not have done so without the rabbis’ endorsement (din rodef). How could any gathering in his memory not be political?

ֿHow about the incitement and the inciters – has their culpability been “done to death” by columnists? It has not, not even close. They have not been called out, not named and shamed, not held responsible. Why haven’t they paid some price for what they did? How many of them have owned up and taken responsibility? None!

Columnists Ari Shavit and Dan Margalit recently resigned over accusations of sexual misconduct. What they did was deplorable, but not so deplorable as the incitement and threats against Rabin by certain politicians and rabbis. Why then does one of the main inciters occupy the prime minister’s seat today? Another, Ariel Sharon, also became prime minister. Many others are still in positions of power today.
It was bad enough that they made possible Rabin’s assassination. Even worse, they paved the way for the deaths of hundreds of Israelis in terror attacks and unnecessary wars. Rabin’s peace program could have made it all avoidable. The killing and dying will continue because the occupation continues and the strangulation of Gaza is permanent. Many more Israelis may die as the legacy of one vicious assassination.

True, no one can say for certain what might have happened if Rabin had survived. But there was a good chance he would have delivered a peace settlement or brought it nearer. Generals, historians, statesmen and academics think so. President Bill Clinton, the most superior US statesman in recent times, has said that if Rabin had lived, everything could have changed. But instead, the assassin won (according to Dalia Rabin-Pelossof, who spoke to him a few days ago).

Israel has drifted away from the search for peace and from the viable two-state solution. It has devolved into an intolerant, belligerent, fascistic and messianic “nation-state.” The government failed to investigate the incitement against Rabin and to hold the guilty rabbis and instigators to account. Instead, they have seized control and set Israel on the road to becoming an apartheid pariah. No longer one nation, Israel is a fragmented mess of angry tribes and factions. New laws discriminate against non-Jewish citizens. Religious propaganda and coercion is rampant in schools, in the army and at public events. It has penetrated even university campuses. National cultural life is being gutted.

The inciter-in-chief continues to pit one faction against another. There is hatred and fear – of refugees, Arab citizens, Palestinians, leftists. Unless the poor people can be mobilized into a mob against the left, they don’t interest him. For the past 23 years the rightist leadership has been busy rewriting history, and obliterating the assassination and the incitement that caused it from the collective memory. Ministers blast anyone recalling the incitement, calling them leftists and dividers. Justice Minister Ayelet Shakes was cited in the media saying there was violence and incitement on both sides, apparently aping Trump’s ״there were fine people on both sides” about the Neo-Nazis in Charlottesville a year ago. Minister Miri Regev was cited as questioning whether there was any incitement at all before the murder.

Rabin’s assassin didn’t murder only the peace process. He killed the future of Israel as a social-democratic welfare state with the values of solidarity and compassion enshrined in law. He murdered the justifiable concept of benign Zionism. People used to vote for values and policies. Today they vote for the corrupt populist who preaches fear and hatred of Arabs and liberals. Leftist, collaborator and traitor are part of their tawdry vocabulary. Look at what is being done to Breaking the Silence, or more recently Hagai Eldad of B’Tselem, whose greatest crime was to tell the truth about Israel’s foul deeds in the occupied territories. Telling the truth can be grounds for most severe penalties, according to leading politicians in today’s Israel.

In recent sexual scandals, it has been said that a predator may not remember, but a victim never forgets. More than half of Israelis do not feel sad on Rabin’s memorial day, a poll in late October found. It’s probable they have forgotten. In Rabin’s assassination, peace was the victim, along with everyone who wanted it. We remember what we lost.

On his memorial day, there should be no forgiving and no forgetting.

About the Author
Michal Yudelman O’Dwyer was born on a kibbutz in the Negev, served in the army, and studied at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, University of Chicago and CCNY. She has worked as a journalist, columnist, and translator, and published 10 short stories. A collection of her short stories, entitled “Somebody I used to know,” is to be published (in Hebrew) in a few weeks. Lives in Tel Aviv with the Irish journalist Thomas O’Dwyer and three cats.
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