The twentieth anniversary of Itzhak Rabin’s murder at the hands of a fellow Israeli and fellow Jew remains an open wound in the heart and soul of Am Israel, The Jewish People. Even after all these years with more than ample opportunity to absorb the reality of the assassination, it’s easier to rationalize it as an aberration, comfort ourselves with the truism that all nations and peoples have internal violence from time to time. Only the Rabin assassination stubbornly refuses to be rationalized and no amount of intellectualizing it with truisms and eulogies can bring any real or lasting comfort.
What happened was betrayal and betrayal is a heavy emotion to overcome. Not since the Hagenah and Irgun battled for power in the late 1940’s had Jew on Jew violence been so devastating. Up until that day in November we would have told one another that such a thing was beyond the realm of possibility in the modern state of Israel. People’s underlying allegiance and devotion to the nation as a whole, and the expertise of the state’s security agencies simply made the risk of such a threat remote. It would be unfair to go so far as to say we wer smug about it, but it was a threat that we quickly and confidently dismissed. Until we couldn’t do that anymore because neither of the two assumptions above turned out to be true. The collapse of the first claim, however, did even greater damage than the second. No security agency is infallible. The risk of political violence is always present. Mistakes inevitably happen, even in the most disciplined and focused of organizations. Failure is one thing. Premediated murder aimed at terrorizing people and derailing a peace process is another. Failure happens, assassinations are planned. It’s essential to remember that Rabin’s assassin did not act alone. He was indoctrinated, inspired, trained, supported and even celebrated by others. Rabin’s death was more than tragic. Tragic is an appropriate description of the loss. It is not, however, an apt description of the act. The act, the assassination, was criminal, cowardly, corrupt, despicable, and, most importantly, evil. The introduction of Jew on Jew terrorism into the political conflict of the Jewish state changed the nature of Israeli debate and discourse forever. To put the agenda of one’s political party or school of thought over and above one’s love of Israel as a whole is an anathema to both Zionism and Judaism. The assassination was and remains an unfathomable betrayal of deeply held and longed cherished values. It forever changed the calculous of ascertaining what one’s political opponents are capable of. Since that terrible day twenty years ago the answer to that question is anything.
There is something, however, that we can do. More than lauding Rabin, his vision and his sacrifice, we have an obligation to carry on his work. We can demand a return to the peace process, insist upon Zionism devoid of extremism and persist in the work of building a state of Israel that offers dignity, security and justice to all its people. Anything less would be a betrayal of conscience to a Prime Minister and his people who have been through too much betrayal already.
Hazaq V’Amatz—May We Be Strong and Resolute.
Have a listen to this song, Hadag Nahash, What Would Happen If?, written in memory of Rabin: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vzK9wXPxgoc