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How Not To Remember Rabin

On the 15th anniversary of PM’s assassination

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Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.(Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

The most reviled politician in Israel this week—a fine distinction, that—was a young, intelligent, and accomplished member of Knesset for the Labor Party, Einat Wilf. Speaking on the eve of the 15th anniversary of Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination, Wilf made the following controversial assertion: By idolizing Rabin as a martyr, she argued, the Labor Party—his party—was focusing on the despair that followed the slain leader’s assassination rather than on the hope his brief tenure engendered. Therefore, Wilf suggested, it was high time to take down Rabin’s gold-framed portrait from the party’s Knesset meeting room, as well as cancel the rally held each year in the Tel Aviv square where Rabin was shot. The condemnations were quick, and they came from all directions. On left and right, Israel’s political class negated Wilf’s proposal as heretical; take down the portrait, pundits argued, cancel the rally, and two or three generations down the line, Rabin’s legacy will be forgotten.

It was a rare moment of political unity, but, like nearly all moments of political unity, it obstructed a complicated and bitter reality. Speaking to Israeli reporters this week, the organizers of the Rabin memorial rally admitted that with attendance diminishing from year to year, they may not have a choice but to cancel the rally or, perhaps, move it to a smaller and less public venue. Niva Lanir, who worked for Rabin and is one of the rally’s main organizers, felt compelled to write an op-ed in Haaretz urging people to take to the streets and honor the late prime minister’s memory.

But why, really, should they? If we look soberly at the past 15 years, we’ll have little choice but to acknowledge that Einat Wilf has it just right: Rather than try to generate an energetic, creative, and inspiring vision to match Rabin’s daring, if flawed, plan, one Israeli leader after another has increasingly relied on the sort of grandiose, sophomoric, and meaningless gestures designed to appeal to the basest characteristics of our nature. This downward spiral is sometimes evident even just by looking at the same politicians longitudinally: For all his many flaws, Benjamin Netanyahu of 1998 was at least capable of engaging in creative and productive undertakings such as the Wye River Memorandum; the best Netanyahu of 2010 can do is contemplate whether or not to freeze settlement construction for short bursts of time.

I was in the square the night Rabin was shot, but, sadly, I agree that the rally commemorating his legacy has become an empty gesture. Much like that other, and more recent, call for public display of patriotism, the loyalty oath, the rally is no more than another empty move that, like all matters sound-and-fury, signifies nothing. Speeches and statements—be they pledges of allegiance or paeans to a dead leader—won’t extricate Israel from the quagmire it is in. Only deeds of real substance can do that.

A Refusal To Remain Silent [Haaretz]
Will This Year’s Rabib Memorial Rally Be The Last? [Ynet]

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Jerome says:

I do not work for Tablet. However, I am sick and tired of right wingers complaining of Tablet’s alleged bias. Tablet has wide variety of voices, including voices from the right.(See especially, Lee Smith) The Jewish world is a many splendored thing that encompasses a wide spectrum of thoughts, beliefs and political points of view.

Aw, poor baby. You don’t like seeing or reading opinions that don’t fit your narrow point of view. Cry me river.

BTW, I’ll be celebrating on Nov 2nd.

What exactly is Rabin’s legacy? Take the time to read his own words. His idea of a peace settlement is a completely demilitarized Palestine, Israel retains the Jordan valley, and all of Jerusalem. In other words his views were to the right of Netanyahu.

Robert in Karrnei says:


Of course there is a bias in Tablet. Don’t be so naive. Or better still, be man enough to admit there is a bias and be proud of it instead of pretending to be something you and the biased are not. If you are not appreciated for your slant on things at least you might (maybe) perhaps be respected fgor standing up for what you believe.

After all you may be misguided but if you are sincere and not afraid to admit what you are, at least we can say “he’s dead wrong but at least he did it for the love of his people and with the strength of his conviction”

allenby says:

rabin’s “legacy”..?! hahaa
he and his partner peres killed hundreds of israelis as the result of oslo crap.
PRES, BEILIN and PUNDAK were the driving forces behind oslo, with ARAFAT of course. Oslo Pogroms will be remembered in our Jewish history along with all other persecutions: pogroms in Ukraine, Holocaust, Spanish-French Inquisitions…

Ken Besig, Israel says:

Yitzchak Rabin brought Yassir Arafat, the most notorious murderer of Jews since Hitler, into Israel. Rabin then brought Arafat’s terrorist militia, the Palestine Liberation Army, into the heart of Israel. Rabin and it must be mentioned, Shimon Peres, then proceeded to supply Arafat and his army with weapons, bases for training, and even money for it’s operations. Within days of Arafat’s arrival, his terrorists were murdering Jews, and within months, Arafat’s suicide bombers were massacring dozens of innocent Israeli men, women, and babies. Yet Rabin and Peres stood firm, oblivious to the murderous reality they had created, assuring Israelis that Arafat would eventually moderate his aggression and that there must be sacrifices for peace, while at the same time accusing any Israeli who opposed the Oslo plans of being racists, anti peace, and traitors. This is the real legacy of Rabin, a hopeless drunk unable to admit his very real and lethal mistakes, a bitterly angry and divisive politician unwilling to accept any criticism but more than happy to profanely and foully criticize any who dared to oppose him, and worst of all, an arrogant individual so cock sure of himself that even when the streets of Israel were running red with the blood of Jews slaughtered by Arafat’s henchmen, he still failed to lift a finger to protect his own Jewish citizens.
Yes I know that Rabin did not fail Israel alone, and that without ultra Leftists like Shimon Peres, Yossi Beilin, Shulamit Aloni, and Yossi Sarid helping him, he could never have gotten away with the Oslo Accords which cost the lives of thousands of Israeli Jews and left tens of thousands of Israeli Jews maimed for life.
There is no punishment too severe for Rabin and his helpers.

brynababy says:

Just like all right-wingers, these voices are filled with arrogance, inflexibility and ugliness! Tablet most definately brings many different voices to these pages. I can’t stand Liebowitz and his biased and sophomoric writings, but I’d rather see them here where I can be shown the diversity of thought and action when it comes to Israel.

M. Brukhes says:

I think first off that the voices on the right taking issue with Liel Leibovitz’s editorial demonstrate all the reasons why Rabin’s legacy shouldn’t be forgotten, and why therefore Israelis SHOULD be attending a rally in his memory: the same forces of intolerance that applauded his murder are fully visible among the worst elements of the Israeli right and their Diaspora fellow-travelers. When they’ve learned the value of democracy, tolerance, and co-existence (both with fellow and sister Jews as well as with Arabs and other non-Jews) THEN we can question the value and wisdom of how best to commemorate Rabin.

Moreover, the equation of a rally in honor of Rabin with Avigdor Liebermann’s loyalty oath is a purposeless provocation that distorts reality rather than illuminating it, rather like Leibovitz’s mannered and gratuitous comparison, in a recent article, of Orly Castel-Bloom and Amos Oz. Sure Castel-Bloom and Oz are both Israeli and both writers, but the extent to which they can be compared requires serious consideration of the content of their writing, not just a superficial equation of one with the other. So too are both Yitzhak Rabin and Avigdor Liebermann Israeli and politicians, but the similarities, unfortunately, end there. If Leibovitz can’t understand the distinction, then regardless of where he was in November 1995, his perspective is meaningless.

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How Not To Remember Rabin

On the 15th anniversary of PM’s assassination

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